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    Did you know that Maya Angelou wrote the poetry in John Singleton’s Poetic Justice?

    Jessie Gaynor

    May 1, 2019, 10:05am

    Director John Singleton died Monday at 51. He’s best remembered for his Academy Award-nominated debut Boyz n the Hood, but it’s his second movie, Poetic Justice, that might have the most crossover appeal for readers of this site. Janet Jackson, Tupac Shakur, and Regina King are among the movie’s leads, but I would argue that its breakout star is Maya Angelou(!!), who plays Aunt June in the movie and who also wrote all the poetry attributed to Justice, Jackson’s character.

    Poetry in pop culture usually fits into one of two categories: original, embarrassing; Dylan Thomas, earnestly apocalyptic. (Unless it’s a biopic of a poet. Actually no, those are also usually quite bad. But you should still all watch Leonardo DiCaprio as Rimbaud in Total Eclipse.) Poetic Justice, though, is a rare example of a movie that foregrounded poetry. (Also, Justice has a cat named White Boy, which is wonderful.)

    Remember that story in the Times about the new Hollywood phenomenon of hiring poets to write poems in movies? Yeah, John Singleton did that first.

    Here’s an excerpt from one of Angelou’s poems for the movie:

    In a time of secret wooing
    Today prepares tomorrow’s ruin
    Left knows not what right is doing
    My heart is torn asunder.

    There have been, and will no doubt continue to be, many deeply felt tributes to Singleton’s considerable legacy this week, so this is just to say: he did right by poetry.

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