When the book called I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou was published, Maya Angelou was one of the first African American women who had actually put her pen to paper and committed to record a public exposure of her personal life. Her work is often described as autobiographical fiction, and includes a series of six autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first and most highly acclaimed, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings which was published in 1969, describes the first seventeen years of her life. It brought her international recognition, and was nominated for a National Book Award. Incidentally, Maya Angelou is no stranger to awards, and has been awarded over thirty honorary degrees and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her 1971 volume of poetry; Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Die.
Dr. Maya Angelou wrote five additional books which carry on this autobiographical documentation. She revamped the standard structure of an autobiography. Her autobiographical books are centered on identity, racism, and family. They have been used as text books in schools and universities both in North America and internationally. However, some of her work has been deemed controversial and has been challenged and/or banned in US schools and libraries. Regardless, Dr. Maya Angelou’s autobiographical works have a very important seat at the table of African American personal narratives, and they continue to be showered with praises for their honesty and continuous underlying dignity. Maya Angelou is not only dedicated to the art of autobiography but is also an accomplished poet, author, and dramatist.
On a very personal note, as an author, poet, African American, woman, and person, Dr. Maya Angelou is someone who I hold in the highest of esteem, have great admiration for, and cherish deeply. Her pride is mine, just as her tears and fears of her past are as well. I shall not reach anywhere near the high standard that she has set academically and with her accomplishments; but she has certainly inspired me to look up to the bar that she has set, and aspire to pull myself up towards it. Maya Angelou is my personal heroine, and although I am invisible and unknown to her, through her words and her works she has become a heavily influential mentor of mine.
Thank you Dr. Maya Angelou.
I know why the caged bird sings
by Maya Angelou
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’s 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 tie
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.