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~Submitted by Savitri Ingga Talahatu~

 This morning my sister asked me to choose a poem by Dr. Maya Angelou, in honor of her 85th birthday today…

  I immediately said, "Yes", without even thinking about the vast body of Dr. Angelou's literary works over the decades and that important question of "which ONE?" 

Dr. Angelou's works have accompanied me in my life's journey since I was a naive young woman in teacher's college in early '80s.  When I was transforming my tomboy-ish existence into that of a woman, I adored her "Phenomenal Woman".  When I left a budding career with UNHCR and found myself as a new immigrant in Canada in the early '90s, her "Alone" and "Still I Rise" spoke to me profoundly. And then there is her first and most highly acclaimed poem, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)", a truthful and most sincere account of the first seventeen years of her life. Over the years, her strong spirit and messages of courage have inspired so many women, including Oprah Winfrey.

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" has brought her international recognition and she was nominated for a National Book Award. Dr. Angelou has been awarded over 30 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 Diiie".  Imagine my great pleasure when my darling son randomly chose this as a literary project in highschool in the last decade! And so a sweet decision birthed itself. 

Here is a loving tribute to Maya Angelou on her 85th birthday today (and to my beloved son Antonio, for his 27th birthday on April 17).

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the 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 fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
an 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.
'I'll Fly With You' Acrylic Painting by Nicole Helbig

Savitri Ingga Talahatu was born and raised in Bali to musician parents from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. She is mother to a grown son and god-mother to a beautiful 17 year old god-daughter.  Savitri has been a multi-disciplinary teacher for almost three decades, having taught in the public system in Indonesia and in Canada, at universities and community colleges, women's shelters and senior residences. She currently teaches bhakti-infused Hatha and Kundalini Yoga classes, facilitates Yoga and Wellness workshops in Toronto, and at an annual Yoga teacher-training program in Bali.  Savitri is also a life coach, holistic health practitioner, labor and post-partum doula, childbirth educator and Reiki Master. You may visit her website Soul Sanctuary here. In her spare time, she plays with a gamelan ensemble since its inception in 2001. You may contact Savitri though e-mail Or on facebook here. 

~If you are interested in seeing your poetry appear in this blog, or submitting a poem by a woman that has inspired you, please click here for submission guidelines. I greatly look forward to hearing from you!~ 


  1. Beautiful poem. Thank you for sharing! A great intro to it too. :)

  2. Caged bird is a powerful symbol crafted by the poet to refer to the life of many people on earth. I liked the expression very much because it is rich with an array of meanings. The beauty of the poem is nothing but the use of symbols to depict the sensibilities of the suppressed sections on planet earth. Visit Custom Essay Writing Service for in-depth analysis.


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