A Poem a Day: Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is an American poet and author, and basically one of the most baller people alive today. Instead of trying to pick among the many interesting facets of her life, I will instead quote shamelessly and directly from Wikipedia (her page can be found here):

“Angelou’s list of occupations includes pimp, prostitute, night-club dancer and performer, castmember of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, author, journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the days of decolonization, and actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs…She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X…In 1993, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.”

I had heard of Angelou growing up, but was never exposed to her poetry or any of her work. Imagine my surprise when I finally see a photo of Maya Angelou: I matched that photo to a face attached to a voice I could not forget, a sage-like voice which narrated a young girl’s hopes and pain as she came of age in segregated, 20th century America, a voice I heard when I was young in a film called How To Make an American Quilt (1995).

Scene from the 1995 film How to Make an American Quilt.

Scene from the 1995 film How to Make an American Quilt. Angelou (left) with Winona Ryder.

Today’s selection shares the same name as her most famous autobiography (check it out here):

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Artist: Guy Stauber (more stuff here: http://www.richardsolomon.com/artists/guy-stauber/)

Artist: Guy Stauber (more stuff here: http://www.richardsolomon.com/artists/guy-stauber/)

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This entry was posted in Literature, National Poetry Month. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Poem a Day: Maya Angelou

  1. ileneonwords says:

    I’ve read all of Maya Angelou and recently read her latest memoir, Mom & Me & Mom. She is such an inspiration!

    Like

  2. Pingback: Culture Update 6/2/14: Vivaldi and James Joyce in June | The Educated Procrastinator

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