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Maya Angelou Poem Analysis

By Lola Bennett

The poem Preacher Don't


Me by Maya Angelou is conversation or even a

hopeful plea to her preacher about what she wants after death, describing three different
versions of paradise or heaven as examples. Maya Angelou was a poet, and among other
things, wrote pieces inspired by her own life, many of which have been categorized as
autobiographies. This piece is written in first person. From all the jobs she's had from sex
worker to performer to writer to activist, it's easy to say that she's seen so many different
aspects of life and directly lived many of them, too. Preacher Dont Send Me feels part
autobiographical and part fiction. Maya Angelou was a Christian and religious imagery shows up
in this piece and commonly in her work. The narrator in the poem may be talking about life after
death but it's almost like she talks from past experiences, not wanting to suffer like she has
before and not wanting useless unnecessary things. The narrator is hoping for a life of simple
happiness and advising us this is the best kind.
The opening stanza describes a ghetto in the sky where they don't really have very
luxurious food and it's run down enough to be infested by rats. Angelou writes, Preacher, dont
send me/ when I die/ to some big ghetto/ in the sky. this quote exhibits imagery of a rundown
neighbor instead of the traditional sense of paradise and is requesting a life with depression or
horrible struggle. Angelou describes this struggle in a place in the sky (or, this heaven). The line
about rats eating cats of the leopard type personally I think of leopards as being very luxurious
and exotic. But then I realized it could be seen as in a way men take down or break down
women, women who they objectify as objects to be looked at and who deserve a better life but
there's not many options available to them.Rats being relatively small and being able to take

down a big beautiful creature is a reflection on just how hopeless this place is saying that eve a
power leopard can be taken down by a measly rat. Angelou talks about having enough grits to
build a mountain or a hill with and by this she's means she passed the point in her life were that
what she ate because she didnt have enough money or that was just the situation she was in
but it's clear to see that she's moved past that point in her life.
The third stanza reveals a super overzealous fancy rich lifestyle that she wants no part
of. This heaven has streets of gold/ and milk for free. The word gold connotes glamour and
profoundly unnecessary accessories. The reference free milk first thoughts would be purity and
cleanliness as well as innocence. It also means that she doesnt need something the preacher
is offering her as milk is only for babies. She sees right through the preachers rhetoric as
material things do not make her happy and she has no use for them, be they milk or gold.
The concluding stanza paints a lovely scene and talks about loyal, kind people, good
music and a beautiful day offering her own kind of paradise rather than appealing to the
preacher. The stanza doesnt begin doesn't begin with preacher like the other stanzas and
almost seems more personal and sincere because of it. Angelou offer her perfect version of
paradise and she needs nothing more or less than this. The narrator has seen hardship and
she's not looking to have more than she needs. Her wants are modest and reflect a certain ease
in the knowledge that heaven will be a simple place but that simple place reflects her own
paradise. Angelou also shows ease in the way the piece is written, the line breaks are short and
rhythmic and the language is simple but concise. The poem itself needs no gold and adornment;
she would rather have jazz music. The poem overall seems like a guide to live life, not just what
happens after it. You don't want to live a rundown life, where you survive on little money and
almost seem to live in fear of powers that in any other situation won't scare you. And on the

other side of the spectrum you don't need unless riches and excess luxury. And there's a
middle, contentment in good company and kindness.
The poem is written in rhyme and the line break emphasizes the drama of each one. Its
almost written like a chorus or song, which fits in with the theme of religion. I like the shortness
of the lines as they express what she is saying boldly. The repetition of the word preacher
keeps the reader on track which is good because of the extreme imagery she is using, returning
us to the rhythmic appeal of the poem. She has a lot to say and the short, sharp rhyming lines
give it a tone of seriousness and urgency. Its almost as if she slows down she will not be able
to get her point across.
Maya Angelou has the amazing ability to say a lot with clarity, using simple words and
everyday analogies. The poem may read like a prayer but its so much more than that; its about
hopes and dreams and overcoming lifes hardships. Everyone dreams of riches and a
glamorous lifestyles but our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. Maybe the better life as
Angelou writes about is the one filled with kindness-- that good people and good times are
better than gold.