Hope is the thing with feathers

Poetry Breakfast ~ at home


Here is our choice of poems for this week, I do hope you enjoy them: comments and additional poems very much welcomed via the comments function at the bottom of the page.

And thank you to Andrew Fusek Peters for permission to use his beautiful ‘tree sparrow on take off’ photograph.  Andrew will be our featured guest on June 11th, when the theme will be ‘The Poetry of Birds’ and will include Andrew’s poetry, photography, and some thoughts on how CV-19 has affected his working practice.

Huge thanks again to our three guest poets who contiune to delight with their thoughtfully splendid contributions to our theme, which has, as ever, resulted in a wide-ranging choice of poems.  The theme is always a ‘jumping off point’ – have fun with it!  Next week’s theme is ‘Belonging’ …

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – 

“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.

by Emily Dickinson

from The Emergency Poet ~ An Anti-Stress Poetry Anthology, edited by Deborah Alma, published by Michael O’Mara Books

Returning Emily Dickinson’s Call 

My bird dares not rely on hope
To feed the gaping holes
So, cajoles me into action
For food and water bowls.

And loudest from the greenhouse roof
Immune to Corvid germs
Sings for super suet pellets
His beak turns up at worms.

I’ve been summoned from the kitchen
At breakfast making tea-
He dashes off a tune – that sounds like
“A slice of toast for me!”

by Steve Harrison, our Poet~at~Home

Two more from The Emergency Poet ~ An Anti-Stress Poetry Anthology, edited by Deborah Alma, published by Michael O’Mara Books

Instant Karma by Roy Marshall

The office cleaner sings beautifully and in Hindi.
I ask her what her song means.
‘The Lord says, I will give you what you want,
when the time is right.’
She leaves a world bright with belief,
the mopped floor under my feet,
the emptied bin of me.
First published in New Walk.

Both of these poems are chosen by Steve Harrison

Hope and Love by Jane Hirshfield

All winter
the blue heron
slept among the horses.
I do not know
the custom of herons,
do not know
if the solitary habit
is their way,
or if he listened for
some missing one—
not knowing even
that was what he did—
in the blowing
sounds in the dark,
I know that
hope is the hardest
love we carry.
He slept
with his long neck
folded, like a letter
put away.

Alison Brackenbury

Char March

Gill McEvoy

On the Aerial


Starling is numerous, holds in his throat
the many colours of his oily coat.
Each year he – like his fathers – finds new noise,
wolf-whistles tall as boys,
the phone’s trill, then the shriek
of Kirsty, loudest child in all our street.
Tonight he softly mews. Then through his voice are poured
jay, blackbird’s honey, thrush-lilts. He, half-heard,
tilts at faint stars, is Spring, is every bird.


by Alison Brackenbury, published in Gallop (Carcanet, 2019)



What will they be, our feeblest ones
who cannot stand?
Swifts who sleep upon the wind,
who never land.


by Alison Brackenbury, published in Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal.

Another box of nipples arrived today

The hospital computer’s gone mad
– that’s the third box this week.
You stick them on the fridge door,
the phone, the handle of the kettle.
And we laugh. Then you are sick again.

This evening you sit in your usual chair
in the bloat of chemo, your breath really
bothering you. And me, if truth be told.
You are darning pullovers neither of us
ever wear – and even Oxfam won’t take.

What if I could give you a new pair?
That will always pass the pencil test, even
at 90; with velvet-dark areolae
and pert tips that jut cheekily, but
don’t show through your tennis dress.

You are muttering about camels
and licking the thread for the nth time;
specs half-way down – in your usual chair.
I don’t see hacked-at womanhood,
that you’ve sobbed salt-herring barrels for.

I see you. Darning your way to normality.

by Char March from her collection The Thousand Natural Shocks, published by Indigo Dreams 2011

Ridge walking

is my life
out here
on this edge.

Windy here
– a narrow ridge.

Often I am scared,
have to squeeze my eyes shut,
hug myself to the rock,
crawl along on all fours
mumbling mantras.

But sometimes
I dance the thin line,
whirling in the sun,
shouting in an arms-up,
head-back laugh.

is my life out here.
A slim chance
with steep drops on either side,
but the views
are bloody marvellous.

by Char March, from her collection The Thousand Natural Shocks, published by Indigo Dreams 2011

After Sight Loss

I dream
your breasts like water-lilies,
golden-centred, cupped in white
and glistening.

I will
hold you, enter you. We will
make a wheel of love like dragonflies,
blue and bright in June.

You will
chart my body to me.
brighten the darkness
that I live in now.

You will not come, I know, 
but still I practise remembering

by Gill McEvoy from Pawprints of Light, Caboodle, Prole Books) 2015)

Night School

This paring of moon
that’s scraping the sky
lights up the mice
who nibble at books
in the night-school room.

