1. With your partner, discuss these statements about old people. Do you agree or disagree with each other?
The experiences of old and young people are very different and this causes inevitable problems between them.
Old people are rarely treated disrespectfully by young people.
Old people have a lot of experience of life, which young people can learn from.
2. Check the meaning of these words in your dictionary before you read the poem: chattering, stiff, aching, rocking chair, stumbling, lungs.
3. Read the first 6 lines of the poem. Which of these words do you think best describe the attitude of the speaker: angry? sad? proud? unhappy? content?
4. Read the rest of the poem. Pay special attention to the commands the speaker gives:
Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me!
Hold! Stop your sympathy!
Don’t bring me no rocking chair!
Don’t study and get it wrong!
What do these tell us about the attitudes a) of the speaker to other people b) of the poet towards old people?
5. The language of this poem is informal, colloquial (‘cause, ain’t, back then, a lot less)
Why do you think the poet chose to use this type of language in a poem in which an old person is ‘talking’ to the reader?
6. The author of this poem Maya Angelou is a poet, historian, author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist and film director. Her best selling novel ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ (1970) has been made into a film and is on the literature syllabus for students in many English speaking countries. If you want to read more about Maya Angelou and her poems, books and films and read an interview with her, look here.