Tag Archives: poet

Friday Reflections: Freedom

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Hullo, folks! I’ve had a bit of a break this summer because of a bit of travelling and plenty of family fun, but I’m back for today’s Friday Reflections post.

One of the world’s most beloved poets (of course, she was much more than a poet, too), Maya Angelou, recently passed away. Her poems are amongst my personal favorites; they always inspire me, and give me strength.

Today’s post has also been inspired by her life, and the topic is Freedom.


Image Source: quotesstack.com

The Meaning of Freedom

Well, the dictionary certainly defines freedom in several ways, depending on the context — but each of us desire different kinds of freedom. It could be freedom of speech or the freedom to choose a way of life; it could be the freedom to read books, the freedom to be educated. It could be a country’s freedom — independence. Someone could be breaking out of social confines: limits determined and imposed by society, based on class, creed, race or gender. One could also yearn spiritual freedom.

What’s the first kind of freedom that strikes you? Which would you prefer most? Do you think you already have it? If not, why not? If so, does it satisfy you?

You could also always write about how doing some specific action set you free in some way. Perhaps creativity sets you free? Or going out for a run in the early morning? It could be emotionally taxing, like letting go of someone or some past incident; it could be a ritual of some kind that releases you in some way. One could also let go of inhibitions and fears (like in the song, Let It Go). Go for whatever resonates with you best!

Freedom works great as a theme in novels and short stories, even in poetry; and there are many symbols that are commonly used to represent the concept of freedomBirds (in flight) are amongst the most common images used (such as as on the covers of the book series, The Hunger Games). Another image is that of broken chains, which constructs a story: there is a past (one of confinement), then the struggle for liberation, and finally freedom.

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
-Maya Angelou

An Exercise: Illustrate your concept of freedom

Based on what kind of freedom you’ve chosen to write about, can you construct an image that would be representative of it? Try to avoid cliché images, come up with something different. Try to be specific, and use all five senses to flesh it out.

You’re welcome to even try to sketch this image, if not write a poem or a prose piece.

‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’

One of Ms. Angelou’s best-known and loved works is her autobiographical work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; the poem of the same title is equally famous.

I share it with everyone here today, so that it may continue to sing of freedom:

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 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 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.

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

(Poem Source)

With that, I’ll sign off — I wish everyone a happy weekend, and happy writing 🙂



The Big “Little Song” – a lesson in poetry-writing

So the 14th day’s prompt (I got to it a day late) over at Mr. Brewer’s blog was to write a sonnet. I’ve long since loved this form of poetry, but had never dared to attempt it – for several reasons. First of which being: I’m terrible at sticking to form. I’ve tried many times and failed miserably. I was convinced the only way for me to go was free verse. The second reason was that I was frightened of the legacy behind this particular form.


the first sonnet I ever read

The sonnet is one of the oldest forms of poetry, particularly in English, and having read a lot of it, I was unsure of whether I could ever attempt such a perfect construction of poetry. I was used to breaking my lines as I pleased, used to not rhyming if I didn’t wish to, used to not following rules.

But in giving into these thoughts, I failed at one important thing as a poet.

Stretching out. Trying new things, including new genres and new formsTesting myself.

To grow as a poet and a writer, I have to step out of my box, outside my comfort zone. Attempt things I’ve never attempted before.

I may make a mess of my first sonnet. I may not adhere to the “rules”. But to think of it that way is to forget another essential thing about poetry – the freedom. I take Mr. Brewer’s advice gladly:

Some contemporary sonnet-eers even ditch the rhymes and just write a 14-line poem. Go with whatever feels right.

To me, poetry’s always been about the musicality of the words, what I want to say, and, yes, “whatever feels right”.

This is not a new lesson for me; I do, however, keep revisiting it in different ways. I have been trying new things with my poetry for two or three years now, but I’ve always been a little unready to try some forms which appeared to me as “set in stone”. Having learnt about the traditional structures of sonnets, I felt it was beyond my capacity.

Not today, it wasn’t.

I sat myself down with my poetry notebook, uncapped my pen and pondered about what would be the subject matter of today’s poem.

I’m pretty sure it had to do with the twelve-odd hours I spent losing myself in Shakespere’s works (for an exam).

When I started writing, archaic language found its way out. I’m talking “thee”, “thy”, “bosom” and the like. It’s very unlike me. I mean, I’ve always loved archaic English – it had this musical, poetic quality about it; but I didn’t use it much at all (few do!). I think I’ve written a poem or two employing it, at the very maximum.

I kept writing and found myself working on…well, take a guess!

A sonnet!

I kept going. I completed it. I set it aside.

I felt like writing another poem, so I took my notebook up again. And started writing.

Another sonnet!

Thank you, Mr. Shakespeare! Next I’ll be thanking my semester exams 😉

Like most sonnets, these two are about love (not unrequited, however). I can’t say they’re perfect in form; I can only vouch for the rhyme scheme and the number of lines.

But that’s all right.

A sonnet doesn’t even have to be in archaic English; it just so happened in my case that the language helped trigger my writing in this form.

So here’s an exercise (it’s pretty famous, but this experience demands I reiterate it)

For those of you struggling with writing in any particular form, don’t doubt this method, just give it a shot: Read as much literature in that form as possible. We tend to imbibe structure and rhythm. Don’t worry about your work ending up as imitations of others’ styles and language. Just read. Read. Read. Read some more. And try writing. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself twice, like I was pleasantly surprised today 🙂

There are plenty of poetic forms to try. The sonnet. The haiku. Ghazals. Here’s an extremely useful page (more thanks to Mr. Brewer!) over at Poetic Asides. It’s a link to all posts tagged with “Poetic Forms”. Try something new today 🙂

And two prompts

Apart from the exercise, I thought I’d just suggest a couple of prompts – we always have use for these during writing challenges!

One is the title of this post: The Big “Little Song” (“Little Song” being the translation of the Italian word sonnetto, the origin of the English sonnet). For me it was “big” because it was a “first” – a first I had not expected; and also because I hold the form in high reverence. You can make anything you wish of this prompt 🙂

The second form is based on the theme of one of the sonnets I wrote today: patience (with relation to love).

Happy writing, everyone 🙂 I hope you have a great time writing something new!