Jun 29, 2010

Emily Dickinson, "Hope is the thing with feathers." Video, cardinal landing.

I'm not a Dickinson expert, but my sense is that "Hope Is the Thing with Feathers" is a favorite for many. I like the central metaphor of hope as a bird and the title's focus on feathers--maybe a bird's most fragile feature. However, E.D.'s development of that idea is a little sweet for my tastes, especially compared to the complexity of so many of her better poems.

On the other hand, I get sappy about birds, and cardinals in particular. I stumbled onto the video below while looking for images of cardinal chicks--I'm pretty sure I had one this morning, just after first light, with mom and dad at the platform feeder.

When I consider that chick, that plump grey ball, becoming Mr. Red adult--or Mrs. More Modest Red--one word that comes to mind is magic. Ditto the video's excellent close-ups of a cardinal's landings in some snow. Whatever else he might be, the cardinal as a metaphor for hope is a perfectly reasonable notion.

Hope is the thing with feathers

YouTube - Cardinal landing close up



Anonymous said...

A good poem to hug when you're cold.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Nice poem. Did not know this E.D. poem at all. I like its simplicity in punctuation. Is that unusual for her? No dashes --- no unusual Capitals --- no exclamations!!! Perhaps her other poems are as easily simple and thoughtful, but her punctuation gets in the way?

We were always taught that Dickinson fit tight/led the Transcendentalism movement in America. Do you find this influences her writings and your interpretations of them? If you did not know that about her core, would you find the majority of her poems 'read' differently? Do you look for transcendental subtext when you read her?

This poem is sweet. It sings of the bird, who itself sings the same around the world. And its song? HOPE. I like this. Simple, hopeful.
Thanks for leading us to this one. And your photo is COOL!

Brenda's Arizona said...

The video is a nice find! Do you put out bird feed when it snows? Cardinals are such lovely RED!

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, about E.D.'s caps and dashes, I checked two other sites, and they show her typically idiosyncratic punctuation.

I don't know much about her and transcendentalism--I never studied her much in a course (imagine!) or taught her much because students might do what they're supposed to do -- spend a week on one poem. But I don't see her as completely in the transcendental mode as Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Melville and others. My impression (and that's all it is) is that she's extremely interior, psychological, maybe more those than spiritual, but at least those in addition to spiritual. Maybe I see and HEAR her more in the (metaphysical) mode of Donne--brainy, witty, tending toward far-fetched metaphors (conceits) as her way of being in the world as well as being spiritual. Especially if you look at the American transcendentalists as inheritors of British Romanticism, she seems somewhat or very much apart from their way of being visionary. Maybe that's why she, like Hopkins, is considered modern before their time.

Of course, when you take the test, say what your professor told you to say. LOL.

I'm glad you looked at the video. I found it curiously stirring. Yeah, I feed the red buggers all year--I want them to remember where their bread is buttered and be loyal.

I wish I could warm up to teams named the Cardinals. Even though they wear red and have a decent logo, St. Louis is too much like a baseball dynasty. Stanford is too far away and too recently The Cardinal. Arizona NFL football should have come up with their own nickname. Ball State is . . . well, Ball State--in spite of Letterman. U. Louisville seems too urban for me to care, although the surrounding hills knock me out--I instinctively drift toward U. Kentucky there, even though they wear boring blue and refused to play Louisville for a long, long time.

Glad you asked? No bird is just a bird, no team just a team.

Banjo52 said...

In case anyone's interested, the other cardinal posts are July 15 and August 2 of 2009. I didn't realize my photo was THAT old, or that I'd already run it. Is that plagiarism?

Anonymous said...

There's a new Dickinson biography out that I'm looking forward to reading, which will probably send me into another of my periodic obsessions with the poet. Thanks for the E.D. moments!

Banjo52 said...

M, I heard a little talk about the new biography. Apparently it looks more than others have at her epilepsy, the family's fear of scandal because of it, and the possibility that it was a major factor in her work's being so interior--looking inward at her own mental processes, etc. It does sound interesting! Knowing me, I'll buy it and read 20 pages. But she can get under the skin, can't she.

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