celebrating poetry

Celebrating Poetry: Hope is the Thing with Feathers

This month’s LitWyrm Book-a-month challenge is reading poetry. Since April is National Poetry month, we want to celebrate this beautiful form of literature. Whether by picking up a poetry collection, a biography of a poet, or a narrative poem such as Beowulf or The Age of Anxiety, I hope you’ll join us in exploring this fantastic literary form.

To get us started,  I want to share the first poem I ever voluntarily memorized: “Hope is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson. I’ve always been drawn to Dickinson’s work, but especially to this poem. For a while, I even used it as my email signature. This poem’s imagery is beautiful, a place of hope in and of itself.

“Hope is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.” 
-Emily Dickinson (Poetry Foundation)

Hope is a feathered thing. How fitting that Dickinson chose a bird as its image. Light, warm, meek–birds radiate with the ideas of freedom and joy. Songbirds come as heralds of spring; cardinals sing even through winter. In every season, birds chirp and chatter with sweet and cheery voices that can lift the spirits of those nearby.

Hope, too, radiates. It is also light, warm, and meek. Even in the midst of trials, hope perseveres, reminding us that the storm will end. When we feel lost, abandoned, or hurt, hope gives us the strength to keep walking.  It’s resilient, just as the birds.

What does hope ask in return? Nothing. Hope doesn’t ask us to have answers; it doesn’t require that we ignore our pain. Those who have hope in the midst of trials aren’t feeding wishful thinking by starving their reason. Instead, they simply accept the warmth offered by something perched in their hearts.

Through every season, hope is a persistent reminder of God’s love.

When we feel abashed by the storm, God is still in control. When the world crashes down around us, He is still present. Nothing can separate us from His love, and this is the crumb our little bird feeds on. How can hope stop singing, if the joy of the Father’s love is unending?

The reason I love this poem is because Dickinson paints a beautiful image. Though hope may seem fragile and small, it is powerful. Whether our circumstances warrant it or not, hope continues to persist. And it’s right for doing so. Sometimes our society acts like optimism is childish, while pessimism is realistic. Here, Dickinson tells us this isn’t true. We don’t think less of people for liking birds just because they sing joyfully; why then do we try to discourage the hope singing inside others?

At the end of the day, hope is as real and true as the birds outside our windows. It is the testimony of God’s promise and power, and when we accept that God is true and in control, hope becomes very, very realistic.

Perhaps the reason I resonate with this poem so well is because it expresses hope so concretely. Hope perches in my soul, and because my God lives, I know it always will.

 

What about you? Do you have a favorite poem, one that resonates with your soul?