Karla Burns remembers Maya Angelou

WICHITA — With the Wednesday death of Maya Angelou, 86, Wichita’s Karla Burns remembered the poet for the simple yet significant way she affected her.

Angelou was a guest professor at Wichita State University when, in March of 1974, Burns was involved in a reader’s theater of Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

“I played her grandmother,” says Burns, who went on to become an educator and performer.

“She came over to me,” Burns says of when the production ended. “She talked to all of us.”

Angelou shared small bottles of Chanel with everyone.

Most important, though, was a comment Angelou made to Burns.

“She said, ‘You made me smell my grandmother’s kitchen,’ and I’ve never forgotten that in all my life,” Burns says. “It really shaped my feelings about theater … about being a woman and her as a poet. How poetic to have such a colorful comment made about your work.”

Burns says Angelou influenced her as an educator as well.

“She was such an inspiration,” Burns says. “She really moved my heart.”