In today’s poetry news roundup we have an article about the poet Maya Angelou on what would have been her 95thbirthday, we also look at the death of Royston Ellis and a new way of looking at the poems of William Blake.
Oprah Winfrey Pays Tribute to Poet Maya Angelou
On what would have been her 95th birthday, Oprah Winfrey has paid tribute to the poet Maya Angelou. The media icon and the civil rights activist and iconic poet had been friends for many years and Winfrey says that she would have been throwing a party for Angelou this year – following a tradition they started when she turned 60 that saw her hosting a party every 5 years for her friend.
Growing up, Winfrey says that Angelou was a key role model for her and once they met, she became something of a mentor. She memorised her poetry and read all of her books when she was growing up. The pair met when Winfrey was in her late 20s and Angelou read her poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar and made her a meal.
The pair formed a close friendship that say them eating many meals together at Angelou’s table and sharing words of wisdom.
“I Know Why Caged Birds Sing”, Angelou’s autobiography was published in 1969. She died in 2014 at the age of 86. During her lengthy career she was a speaker at the inauguration of President Clinton in 1993, received a Presidential Medal of the Arts in 2000 and a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 from President Obama.
Beats Poet Royston Ellis Dies Aged 82
The poet Royston Ellis who was a poet of the Beat Generation has died at the age of 82.
With a career that spanned the 1950s up till the end of the 2010s he was perhaps less well known than some of the his fellow Beats poets like Allen Ginsberg. In fact, his main claim to fame is the connection that he had to John Lennon and the Beatles. In addition to writing poetry, he also penned many travel books, biographies and works of fiction.
“Jiving to Gyp” was his first poetry book, and was published when he was just 18. He was performing on tv by the early 1960 when he read poetry backed by The Shadows. His work came to the attention of a young John Lennon at this point and the pair bonded over a shared interest in the rising counterculture movement of the 1960s and the beat poets of America. It is believed that Ellis was the inspiration for the song “Paperback Writer.”
By the age of 20 Ellis had begun to move away from poetry and concentrated on his travel writing. In 1979 he moved to Sri Lanka and continued to write until 2013.
New Book Showcases Blake
A new book which showcases a visual reworking of Auguries of Innocence by William Blake will be launched next week. The book, which uses the medium of letter press is the result of a decade long project which has seen students from the Cambridge School of Arts using the technique to print a couplet based on the poet’s works. The students were at the school between 2014 and 2018, and their work has been collated into a book which shows the entire poem in letterpress arrangements.