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Maya Angelou in 1993

Maya Angelou's books of poetry are widely admired best-sellers, though not as critically acclaimed as her seven autobiographies. Angelou (1928–2014), a prominent African-American writer, used everyday language, the Black vernacular, Black music and forms, and sometimes shocking language to explore themes of love, loss, struggle against oppression, and overcoming hardship. Her poetry is not easily categorized, and has been compared with musical forms including the blues. She studied and began writing poetry at a young age, in part to cope with trauma, as she described in her first and best-known autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She became a poet after touring Europe in the cast of Porgy and Bess and performing calypso music in nightclubs in the 1950s. Her first volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie (1971), was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. In 1993, she recited one of her best-known poems, "On the Pulse of Morning", at President Bill Clinton's inauguration (pictured). Her poetry has not received as much critical attention as her prose; this has been attributed to her popular success and to critics' preferences for poetry as a written form rather than a verbal, performed one. (Full article...)

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Today's featured picture

Senegalese wrestling

A Senegalese wrestling match between Mame Balla and Pape Mor Lô during the World African Wrestling world tour in Paris Bercy. This type of folk wrestling is traditionally practiced by the Serer people of Senegal and part of the larger West African form of traditional wrestling, the only such tradition to allow blows with the hands. In this form of wrestling, fighters attempt to throw their opponents to the ground by lifting them up and over, usually outside a given area.

Originating as a preparatory exercise among Serer warriors, this form of wrestling is known as njom in Serer; the term is from the Serer principle of Jom and means heart or honor. The sport is a national sport in Senegal and parts of The Gambia.

Photograph: Pierre-Yves Beaudouin

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