What is the form of Maya Angelou's poem "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?"  

1 Answer | Add Yours

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This excellent poem, so closely linked in theme to Maya Angelou's autobiographical work bearing the same name, structurally uses an irregular form in order to convey its message. The stanza lengths varies, moving from 7 lines to four lines to finally eight lines, and it is interesting to note that the rhyme scheme always begins with a regular rhyme with the first and third lines, but that the second and fourth lines do not have a regular rhyme, with the final word of the final line never rhyming. Note the following example:

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

This of course structurally mirrors the position of the caged bird as the rhyme scheme suggests confinement and an inability to express oneself, with the freedom that the bird desires being suggested through the alternating lines that do not have a fixed rhyme scheme. The form that Angelou chooses to use in this poem is therefore one in which a variety of different length stanza forms are adopted with a rhyme scheme that echoes the position of the bird that is the subject of this poem.


We’ve answered 317,354 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question