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Amelia’s Flights of Poetry

This is National Poetry Month, celebrating verse in popular culture and American lives. And it’s safe to say that few poets have flown as high—on words and wings—as Amelia Earhart.

Poetry, to Amelia, was essential, an outlet for her deepest thoughts. She scribbled poems on planes and trains and hotel stationery. She set flying records for the thrill of it, across continents and oceans and around the world. But one of her greatest joys, according to her husband, G. P. Putnam, was making “little words get up and dance.”

Amelia was bookish from the beginning. Her mother, Amy Earhart, recalled that when Amelia was a little girl, she was sensitive to words’ “music” and considered some so “harsh and disagreeable” that they “hurt her ears.” Amelia began writing poetry when she four, and she never stopped.

She was far better as a pilot than a poet, but she loved to write as much as she loved to fly. She always hoped that she could spend a whole year simply writing, filling pages with her feelings and pale, penciled scrawls.

Amelia wrote frankly and poetically, in her twenties, about sex and her dread of marriage:

[Is] marriage (sexual fulfillment) like the entrance from a dark cool beautiful wood into a sickening plain devoid of vegetation, whose remote hills are barren in the pitiless light and only cloak themselves in purple when evening comes?

A few years later, as a social worker, she wrote a poem called “Courage,” about making hard decisions; Eleanor Roosevelt kept a copy of it in her desk drawer:

Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace
The soul that knows it not, knows no release
From little things:
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear
The sound of wings…

Amelia occasionally submitted poetry to magazines under an assumed name, but she wrote often, mainly for herself. A few hand-written poems survive, most of them drafts and scraps.

Some were about love:

I have seen your eyes at dawn beloved
Dark with sleep
And lying on your breast—have watched
The new day creep
Into new depths, putting aside old shadows spun by night
To show again the lovely living colors of your sunlit sight.
I would cry my joy to the world uncontrollably…
The mountain tops of love I’ve known.

Some were about joy:

To snatch molten moments from
The fire of life
Holding them until the brief
Glow fades...

And one, about passion and death, evokes her disappearance in the Pacific, in the searing heat of July 1937, on a dream flight around the world she’d always hoped to make:

Merciless life
Laughs in the burning sun
And only death
Slow-circling down
Shadows with buzzard wings
The arid flesh
Burned before the passion paws of love.


  • hamiilton

    Sep 30, 2010

    Great article - lovely to read about a different side to Amelia Earhart.
    Keep up the good work!

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