Hola mi Gente,
In keeping with the art motif of my Saturday postings, I am featuring a poet that not too many people may know about. Many people know of Maya Angelou’s memoir, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, but not as many know of the poet who inspired its title, Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first African-American to gain national prominence as a poet.
He died much too young, at 33, but his work is as fascinating as it is beautiful. Two side notes: he fought throughout his career to publish in Standard English, while his publishers would only accept poems he wrote in Black dialect. The irony being that he was brilliant in both. Also, his wife, Dorothy, an accomplished poet herself, wrote complementary poems (I think this documentation of their love was collected into a volume called Oak and Ivy — not sure).
Of course, the metaphor of the caged bird holds a significant meaning for me personally. With that, I leave you with…
* * *
I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals —
I know what the caged bird feels!
I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting —
I know why he beats his wing!
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!
— Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)
* * *
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…