“A Brave and Startling Truth” is Maya Angelou’s second public poem recited at the 50th commemoration anniversary of the United Nations observed in June 1995. Unlike Angelou’s most famous poems “Still I Rise,” “Phenomenal Woman,” and “Caged Bird” this poem celebrates humanity. The very existence that binds each human being with another is glorified in this poem. Angelou points to the truth that a brave person can utter and a humanist can understand. She refers to a variety of concepts before making her point that we, the human beings, are the miraculous creatures who can create a better world for their upcoming generations.
- Read the full text of Maya Angelou’s “A Brave and Startling Truth” or watch Maya Angelou reading the poem at the 50th-anniversary commemoration of the UN:
Maya Angelou’s “A Brave and Startling Truth” is a long poem. To summarize the ideas within a few lines is not negotiable. That’s why it is better to understand the crux of each stanza for understanding the overall idea of this piece.
In the first stanza, the poetic persona talks about the location of our planet earth in enormous space. Human beings are extremely tiny in comparison to space. From the following stanzas, Angelou’s speaker dives deeper into her main idea that is the need for peace in the chaotic world. She refers to a variety of ideas like how several innocent lives are killed and how some of us showed kindness and mercy through our exceptional deeds.
She also talks about the horrors of war and the rapacity of institutionalized religion. Amidst such negative aspects of the modern world, she still sees a glimpse of hope. She hopes for a world where the aged can live in peace, the young ones can live joyfully and freely.
In the end, she informs readers that to come to the very truth of humankind, people have to become more compassionate, kind, and friendly with each other. Shedding all their marks of greed, hatred, and contempt from their minds, they can create a better world not only for them but also for their future generations.
The title of this piece means it is about a simple fact or truth that is startling at first hand. Only a heart brave enough to embrace humanity over rapacity can understand this truth or can accept this. Angelou, like other humanists, is one such person who thinks human beings are the true wonders of the world. Only they can change the way the world has revolved.
People have seen a lot of bloodsheds, children are abused, and soldiers have brutally murdered their fellow foreign soldiers. Not only that, religious preachers have guiltlessly sapped the last ounce of humanity out from the souls, ironically, in the name god!
So, Angelou urges humankind to accept the truth that a change is needed. They have to bravely accept this change and hoist the pennants of peace.
Form, Meter, & Rhyme Scheme
Maya Angelou wrote the poem “A Brave and Startling Truth” in free verse. It means the lines of this piece are non-metrical and there is no specific rhyme scheme. There is an important thing to note regarding the structure. Most of the stanzas begin with the line “When we come to it”. This line emphasizes the importance of coming to the truth uttered in the poem. While a few sections begin with the line “We, this people, …” Especially the first line of the poem begins with this line. It projects the idea of togetherness and universal brotherhood.
Angelou writes this piece from the first-person point of view. But she does not take a singular stand (“I”). Rather she takes a stance of plurality. It highlights the fact that the poet is not alone. Like her, there are many who love peace over the pandemonium.
This poem is also an example of a lyric poem. It is told from the perspective of a group of first-person speakers. The main speaker of this piece is the poet Maya Angelou herself.
As it is mentioned earlier, this poem does not contain a set meter. It is written in a combination of poetic meters. The poet mostly uses the rising rhythm of the iambic meter in this poem. Let’s have a look at the meter used in the first few lines:
We,/ this peo/-ple, on/ a small/ and lone/-ly pla-n(e)t
Trav(e)-ling/ through ca/-sual space
Past a/-loof stars,/ a-cross/ the way/ of in-diff/-erent suns
To a des/-ti-na/-tion where/ all signs/ tell us
As we can see, Angelou does not rely on a specific meter. The lines are mostly written in the iambic meter. There are a few variations. Such as the first foot of the first line is acephalous. It is an example of a headless line. While the second line begins with a trochaic foot. There are a few anapestic feet as well. Readers can see the second foot of the third line contains two stressed syllables. It is an example of a spondee.
The lack of a set meter and a regular rhyme scheme gives this piece an interesting quality. While reading it sounds like a form of speech that is an important feature of free verse poetry. The informal diction along with the use of compact syllabic construction of lines make a reader go through the lines easily and catch the idea impregnated there.
Though there is no specific rhyme the lines do not sound monotonous at all. Angelou uses internal rhyming by repeating consonant and vowel sounds in the neighboring words. Some sections of the text contain repetition that also creates a rhythm. For example, let’s have a look at the use of words in the second and third stanzas. The recurring use of the words such as “when” and “we” creates a sense of rhythm.
