ORLEANS — As storm after storm battered the Caribbean this year, a sense of hopelessness was part of the reaction to the horrific destruction. But hope, as Emily Dickinson knew, is “the thing with feathers,” and hope took wing on the islands and in the classrooms of Orleans Elementary School.
Eager to help, especially after two children from the storm-ravaged British Virgin Islands started attending OES, students began writing poems about what “hope” meant to them. Now a collection of their work, “The Book of Hope,” is available at amazon.com, with proceeds going to repair schools damaged by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
Last week, seven of the poets, a small sample of the scores of children who wrote poems, read their works at a reception held in Snow Library. The depth of feeling and imagery expressed prompted heartfelt applause. Fifth grade teacher Cirrus Farber said a friend who had read the book called the OES poets “old souls in young bodies.” Another review came from one of the poets herself: “I took the time to listen to everybody. Some I agreed with, some I didn't understand. That's what I love about poetry. Some were so joyful, I laughed out loud.”
“Hope,” wrote Annika Van der Wende, “is like a superpower/Giving you the power of optimism...” Brie Kinzer described “Captain Hope,” who “can help/ in ways you might not understand/For/Hope is very, very creative!/She helps you with tests, sports, drawing/And even happiness.”
“Hope/Is not something/You can see/But/It's something/You can be...” Fiona McCray wrote. “It's the/Butterflies in people's bellies/And/Happiness comes along soon.” Molly Filteau imagined how it would be “If hope was something I could touch/It would be soft, light, colorful and fluffy/Hope would bring me joy/When I am sad/Hope would give me a hug and sing to me.”
Saffron Jalbert addressed “Dear Hope” in the title of her poem: “My dear/You are my inspiration/To find a way to make a difference/In the world./And my friend/You are my courage/To move on.” Emily Decker wrote a short, wistful plea: “If hope could help/It would give/Hope to everybody/And/Help everybody.”
For Melody Sieger, who came to Orleans with her brother after Hurricane Irma wrecked her school in Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands, “Hope is like an energetic shadow/That follows you/It's there when you need it/Hope motivates,/Inspires,/Makes you/Believe,/And/Helps you feel alive/When you are down/Hope inspired me/In my first play at school/Hope helped me/Believe in myself/When I gave a speech/Hope is a friend.”
That last sentiment was underscored after the reading, when an audience member asked Melody if she planned to remain in Orleans. “I'm not sure,” she said thoughtfully, as the girl next to her put a hand on her shoulder and encouraged her to do just that.
The Book of Hope is available at amazon.com for $9.99.