Kansas City Strip

American greetings: Last week Hallmark announced that it’s teaming up with esteemed poet Maya Angelou to create a new line of products to be sold in Hallmark’s Gold Crown stores (take that, Kmart and Martha Stewart!). We’re not quite sure whether it was a compliment when the one who knows why the caged bird sings said she felt about Hallmark “the same way I feel about Reader’s Digest or Quaker Oats. These are the institutions which set standards and have not deviated from the best they could do. You might not like them, but every year, every season, the level is exquisitely true.”

Although Angelou has a distinguished resume dating to civil rights work with Dr. Martin Luther King, she became a household name in 1993 after reading a poem at Bill Clinton‘s inauguration. (Angelou could not have imagined how horrifically some of her poem’s imagery would describe the incoming administration — when she wrote, for example, of proud entities “thrusting perpetually under siege” or suggested that a listener take his “most private need” and “sculpt it into the image of your most public self.”)

Hallmark doesn’t plan to launch the line until 2002, but we figured Angelou might want to practice and, at the same time, send a greeting to her most famous patron on the occasion of his leaving office. In fact, Pitch Weekly has recently discovered some of Angelou’s discarded notes, in which she appears to be reworking the famous refrain from “The Rock Cries Out to Us Today” in Hallmarky verse:

    A Rock, A River, A Tree
    Weren’t enough for Bill C
    But I know you’ll always be there for me.

    Today, the Rock cries out to us,
    clearly, forcefully,

    Telling us, In case I haven’t told you lately
    I’m glad we’re friends.

    Yet, today I call you to my riverside,

    If you will study war no more.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if our lives were like
    and we could “fast forward”

    through the crummy times?

    I, the rock, I the river, I the tree
    know it’s hard to say goodbye to a pet.

    Hope you know caring thoughts are

    with you, especially now.

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