Afloat in the Starry Sky
An Anthology of Poems
Edited By Alpha M.

These poems describing the hopes and dreams of others have come to mean a lot to me. Hopes and dreams are what fill our thoughts during the day, whether or not we want them to come true. Their presence gives us the drive to continue what sometimes may seem to be a bleak and miserable life. As some of these poets show us, we must "Hold fast to dreams" ('Dreams', Langston Hughes). But others tell us that eventually our "hopes and dreams will fade away" ('Fading Hopes and Dreams', Sol Finkleman). A variety of poems discuss these ideas mixed with the theme of love, regret, and work, revealing what the reality of our hopes and dreams are.

I was raised a first generation child of immigrants in America. I grew up on stories of their faraway childhood, its perfection almost a dream. My mother and her sister, who raised me, had one flaw in their childhood. In Ethiopia, as in many nations around the world, being a girl meant you were not given the opportunity to do most things boys were expected and encouraged to do. But they had hopes of becoming accomplished, and they thought America would be the perfect place to achieve these dreams. After they got here, it became up to me to fulfill them. It is much more difficult to raise a child in America than in other places in the world. Here they must work hard every day, whereas in the ‘old country’ they could choose to live a leisurely, luxurious life. But America is where they thought I would have the best opportunity to fulfill everything that I dream to be, and everything they hoped to become. They are working hard, so I can achieve my dreams, almost sacrificing theirs.

My aunt is the model of keeping your dreams. An English teacher by profession, she is always talking about the novel she is ‘writing’. Though I doubt she’s gotten past the first chapter, the important part is that she still has a dream. Growing up, my jovial aunt, sitting on the porch by the garden would tell me I could become whatever I wanted. ‘If you can dream it, you can achieve it,’ she would always tell me. But even at the young age of fifteen, I know that I can be all that I dream, but just because I can doesn't mean I will. I have always had dreams of growing up and being wealthy, accomplished and respected. I know I can, but is that better left a dream? Do I want my dreams to come true? In my dreams, there is no dark side of wealth. It is the romanticized version where all I see are the good parts of having money.

Everything that is dreamt is much better in one’s imagination. Sarah Teasdale explains this predicament in 'Houses of Dreams' (13-16):

… You took my dreams away
And made them all come true --
My thoughts have no place now to play,
And nothing now to do
I think the speaker in this poem is a woman who has just found love in the ‘perfect man’. After being loved back, she is troubled because she realizes that her life really isn’t full without dreams to ponder. She seems to be talking to her husband, who is baffled by the notion that giving her everything she wants is not enough. When she wanted love, she didn’t have it. When she finally got love, she wanted to go back to the days when she pined for affection. She is unhappy with what has become of her life. The poem is less a declaration of this to her husband, but more an example to other people that life is not so simple.

The word ‘empty’ is repeated often in the poem. It describes her dreams, they are empty because they are everyone’s dreams, and a facsimile of what every girl in the world wants. In the last stanza, the second meaning of empty is revealed. Her dreams are empty houses where her thoughts play. If the house is full, her thoughts have nothing to do. This suits the poem because the repetition of the word empty reinforces that maybe emptiness isn’t so bad.

Poetry is an invaluable way of expressing our feelings. Though some are abstract and many straightforward, they speak to you in ways that a person never could. To me, poetry is everything inside that I could never say. It expresses the joy, the ironies and sadness that we find in real life. I heard once that, 'we could not possibly live long enough to make all of the important mistakes and learn from them, so we must learn from the mistakes of others.' We can learn from the mistakes of others through their poetry. This anthology is a collection of ideas and misconceptions about hopes and dreams. It is important to learn from these as we would from any of our own experiences.

The poets represented here are very diverse, ranging from the eighteenth century to the twentieth; males and females, Europeans and Americans alike. Some, such as Poe, Sandberg, Hughes, Dickinson and Blake are very well known, whereas some of the emerging writers of this century, such as Finkelman, Matthews and Forbes are also represented. I have put them together in this way to show a diverse array of ideas concerning hopes and dreams.

These poems are arranged in an order in which they would fit on the timeline of one’s life. They show the natural progression of what happen to our hopes and dreams as we age, and they offers sage advice as to what we shouldn’t let happen to our hopes and dreams. In the beginning, we hold on tightly to both, later on we let go of the impossible dreams, but not the hopes. And in the end, some of our hopes and dreams may have faded. Life starts by spreading its wings among the stars in 'Hope Is a Thing with Feathers' by Emily Dickinson, and it ends up being weakly supported, but still waving proudly in the sky, in 'Hope Is a Tattered Flag' by Carl Sandberg. These poems are honest reflections of these authors’ thoughts on hopes and dreams. You can tell whose dreams have come true and whose have faded away.

As I complete my tasks today, I dream of tomorrow. I have hopes that I will try to make come true, and dreams I hope will not vanish. At the dawn of a new millennium, I share with you the past wisdom of others to reflect upon, and the future beckoning us to experience it.

Table of Contents

"'Hope' is the thing with feathers-"
Emily Dickinson
"Dreams"
Langston Hughes
"The Land of Dreams"
William Blake
"A Dream"
Edgar Allen Poe
"Houses Of Dreams"
Sarah Teasdale
"The Return"
John Forbes
"A Psalm of Life"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"Job Interview"
William Matthews
"Love's Vicissitudes"
Robert Louis Stevenson
"At First You Don't Succeed"
Steven Monte
"Fading Hopes and Dreams"
Sol Finkelman
"Hope is a Tattered Flag"
Carl Sandberg