Maya Angelou by vicky le

Maya's real name is Marguerite Annie Johnson. Maya is known as a poet, civil rights activist, and an award-winning author. She is the first African American to write a nonfictional best seller memoir, titled I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She is also the first black woman director in Hollywood, producing and starring in films. Maya wrote and produced various prize-winning documentaries. As a result of Angelou starring in Broadway's debut, Look Away (1973) and her performance in Roots (1977), Maya got nominated for two Tony awards. On May 28, 2014, Maya died at the age of 86 in her home due to heart problems. Till this day, Maya Angelou will always be known as a woman who pushed for justice, education, and equality who also wrote beautiful poetry.

I know why the caged bird sings

A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wing

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 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.

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.

Tone & mood

The tone of the poem, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, is extreme pain and sorrow. In stanza 2, it states “his wings are clipped and his feet are tied”. This sad little bird must feel trapped inside and feel like there is no way out. There are two different types of mood for this poem. For the free bird, I would say the mood is joyous and confident. This bird can sing and have as much freedom as it wishes. On the other hand, for the caged bird, the mood is more of sympathy. Lines such as “The caged bird sings with fearful trill” and “his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream” create more of a depressing and concerned mood.

"I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS" FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE

  • Imagery
  1. "A free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream till the current ends and dips his wing in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the sky.”
  2. "The free bird thinks of another breeze and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees and the fat worms waiting on his dawn-bright lawn and he names the sky his own.”
  3. “But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage can seldom see through his bars of rage”
  • Symbolism
  1. "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"
  • Personification
  1. "A free bird leaps on the back of the wind"
  2. "and dares to claim the sky."
  3. "The free bird thinks of another breeze"
  4. "The caged bird sings with a fearful trill"
  5. "his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream"
  • Metaphor
  1. "But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams"
  2. "can seldom see through his bars of rage"
  3. "His wings are clipped and his feet are tied"
  • Alliteration
  1. "can seldom see through"

Maya Angelou's writing style

When Maya writes, she is always open and honest. She is not afraid to show the world how she feels. In a lot of her poems, she writes about racism, identity, family, and travel. Poems such as Harlem Hopscotch, On Aging, and When I Think About Myself have a rhyme scheme to it. Other poems such as Wonder, When You Come, and The Lesson, don’t particularly have a rhyme scheme. Most of her works relate to society and real-life problems that occur in the world. In her poem Equality, she talks about the history of race and racism in America. In her famous poem Still I Rise, she speaks up for herself and other living African Americans. Maya’s writings are an inspiration to many people, including young adults.

critique

I think Maya’s poems encourage people to stand up for what they believe in, and that’s what I’m all about. I like to see people trying to better the world and better themselves. So of course, I like Maya’s work. You see, Maya is kind of like Dr. Suess. People will keep reading her poems generation after generation. Her poems will always be known and so will she.

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