For many years, Maya Angelou's voice and poetry have enriched minds and souls, as in 1993, when she read "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Clinton's first inauguration.
"On the Pulse of Morning" is included in her latest collection of poetry, "Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer."
Part of "On the Pulse of Morning" says: "Here on the pulse of this new day, you may have the grace to look up and out and into your sister's eyes and into your brother's face, your country, and say simply, very simply, with hope, good morning."
On The Early Show Thursday, co-anchor Hannah Storm asked Angelou what inspired that poem.
"I see how often we look at each other's foreheads and ears and hairdo, and sometimes shoulders, but so rarely into each other's eyes, as if one is afraid," Angelou responded. "And I wonder, 'Afraid of what? Of losing yourself in your brother's eyes or letting her lose herself, your sister, in your eyes?' What is that? And I thought, 'Suppose we could really look at each other and accept the truth, which is that human beings are more alike than we are unalike. Accept that.' Everybody who wants to work, wants a good job, want to be paid a little more than he's worth, not enough to be embarrassed.
"Everybody in the world from Birmingham, Ala., to Birmingham, England, wants to love somebody; to have the unmitigated gall to accept love in return. Everybody wants safe streets — in Paris, France, or Paris, Texas. If you want children, you want healthy children, everybody. So then, where we differ, maybe we have to look through the complexion and see community. Maybe we have to look through the way the eyes go, or the language, and see ourselves. So I thought if I could try to write about that, that might be close to what Mr. Clinton was bringing into our lives. And I hope so."
A theme that permeates the "Celebrations" collection is that of peace.
"By peace," Angelou told Storm, "I don't mean just the absence of war. But I mean that condition in the human spirit which allows us to look at each other. I don't mean to just be a peacemaker, I mean to be a peace-bringer, bring it with you, so you don't have to wait to get there to make it, you see? So, if we can bring peace and that idea we're going to find it, or make it, if we can do that, Hannah, it means that you might find the time with me to tell me that you need me."
Angelou read from "Amazing Peace," which is also in "Celebrations."
"Stay a while with us," the poem says, "so that we may learn by your shimmering light how to look beyond complexion and see community. We look at our world and say aloud, we say without shyness or apology or hesitation: Peace, my brother. Peace, my sister. Peace, my soul."
When Angelou last appeared on The Early Show in 2002, she said she couldn't imagine slowing down. Angelou turned 75 in April and is as busy as ever.
Now, in addition to everything else she does, she hosts a weekly one-hour show on Oprah Winfrey's XM Satellite Radio "Oprah & Friends" channel.
"I would be on anything with her," Angelou remarked to Storm. "She's — she's like a daughter to me. And so — and she's got a massive, huge, huge heart. And a huge brain."
"As do you," Storm said, to which Angelou chuckled.
For an excerpt of "Celebrations," click here.
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