The Observer “Feed your soul” Challenge

Day 1: Fangirling Maya Angelou

There was a piece in last week’s Observer suggesting thirty-one things to read or watch in January to “feed your soul” and I thought, right, my soul is feeling distinctly skinny after the year we’ve just had, so let’s have a go. Hello 2021: here we are. Happy New Year!

Day one’s food for the soul is Maya Angelou reading her poem, Still I Rise. OK then, full disclosure, I haven’t read any Maya Angelou before. I mean, I know she’s a cultural icon in the States and all that, and I have seen enough people on the bus or tube reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings to last a lifetime. But you know how you sometimes get an impression of a person’s work from the cultural ether? In my ignorance I have always thought of people who read Maya Angelou in the way Ross describes people called Rain (“Hi! My name is Rain. I have my own kiln and my dress is made out of wheat.”) Pure prejudice against someone I imagined to be worthy and inspirational and so liable to make me feel bad about myself. Wrong!

After watching her read her poem I’m not there any more. This woman is fabulous! Her voice is just gorgeous. I could listen to her all day. And her performance of the poem is gorgeous too – the phrasing, the movement, the glint in her eye. I’m in love.

It’s not taken as read: I have heard at least one Big Name writer read from his work and never been able to read his work again because the… eccentricities, shall we say? of his delivery constantly got between me and the text. Maya Angelou? I’m googling right now to see what other words and works she left out there for us.

Hi. My name is Rain. I have my own kiln and my dress is made out of wheat.


  • Novelty: new to me. Glad to have been educated.
  • Content: 8 (I can take modern poetry or leave it tbh)
  • Performance: 10. I am in love.
  • Soul: fed