Welcome back to the Richmond Read-along! Today is the anniversary of the death of Emily Dickinson, so we are reading one of her poems. A hugely influential figure in American literature, Dickinson is also wildly popular with our library staff; we’ve had at least half a dozen requests for a Dickinson poem from staff alone! She spent most of her life in isolation and her friendships were mainly conducted through written correspondence. Only a handful of her poems were published during her lifetime, instead being sent to friends in her letters. After her death, Dickinson’s manuscripts of poems were found and eventually published, and her reputation as one of the greatest poets of the 19th century was secured. Particularly treasured for her directness and her original uses of composition and partial rhymes, Dickinson’s work was in many ways remarkably modern, with romantic tendencies towards the lyrical and the search for ultimate truths.

Today we are reading “Hope is a thing with feathers,” which is one of the favourite poems of our staff:

“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.”

You can find this poem and others on Project Gutenberg. Read more about Dickinson’s life and work at The Poetry Foundation.

Join us tomorrow for the next Richmond Read-along!