CHARLESTON, W. Va. — With the passing of legendary American poet Maya Angelou the state’s authority on poetry paused to reflect on her life and work.

“She’s certainly a towering figure in American letters,” Marc Harshman, West Virginia’s poet laureate said.

Even in her old age her enthusiastic demeanor made her passing shocking to Harshamn.

“She always seemed such a vibrant, full of life person that I had no idea of how old she was or even that she was ill.”

Angelou was known for her many works as an actress, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs, but was mostly known for her poetry.

What made her stand out and resonate with American readers was her rise from struggle, outlined in her autobiography “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” working various jobs as a young woman, including fry cook, San Francisco’s first black streetcar conductor, night-club dancer and prostitute.

“I am in awe of all that she accomplished in her life from such difficult circumstances in her young life,” Harshman said. “To have overcome all that and become a poet, a screenwriter, an author.”

Her works highlighted racism and the civil rights movement and her emotions almost leap from the page.

“Passion to have the world set right, one can only admire a person of such grit and commitment.”

While Harshman and the world of literature mourn her passing, it is now a time to celebrate Angelou’s legacy.

“One hates to think of a figure like Maya Angelou passing,” he said. “It’s certainly a time to pause, reflect, rejoice and celebrate the life that she did give to us, the life she especially gave to us in her writing.”

Angelou passed away on Wednesday at the age of 86 at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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  • The Facts

    So national television networks are continually televising her death like she was a hero. Many have passed before her, accomplished much more for the greater good and this country as a whole and not received this type of media recognition. Like the previous poster said, no disrespect intended. But geez this article even cited her work as a prostitute. I don't want my kids idolizing a prostitute. Has the black community become this vain and in need of mass recognition? Who will we honor next, Mayor Marion Berry, the thief and drug addict from Washington, DC. This has become a joke.

  • thornton

    Sad passing, sadder comments previous.

    Whether one agreed with every step she took or every comment she voiced, I always believed that honest thought was involved in each.
    Like Eric Hoffer, she was an American original, a creature which evermore appears to be lacking today.

  • DWL

    Who cares! She was old. Now she's cold.

  • Veteran

    All day we have seen this accomplished poets life broadcasted on national TV. Why don't we start broadcasting photos and bios of all our deceased soldiers, sailors and airman that gave their all to this country? This woman didn't sacrifice anything. No disrespect intended. Time to change the dominant pigment of this nation. I'm sick of it. Enough already.

    • Mason County Contrarian

      Even the passing of Ms. Angelou impacts us, as evidenced by comments. Thank God these comments from Veteran do not typify the real vet.

      Sir, which "dominant pigment" would you then choose to broadcast? All veterans bled, and continue to bleed, red. Some gave their all so that some can make Donald Sterlingesque comments on this site. And, as the president recently said, the best thing is to "let them keep talking".....

      Your comment needs a change of heart. In the meantime, keep talking.

    • Harpers Ferry

      It's because she's black. We're you being rhetorical or really that ignorant?