The lyric poem “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” was written by which poet?
And the answer: Emily Dickinson.
Emily Dickinson wrote nearly 1,800 poems in her lifetime. Although only 10 poems were published during her life, her work was published posthumously with the help of her sister Lavinia.
Emily Dickinson possessed one of the most distinct voices in American poetry. Her short, almost conversational lines afford intrigue and mystery, while still remaining relatable (if not a bit difficult to understand on first read). Whereas many major poets of her day wrote epic poems, looking outward at history and culture, Dickinson wrote lyric poems, instead examining the inner life of thoughts and feelings.
Dickinson was an avid reader in her spare time. Ever the recluse, the poet would write letters and poetry inspired by the books she read. In fact, Dickinson became so engrossed in literature and withdrawn from society that she only traveled outside of the Massachusetts area just once in her lifetime, in a three-week journey to Washington D.C. However, despite her secluded life, Dickinson's poems are proof that the author was not without imagination. Nature and deep feelings were great sources of inspiration for Dickinson, and ideas that she expertly discussed in her works.
Dickinson's style, ultimately, drew a new audience to poetry. Her honest and uninhibited writing made her an early feminist voice, even as she was outwardly shy and relatively unknown. Nearly two centuries after Dickinson’s birth, her witty and frequently subversive poems are widely read, taught, and studied.
At the time of her death in 1886, Dickinson had left her sister with strict instructions to burn any remaining works of hers. Yet, when her sister came across a box of poems that she had never seen before, Lavinia was shocked to discover the quality and quantity of Emily's works. With the help of a family friend, the first edition of Dickinson's poems were published.
Learn more about the influence of Emily Dickinson's poetry here.