What Is Graduation By Maya Angelou About

Maya Angelou’s poem, “Graduation,” explores the momentous event of graduation from elementary school. Angelou focuses on a single 8th-grade student’s ceremony, speaking to the emotions, thoughts, and expectations experienced by the character as they progress from childhood to adulthood. The poem starts by depicting the “riches of moments” being savored by the family and the grad, remembering this day in every detail. As readers, we further appreciate the pride and joy of the grad’s family as they beam and take pictures. The poem also portrays how the rite of passage signifies the crossing of a bridge for a new beginning. It speaks to the thrill of receiving new gifts, having one’s “persona celebrated,” and the experiences that follow that cannot be anticipated. The sense of expectations and the fact that this is an intense and momentous occasion are not lost on Angelou. Through the use of metaphor, she discusses the commencement being like a “chrysalis moment” where the grad is about to set forth on a journey of change and transformation. Moreover, she conveys the mixed emotions of graduating, as the grad is simultaneously excited and sad; the poem tugs at their heartstrings where they are yearning to stay in their comfort zone, yet knowing they have to take the plunge into the unknown. As the poem ends, there is a sense of urgency and anticipation as the grad and the rest of their peers get ready to cross that line, ready to launch into their futures with new dreams and ambitions.

Sense of Change and Transformation

In “Graduation,” Maya Angelou captures the intensity, complexity, and emotion of the grad’s experience of this momentous event, while thematically conveying a sense of change and transformation. Angelou effectively uses imagery and metaphor to bring to life the grad’s journey from childhood to adulthood. The poem allows readers to appreciate the transitioning of identity for the grad, as it is simultaneously exciting and intimidating. Furthermore, the metaphor of the “chrysalis moment” emphasizes the grad’s state of transformation, as a step into the unknown. Through her masterpiece, Angelou accurately conveys this rite of passage as one of momentous change, and allows readers to appreciate what it really means to graduate, to move from one phase of life to another.

The Significance of the Graduation Day

Maya Angelou’s “Graduation” poignantly speaks to the significance of the graduation day and how this is one of the keys to adulthood. The poem celebrates the proud moment of the grad crossing a bridge with their peers into a future that awaits them. It celebrates all the highs and lows of this new beginning, captured through the anticipated gifts, emotions, and reactions of family, friends, and the grad themselves. Angelou’s mastery in language and description of this occasion is, in itself, something to appreciate, akin to a commencement speech. She accurately conveys the feeling of the grad’s sadness, joy and nervousness in that “chrysalis moment,” and sheds light on something that is so relatable—the feeling of growing up.

A Reflection on Moving On

Angelou’s poem offers a reflective view on the rite of passage that is graduating. Readers can appreciate the grad’s helplessness as they cross the line into a new and unknown future, a sense of uncertainty and anticipation combined. Through this poem, we can reflect on our own challenges in taking down the mantle of our past, leaving it behind and embracing something new. I believe “Graduation” speaks to the need to move on and grow, even if it can be scary, and let go of fear and self-doubt. It’s a poetic homage to the brave act of taking a leap of faith, and finding the courage to step into uncertainty.

Motivating the Reader

In this poem, Angelou emphasizes the power of dreams and how it gives readers “motivation for greater” despite the unknown future. For the grad, it’s a time of reflection and acknowledgement of the people and events that have shaped the person’s life. Angelou’s celebration of “the freshness of the green world” tries to capture the feeling of stepping into something new. As readers, we are further encouraged to find the inner strength to progress despite fears and judgment. It emphasizes the confidence that we can take a giant leap if only we believe we can.

Authorial Style and Perspective

Maya Angelou uses her signature style of figurative language and imagery to personalize this moment. She conveys the grad’s passionate emotions through delicate metaphors and exerts a sense of immediacy in her phrasing. The poet speaks to the readers on the importance of family, the urge to move on, and her slight critique on the commercialization of graduation celebrations. Angelou’s perspective definitely plays a major part in the poem’s conversation on the emotionally charged event of graduation. She allows readers to see the grad’s transformation, the power of dreams, and ultimately, the importance of growth.

Inspiration & Reflection

In reading “Graduation,” readers get to reflect on their own experiences of completing a life phase and embarking on a new journey. The poem speaks to the grad’s feelings of both sadness and joy, and conveys an inspiring message that life is an ever-evolving and shifting passage. Angelou’s poem touches the reader deep inside, reminding us to embrace change and uncertainty, and to find the courage to take risks and move forward.

Reality vs Perception

Maya Angelou’s “Graduation” brings to life the grad’s reality vs their perception of the ceremony. The poem captures the changing emotions from pride and joy to trepidation and anxiety. The grad’s first awareness of adulthood begins to take shape as the reader can empathize with the grad’s realization of the power of dreams. We can further appreciate the grad’s appreciation of the moment and all its meaningfulness despite the anxieties of the future. Through this powerful poem, Angelou encourages and celebrates the start of every grad’s journey, urging them to find their courage, move forward and “Dream as if you’ll live forever/ Live as if you’ll die today.”

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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