Quotations by Angelou, Maya


I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“Kicking Ass” (interview), Girl About Town (13 Oct 1986)

Reprinted in Jeffrey M. Elliot (ed.), Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989)
Added on 11-Jun-09 | Last updated 11-Jun-09
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Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They grow older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction No. 119,” Interview with George Plimpton, The Paris Review (Fall 1990)
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Angelou used the core section (credit cards, parking spaces) a number of times in different interviews.
Added on 26-Oct-18 | Last updated 26-Oct-18
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I really love language; it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and the delicacies, of our existence. Most of all, it allows us to laugh. We need language.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“The Art of Fiction,” Paris Review, #116, Interview with George Plimpton (1990)
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I look at some of the great novelists, and I think the reason they are great is that they’re telling the truth. The fact is they’re using made-up names, made-up people, made-up places, and made-up times, but they’’re telling the truth about the human being — what we are capable of, what makes us lose, laugh, weep, fall down, and gnash our teeth and wring our hands and kill each other and love each other.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“The Art of Fiction,” Paris Review, #116, Interview with George Plimpton (1990)
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I’m working at trying to be a good Christian, and that’s serious business. It’s like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy — it’s serious business. It’s not something where you think, Oh, I’ve got it done. I did it all day, hotdiggety. The truth is, all day long you try to do it, try to be it, and then in the evening if you’re honest and have a little courage you look at yourself and say, Hmm. I only blew it eighty-six times. Not bad.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“The Art of Fiction,” Paris Review, #116, Interview with George Plimpton (1990)
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Nature has no mercy at all. Nature says, “I’m going to snow. If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that’s tough. I am going to snow anyway.”

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“Maya Angelou: An Interview,” (Oct 1974) in Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989),
Added on 4-Jun-09 | Last updated 4-Jun-09
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I believe we are still so innocent. The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“Work in Progress,” Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989; first published Jun 1973).
Added on 18-Jun-09 | Last updated 18-Jun-09
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Strictly speaking, one cannot legislate love, but what one can do is legislate fairness and justice. If legislation does not prohibit our living side by side, sooner or later your child will fall on the pavement and I’ll be the one to pick her up. Or one of my children will not be able to get into the house and you’ll have to say, “Stop here until your mom comes here.” Legislation affords us the chance to see if we might love each other.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
(Attributed)

Quoted in B. Lanker, I Dream a World (1989)

Added on 20-Oct-08 | Last updated 20-Oct-08
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There is nothing so pitiful as a young cynic because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
(Attributed)
Added on 25-Jun-09 | Last updated 25-Jun-09
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People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
(Attributed)
Added on 7-Aug-09 | Last updated 9-Aug-13
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You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
And Still I Rise, “Still I Rise” (1978)
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Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
Gather Together in My Name, vol. 2, ch. 6 (1974)
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Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
Gather Together in My Name, ch. 6 (2009)

Full text.
Added on 24-Feb-12 | Last updated 24-Feb-12
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Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 17 (1969)
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Oh, the holiness of always being the injured party. The historically oppressed can find not only sanctity but safety in the state of victimization. When access to a better life has been denied often enough, and successfully enough, one can use the rejection as an excuse to cease all efforts. After all, one reckons, “they” don’t want me, “they” accept their own mediocrity and refuse my best, “they” don’t deserve me.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, Vol. 3, ch. 9 (1976)
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Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993)
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Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns all clean.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
In Mary Chamberlain, ed., Writing Lives: Conversations Between Women Writers (1988)
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Added on 6-Apr-18 | Last updated 6-Apr-18
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Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
Quoted USA Today (5 Mar 1988)

 

Added on 2-Jul-09 | Last updated 2-Jul-09
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