Susan Swan

Your World

An inspiring poem from a popular Harlem Renaissance writer

By Georgia Douglas Johnson
From the February 2019 Issue

Learning Objective: Students will examine the metaphor in a poem that subtly compares a soaring bird to a person embracing the world.

Key Skills: metaphor, interpreting text, theme
Audio ()
Activities (3)
Quizzes (3)
Quizzes (3)
Quizzes (3)
Answer Key (1)
Audio ()
Activities (3) Download All Activities
Quizzes (3)
Quizzes (3)
Quizzes (3)
Answer Key (1)

More About the Story


metaphor, interpreting text, theme

Complexity Factors

Levels of Meaning

On one level, the speaker of the poem is a bird describing its journey from a small space into the wider world. On a deeper level, the speaker is a person describing the satisfaction of traveling outside one’s usual boundaries, both physically and mentally.  


The poem is made up of three four-line stanzas. It has an ABCB DEFE rhyme scheme.


The poem contains a good deal of higher-level academic vocabulary, including abide, immensity, cordons, uttermost, and rapture. The entire poem is a metaphor.

Knowledge Demands 

Some experience with archaic and poetic usage (such as “for” rather than “because”) will be helpful.

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. Preparing to Read

  • Have a student read aloud the Up Close box. Review what a metaphor is: a comparison between two seemingly unlike things. Explain that in this poem, the metaphor is not just one line, but the entire poem.
  • Preview the challenging vocabulary in the poem with our vocabulary activity.

2. Reading the Poem

Read the poem aloud for the class or play our online audio version.

Close-Reading and Critical-Thinking Questions (15 minutes)

  • Based on the first verse, what did the bird who’s narrating the poem used to be like? Which lines tell you this? (interpreting text) The bird stayed in its nest, scared to go out into the world. The line “narrowest nest in a corner” suggests that it was tucked away, and “My wings pressing close to my side” suggests that the bird didn’t dare fly out.
  • How does the bird change in the second verse? What makes it want to change? (interpreting text) The bird decides it wants to explore the world beyond its nest. After looking out to the horizon, it becomes curious.
  • What happens in the third verse? How do you think the bird feels by the end? (interpreting text) The bird soars out of its nest, flying high into the sky. It seems to feel happy and powerful.
  • How could the bird be like a person? What change would that person go through? (metaphor) The bird could be like a person who changes from timid and unadventurous to bold and confident, ready to take chances.
  • Reread the first line, and think about the whole poem. What do you think the poet wants you to learn? (theme) The poet probably wants you to learn to have the confidence to follow your dreams and explore whatever you want to do in the world.