Maya Angelou Celebrates Her 80th Birthday

Posted on March 27, 2008

Maya Angelou is celebrating her 80th birthday on April 4th. She's still writing and teaching. She describes herself as a teacher who writes in an interview with USA Today. She also says turning 80 is "exciting!" but adds, "The body knows. The bones don't let you forget."

Now, she adds, "I'm not a writer who teaches. I'm a teacher who writes. But I had to work at Wake Forest to know that." She describes the joy she finds in a classroom: "I see all those little faces and big eyes. Black and white. They look like sparrows in the nest. They look up, with their mouths wide open, and I try to drop in everything I know."

She has no plans to retire. She teaches one course each semester at Wake Forest. (Currently it's World Poetry and Drama Performance.) She composed a poem for the Summer Olympics, is working on a collection of essays, and hosts a weekly satellite radio show on the Oprah & Friends channel.

She writes on yellow legal pads and says that even after all these years, a clean sheet of paper scares and thrills her: "I see a yellow pad, and my knees get weak, and I salivate. I know that sounds like coyness, but I have less coyness than modesty, and I have none of that." She laughs.

A new book is coming out about her life called Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration (Doubleday). In honor of her 80th birthday, Oprah Winfrey is throwing a top-secret party for her. On her 70th birthday, Oprah took her and 150 of her friends on a cruise. How will she top that this time, we wonder?

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