Pen up, pen down | a poem after Maya Angelou
Angelou, Maya., Wilson, Edwin Graves, and Lagarrigue, Jerome. Maya Angelou. Poetry for Young People. New York: Sterling, 2007.


Pen up, pen down
Theresa Barker
After Maya Angelou

Pen up, pen down
Pen scratching all around.
Another page, another story
In the endless seek of glory.
In the air, now both eyes down.
Since you write, don’t put the pen down.
Chores not done, the writing lags
Curse and cry and write those blogging tags.
All the people out of words
Make lives the same as flocks of birds.
Cross the line, they make you wait
Cross the line, they make you hate.
Both hands flat, the writing’s done.
Now comes the time to have some fun.
They think I’m mad,
I think I’m crazy.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Have you read Maya Angelou’s “Harlem Hopscotch”?  It’s a very powerful poem about what it’s like to be part of a black community in the mid-twentieth century; my poem is only about writing and the struggle to write each day.  I’m grateful to Angelou for her inspiration, and I hope that my poem is not taken, in any way, as disrespectful to her original.

In my poem I take a half-serious, half-whimsical approach to describe what it means to write.  The scratching pen, the blogging tags … but then if you cross the line, you may learn to wait, you may learn to hate.  And, sometimes I think I must be crazy, to keep writing.  It’s such an uphill thing to do.


What makes you write?  Why do you keep going?  What is the most thrilling or meaningful writing that you have done lately?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

22 thoughts on “Pen up, pen down | a poem after Maya Angelou

  1. Wonderful! I really enjoyed reading this, Theresa! I love how it was inspired off of Maya Angelou’s poem; although it carries a completely different meaning, the structure is remarkably similar. My favorite lines are the last ones, “They think I’m mad, I think I’m crazy.” You describe the writing process perfectly! Great work!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh! Thank you, yellowfuzzyduck! I was second-guessing those last lines, since they didn’t rhyme, and somehow felt out of place in the poem’s structure. I’m glad to hear they stood out for you! Thank you for letting me know! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely poem, Theresa. I like how you say that in writing, there is crazy and fun together at once. Being creative is always about thinking outside of the box, thinking of ideas that may normally sound crazy. Maybe they are crazy but it is always so much fun thinking this way 😀 For me, I write because it is the most comfortable means for me to express my thoughts and myself. It comes so much more naturally to me than speaking or talking out loud. Lately I’m busy with a work and a lot of the writing I’m doing is for my blog, and I have next week’s blog post already written and working on a few more 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh! Mabel, thank you for letting me know your thoughts about “crazy” and “fun” together in writing. I wasn’t sure about those last two lines – they felt somehow out of place – but it’s good to hear they struck you. I love that writing is the most comfortable way for you to express your thoughts – and we (your readers) reap the benefits! I’m looking forward to your upcoming blog posts. I always learn from your writing. 🙂 Wonderful!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah! Thank you! I get a little self-conscious about whether my response dilutes the important message of tolerance and the recognition of painful past and present intolerance. Thank you for the reassurance! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh! Thank you for the encouragement. It meanS so much. I know it may seem like I know what I’m doing, but truly, it’s all exploration.

        I’m going to keep your lovely compliment in mind all day! “You are a compassionate person and this emanates from your writings!!!! You always speak with wisdom!!!!” THANK YOU!


  3. “They think I’m mad, I think I’m crazy.” What a perfect way to end this poem – the fact that it doesn’t rhyme and breaks free from the format of the rest of the poem is a fitting way to attest to the ‘writer’ personality. I like it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hah! Great point, Tami! Those lines break free and want to be on their own, telling the world that it’s okay to be crazy if you’re writing. I did not think of that. Thank you! Have a fun and (somewhat) crazy day! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful poem, my friend! It’s awesome that you are always inspired by other writings/poem. I don’t think I’ve written poems lately as a response to another. The last time I wrote a poem that was inspired by another poem was over 10 years ago. I seem to be lost in my own little world.

    The blogging does take a lot of time and that’s on top of my extremely demanding job… traffic… child who goes to school. I think I’m quite proud of myself that I’m still here and I’m writing. The Friday flash fiction of Microcosms doesn’t work for me at the moment because of work and after a hectic week, I guess I’m empty. Cracked Flash works better for me as it’s on a Saturday and Pacific time gives me more time than the East Cost time. I also am working on my short stories (WIPs). Sometimes, I wish I didn’t need to sleep so much but it takes a toll on me as my hypertension requires me to get enough sleep. You’re right: They think I’m mad, I think I’m crazy. 🙂


    1. Thank you so much for your lovely compliment on my poem. Very kind- and motivating!

      “Cracked Flash works better for me as it’s on a Saturday and Pacific time gives me more time than the East Cost time.” I love that you’re making it work, even with all your other time constraints. My friend, you are #crazybeautiful in your writing! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Always my pleasure. 💖🤗😘
        I actually tried for Microcosms yesterday but couldn’t make it. However, I did write so I will just post. 😊 I’m working on one now for Cracked Flash. It seems I’m more on fiction than poetry at the moment.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you for more encouragement. It’s helping me at the moment also to release the anger. Haha. I am working on different pieces on Road Rage, starting the same way but with different endings. 😄 Since I can’t do any of what I wish I could (being evil and criminal – haha!), I can write them. 😝
        You’ve also been busy I see. I just need to catch up with my reading.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh, I’m so sorry you have to contend with all the terrible traffic. We have some here (on the freeways) because of our geography – Seattle is like an “I”, and all the traffic is confined to north-south between two large bodies of water. We have a couple of bridges that go east, and to the west is the Puget Sound and ocean. BUT I was just in S. Calif. a couple weekends ago and I was startled to realize their traffic is even worse. Just more people, trying to get places, on the one set of freeways. Is yours like that? 🙂 I’m glad you are keeping writing. Don’t feel pressured to read all my things, it’s more important for you to write! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh, SoCal traffic is terrible. I drove there and luckily I managed. I was quite scared. Our traffic isn’t so bad, especially in comparison to Asia. I will never drive in the Philippines. I think what makes it unbearable is because it wasn’t like this and the construction works are causing the traffic and thus people being inconsiderate to get to where they need to go. This testing time is giving me materials for my fiction. 🙂
        I’m going to catch up soon with reading. Reading the works of all of you provide me with inspiration and I am constantly motivated.
        Much love and warmest hugs my friend. xxx

        Liked by 1 person

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