They’ve toiled all day
to scratch out a living;
they don’t want to be here
but think that it’s giving them
much better chances.

The evening advances,
the mice are all weary
and in between yawns
they worry their heads
with their tin-lid thin claws.

Give this mouse the moon
and the schooling of night –
I’ll sweep back the sky,
mouse-foot it through books
leaving pawprints of light.


by Gill McEvoy from Pawprints of light, Caboodle, Prole Books)

Love Without Hope, was chosen by Philip:

Love without hope, as when the young bird-catcher
Swept off his tall hat to the Squire’s own daughter,
So let the imprisoned larks escape and fly
Singing about her head, as she rode by.

Robert Graves  (1895-1985)


and Meg chose The Archaeopteryx’s Song by Edwin Morgan, and picked out these as the lines that always make her cry.


Tim chose ‘The Happy Bird’ by John Clare from Twelve Poems about Birds published by Candlestick Press, and Swallows by Kathleen Jamie from her collection, ‘The Tree House’, published by Pan Macmillan.


And my choice for this week is Bad News, Good News by Marjorie Saiser.  I love the last stanza:


I sent the most necessary syllables
we have, after all this time the ones we want to hear:
I said Home, I said Love, I said Tomorrow.




So that’s it for another week!  Please send us poems on this (or earlier!) or next week’s themes by email 

Or just use the message function at the bottom of the page.  You can also follow us using the socal media buttons just below.

We would love to hear your suggestions!


  1. Jude Walker

    Thankyou all for such a wonderful selection. After sad news today, the poems have been tender and kind, beautiful and powerful…

    Hope, for me, is at the seaside. I’m an obsessive and optimistic beachcomber, you see – the one who’s always needing to just have a nosey around the next headland on the off-chance!
    For my suggestion, I turned to ‘Shorelines’ (Lautus Press) and The Beach by Kathleen Jamie.
    The poem ends with the image of the coast-line, post-storm:

    What a species –
    still working the same
    curved bay, all of us

    hoping for the marvellous,
    all hankering for a changed life.

    I was also drawn to Jackie Kay’s ‘Holy Island’ and David Scott’s ‘St Columba’s Bay, Iona’ – both featured in ‘Shorelines’.

    Again, thanks for the poetry – and the hope. X

    • Anna Dreda

      I’m glad it was timely for you Jude, though sorry about the sad news. Your poems are lovely choices and (sneak preview) the theme ‘Written on the Shore’ will eb coming up in June – feel free to choose poems for that. We love getting poem suggestions so if you would like to, please send suggestions to info@wenlockbooks.co.uk. And now I’m off to read all those poems in my much-loved copy of Shorelines! http://www.lautuspress.co.uk
      Anna x

    • Janie Hexall

      Dear Jude
      We were so happy to hear that you have found hope in our book Shorelines – we are obsessive beachcombers ourselves and it is wonderful when the books finds it way to others who feel like us . . .
      Best wishes, and happy beach-walking . . .
      Janie and Barbara

  2. Gill McEvoy

    It was lovely to hear Char March reading her own poem, thank you for that! And I really enjoyed the poems I didn’t know, the Jane Hirshfield, and the Richard Eberhart. This is always a real treat and there is nothing like sharing poetry! A shame we can’t also share the coffee, but you can’t have everything. Thank you Anna for putting it all together, it’s a joy to read through..

    • Anna Dreda

      I’m so glad you have enjoyed being part of it Gill! Anna x

  3. Philip Browning

    I only twigged yesterday, listening to a blackbird singing in our garden, that The Darkling Thrush is a perfect example of ‘Hope is the thing with Feathers’! Here it is:

    The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy

    I leant upon a coppice gate
    When Frost was spectre-grey,
    And Winter’s dregs made desolate
    The weakening eye of day.
    The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
    Like strings of broken lyres,
    And all mankind that haunted nigh
    Had sought their household fires.

    The land’s sharp features seemed to be
    The Century’s corpse outleant,
    His crypt the cloudy canopy,
    The wind his death-lament.
    The ancient pulse of germ and birth
    Was shrunken hard and dry,
    And every spirit upon earth
    Seemed fervourless as I.

    At once a voice arose among
    The bleak twigs overhead
    In a full-hearted evensong
    Of joy illimited;
    An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
    In blast-beruffled plume,
    Had chosen thus to fling his soul
    Upon the growing gloom.

    So little cause for carolings
    Of such ecstatic sound
    Was written on terrestrial things
    Afar or nigh around,
    That I could think there trembled through
    His happy good-night air
    Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
    And I was unaware.

    • Anna Dreda

      Yes – lovely! I wonder if anyone has a sound recording of the bird song … ?


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