Listening to Maya Angelou’s A Song Flung Up To Heaven

Listening: What it means to me
If a case has to be made for audiobooks, it is definitely when authors narrate their own works. Authors ensure tonal changes are exactly as they intend, and the listener need not rely on interpretations of a narrator. And Maya Angelou makes a superb case for audiobooks.

Maya Angelou
I just finished listening to Maya Angelou’s “ A Song Flung Up To Heaven.” Listening to Maya narrate her autobiographical work, will convert even the diehard opponent of audiobooks.

I am not reviewing the book here, but stating why listening to Maya was for me an exquisitely memorable experience. Not only is she a talented writer, but also a world class orator. She has a beautifully rich voice, and can control it as nimbly as classical dancers their muscle twitches. Her language and accent are moulded by experiences, in rural Arkansas, San Francisco, numerous US cities and four years in Ghana. Being a renowned poet, her voice has a lyrical ring to it.

Her readings reflect her inner feeling, and in many cases her very deep feelings. This could definitely not be conveyed in the print version, nor for that matter, by another narrator. When she is sad, you hear her vocal chords trembling, and her throat quivering, as each phrase rolls off her tongue. When she hears of her son's accident, you hear the shock in her voice and sense she is going to collapse, … even before she says it.

When she says, “mamma, …” just the tone and treble conveys masterfully her love and admiration for her mother, without having to elucidate further; which she does anyway as she reads the print version of her book.

When she talks about her love, the joy and ecstasy in her voice mirrors the glint in her eyes, even though she does not say as much. Her admiration for her brother is equally transparent, and words make it superfluous, no – redundant.

In one instance she chastises a fellow African American for calling himself a “Niggah.” Her repugnance is evident as she mouths the word “Niggah.” You sense she has bit on to something ghastly, and couldn't wait to spit it out. In this instance as well, her explanation of disgust with that term was completely redundant. Note, I showcase this as an example of the power of her 'voice' in conveying her true feelings, and not a critique of her writing.

A few notes:
She saves her best oratory for the last few minutes. Talking about black women in general, she says, “we had come so far from where we started and weren’t nearly approaching where we need to be. But we were on the road to becoming better.”

What she wanted to write about next? Something all of us can relate to, and apply in our own lives.
“… examine that quality in the human spirit, that continues to rise despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes.
Rise out of physical pain and psychological cruelty.
Rise from being victims of rape and abuse and abandonment, to the determination to be no victim of any kind.
Rise and be prepared to move on and ever on.”

This is a brilliantly recited lyrical piece. Certain to give you goosebumps.

She also refers to a children’s poem she had read long ago,
“However low you perceive me now, I am headed for higher ground.”

Whats not to love about this book! Listen (or read) and be uplifted?

yours truly

I had an opportunity to listen to Maya Angelou; see also, Shri’s post on Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Women.

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