Thursday, May 29, 2014

May Angelou - "Seven Women's Blessed Assurance" & "The Mask"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post honors the award winning American author and poet Maya Angelou by showcasing two of her poems - "Blessed Assurance" and "The Mask". Information about Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) can be found at

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Maya Angelou for her life's legacy. Thanks to the online publisher of this featured excerpt. Thanks also to the transcriber of this poem and the publisher of this video on YouTube.

(Maya Angelou)
From The Distinguished Annie Clark Tanner Lecture

16th-annual Families Alive Conference, Weber State University, May 8, 1997

...."I must do one more poem because I don't think you've laughed enough.

I told you I don't trust people who act that way (indicating). Yet some years ago Arsenio Hall telephoned me and asked if I would come onto his program.

I said "I thank you, Mr. Hall, but --"

He said "Oh, Doctor, no, ma'am. Don't -- Oh, no, ma'am. I'm just a commoner."

I said "Please, I don't know if I would have that much in common with your constituents."

But he was so persuasive, so I went on the program. And I enjoyed myself so much I went back eight times.

But the first time I did a piece called "Seven Women's Blessed Assurance," and I enjoyed it. And then I stayed around Los Angeles a little while, and then I flew from Los Angeles to Geneva, Switzerland, took a train over to another city and took the funicular up the side of the Alps to the foot of the Matterhorn, and there I gave a three-and-a-half-hour speech in French, English and Spanish, thank you. I was so full of (indicating). I mean, I was full of it.

I took the funicular back after about six days, and over to Geneva I went. And I was standing in the Geneva airport with an umbrella, my purse over my shoulder and a briefcase when a young white man came up to me. He said "Dr. Angelou?"

I said "Yes."

He said "Ms. Angelou."

I said "Oh."

He said "It's hard to believe, it's Ms. Angelou. I was in the audience at Arsenio Hall the night you did 'Seven Women's Blessed Assurance.'"

I said then, and I say now, "Woo-woo-woo." (indicating).
Nothing to do with it but to laugh. I laughed. Then I straightened up my umbrella that was way over there and the young man was gone.
And all those Swiss were looking at me like (indicating.)

And here is this piece which I wrote to make my ownself laugh.

The first woman said One thing about me, I'm little and low, I find me a man wherever I go.

The second woman said They call me string bean 'cause I'm so tall, men see me, they ready to fall.

The third woman said I'm fat as butter and sweet as cake, men start to tremble every time I shake.

The fourth woman said I'm young as morning and fresh as dew, everybody loves me, and so do you.

The fifth woman said I'm little and lean, sweet to the bone, they like to pick me up and carry me home.

The sixth woman said When I passed forty, I dropped pretense 'cause men like women who got some sense.

But the seventh woman is my favorite, for obvious reasons. The seventh woman said fifty-five is perfect, so is fifty-nine, 'cause every man needs to rest sometime."

(Maya Angelou, an adaptation of Paul Laurence Dunbar's "We Wear The Mask")

We wear the mask that grins and lies.
It shades our cheeks and hides our eyes.
This debt we pay to human guile
With torn and bleeding hearts…
We smile and mouth the myriad subtleties.
Why should the world think otherwise
In counting all our tears and sighs.
Nay let them only see us while
We wear the mask.

We smile but oh my God
Our tears to thee from tortured souls arise
And we sing Oh Baby doll, now we sing…
The clay is vile beneath our feet
And long the mile
But let the world think otherwise.
We wear the mask.

When I think about myself
I almost laugh myself to death.
My life has been one great big joke!
A dance that’s walked a song that’s spoke.
I laugh so hard HA! HA! I almos’ choke
When I think about myself.

Seventy years in these folks’ world
The child I works for calls me girl
I say “HA! HA! HA! Yes ma’am!”
For workin’s sake
I’m too proud to bend and
Too poor to break
So…I laugh! Until my stomach ache
When I think about myself.
My folks can make me split my side
I laugh so hard, HA! HA! I nearly died
The tales they tell sound just like lying
They grow the fruit but eat the rind.
Hmm huh! I laugh uhuh huh huh…
Until I start to cry when I think about myself
And my folks and the children.

My fathers sit on benches,
Their flesh count every plank,
The slats leave dents of darkness
Deep in their withered flank.
And they gnarled like broken candles,
All waxed and burned profound.
They say, but sugar, it was our submission
that made your world go round.

There in those pleated faces
I see the auction block
The chains and slavery’s coffles
The whip and lash and stock.

My fathers speak in voices
That shred my fact and sound
They say, but sugar, it was our submission
that made your world go round.

They laugh to conceal their crying,
They shuffle through their dreams
They stepped ’n fetched a country
And wrote the blues in screams.
I understand their meaning,
It could an did derive
From living on the edge of death
They kept my race alive
By wearing the mask! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
The poem written by Maya Angelou begins with the line "When I think about myself".

Click for information about American poet, novelist, and playwright Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872 – February 9, 1906)

Maya Angelou Poem "The Mask"

Russell Jones, Uploaded on Aug 8, 2010

As seen on Bobby Jones [Gospel television program]

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitors comments are welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment