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Gifts of Poetry Go Beyond Words


To some, this month's introduction of Maya Angelou's inspirational gift line and greeting cards from Hallmark might be cause for groans.

The giant greeting-card company based in Kansas City, Mo., has commissioned Angelou--poet, newspaper editor, inspirational speaker, civil-rights activist, former prostitute and Pulitzer Prize winner--for a line of 60 specialty gifts and greeting cards that range in cost from $2.49 to $49.99.

"The main thing in one's own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry," one card says on its cover. Inside: "Be strong, as I know you can be. Be weak when you need to be. I am here if you need me."

Is it really necessary to groan? Has Maya sold out? Would Gandhi have marketed meditation pillows? Or is it more like F. Scott Fitzgerald writing movie scripts?

Angelou's Life Mosaic collection of cards and items--treasure-keepers, photo frames, displayable quotes, pillows and bookmarks--"offers a universal voice of hope and inspiration for women, uniting them as they face common life experiences, challenges and milestones," says

When Sting's 1999 "Desert Rose" turned "Brand New Day" into his largest release after his manager persuaded Jaguar to use a music video in its ads, he defended the move. He said it was a way to get his music to more people.

With that in mind, we are taking it upon ourselves to introduce our own line of greeting cards and inspirational gifts, from some of our favorite American poets:

Razors pain you;

Rivers are damp;

Acids stain you;

And drugs cause cramp.

Guns aren't lawful;

Nooses give;

Gas smells awful;

You might as well live.

--Dorothy Parker, American satirist, critic, short-story writer, 1893-1967

Proposed use: greeting card or desk calendar.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the


When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well

And grow strong.


I'll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody'll dare

Say to me,

"Eat in the kitchen"



They'll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed --

I, too, am America.

--Langston Hughes, American poet, 1902-1967

Proposed use: greeting card or wall calendar.

I cannot live with You

It would be Life

And Life is over there

Behind the Shelf

--Emily Dickinson, American poet, 1830-1886

Proposed use: Valentine's Day card.

For the listener, who listens in the snow,

And, nothing himself, beholds

Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is

--Wallace Stevens, American writer and Hartford insurance executive, 1879-1955

Proposed use: bookends.

I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap root:

It is what you fear.

I do not fear it: I have been there.

--Sylvia Plath, American poet, 1932-1963

Proposed use: lavender sachet.

Lie on your back on stone

the stone carved to fit

the shape of yourself.

Who made it like this,

knowing that I would be along

in a million years and look

at the sky being blue forever?

--Simon Ortiz, American poet, 1941-

Proposed use: framed prints.

Those that don't got it, can't show it. Those that got it, can't hide it.

--Zora Neale Hurston, American author and anthropologist, 1891-1960

Proposed use: decorative pillow.

I am satisfied

I see, dance, laugh, sing

--Walt Whitman, American writer, 1819-1892

Proposed use: engraved candleholders.

I'm a poor underdog,

But tonight I will bark

With the great Overdog

That romps through the dark

--Robert Frost, American

poet, 1874-1963

Proposed use: decorative dog collar.


Susan Campbell is a columnist for the Hartford Courant, a Tribune Co. newspaper.

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