Today we revisited Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope” is the thing with feathers as we explored how metaphor helps us better understand the abstract concepts of life like love, joy, anger, and hope. Dickinson’s extended metaphor comparing hope to a bird always reminds me of the following poem by Lisel Mueller, where she expands that single metaphor into a series of metaphors developed with rich imagery to draw each one of us into a deeper understanding of hope. After three wonderful days at the end of last week serving on staff at a local tournament for our speech and debate league, coming back to work with its meetings and emails that remind me of the brokenness of our world and my career field, caused me to feel somewhat like Dickinson’s speaker, adrift on the “strangest Sea” among the “chillest land[s].” But studying this poem today with my students reminded me that hope “hovers in the dark corners” of our lives and we need only “[shake the] sleep from [our] eyes” to see it!
What’s your favorite metaphor in the poem? Comment below! I have to admit, I love the kinetic energy of “it is the motion that runs / from the eyes to the tail of a dog” (lines 13-14). Be sure to read Emily Dickinson’s poem too! Follow the link above.
Hope by Lisel Mueller
It hovers in dark corners before the lights are turned on, it shakes sleep from its eyes and drops from mushroom gills, it explodes in the starry heads of dandelions turned sages, it sticks to the wings of green angels that sail from the tops of maples. It sprouts in each occluded eye of the many-eyed potato, it lives in each earthworm segment surviving cruelty, it is the motion that runs from the eyes to the tail of a dog, it is the mouth that inflates the lungs of the child that has just been born. It is the singular gift we cannot destroy in ourselves, the argument that refutes death, the genius that invents the future, all we know of God. It is the serum which makes us swear not to betray one another; it is in this poem, trying to speak.
“Hope” by Lisel Mueller from Alive Together. © Louisiana State University Press, 1996.