Maya Angelou – Lady Luncheon Club

by Senior reader

This poem from the anthology And Still I Rise could be used to support the argument that Angelou is more than a feminist poet.  It seems to apportion blame equally to the female organiser and the male speaker at this luncheon club.

The very word luncheon – middle class, favoured, old fashioned, refined – is a direct contrast to the jobless streets, and indicates the protected and privileged environment she lives in.  This idea of privilege and wealth is emphasised by the golden watch.  She is going through the motions – he is paid from the petty cash – not much then.  She notes next time the / Speaker must be brief: there is no real interest in the topics of homelessness and child abuse that he is talking about – this woman is self centred.  She is preoccupied with the coffee, and the cake, thinking perhaps of the image they will present of her luncheon, or maybe just preoccupied with her decadent lifestyle.

The man too is apparently shallow – going through the motions – he summons sincerity like a favoured pet – he calls up the mood, rather than speaking from the overflow of his feelings – he lacks sincerity.  Angelou is being ironic when she claims he understands the female rage.  Eve and Delilah have long been considered archetypes, stereotypes of dishonest and scheming women – this man is not a feminist – and whilst he raises important social issues – alcoholism, child abuse, unemployment – the audience are only going through the motions, not really listening.

Finally – imperiously – she claps her hands: she is in control, dismissive, selfish, thinking only of her own boredom, unaffected by the problems he has described.

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