This repetition is a rhetorical device that has a catchy effect on the audience. While recitation, if one chooses such repetition, it creates a resonance and keeps the main idea alive throughout the piece.
Poetic Devices and Figurative Language
- The poem begins with a personal metaphor in the “small and lonely planet”. Here the poet refers to the people living in it who are lonely. Therefore it is an example of metonymy too and the variety used here is “container for the thing contained”.
- Readers can find several metaphors in this poem. For example, “first of hostility” contains a metaphor. Here “fist” is compared to the resistance shown towards humanity.
- The “minstrel show of hate” is an allusion to the Jim Crow performances for mocking the blacks. It can also be a metaphorical reference to the gathering to show hatred toward a particular group of people.
It occurs throughout the piece. For example, if readers look at the first stanza they can find that the lines are interconnected. This device connects the lines of the first stanza for maintaining the flow and creating an interconnection of ideas.
- The use of metonymy can be found in “lonely planet”. It is a reference to the people living on the earth.
- The phrase “fists of hostility” is a metonym for hatred and oppression. Whereas “flags of truce” is a metonym or symbol of peace and brotherhood.
- Angelou uses personification in several instances. For example, “casual space” and “indifferent suns” in the first stanza refer to the nature of the space and the stars. The poet personifies them by hinting at the insignificance of the earth and her people in comparison to the enormity of the universe.
- It also occurs in the following lines:
- “When battlefields and coliseum/ No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters”
- “When the pennants are waving gaily”
- The first line of “A Brave and Startling Truth” contains irony. In reality, the earth is not a lonely planet. But, the fact is those who live inside it lead an encapsulated life, bound by their walls of selfishness.
- The title of the poem also contains irony as well. Angelou refers to the fact that is not startling in reality. As human beings are detached from this very truth of humanity, nowadays it startles them. One has to be brave to accept it. It is the irony behind the title.
It occurs in the following examples:
- “Traveling through”
- “From fists of hostility”
- “And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean”
- “bruised and bloody”
- “rifles fall from”
The first line of the second stanza “And when we come to it” reoccurs at the beginning of the following stanzas. For example, it is repeated in the third, fifth, sixth, eighth, tenth, and eleventh stanzas. Angelou repeats the line “When we come to it” to create a resonance of the main idea related to the “startling truth”.
Stanza-by-Stanza Explanation and Analysis
We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
A brave and startling truth
Maya Angelou’s “A Brave and Startling Truth” begins with the word “We”. The comma afterward makes readers emphasize this word especially. Why does the poet do so? The line that follows gives the answer. Angelou’s poetic persona tells readers that we, the people of planet earth, are actually small and lonely. Earth is not lonely, its people are.
In the modern context, people are busier in their routine life. They have no time to know the whereabouts of others. In such a self-centered life, a person remains lonely in selfish thoughts.
The planet moves through space. If one compares the earth to that blank, it seems to be a dot in an array of celestial bodies. That’s why the speaker personifies space and says it is casual to our planet. The stars, even the sun, are indifferent to us. The celestial bodies that have the ability to sustain themselves have nothing to care about. It is for the stars, especially the sunlight, life on our planet fosters.
According to the speaker, the planet moves to a destination where the signs infer a truth. This truth is brave and baffling at the same time. What does the destination refer to? It is a reference to modernity and the contemporary condition inside the planet. Humankind can understand it when there is no other way except to accept the truth.
And when we come to it
And allow the pure air to cool our palms
The second stanza clarifies the main concern of Angelou. According to her persona, people come to it when they realize the importance of peacemaking. In this section, Angelou uses meaningful imagery of the fist and releasing the fingers slowly. The clenched fist acts as a symbol of oppression and resistance. According to her, people can only understand the truth when they release their fingers from their “fists of hostility”. Here, she portrays “fist” as a symbol of hostility shown towards a particular group or mankind as a whole.
When we release our fingers and open our palms, the air cools our hands. Here, the poet uses tactile imagery to portray how it is felt when we release anger and frustration out of our minds.
When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil
The third stanza begins with the same line. There is only one difference. Angelou removes “and” from this line. It is used to interconnect her ideas. In this stanza, the speaker talks about what is going to happen when people reach that point of truth.
