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Vicki

CAGED BIRD							       

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
int he 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.

Maya Angelou
Poem Analysis

TITLE:  A CAGED BIRD can be interpreted as the black race being held back 
from freedom by their skin color.

METAPHORS:
"caged bird"~	the black race retaining the disadvantaging skin color, 
		lack of freedom
 
"free bird"~	the white race retaining freedom, aversion toward blacks

"wind"~ 	white tradition in history, white race superior to black

"breeze"~	hope, opportunity

"fat worms"~	opportunity

"wings are clipped 
and his feet are tied"~	what has gone down through tradition, disadvantages
			of blacks seldom due to their skin color

"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 quotation above is a significant stanza of the poem, CAGED BIRD.
  The stanza explicitly displays the true meaning of the poem and defines 
actions of a "caged bird." Blackness of skin acts as a barrier for the 
black race; it prevents freedom for a person.  The freedom, and feelings of 
a white person's existence are unknown to one who is black.  Here, Maya's 
belief for freedom and equality is beginning to spread among the black 
race.  She "sings" for freedom.
	
	Throughout history, barriers have been put up between races.  
Divisions and inequities between blacks and whites have existed since 
ancient times.  It's an enigma regarding how heritage has incurred blacks 
with slavery, and why discrimination and racism exist.  Nevertheless, the 
Civil Rights Movement, actions of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and 
the trials of Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, and Plessy vs. 
Ferguson (Separate but Equal, 1896) are examples of how blacks have 
slowly "sang" for equality.  For more than three hundred years, a wrongful 
tradition of slavery and discrimination has existed.  This ongoing black 
inferiority and white supremacy (ethnocentrism) is bound in tradition and 
hard to sever.  Blacks are slowly overcoming the dominance of whites to 
blacks.

	Through tradition and history, whites have been given hopes and 
spirit; blacks are servile and bound by tradition. This controversy is 
condoned and accepted.  Tradition has caused the death of black dreams and 
hope.  If a black person existed retaining the same amount of knowledge, 
skill, and talent of a white person, who would succeed more in life?  The 
poem infers that the probable answer would be a white person, because 
blacks are "caged" by their color.  Opportunities infinitely exist for 
whites, whereas the same is false for blacks.

	In her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and her poem, Caged 
Bird, a similar message (blacks are slowly overcoming tradition) is 
shared.  In Maya's autobiography, she gets a job as a streetcar 
conductor.  The significance is that Maya disturbed what was customary 
(only whites had streetcar jobs).  She defied the tradition set from 
history, and pervaded pure hopes and dreams for black equality.  
	
	The metaphors from Caged Bird are well used and creative.  Perhaps 
the interpretation of the poem could have been communicated using bees, 
flowers, roots, and pollen as metaphors.
  
bees~			white race
wings for flight~	white tradition carried through history,  
flowers~		black race 
roots~			black tradition of unequal opportunities, permanent 
			in the ground
pollen~			opportunities, that can be carried by the bees, 
			but can remain in the flowers


Still I Rise
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.

Does my sassiness upset you?
why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
you may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise 
I rise 
I rise.
Maya Angelou





Poem Analysis

TITLE: Still I Rise ~ No matter what is done or said to me, I will 
overcome it.

	Maya seems to be referring to herself as "I."  Perchance, she 
is speaking to the white race "you."  The poem is conveying the message 
that from the white perspective, whites are superior to blacks.  The 
author questions the white race: Is it upsetting  you that I look rich, 
or act rich?  Are  you bothered by the fact that I am black, but I am 
proud of my race and I am beautiful too?

Then she states,  no matter what you attempt, or in what way you hurt me, 
I will overcome it.

	Perhaps the poem displays the confidence of being black and the 
insecurity of being white.  Apparently, Maya is black, but she defies 
history using her "haughtiness" (proudness) to intimidate the white race. 
An aversion from the whites to the blacks seems evident.  Maya is 
pretentiously assuring the audience that she will "rise" to any occasion, 
and her color won't hold her back.
	
	In Maya's autobiography, an event in her life may have inspired 
part of the poem.  The concluding lines of Still I Rise relate to the time 
where she became a new person.  This took place at the junkyard, where 
she spent a month sleeping in cars, discovering her new self.  In a way, 
Maya had eluded her painful past.
  
"Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise" poem
"After a month my thinking processes had so changed that I was hardly 
recognizable to myself.  The unquestioning acceptance by my peers had 
dislodged the familiar insecurity." (216) book
"Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise 
I rise 
I rise." poem
"I had a baby."(245) book  
Here, Maya is passing down pride from her ancestors into her new baby.  
Again, she is surpassing  the racist world and overcoming everything. 

Poem vs. Poem
	In comparison between Caged Bird and Still I Rise, the poems both 
feature a similar message:  Through history, blacks have been inferior to 
whites, but they are slowly equalizing racial differences.  Although the 
theme is corresponding, the liberal position of the black person/race 
differs among the poems. In Caged Bird, the black race is trapped within 
the color of their skin, whereas in Sill I Rise, the black person (Maya) 
seems liberated from her color.  Both poems are well written.