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A proper metrical analysis of the poem 'Kin' by Maya Angelou, and the usage of mixed meter schemes in free verse


(A proper metrical analysis of the poem "Kin" by Maya Angelou, and the usage of mixed meter schemes in free verse.)

By Maya Angelou

We were entwined in red rings
Of blood and loneliness before   
The first snows fell
Before muddy rivers seeded clouds   
Above a virgin forest, and   
Men ran naked, blue and black   
Skinned into the warm embraces   
Of Sheba, Eve and Lilith.
I was your sister.

You left me to force strangers   
Into brother molds, exacting   
Taxations they never
Owed or could ever pay.

You fought to die, thinking   
In destruction lies the seed   
Of birth. You may be right.

I will remember silent walks in   
Southern woods and long talks   
In low voices
Shielding meaning from the big ears   
Of overcurious adults.

You may be right.   
Your slow return from
Regions of terror and bloody
Screams, races my heart.
I hear again the laughter   
Of children and see fireflies   
Bursting tiny explosions in   
An Arkansas twilight.

Maya Angelou, “Kin” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, Inc.

Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (1994)

(We were) (entwined) (in red rings)  = 2 Iambic + 1 amphibrch feet
(Of blood) (and lone) (liness) (before)  = 4 Iambic feet
(The first) (snows fell) = 2 Iambic feet
(Before mud) (dy rivers) (seeded clouds)  = 2 Amphibrach + 1 Dactyl feet
(Above) (a vir) (gin fo) (rest, and)  = 4 Iambic feet
(Men ran) (naked), (blue and black)   2 Trochaic + 1 Dactyl
(Skinned in) (to the) (warm em) (braces)  = 4 Trochaic feet
(Of She) (ba, Eve) (and Lilith) 2 Iambic feet + 1 Amphibrach
(I was) (your sister). ( 1 Iambic foot, 1 Amphibrach)

(You left) (me to) (force strangers) = 2 Iambic feet + 1 Amphibrach   
(Into) (brother) (molds, e) (xacting) = 4 Trochaic feet   
(Taxations) (they never) = 2 Amphibrach feet
(Owed or) (could e) (ver pay). = 3 Iambic feet (Poetic license on the word "owed" which has 2 syllables but here it is used as having one)

(You fought to) (die, thinking) = 2 Amphibrach feet
(In de) (struction) (lies the seed)  =  2 Trochaic feet + 1 Dactyl
(Of birth). (You may) (be right). = 3 Iambic feet

(I will) (remem) (ber si) (lent walks in)   = 3 Iambic + 1 Amphibrach feet
(Southern) (woods and) (long talks) = 3 Trochaic feet
(In low) (voices) = 2 Trochaic feet
(Shielding) (meaning) (from the) (big ears) = 4 Trochaic feet
(Of o) (vercu) (rious) (adults).  = 4 Iambic feet

(You may) (be right). = 2 Iambic feet
(Your slow) (return from) = 1 Iambic + 1 Amphibrach feet
(Regions) (of terror) (and bloody) = 4 Trochaic feet
(Screams, ra) (ces my heart). = 1 Trochaic + 1 Dactyl feet (or just plain prose)
(I hear) (again) (the laughter)   = 2 Iambic + 1 Amphibrach feet
(Of chil) (dren and) (see fireflies)   = 2 Iambic  + 1 Amphibrach feet
(Bursting) (tiny) (explo) (sions in)  = 4 Trochaic feet (Poetic license given to the usage of the couplet (explo) which is Iambic)
(An Arkansas) (twilight). = 1 Amphibrach + 1 Trochaic feet

Please keep in mind that all Amphibrach feet, at the end of a poem's lines, could be interpreted as 1 Iambic + 1 syllable standing alone (i.e. In decapentasyllabic verse)


By reading the above analysis, the experienced poets (or even the ones who wish to learn proper poetry) may comprehend that a true "free verse" poem, follows a blended meter scheme, which is intentionally used by the writer as a substance and a catalyst in order to offer the pluralism of amalgamated feelings and sensations, the same way it would happen in a good classical theatrical performance were the actors would have to use the tones of their voices and rhetoric in order to transmit the proper mood and modality to the audience.