“Hope,” she said

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

A new year is in the offing. The preparation for the significant day is usually full of hope, often goodwill, for both others and ourselves.

Then the big day comes, the first of all the 365 days ahead, and by dusk it’s just another day. Soon it’s in a pile forgotten along with most of the other yesterdays.

But the idea of hope springs anew each New Year’s Day, and it is important . . . some years more than others. There are times we feel compelled to talk about it, hang onto it, keep it in our pockets to take out and look at more often.

We do not know if animals have hope, but much has been written and sung about it in the human realm, this thing called hope. Cynics denigrate it; skeptics make fun of it and the Pollyannas who believe in it. I hear less of that so-called sophistication this year. We’re all in need of a little hope.


Emily Dickinson wrote this around 1861, the beginning of a particularly bad patch of years for the U.S. I have never come up with the likes of an Emily poem myself, but I have quite a collection of famous hopeful poets to share with you. Maybe one or two of them will help you through the year.


John Keats wrote this in 1815. This was a time when political passions ran as deep as they do today. Napoleon had finally been defeated, and there was turmoil in Europe and in England, where Keats lived. At the tender age of 19, Keats, a liberal, with this poem called on the victors to support social justice and reform.


In her poem “Now Let No Charitable Hope,” Elinor Morton Wylie, also a novelist, artist and poetry editor of Vanity Fair magazine during the early 1920s, acknowledges in her last two lines that there is always enough hope to make her smile. Her finale here makes me smile, because isn’t it always the people who scoff at hope that never smile?


“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou was published in 1978, a year of relative peace around the world and the signing of treaties and agreements between enemies — Japan and China, U.S. and Russia, Egypt and Israel. Among many vocations, poet Angelou was a political activist against racism, a truly evil behavior currently encouraged to rear its ugly head again.


Below, a couple of quotes to round out hope.

Hope you have a healthy, kind and lovin’ year!

“See, now we are feeling what not having hope feels like, you know. Hope is necessary. It is a necessary concept. What do you give your kids if you can’t give them hope?” Dec. 19, 2016 airing of broadcast interview of First Lady Michelle Obama with Oprah Winfrey.

“All human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope’.” Alexandre Dumas, writer

“In a time of destruction, create something.” Maxine Hong Kingston, writer

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

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