According to her, the “minstrel show of hate” comes to an end. It is an allusion to the minstrel shows of the 1830s. In such shows, white performers imitated the slaves and portrayed them as backward, lazy, and cowardly. Thomas Dartmouth Rice’s “Jim Crow” is one such caricature of the blacks. The infamous Jim Crow Laws are known by the character’s name.
The speaker tells readers when people understand the truth they would put an end to such shows that showcase hatred towards a particular community, weaker or lesser in number. The faces that are sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean. It means those who are scornful wipe off their contempt for others after realizing the truth.
The battlefields and coliseum that once showed enormous bloodshed will no longer take away innocent lives. Those who died in the war were unique in their own way. They were sons and daughters of a nation. Unfortunately, the nation lost its gifted children in some bloody war. Now they lie in “identical plots,” a metaphorical reference to graves, in foreign soil. It means their bodies were not even taken to their native land.
When the rapacious storming of the churches
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze
The first few lines of this section deal with the corruption of the church, especially institutionalized religion. In the first two lines, Angelou criticizes the sound of chanting. For her, it sounds like a “rapacious storming” or “screaming racket”. There is no sense of piety. Only the hollowness of greed exists. The preachers who are meant to direct humanity in the right direction, are only concerned about how they would move up the ladder.
In the next lines, there is an implicit reference to the war. Here, the speaker pleads for peace and hopes for a world free from wars and every kind of brutality. She imagines a world where pennants wave gaily. There should be a single banner of the world. In this way, she breaks the boundaries between nations and welcomes everyone to come to one place. Then people will become the citizens of the world, not of any particular country. In such an undivided world, people will hoist the banner of the world, trembling stoutly in the “good, clean breeze”.
In the quoted phrase “good, clean breeze” the poet seeks a world that is free from pollution. She would like to breathe in a world where the air is “good”, meaning there would be no urgency of war. It can also be a hint to the freedom of people from all kinds of suffering and oppression.
When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse
This section puts forward a series of hopeful images. Angelou’s speaker talks about what people would do after they learn the truth. Then the rifles will naturally fall from the shoulders. In this line, Angelou uses a pun. Here, the poet refers to both soldiers and shoulders.
The following lines contain a beautiful image of a child dressing her doll with the flags of truce. This image shows readers how the flags of truce would be of no use when people prefer peace. Then such flags of nationalism would become playthings for kids. In a world free from wars, land mines would be removed and the aged can have peaceful evening walks.
In the following lines, Angelou again criticizes religion. In her view, religious rituals are incensed with the burning of human flesh. The imagery is disturbing but it hints at a shocking idea. It tells readers how people are still killed in the name of god. In a world of compassion and brotherhood, such things will not happen again. The little ones and their dreams will not be haunted by nightmares of abuse. In this line, Angelou also alludes to her own childhood.
When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets
The sixth stanza deals with a few examples from the seven wonders of the world. Angelou’s speaker tells readers what would people say after they realize the truth. Then they would confess that the mysterious perfection of the Pyramids is nothing in comparison to the perfection in human beings.
In the following lines, she presents the images of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Grand Canyon. The former is described as a specimen of eternal beauty. Whereas the following one is kindled into “delicious color” during sunset. Both of these images are used to contrast with the main idea of the poem.
In the line “Kindled into delicious color” Angelou uses a metaphor. Here, the comparison is made between the bright colors of the fruits to that of the Grand Canyon during sunset. The last line of this stanza is enjambed with the first line of the following stanza.
Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
These are not the only wonders of the world
In this section, the speaker similarly talks about the natural bodies that are considered the wonders of the world. The Danube river of Europe, Mount Fuji of Japan, Amazon, and Mississippi are mentioned here. The speaker compares Danube’s water to “blue soul”. She describes Fuji as if it stretches to the rising sun in the east. The snow on its peak gives it a sacred look in sunlight.
Moreover, the speaker refers to Amazon as “Father” and Mississippi as “Mother”. They nurture all the creatures in their depths and their shores. According to the speaker, these are not the only wonders of the world. So, who are the real wonders of the world? Here, the poet uses a poetic device called anticipation to refer to mankind. She does not use the reference explicitly but readers can sense it.
When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe
This stanza of “A Brave and Startling Truth” gives the answer to the question mentioned when human beings come to it before. According to Angelou’s speaker, human beings are the real wonders of the world. She creates a contrast between the vicious and virtuous humans for enlightening readers about this idea. Human beings who live in this minuscule globe committed several inhumane acts. While some of them also kept the exceptional aura of humanity alive.
