Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Refusal To Mourn



You're not supposed to speak ill of the dead. But I'm bad at rules. And anyway it's been five days. I think that's plenty of time to wait before blogging my refusal to mourn the death by natural causes of a poet in North Carolina.

My reasons? They are many. First, and least: she was a mediocre poet on a good day. I'll let Colleen O'Beirne at The Overrated Times say it for me, since she said it so well:

The bottom line on Maya Angelou is that she’s symptomatic of what’s wrong with modern poetry in general. It’s controlled by an overly cerebral, politically correct academic establishment. It serves as a meta-comment on what poetry is supposed to be, rather than standing on its own as an art form.

Maya Angelou got famous because she was in the right place (California) at the right time (the late '60s) and was the right sort of person (a weird black woman who wrote weird prose about her weird life.)

Here's Thomas Lifson at The American Thinker:

There is an important phenomenon in cultural life that the hard left has exploited for many decades. Most people cannot really tell what good poetry, or painting, or serious theatre (or artsy film, for that matter) is, but they fear looking stupid if they fail to appreciate what others say is good. So, an “artist” in these semi-esoteric fields who is helped along by a claque of politically sympathetic cheerleaders in academia or journalism can become “widely acclaimed” and, if he or she plays the part well (as Angelou did), even “beloved.”

Angelou was a professor-for-life of American Studies at Winston-Salem University, and boasted several visiting professorships at other universities. She preferred being referred to as "Doctor," and while she certainly lived a varied and interesting life, she didn't have an advanced degree of any kind - not so much as a B.A.

Her resume included prostitute, madam, cabaret dancer, and later, composer, actress, and world-famous writer. Some of those are impressive. But do they - should they - qualify one for a professorship and an honorific? Ms. Angelou reportedly taught whatever subject struck her fancy, including theology and science.

"The solar system - IS - like a woman - WHO..."

This is, of course, when she was teaching at all. Thus goes Daniel J. Flynn's eloquent piece in The American Spectator:

The doctor without a doctorate became a teacher without students at Wake Forest. “She collects an annual salary well into the six figures, yet presently teaches no classes and has no campus office,” John Meroney, then a senior at the North Carolina school, wrote in The American Spectator twenty-one years ago. “The office listed for her in the Wake Forest telephone directory is a storage closet in a building far from the main part of campus.”

Remember, kids: America is super unfair, and the only way to make it more fair is to be unfair in what you perceive to be the opposite direction.

Maya Angelou believed America was an unjust and inherently racist colonial experiment in oppression. She said this of Obama's detractors not long after he was re-elected:

I tell you we are going to see some nastiness, some vulgarity, I think. They'll pull the sheets off.

Did you catch that? If you are an Obama critic, you are secretly as racist as a Klansman. "Nastiness," Dr. Angelou? What's that like?

She praised Louis Farrakhan and Mumia Abu-Jamal, not to mention Castro and Kruschev. Her first published article appeared in Cuba's Revolucion. She celebrated the murderous Castro in part because he wasn't white.

Said the doc:
Of course, Castro never had called himself white, so he was O.K. from the git. Anyhow, America hated Russians, and as black people often said, ‘Wasn’t no Communist country that put my grandpappa in slavery. Wasn’t no Communist lynched my poppa or raped my mamma.’

This shrugging opportunism is nauseating. In other words: it doesn't matter who Communists are oppressing, imprisoning, and murdering, as long as it's not me and mine. How is that justice, social or otherwise?

Or was she utterly ignorant? Did she really believe in the lie, the collectivist paradise? Did she know why the caged bird sings, but not how the damned thing gets in the cage?

For the record, this is how it gets out.

Either way, she doesn't deserve a professorship, a title, or a webiverse of social media tributes.

Flynn writes:

Her greatest performance wasn’t in the miniseries Roots or on the album Miss Calypso. It was playing the character Maya Angelou. There’s a P.T. Barnum quality to Maya Angelou. 
Convincing the world of your greatness requires a greatness. This is especially true of the mediocre.
Going from rags to riches by conquering the business world serves as one American Dream. A more common, albeit less realized version, involves enjoying a six-figure living from a no-show job. 
Her mouth occasionally called the promise of America a big fat lie. Her life begged to differ.

Maya Angelou put words together to make poetry, which is rare. She sometimes told the truth about her life, which takes courage. She certainly lived a rich and varied existence, which is enviable.

But....

But.

Sometimes I wish I could be young again. I wish I could recall what it feels like to read Maya Angelou's poems and like them because I was told they were good. I wish I could read her inspiring quotes on Pinterest and look at her lined face, aching with gravitas and experience, and think, "Wow, what a wise and wonderful woman. We should truly mourn the loss of such a powerful voice." And then go back to reading O magazine and watching "The View."

But instead I'm gonna go ahead and be bitter old me, and use my brain.

Maya Angelou was an overrated writer who built a career on victimhood. She praised despicable men and cheered when evil regimes took power.

I'm not mourning the death of Maya Angelou.

4 comments:

  1. I got looked at funny in my office the day she died. I didnt have much knowledge of her, and took advantage of the sweeping minibios. What struck me as most UNhumble was her requests to actually be called Doctor. I had said something like, "She received an honorary doctorate?? And a professorship? Really?? She never finished highschool....isn't that kind of reserved for people dedicated to their studies?"
    The response I got was a generalized, "...well, when you've got enough life experience sometimes there are exceptions..."
    If he didn't already have one, Tesla should've gotten one of those suckers.

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  2. I have to add.... She strikes me as the type to have a sour look when you say Roots never really changed your life or no, you don't know who Fredrick Douglass is. I had a social studies teacher in middle school like that. Very into black history, and expressed her distaste in you if you weren't just as enthralled.

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  3. Kristen, you rock. One of your best. Much love to you! Oh, and I'm giving it a special mention on my blog. :)

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  4. THANK YOU! I swear most people see it a sacrilegious to denigrate Angelou in anyway but sheesh...calling her a writer or professor is equivalent to calling Oprah a spiritual leader or heralding her as a literary critic.

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