Defining & Close Reading Poetry - Essay Prowess

Defining & Close Reading Poetry


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Defining & Close Reading Poetry

Aristotle in his article is quoted saying, “poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular” (335 B.C.E). This essay examines Aristotle’s quote and relates it Maya Angelou’s A Brave and Startling Truth (1995). Specifically, the comparison is made in reference to the opening stanza of Maya Angelou’s poem.

Aristotle confines to the thought that poetry creases the boundaries of philosophical expression and higher history something that Angelou also expresses in her poem. Angelou is a well-known American writer. Instead of her focusing on her geographical location her expression references the entire planet. The planet is big, and in many instances the term is used interchangeably with the universe. Angelou see the universes as one small entity and that we the humans are just passing through it.

The choice of words in line two, “Traveling through casual space” (Angelou, Line 2) indicate minimal emphasis on the physicals space that humans exist in. The author is not bound by geographical, historical or pollical bounds. She perceives the space as “casual” space something that historians could frown upon. Historians place a significant emphasis on physical boundaries that separate us into individual political entity rather than unite us. This element of Angelou’s creation has enabled her to perform the powerful piece in global gatherings. The maiden performance of the poem was at United Nations 50th anniversary (United Nations, 2014). United Nations is an international body and the performance seems to aligning with the mandates that include fostering a peaceful coexistence between the global entities. One imagines if Angelou had limited her scope of to America alone if she could gain a global stage like that of UN. The message packed in the poem and the virtue of the stage accorded to Angelou confirms poetry is a universal language as expressed by Aristotle.

Angelou also incorporates inclusivity in her poetic creation as seen in line 5. “It is possible and imperative that we learn” (Angelou, Line 5). The author of the poem ensures inclusivity of the audience using the term “we”. The creative application ensures that whoever reads or listens to the poem feels that they are incorporated in the story. The deliberate inclusion means anyone from any part of the word can be part of Angelou’s story. The creation aligns with Aristotle thoughts on universality of poetry as expressed in his writing.

Aristotle prefers to also look at poetry as a window through which we can get a glimpse of the future as opposed to presenting it as a historical reflecting. Angelou’s poem in line 4, “To a destination where all signs tell us” (Angelou, line 4). Maya writes with a vision for the future and not the past. Aristotle and Angelou seem to share a perspective on poetry being a tool that tells the future. In the poem the author points to the fact that there a future destination that she envisions and the destination is not definite. She looks at possible sources of signs that will guide the generation into the future. The line thought conforms to Aristotle’s ideology of poetry.

Angelou’s poem expresses two major concepts of the journey and the destination. The author talks about three types of journeys. The first journey is through the cosmos indicated in line 3. Angelou says, “Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns” (Angelou, Line 3). The other journeys are through history and lastly, to a better future. According to Aristotle, poetry is not historical in nature. Angelou presenting the journey through history seems to contradict Aristotle’s thought. The other two forms of journey are those that foresee the future and therefore are in line with Aristotle’s beliefs on what poetry should be perceived.

Despite having points of convergence and divergence, the two authors seem to agree more than they disagree. Angelou and Aristotle seem to write their pieces with the future in mind. Angelou’s poem presents a historical journey that the human race endures deviating from Aristotle’s concept. The large degree agreement between the authors leads to a conclusion that they agree that poem projects the future more than focusing on historical occurrences.

Works Cited

Apoemaday. “A Brave and Startling Truth.” A Poem A Day, 15 Feb. 2019,

Aristotle. “The Internet Classics Archive | Poetics by Aristotle.” Classic MIT EDU, 350BC,

United Nations. “Maya Angelou Reading Her Poem ‘A Brave and Startling Truth.’” YouTube, 28 May 2014,

 “United Nations | Peace, Dignity and Equality on a Healthy Planet.” United Nations, 2021,

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