I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – The Poet’s Gift


A selection from: Still I Rise by Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

I first read this poem (in its entirety) in a small volume of poetry. It came at no charge with an order from the Book of the Month Club. The stanza above is the first one of the poem … and gotta say… it made my heart race.

I needed to know more about this woman, who before that moment, I hadn’t really noticed. I laugh at this now… more than a little embarrassed… because she was, of course, incredibly talented and prolific. And, also … a light in a sometimes dark world.

I’ve read several of Angelou’s books by now, but I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings  is truly her story — her memoir.

Sent to live with her grandmother, young Angelou learns the meaning of dignity, strength and prejudice.

She also learns the meaning of pain and trauma.

When she visits her mother, she learns at the hands of a man who says, “If you tell… ”

She was never going to tell.

The woman who would become a poet stopped talking.


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.

I find I’m sad today, with this book beside me on the table. I remember reading it a long, long time ago… possibly thirty years.

I think of the woman who became THE voice of reason, advocacy and hope. How her light shone so brightly. I didn’t know her, not personally, but I miss her.

I love her poetry most. You can probably tell.

I am interested in how she got to be… yes… but her poetry twists my heart so tight I think I might pass out from the power and beauty of it. Oh, that I could write like that.

This book can be whatever you need it to be. It can be a book to cry over, raise your fist with, get angry about, or revel in the redemptive power of love.

When I grow up, I want to be like Maya Angelou.

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