R.I.P. Maya Angelou

We are all saddened by the loss of Maya Angelou, who has passed away at the age of 86. Upon hearing about Angelou’s passing, I immediately thought about Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, a book published in the mid-1990s that paired her poetry with the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

From the Publisher’s Weekly review in 1996:

Boyers, a TV producer and art collector, deserves a standing ovation for her performance in pairing Angelou’s poem with abstract paintings by the late Basquiat. “Dragons breathing flame / On my counterpane / That doesn’t frighten me at all. / I go boo / Make them shoo / I make fun / Way they run / I won’t cry / So they fly” — had it been teamed with representational or whimsical illustrations, the verse might well have lost its dignity; instead, the proximity of Basquiat’s edgy, streetwise pictures adds even greater power and authenticity to Angelou’s refrain, “Life doesn’t frighten me at all.” Conversely, the affirming quality of the poem mediates Basquiat’s disquieting urban images. Basquiat’s first works were drawn onto the walls of Manhattan buildings, and the frenzied, sometimes angry compositions here have the rawness of graffiti. The reproductions invite close scrutiny, implicitly teaching the viewer a way of approaching contemporary art and reinforcing the tough beauty of the poem.

Though Dr. Angelou will no longer be with us, her words will continue to inspire countless generations. Rest in Power.

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