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petrini1 [userpic]

Maya Angelou Did Not Write This

February 17th, 2009 (01:31 pm)

current mood: weird

Over the last few years, I have received many times an e-mail from friends and relatives with the best of intentions. They want to share an inspirational poem that they call "Maya Angelou's Best Poem Ever." It's all about the various items that every woman should have and should know, including such things as:

  • one old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you've come
  • a past juicy enough that you're looking forward to retelling it in your old age
  • a set of screwdrivers
  • a black lace bra
  • one friend who always makes you laugh...and one who lets you cry
That's just a sampling, but you get the idea. There's nothing in particular that's wrong with this piece, but every time I've read it, I've said to myself, "There is no way that this was written by Maya Angelou. It doesn't sound anything like her." And then I've wondered if I'm the only person who's skeptical about its authorship. I couldn't possibly be the only one in my social circle who has actually read her work. Could I?

I recently received this thing for the umpteenth time and decided to learn the truth, once and for all. So I looked it up. And sure enough, MAYA ANGELOU DID NOT WRITE THIS POEM. It even says so on her own website (if you follow that link, you'll see the disclaimer in red at the bottom of the page). The piece was actually written by Pamela Redmond Satran. It was first published by Glamour magazine in 1997 as a list of things every woman should know and should have by the time she turns thirty; Satran updated it in 2005. Apparently it has also been attributed at times to Jesse Jackson and to Hillary Clinton. Right.

Here's a link to a rehash of the listing and its misappropriation, from Glamour:

30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know

So please don't continue mindlessly forwarding the "Best Poem Ever" e-mail to everyone you know - unless you first edit the message to give credit to the real author. In fact, it's probably a bad idea to distribute e-mails like this at all, without checking the facts for yourself.


Posted by: the artist formerly known as kytyn (melydia)
Posted at: February 17th, 2009 07:22 pm (UTC)

I check every forwarded email on snopes.com. It's SUCH a handy website.

Posted by: petrini1 (petrini1)
Posted at: February 17th, 2009 07:24 pm (UTC)

Yes, I use Snopes too! I wish more people would.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 18th, 2009 04:11 am (UTC)
poem rumors

www.snopes.com, you can check out most any rumor, i think.

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