Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was a modern day Renaissance woman – author, poet, activist, dancer, singer, director, teacher and hero. After her death last month, I was flooded with submissions from you to adapt one of her poems. I was a bit daunted when choosing which one to adapt since there are so many great poems to choose from which mean so much to so many people. I finally narrowed it down to her most famous three. Still I Rise, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and Phenomenal Woman. I came up with a few ideas for the first two, but my concepts were a bit serious and melancholy. I wanted to draw a fun and uplifting comic to celebrate Angelou’s incredible life, rather than mourn her passing … so Phenomenal Woman it was!

About the scenes depicted in the comic: I read in a few obituaries that as a girl Angelou was “packed off by her family to California after sassing a white store clerk in Arkansas” which I illustrated as the first scene. In the 1950s Angelou spent many years as a popular calypso dancer. In fact, she changed her name from Marguerite Johnson to Maya Angelou around that time to help draw crowds to her performances. While living in Ghana, Angelou befriended Malcolm X and later supported Martin Luther King Jr and the NAACP during the civil rights struggle. She also called Nelson Mandela a friend, meeting him shortly after his release from prison. Finally, in 1993, Angelou recited her poem On the Pulse of Morning at Bill Clinton’s inauguration.

Visit Maya Angelou’s official website to find out more about this phenomenal woman.

MORE ZEN PENCILS POETRY ADAPTATIONS: Invictus. What Teachers Make. Ithaka. The Winds of Fate. A Bird Came Down the Walk. The Road Not Taken.
RELATED COMIC: The Woman in the Arena by Brené Brown.

– Thanks to everyone who sent me Angelou’s poems.
– I’ve updated last week’s science all-stars poster with five additional scientists, chosen from your suggestions.