I have to give credit to The Fray web site for this slogan. It's one of four categories or topics of stories people share or comment on in the site. It is now a logo design on a black T-Shirt that I was given a few days ago by a guy that I met via The Fray.

This guy is my friend and has been in the stages of becoming my friend for some time, since December or so. We exchanged e-mail for a bit, but the origin was a comment I posted on one of the site's featured stories. He read it and responded to the e-mail at the bottom of the post. Then began the IM banter that got as frequent as daily, punctuated by a few long distance and hours long phone calls. And here he is, visiting me in New Orleans, our first IRL experience.

He is not living anywhere near New Orleans currently, so our interest to build anything on this foundation, (the least of which is a powerful friendship) is strong but self-questioning. All I know is that I want him around me. I want to be able to come over to his place and share time with him. I want to hear about his day in person.

So, I guess you could say that I am hopeful, that for me hope really is the thing with feathers.

"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 -

This poem astonished me when I first read it because it has so much meaning that I still don't really understand it. Puzzling this out was what first caught my interest in Emily Dickinson. It was easy to imagined that she was facing herself gazing into a mirror reflecting upon hope as two people. There were a pair of them fondly creating a silent conspiracy against loneliness -- that all along she has been these many years never truly by herself but really someone within her own world-- her essence of being human--one believing nothing can be done and the other believing everything will be done - and hope as the chasm between them.

Using powerful and evocative imagery hope has become active and tangible as a bird living inside her soul, leaving no doubt that the metaphoric vehicle is indeed a bird even though Dickinson is clever enough to never call it directly by name. This bird sings its heartfelt song through .....the chillest land- And on the strangest Sea- She completes and at the same time contradicts hope faultlessly.... Yet, never, in Extremity, It asked a crumb-of Me capturing the barely fathomable idea that in all reality hope exists on nothing.

A tendency towards seclusion, rich with personal spirituality, her love of nature and children as well as a frank fascination with afterlife and death she began writing poetry seriously in her early 20's. Emily's life circumstances are interesting in that they are so unusual and her odd habits and lack of conformity that are what intrigues many readers. 'She was rumored to dress in white much of the time and would lower gingerbread down to children in a basket. When company came to visit she would run up the stairs to avoid them and in her later years she refused to leave her house believing she lived her life more fully that way.'

The most interesting things, of course, are her poems themselves and have had considerable influence on modern poetry. The first publication date for Hope is the thing with feathers was in 1891, the original text appeared in The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson, edited by R. W. Franklin. Writing in batches Emily bound her poems in fascicles or little packets. He wrote "Her hand is easily legible, although her habits of punctuation--a heavy use of dashes and periods--makes her manuscripts sometimes a challenge to read."

Her work was liberally 'corrected' by her early editors, but these attempts only served to complicate her unique sense of cadence and personal intimacy. The telling of a story by unconventional metaphors contributes greatly to her reputation as one of the most innovative poets of 19th-century American literature.



Sources:

Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Dickinson, Emily Elizabeth," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

Emily Dickinson:
http://www.geocities.com/edickinson2002/

Emily Dickinson:
http://www.poetrypreviews.com/poets/poet-dickinson.html

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