Angelou describes the earth as “kithless” or without any companion to refer to those who sow hatred in a person for another and keep them isolated. Those men use the instruments of killings such as bombs, blades, and daggers. Angelou uses these instruments as symbols of brutality, inhumanity, and hatred.
Ironically, those who spread hatred, petition for peace. According to the poet, they plead in the dark. It means they prefer to stay in the darkness of destruction. In the following line, she points to the “mote of matter,” a circumlocutory reference to the earth. She uses this reference to portray how small those men are.
They utter cankerous words that challenge one’s very existence. It means their words make one feel lower than their stature. If those men fail to kill a person with their weapons of destruction, they use their words to do that. Angelou is strictly against such men.
She prefers them whose words can soothe the soul. Those who know the value of humanity, utter words that sweeten the minds of the listeners. According to the speaker, hearing them, her heart falters and the body is silenced into awe. In these lines, Angelou makes use of hyperbole to emphasize the importance of such human beings, singing songs of exquisite sweetness.
We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines
The first line of this stanza again refers to the size of our planet. It highlights the fact that we are nothing in comparison to the earth. Our drifting planet contains such men whose hands can take away lives in a twinkling. They strike so hard that it is hard for oneself to stay alive. Angelou describes it as sapping life from the living.
Yet the same hands can heal a person. Their irresistible tenderness makes one bow their heads in gratitude. This line highlights the value of humanity over hatred. The former has the power to make one bow, not by force, but by love. Their presence makes a “proud back” bend in happiness. Here, Angelou uses synecdoche. The “proud back” is a reference to a proud man.
Angelou refers to this duality as a “chaos” and a “contradiction”. However, in such a contradictory state, people learn that they are neither devils nor divines. This line contains a philosophical idea of “tabula rasa”. It means that human beings are born as a blank slate. They are neither vicious nor virtuous. It is the experiences that shape the mind of a human being. This line hints at Angelou’s humanistic approach to deal with the problems of the modern world.
When we come to it
Without crippling fear
Some ideas mentioned in the previous stanzas resonate in this section. To summarize, the speaker tells readers that the same people who created this chaotic situation can lead the world in a better direction. They have the power to fashion a world where humans irrespective of their sex or identity can live in freedom. Angelou uses the terms “sanctimonious piety” and “crippling fear” to refer to the showy spirituality and the fear of death. The former term is used to depict the corruption in religion. While the latter term alludes to the war or destruction caused by cruel men.
When we come to it
We come to it.
The last stanza of “A Brave and Startling Truth” is shorter in comparison to the previous stanzas. In this stanza, the speaker tells her audience that when human beings come to it, they confess everything is possible. Humans can surely create a favorable climate mentioned in the previous stanza. They are miraculous of all and the true wonder of the world. It is the brave and startling truth of the poem. When we understand this fact, that is when we come to it.
People have the power to change the way of looking at things. What our minuscule earth witnessed in the form of World Wars, racism, slavery, and colonialism, were the deeds of the humans. Therefore they have to accept their faults. To reach that point where universal brotherhood and peace fosters, they have to use that miraculous power and unite for the sake of humanity.
Humanity vs Inhumanity
Angelou’s “A Brave and Startling Truth” taps on several themes. One such theme is the contrast between humanity and inhumanity. Through the text, the poet explores the deeds of mankind for which humanity is at stake. Whereas several human beings are out there whose very words and works have infused the value of humanity in our hearts. Angelou speaks for them and celebrates their contribution to humankind.
This poem centers on the concept of truth. What is the truth? A thing or matter that is universally accepted. For example, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. It is an accepted truth. Likewise, human beings are miraculous beings who have the ability to do things not done before. Angelou thinks those who raked havoc in our world should be replaced. Who can accomplish this seemingly impossible task? The human beings. Only we, the people can change the way of looking at things, only we can change the earth for once and forever, and only we can uphold the importance of humane values over the ferocity of brutal actions.
Horrors of War
This theme is present from the second to the eighth stanza. The phrase “fists of hostility” contains a symbolic reference to war. It is also a possible reference to any kind of hostility shown towards humankind. By using this theme, the poet shows the impact of the wars. Where does this theme occur? Let’s explore with some examples from the text:
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil
These lines show how innocent lives of young sons and daughters of a nation have been taken away on the battlefield. Angelou ironically compares the battleground to the ancient coliseum, considered as an inhumane show of brutality. According to her, those who have died for the sake of their nation cannot even return to their motherland at the burial. They lie in identical graves in some foreign land.
