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.