Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Back to Basics - Maya Angelou

In the last months I've slightly drifted away from what I wanted to do with this blog. I really like YA and vampires and werewolves and all of that, but my heart's somewhere else. For me fantasy and literature is about works like'The Lord of the Rings', D.H. Lawrence books, 'Wuthering Heights', 'The Shadow of the Wind' or poetry. So I decided to go back to my basics and look at a poem I really like.

I just did my AS-Levels in English and we analysed the heck out of Maya Angelou's anthology 'And Still I Rise'. I have to admit, I'm not such a big Angelou-fan. Although her entire anthology is about rising above your problems, enjoying life and ignoring the haters.But somehow she seems to be the one that is unable to get over her problems. However, the was one poem I really liked.

The Traveller
Byways and bygone
And lone nights long
Sun rays and sea waves
And star and stone

Manless and friendless
No cave my home
This is my Torture
My long nights, lone

This poem immediately struck me when we looked through the anthology. Not only is it short, but the title attracted me. I love travelling and I moved to London last year. A lot of people have asked me where I feel at home the most, London or the Netherlands and I think this poem is a great answer to that question. Angelou is trying to emphasize the importance of of family to having a sense of belonging, feeling at home somewhere. 

If you are 'manless and friendless' then every place would feel like a 'cave', a place that is as uninviting to you as possible. What strikes me is that she repeats the second sentence at the end, only that she has switched the words 'lone' and 'long'.
And lone nights long
My long nights, lone
In the beginning these nights are still far away, but in the end they are hers. She almost claims these nights, wanting this 'torture', perhaps in order to remind herself that this isn't what she wants or that she knows how different her life could have been. Also, the coma at the end, separating the 'nights' from the 'lone' seems to suggest that this times it isn't the night that is lone, but she herself. Perhaps she even feels alone if she's together with other people.

This poem offers so many different possibilities for interpretation and I think it's very universal, because every human being knows how it feels to be alone or to miss someone and feel like you're only at home when you're with them.

What are your thoughts? Do you know Angelou's poetry and do you have a different favourite poem of hers?


  1. Love Maya Angelou! I am a new follower. I would love a follow visit on my blog when you have a moment. Thanks. Donna

  2. What beautiful insights! I loved reading the poem and your commentary.

    I'm following.

  3. What an in-depth analysis! Sadly, I don't know a lot about Angelou's poetry, but this poem touched me. I should definitely read more of her poems.