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It’s World Poetry Day. Whether you love, like or are indifferent to poetry, there are those who feel compelled to write it and whose words become a shared way of expressing something that otherwise is inexpressible. The poet Robert Frost said “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” There is a story I really like about a journalist asking the ballerina Anna Pavlova if she could explain the meaning of a dance she had just performed. “If I could explain it” she said “I wouldn’t have bothered to dance it”. Poetry (and dance) aren’t just alternative ways of expressing something, they are ways to express things that can’t be shared in any other way. They give us glimpses of truth that can’t be grasped in other ways. According to Plato, “Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.”

Poetry can be a powerful way of connecting with who we are, who we could be and what the world is like. Maya Angelou called the first part of her autobiography I Know why the Caged Bird Sings and in her poem “Caged Bird”, she compares the free bird “Who names the sky his own” and the caged bird who “stands on the grave of dreams”. The poem is a beautiful exploration of the opportunity and challenge of freedom and the constraint of being pigeonholed, or bird caged. Angelou writes that she knows why the caged bird sings, “The caged bird sings / with a fearful trill / of things unknown / but longed for still … for the caged bird / sings of freedom.

We are not constrained to what and where we are now. What we can imagine, what we sing of, what we long for are part of our reality. As someone who burst out of various cages, Maya Angelou expressed through poetry convictions that could not have been expressed otherwise.

Caged bird by Maya Angelou is at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/48989

LH and JH


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