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
In this section, Angelou refers to the things that actually happen in the world. She ironically refers to a situation when soldiers make a truce with their enemies. Then guns become useless. At this utopian moment, landmines are removed and the aged can live a peaceful life. It is not possible in the Cold War era. But, Angelou wishes for it for the sake of humanity.
Hatred and Racism
This theme can be found in the following lines. Let’s explore how these lines portray the theme of hatred and racism.
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
In these lines, the speaker is referring to the Minstrel shows of the 19th century. In such a performance, the whites mocked the black community. According to the speaker, such shows should be abandoned forever. Any kind of public acts that sow the seed of contempt in one’s heart should be stopped. The following line mocks those whose faces are sooted with scorn. Angelou’s words will scrub not their faces, but their hearts clean.
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
These lines refer to the words of hatred. People who use such words challenge one’s very existence. It means their harsh words make one feel small and inconsiderable. Here, Angelou is possibly referring to how racist leaders intimidate colored people with their words.
One of the main themes of “A Brave and Startling Truth” is peace. Through her words, Angelou portrays some images that stand for peace. She seeks a world where peace is valued, cherished, and maintained. The truth is only universal peace can make our lives better. Hatred, competition, and jealousy disturb this peace. In this poem, Angelou tells her readers to accept the truth that we, the commoners, are more powerful than we ever thought of. It is up to us how we can sow the seeds of peace in the modern world.
Corruption of Religion
This theme is present in the fourth, fifth, and tenth stanzas. For example, the lines “When the rapacious storming of the churches/ The screaming racket in the temples have ceased” refers to the hollowness of institutionalized religion. The words that are meant for directing humankind have turned into “rapacious storming”. It sounds like a greedy person’s “screaming racket”. Angelou thinks the corruption of religion disturbs peace of mind. As they have forgotten the role of religion, their preachings contain such heated words that sow hatred in the followers’ minds.
She speaks of how people are still killed for the sake of religion in these lines “When religious ritual is not perfumed/ By the incense of burning flesh”. Here, the poet also taps on the theme of the brutality of religion.
Celebration of Humankind
One of the important themes of “A Brave and Startling Truth” is the celebration of humankind. The truth hinted in the title of the piece is that we, the human beings, are miraculous and powerful. We make impossible tasks possible. Angelou tells her readers to use that for the benefit of humankind. Besides, she refers to the natural wonders such as the Pyramids, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Mount Fuji, and the rivers such as the Danube, Amazon, and Mississippi. She refers to those natural bodies to point to the fact that these are not the only wonders of the world. Humans are also wonderful in their own way.
Angelou uses several symbols in this piece. The most important symbol is the earth. Angelou portrays it as a minuscule particle in the vast universe. She refers to its size in a few instances for pointing at the smallness of the human beings living in it. They are not small in their size but in their thinking. That’s why the world has witnessed several horrific scenes such as the world wars, racism, and slavery.
The phrase “fists of hostility” is another symbol. It points at the dictatorial fist that is never bowed even for the sake of humanity. Angelou thinks the fingers will be released from that fist of hostility when people understand the value of peace, truth, and brotherhood.
The references to the man-made wonders also have a symbolic significance. For example, the Pyramids and their “mysterious perfection” stand for the miraculous power of humankind. Those were the creations of mere human beings. It reveals the power hidden inside the humans who can create natural wonders like the Pyramids and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The tone of this poem is ironic, inspirational, emotive, and peaceful. Angelou’s speaker uses an ironic tone while talking about the brutalities and horrors happening in the world. She seeks for a world where people do not support war, religion guides humanity, and universal peace fosters. But, in reality, the state of the world is the opposite. For describing this state in a contrasting manner, Angelou uses an ironic tone.
In the most part of this poem, the tone remains inspirational and hopeful. The speaker never becomes pessimistic about the future. She is sure that one day people will understand the truth. At that moment, what she hopes for will be the reality of the world. Apart from that, when she refers to the negative aspects, her tone does not tremble. As she knows the truth is more powerful than those occasional happenings.
Let’s explore how Angelou uses different kinds of imagery in “A Brave and Startling Truth”.
