Volta in “The Lesson” Poem by Maya Angelou
The Lesson by Maya Angelou
I keep on dying again.
Veins collapse, opening like the
Small fists of sleeping
Memory of old tombs,
Rotting flesh and worms do
Not convince me against
The challenge. The years
And cold defeat live deep in
Lines along my face.
They dull my eyes, yet
I keep on dying,
Because I love to live.
It is often challenging to discern structure in a poem, as it can sometimes be confusing at best, if at all clear to the reader. In the poem, The Lesson by Maya Angelou, the phenomena of turn and volta have an essential place. To analyze this poem, it is significant to start a conversation about structure in general and turn in particular. Structural analysis is a way to understand a work fully and vividly, as the author intended it, and the reader can interpret it. A turn is a significant shift in rhetorical and dramatic trajectory in poetic structural terms. The turn is of great importance in the sonnet tradition, in which the turn is called by the resounding, telling name volta. The turn has a vital, to some extent even central place in poetry. The reader’s attention to turns tended to be sporadic rather than systematic. So, in The Lesson, the emotional and dramatic shift, the volta, is seen vividly and clearly.
The analysis of the poem’s use of volta is closely connected to the content and images of the work. As such, the idea of collapsing veins passes through the volta to the appearance of tiny fists of sleeping children (Angelou). The poem abruptly moves towards something warm and tender from a melancholic, fatalistic tone. At the same moment, the author, through the turn, returns from a moment of warmth back to the images of old tombs, rotting flesh, and worms, denoting the motif of death, decline, and decay (Angelou). The final transition, along with the result of similar transitions in the past, laconically ends the poem with the phrase, “I keep on dying, because I love to live” (Angelou). Thus, the volta in the poem serves as the primary tool for emotional movement and for conveying the idea of the work.
To conclude, the volta is developed through the narrative, the dramatic part of the poem, the dynamic background of which is expressed in the structure. The technique constantly leads the reader from image to image, from thought to thought, preventing them from losing what the author feels and conveys with the poem, namely its core. The Lesson is a profoundly and movingly personal work in which the volta as an instrument guides the reader along the lines, and at the same time, along with the emotional narrative and idea of the poem.
Angelou, Maya. “The Lesson”. Amous Poets And Poems. Web.