I asked Jane Yolen if she would like to add a few thoughts to her original post when she first appeared as my Featured Guest on March 12, 2010. Here’s what she has to say.
Why not add this: So here are my coded messages and my hope for this year: Coming out in 2011 in poetry form:
Picture books: HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY (bouncing rhyme), SELF-PORTRAIT WITH SEVEN FINGERS: The Life of Marc Chagall (serious, unrhymed biographical poems by both J. Patrick Lewis and me), PRETTY PRINCESS PIG (novelty book in bouncing rhyme), BIRDS OF A FEATHER (poems in a variety of formats, some rhymed, some unrhymed, about birds), CREEPY MONSTERS/SLEEPY MONSTERS (bouncing rhyme). And two adult poetry collections: THINGS TO SAY TO A DEAD MAN (mostly unrhymed poems about my husband’s death and after), and THE SELCHIE’S CHILD (both rhymed and unrhymed fantasy poems.)
Besides all that, I decided to write a poem a day for a year and since January 1 I have kept that promise to myself. Are they any good? A few of them are. Most are not. Some can be mined for a line or two. The hope is to get about a dozen good poems out of the lot after much work. They are coded messages about my life.
Thanks, Jane. Writing a poem each day for a year is a daunting task. Pulling out the best ones later will provide hours of reading pleasure for fans old and new.
And now here is Jane’s original post. I just finished enjoying it all over again.
© 2010 Jane Yolen, all rights reserved
Every poet begins a poem with Hope. There is that sand of an idea beneath the breast, that rubs and rubs. The idea encysts and insists. We are strange oyster-like people, who take something that is rough and raw and hurts like stink and yet we believe we can turn it into a pearl. Something of worth.
We hope that what we write will be as fine as it seems in our souls.
We hope we can find the words, words that often seem to slip away from us or turn against us or hide from us.
We hope—by God!—that we can finish the piece. If not this day, or next week, perhaps the year after. At least before we die.
One of Emily’s most famous poems is about this kind of hope.
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.
No, Hope does not ask anything of us. But implicit in that Hope, is the hard work that we must put into the writing. For Hope is not enough on its own, though it is certainly part of the first impetus to story or poem or essay or any piece of writing. When that first glimmer of an idea comes, Hope soars above it on shining wings. That flutter you feel when an idea comes is but an echo of the “thing with feathers”.
When in the midst of a perfect storm of indecision, when nothing is going right with a piece, or when you fear your skill is not up to the task, or the characters have marched off in their own direction and left you far behind. . .that little bird, Hope, flies on “sweetest in the gale” on its silent wings above you.
Hope is not a Muse. The Muse is what starts your idea. Talent is what allows you to write the idea. Hope is what keeps you going. It is the cheerleader on the sidelines. It is Mother standing at the gate with an encouraging smile. It is your partner waiting at the end of the aisle.
Of course, we must all be minded of something Edith Wharton, another great woman writer, often said: “I dream of an eagle. I give birth to a hummingbird.” Minded, yes, but warned as well. Wharton’s Hope seems dashed to the ground. The eagle’s stoop turned to disaster. But then she gives us that hummingbird. The “little bird.” The littlest. Remember, the hummingbird is still beautiful and it flies.
That is Dickinson’s Hope.
If you have questions or comments for Jane, please post them below.