Caged Birds and Inspiration: RIP Maya Angelou

There are certain touchstones for, well everyone, and I feel like Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” is one of those. If you ask people about poetry, this, or Robert Frost will probably be the first thing that they quote back to you. It’s one of those transcendent pieces of art that has taken on a life of it’s own.

I’m a really big fan of Dr. Angelou’s, like most incredible poets she was able to speak to humanity in so few and undeniably beautiful words. Her words inspired hope, stirred anger, and gave breath and life to so many ideas for so many people.

That might be why when I heard about her death yesterday I spent the rest of the day in a sort of weird, contemplative, melancholy haze.

Her autobiography, I Know why The Caged Bird Sings, was one of the first pieces of literature that I remember reading and fully understanding how something could speak to you and still be so far outside of your own experience. I didn’t have anything in common with Maya Angelou’s life, but I felt like I could see into her heart, and it was a beautiful thing.

I went to an all girl’s high school, and there wasn’t a day that I walked down the halls that Dr. Angelou’s words weren’t on some bulletin board. When I began my women’s studies curriculum in earnest at 20, I was able to understand a great deal of my reading because of my early exposure to her work, her ideals and her unique ability to make the complicated and personal seem simple and universal.

Universal.

I’m glad that I’ve landed on that word, because I think it’s the right one to describe Dr. Angelou’s work. She was an exceptional woman, an incredible writer, and an inspiration to everyone who encountered her work, whether they studied it or simply let it touch their hearts.

Thank you, for everything, Dr. Angelou.

 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.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Caged Birds and Inspiration: RIP Maya Angelou

  1. I need to reread this book. Thank you for sharing. Although the news this week was sad, it has been really nice reading everyone’s favorite poems, quotations, memories of Dr. Angelou since Wednesday.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s