SEPTEMBER 2 & 3

The flak Aram Saroyan drew for his one-word grant-winner “lighght” is legendary, but surely no writer has reaped so large a reward for so small an achievement as point-of-purchase poetry sensation Maya Angelou. She was well on her way to becoming the Rod McKuen of the ’90s when her verse for the first Clinton inaugural, On the Pulse of Morning, put her over the top. Five bucks got you a pamphlet in one of three colors of cover stock (collect ’em all!). For the same price there was also a pamphlet-on-tape. Today you can shell out $13 for the hardcover. Or for five dollars more you can take home the new, lower-middlebrow instant classic Even the Stars Look Lonesome. It’s a slight collection of essays—think of it as Life’s Pompous Little Instruction Book—that contains scant poetry, goes almost two pages without unloading a list of its author’s credentials, and groans throughout with Angelou’s trademark aw-shucks-yet-worldly grandiloquence. It strikes the familiar tone I learned to hate at the feet of the diva herself when I was enrolled in her weekly seminar. Suckers for hyperenunciated pronunciamentos lapped it up, but before long we students were huddling together, asking ourselves if that was all there was. I carried away an abiding distrust in the overly dramatic that is sure to cause me no end of torment if I attend the honorific poetry slam or queue up for what promises to be a rather regimented signing. The “Pre-Angelou Poetry Slam” is at 7 p.m. Tuesday and the signing is from 7:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Borders, 4420 Mitchellville Rd., Bowie. FREE. (301) 352-5560. (Glenn Dixon)

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