Angelou uses visual imagery in the very first stanza. Here she describes how the earth is viewed from space. This image portrays how insignificant humans are in comparison to the universe.
While describing the natural wonders, the poet beautifully uses visual imagery. For example, she describes the Pyramids as “stones set in mysterious perfection” and the Grand Canyon as “Kindled into delicious color/ By Western sunsets”.
Readers can find tactile imagery in these lines:
- “And allow the pure air to cool our palms”
- “faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean”
In the first example, Angelou portrays how a person feels when he cleanses hatred from his heart.
Organic imagery is associated with the feeling that a particular scene has on our minds. By using an image, the poet depicts the feeling associated with it. For example, the lines “And childhood dreams are not kicked awake/ By nightmares of abuse” contain organic imagery. Through these lines, Angelou shares her personal childhood experience and her feelings.
Angelou makes use of auditory imagery (images related to the sense of hearing) in the following lines:
- “When the rapacious storming of the churches/ The screaming racket in the temples have ceased”
- “Yet out of those same mouths/ Come songs of such exquisite sweetness”
The images that are related to the sense of smell are present in these lines: “When religious ritual is not perfumed/ By the incense of burning flesh”.
The poem “A Brave and Startling Truth” was written as a public poem. It was her second poem delivered in public after her inaugural poem “On the Pulse of Morning”. The latter poem was delivered at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993. Angelou recited this piece on the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, observed in June 1995. The poem was published in the same year by Random House.
On February 14, 1990, the spacecraft Voyager captured a photo of the earth from the outskirts of the Solar System. In 1994, the American astrologer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan delivered a speech at Cornell University about the “pale blue dot” depicted on the photo taken by the Voyager. This little dot is nothing other than our earth. Angelou was inspired by this perspective of looking at the earth as a minuscule particle floating in space. The idea resonated in several instances in this poem.
The contemporary situation of the world, especially politics, society, and religion is criticized here. Being a commemorative piece, its tone is hopeful but it looks at things that have a permanent mark in history as well as the world. Angelou talks about these issues bravely in her “A Brave and Startling Truth”.
The American writer Maya Angelou published “A Brave and Startling Truth” in 1996. It was released in her poetry collection “Maya Angelou: The Complete Poetry”.
The poem was written in 1995 and delivered in June commemorating the anniversary of the United Nations.
Maya Angelou wrote this poem to mark the 50th-anniversary commemoration of the United Nations in June 1995. Throughout this piece, Angelou is optimistic about the future of humankind as well as the world.
Angelou’s poem “A Brave and Startling Truth” taps on the themes of truth, hope, horrors of war, corruption in religion, hatred and brutality, etc.
When we realize the importance of peace and the miraculous power hidden inside us, we release our fingers of hostility and show compassion to our fellow beings. Only truth and acceptance bring change in the world.
The main message of this poem is present in the last stanza. Through this piece, Angelou tells the audience to explore the hidden secrets of their minds in order to realize that only we can make our future better.
The speaker of “A Brave and Startling Truth” is none other than the poet Maya Angelou. She speaks in this poem from the perspective of a citizen of the world.
- A Short Overview of “A Brave and Startling Truth” — Read the brief story behind its publication and the occasion that led Maya Angelou to compose this poem.
- “A Wordsmith at Her Inaugural Anvil” by Catherine S. Manegold, The New York Times — Read this informative interview with Maya Angelou where she talks about her poem “A Brave and Startling Truth”.
- Maya Angelou reads “A Brave and Startling Truth” — Listen to the poet reading her poem after a brief introduction.
- Janna Levin reads “A Brave and Startling Truth” by Maya Angelou — Listen to astrophysicist Janna Levin reciting the poem at The Universe in Verse, a charitable celebration of science through poetry.
- “A Brave and Startling Truth” as a Humanist Poem — Read how Maya Angelou got inspiration from the photograph of earth taken by Voyager 1 in 1990.
- ‘Pale Blue Dot’ Revisited — For the 30th anniversary of the iconic ‘Pale Blue Dot’ image of the earth, NASA published a new version of the photograph.
- Carl Sagan Unveils the Pale Blue Dot — Watch Carl Sagan unveiling the Pale Blue Dot image at a press conference.
More Maya Angelou Poems to Explore
- “Still I Rise”
- “Phenomenal Woman”
- “In and Out of Time”
- “Woman Work”