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'Hope' is the thing with feathers - Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, widely considered one of the most influential American poets of her time only found fame and recognition posthumously. During her lifetime, only 10 poems (from a body of work that stretched to approximately 1800 poems) were published. Her first collection of poetry was published 4 years after her death and was massively well received running into 11 editions. Her capacity for philosophical insight, clear headed prophecy and critique of the times she lived in, constructed in poetry of metrical finnesse and formal innovation, became a benchmark for generations of American poets to aspire to. Poetry Foundation describes her particular gift evocatively:

“…she crafted a new type of persona for the first person. The speakers in Dickinson’s poetry … are sharp-sighted observers who see the inescapable limitations of their societies as well as their imagined and imaginable escapes. To make the abstract tangible, to define meaning without confining it, to inhabit a house that never became a prison, Dickinson created in her writing a distinctively elliptical language for expressing what was possible but not yet realized … she saw poetry as a double-edged sword. While it liberated the individual, it as readily left him ungrounded.”

“Hope” is a thing with feathers is one of those legendary pieces of poetry that keeps cropping up in the context of inspirational or “soul” poetry. I felt the need today to share this with you, with the intent of replenishing that pecious life juice against the backdrop of everything that is happening around us. With the pandemic continuing to surge, and the political unrest in the county at an all new high - farmer agitation, caste based violence and sexual assault (Hathras), and state complicity in freedom curbing measures, among other things - the picture seems bleak.

Emily’s poem rises in our hearts like that bird she describes, and alights on a future that is “possible but not yet realised”. I share this with you today, in the hope that her words will keep you warm, even if it is for a short while. Poetly has shared another Emily Dickinson gem in the past - In this short life.


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