Maya Angelou: Poetry in Self-Defense

Maya Angelou – a longtime favorite of mine. I was elated when she spoke my freshman year at Duke.
I nearly perfected a brief impersonation, including her speech’s catch phrase: “go out and get it.” She started that speech singing a hymn, a prayer in Hebrew, and a spiritual. In the Duke Chapel.

NPR did a piece this morning with Dr. Angelou to speak about her new cook book. The best part was her recitation of one of my favorite poems:

The Health-Food Diner

No sprouted wheat and soya shoots
And Brussels in a cake,
Carrot straw and spinach raw,
(Today, I need a steak).

Not thick brown rice and rice pilaw
Or mushrooms creamed on toast,
Turnips mashed and parsnips hashed,
(I'm dreaming of a roast).

Health-food folks around the world
Are thinned by anxious zeal,
They look for help in seafood kelp
(I count on breaded veal).

No smoking signs, raw mustard greens,
Zucchini by the ton,
Uncooked kale and bodies frail
Are sure to make me run


Loins of pork and chicken thighs
And standing rib, so prime,
Pork chops brown and fresh ground round
(I crave them all the time).

Irish stews and boiled corned beef
and hot dogs by the scores,
or any place that saves a space
For smoking carnivores.

1983 by Dr. Maya Angelou

You can hear the story behind this poem in the piece by NPR.