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Emily Dickinson

On Faith and Hope

December 3, 2020

“Hope is the thing with feathers,” wrote Emily Dickinson, “that perches in the soul.” The avian image is both lovely and apposite, for as a bird goes winging off at the first loud noise or sight of a predator, so hope—an aspect of desire, a wish that something, and usually something good, will happen—typically flies out the window as often as it lands on one’s shoulder. If something isn’t outright impossible, it’s possible to hope for it, though the likelihood of its happening lessens the closer to impossible it comes: living to one hundred, let’s say, following a life of three packs of smokes and a porterhouse every day.

Famous Writers

December 3, 2020

There must’ve been some incident, something to push both Dickinson and Proust into isolation, the horse thought as a student, but now he thinks time and immortality require one’s full attention. 

Impossible Bottle. By Claudia Emerson. LSU, 2015. 65p. PB, $17.95.

Ecstatic Sorrow

Claudia Emerson, who died in December 2014, had come to be known as a poet capable of revealing startling discoveries inside quiet, quotidian circumstances. Her poems are set mostly in Southern rural and small-town scenes, moments in ordinary lives that would normally elude anyone else’s attention.

A Kind of Solution


The writer was drinking himself to death. In his first flush of freedom—he had come to Iowa from a land ruled by a military dictatorship—he drowned himself in vodka, and when for the third day running he was rushed to the emergency room with a blood alcohol level that would have killed another man, he was committed for observation. The date was September 10, 2001. That evening, more than eight hours after his last drink, the writer was still dead drunk. The judge who signed his commitment order called the next day, incredulous.