Emily Dickinson, one of my favourite American poets, didn’t have a single poem published at the time she died. Subsequently, her poetry has been flagged as some of the greatest literary work

Imagein the nineteenth century.

Biographers and researchers have scrutinised her poetry and letters to learn more about her reclusive life although, It doesn’t take a genius to understand that Emily was more than familiar with poor mental health. Loneliness and self imposed solitude were, no doubt, unkind relatives to the deep depression and anxiety she suffered.

One of the best descriptions of depression (to my mind) is to be found in her poem, “I Felt A Funeral In My Brain”. Contrary to this, I find one of the most uplifting metaphors for hope in a poem where she famously likens hope to a little bird, who carries on singing through the darkest of storms, making no demands (despite extreme conditions) and remaining alive throughout.

The poem is a reminder that hope, although fragile as a feather and tiny as a bird, can withstand our darkest and deepest depression, our cold fear and our flustered anxiety. It can survive the tunnel of sadness and it will not drown in the well of grief.

During recovery, there are moments of screeching inner agony, where the illness claws at the very lining of our guts, our gullets and our skulls. The challenge is to stay still enough to hear the sound of hope, singing its song, far, far beneath the aching and the clawing and the piercing scream

“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.

What gives you hope? 

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