Literature

“The Singer Will Not Sing” — a poem by Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou’s poem “The Singer Will Not Sing” — published in 1978 as part of And Still I Rise — was dedicated to “A.L.” Given her friendship with Abbey Lincoln it is assumed that is who Ms. Angelou dedicates this poem to, although definitive  evidence is lacking.

Another clue that this is dedicated to Ms. Lincoln is that it was written at a time when Ms. Lincoln’s creative output was minimal (thus, “the singer will not sing”).

Please feel free to comment if you have definitive information (or conjecture) about who “A.L” is.




The Singer Will Not Sing
(for A.L.)


A benison given. Unused,
No angels promised,
wings fluttering banal lies
behind their sexlessness. No
trumpets gloried
prophecies of fabled fame.
Yet harmonies waited in
her stiff throat. New notes
lay expectant on her
stilled tongue.

Her lips are ridged and
fleshy. Purpled night birds
snuggled to rest.
The mouth seamed, voiceless,
Sounds do not lift beyond
those reddened walls.

She came too late and lonely
to this place.




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Abbey Lincoln’s video of “People in Me”