Written by Art Is Essential

Art Is Essential vol. 7

Writers on the art that matters to them.

My Hope Has Feathers Too

Amber Skiff

A couple months ago, I was sent home from my university and welcomed back to the home I grew up in. Being in isolation with my family has come with many moments that are touched by the commonplace unpleasantries. In moments such as these—when being with my family becomes too draining and I become too keenly aware of my separation from the outside world—I retreat to the solace of my bedroom and the even greater solace of a few pages of Emily Dickinson.

One poem that has become almost a daily read for me is “‘Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers.” When I find myself feeling altogether overwhelmed by my unmet need for community, I open up to this poem, and I am so wonderfully understood. In the poem, Dickinson describes hope as a bird that perches in her soul and sings through every trial, never asking for anything in return. I have discovered too, like Dickinson, that I can cling to hope through everything—through the adjustment to online classes, through isolation in my house, through the anxiety and confusion of a global pandemic—and it never gives out on me. That familiar little birdsong seems to ring out above the overwhelming clamor of all the information being sounded. The sweet little bird sings on and on, and her song never stops bringing warmth and comfort to my heart. 

The poem goes on to say that the bird’s song is sweetest in the most difficult storm. This has proven to be true for my own heart, as I tune my tired soul to learn the notes that the gentle bird sings over and over to me. When I am the weariest, when I am the most overwhelmed, I remember that hopeful tune, and it carries me through every present difficulty. In this time of uncertainty and isolation, I like to think that the same little bird that perched in the lonely soul of Emily Dickinson finds a home in my soul as well.

Amber Skiff is a 19-year-old humanities student at Maranatha Baptist University. She enjoys reading, writing, learning, and spending time with the people she loves.

Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers is a lyric poem by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). It appears in the poet’s Fascicle 13, which was compiled around the year 1831 but only discovered after Dickinson’s death. The poem was first published in 1891.

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