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Article  •  1 December 2020


Classic of the month: Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson

This December we found exquisite rays of light amongst the dark verse of an American maestro.

Considered by many to be the spiritual mother of North American poetry, Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) was one of the most prolific and innovative poets of her era. Renowned for her distinctively short lines, and eccentric approach to punctuation and capitalisation, she completed over 1700 poems in her short life. Though fewer than a dozen of her poems were actually published during her lifetime, she is still one of the most widely read poets in the English language.

Well known for her reclusive lifestyle, Dickinson was a gifted and astute observer of people and society. And though much of her work explores morbid territory of pain and death, bright moments of humour, irony and joy offer sweet antidote the challenges of everyday life. (You’ve just got to know where to find them.) To celebrate the 190th anniversary of Emily Dickinson’s birth, for our December Classic of the Month we revisited her collected poems. To top off a year of memorable classics – and as a little hopeful pick-me-up at the end of what’s been a memorable year for all the wrong reasons – here’s a glorious ray of Dickinson-ian sunshine.

Hope is the thing with feathers (1861)

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.

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