Maya Angelou, hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature, will visit the KanawhaValley as the third speaker in the Festival of Ideas series, sponsored by The Charleston Gazette and West Virginia University.

The free public forum will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at Geary Auditorium, University of Charleston. Due to limited seating and high demand, tickets are required for this event. They will be available on a first-come, first-served basis from 4:30-7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, April 9-10, at the Charleston Town Center Mall center court. There is a two-ticket limit per person. If you have any questions, call 558-3480.

As a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil rights activist, producer and director, Angelou travels the world spreading her soul-stirring wisdom.

She has authored 11 best-sellers, including the memoir , I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, anda personal essay , Even the Stars Look Lonesome.

Her poem, Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water Before I Diiie , was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972, and in 1993, she wrote On the Pulse of the Morning at the request of President Bill Clinton for his inauguration as 42nd president of the United States.

She even won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album, and an Emmy nomination for her supporting role in the 1977 production of Roots. Her screenplay , Georgia, Georgia, was the first original script to be produced by a black woman, and she also wrote and produced Sister, Sisters for 20th Century Fox TV.

She holds a lifetime position as the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at WakeForestUniversity, and is fluent in six languages.

Poetry, she claims, saved her life. She was struck mute as a child due to a traumatic incident, and began reading black poets like Langston Hughes and Paul Lawrence Dunbar as well as Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe.

The Gazette-WVU series is in its second season.

Political satirist Mark Russell entertained a packed house at the Civic Center Little Theater on Feb 19. Four Pulitzer Prize winners, including David Halberstam, spoke of their unique experiences covering war, human tragedy, medical fraud and human rights struggles during a March 22 panel discussion at Embassy Suites.

Still on tap is a talk by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin at 7:30 p.m. May 7 at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater.