The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou

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The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou
Angelou Collected poems.jpg
AuthorMaya Angelou
CountryUnited States
PublisherRandom House
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou is author and poet Maya Angelou's collection of poetry, published by Random House in 1994. It is Angelou's first collection of poetry published after she read her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993. It contains her previous five books of poetry, published between 1971—1990. Her prose works have been more successful than her poetry, which has received little serious attention by critics.


The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou is Maya Angelou's first collection of poetry. By the time of its publication in 1994, she had published five autobiographies, eventually going on to publish seven, and five books of poetry. She began, early in her writing career, alternating the publication of an autobiography and a volume of poetry.[1]

Her publisher, Random House, placed the poems of her previous volumes in this collection, perhaps to capitalize on her popularity following her reading of her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993. The volumes included in the collection are Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie (1971), Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well (1975), And Still I Rise (1978), Shaker, Why Don't You Sing? (1983), and I Shall Not Be Moved (1990). Also included was "On the Pulse of Morning". Angelou's publisher placed four previously-published poems in a smaller volume, entitled Phenomenal Woman in 1995.[2]

Angelou reciting her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993

Angelou studied and began writing poetry at a young age.[3] After her rape at the age of eight, as recounted in her first autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), she dealt with her trauma by memorizing and reciting great works of literature, including poetry, which helped bring her out of her self-imposed muteness.[4] Angelou considered herself a playwright and poet when her editor Robert Loomis challenged her to write Caged Bird,[5] but she has been best known for her autobiographies.[6] Many of her readers identify her as a poet first and an autobiographer second,[6] but like Lynn Z. Bloom, many critics consider her autobiographies more important than her poetry.[7]

Critic William Sylvester has stated that although her books have been best-sellers, her poetry has "received little serious critical attention".[8] Bloom also believes that Angelou's poetry is more interesting when she recites them. Bloom calls her performances "characteristically dynamic",[7] and says that Angelou "moves exuberantly, vigorously to reinforce the rhythms of the lines, the tone of the words. Her singing and dancing and electrifying stage presence transcend the predictable words and phrases".[7]



  1. ^ Hagen, Lyman B. (1997). Heart of a Woman, Mind of a Writer, and Soul of a Poet: A Critical Analysis of the Writings of Maya Angelou. Lanham, Maryland: University Press, p. 118. ISBN 978-0-7618-0621-9
  2. ^ "Maya Angelou (1928 -)". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2013-07-26
  3. ^ Gillespie, Marcia Ann, Rosa Johnson Butler, and Richard A. Long. (2008). Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration. New York: Random House, p. 101. ISBN 978-0-385-51108-7
  4. ^ Angelou, Maya. (1969). I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House, p. 98. ISBN 978-0-375-50789-2
  5. ^ Walker, Pierre A. (October 1995). "Racial Protest, Identity, Words, and Form in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". College Literature 22, (3): 91. doi: 00933139
  6. ^ a b Lupton, Mary Jane (1998). Maya Angelou: A Critical Companion. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, p. 17. ISBN 0-313-30325-8
  7. ^ a b c Bloom, Lynn Z. (1985). "Maya Angelou". In Dictionary of Literary Biography African American Writers after 1955, Vol. 38. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, pp. 10–11. ISBN 0-8103-1716-8
  8. ^ Sylvester, William. (1985). "Maya Angelou". In Contemporary Poets, James Vinson and D.L. Kirkpatrick, eds. Chicago: St. James Press, pp. 19–20. ISBN 0-312-16837-3