Maya Angelou Had Three Things When She Wrote: the Bible, Roget’s Thesaurus, and a Bottle of Sherry

Jeff Daly/AP
Jeff Daly/AP
She usually had a glass at eleven a.m., and—along with a Bible and Roget’s Thesaurus—sherry was a vital writing accessory of Maya Angelou’s. What makes it so good, and where should the sherry virgin begin?
In 1990, during an interview with George Plimpton for The Paris Review, Maya Angelou revealed the few items she brought into Spartan hotel rooms in which she wrote her seminal works: the Bible, a dictionary, Roget’s Thesaurus, yellow notepads, an ashtray and a bottle of sherry.

“I might have it at six-fifteen a.m.,” she explained, “just as soon as I get in, but usually it’s about eleven o’clock when I’ll have a glass of sherry.”

Angelou was otherworldly, even during her lifetime. At her memorial service last week, former president Bill Clinton commended her for calling our attention to “dignity, work, love and kindness.” Oprah Winfrey called her “spiritual queen mother” and “my anchor,” and Michelle Obama praised her as “one of the greatest spirits the world has ever known.”

Her hardships and accolades are well documented. Before she turned thirty, she was raped, became a mute child, dropped out of high school to become San Francisco’s first black female streetcar conductor, graduated high school, gave birth to a son, supported herself as a waitress, and danced on television with Alvin Ailey. In her early thirties she moved to Egypt to run a newspaper, learned five languages and met Malcolm X, whom she returned to America to work for. Her close friend, Martin Luther King, was assassinated on her 30th birthday.

Angelou never conformed to anyone else’s version of ‘normal.’  Her poem,Phenomenal Woman, captures her swagger and authenticity, her clear understanding of self, her disinterest in limitation through outside expectation, her curiosity. It radiates her inner light and compass, her disregard for status quo.

Angelou’s beverage choice, sherry, brazenly reflects that same spirit.  She drank sherry because she enjoyed it, not because it was popular or stylish. At the time of that interview, it was decidedly neither.

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Source: The Daily Beast | Jordan Salcito

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