The Poet and the Person

Amelia Earhart

Abbie Barton, Purdue University

Amelia Earhart’s disappearance in 1937 has mystified the world for nearly eighty years. Before vanishing, her career as a record-breaking aviator and outspoken feminist thrust her into the public’s gaze. Throughout her prosperous and famous career as a pilot, most media observers and admirers regarded Earhart’s writing as an afterthought. Yet with three published books, Last Flight, The Fun of It, and 20 Hrs., 40 Min., Earhart deservingly gained the title of author. Even with all the achievements of her life, she was always a writer. Earhart was also an accomplished poet. Like so many aviators, she found inspiration in the sky. Pilots have a unique perspective on life that allows them to master a creative edge. They achieve distance from the world, finding their voice where almost no one else’s is heard. Flying gives them the vast space and freedom to discover their individuality(1). Or, as the pilot-writer Antoine Saint-Exupery said, “The airplane is a means, not an end. One doesn’t risk one’s life for a plane any more than a farmer ploughs for the sake of the plough. But the airplane is a means of getting away from towns and their book-keeping and coming to terms with reality”(2).

According to her sister, Earhart loved reading and writing poetry since childhood(3). Into adulthood, her poems expressed her unique views on life and the world. She covered such varied topics as beauty, flying, and courage, all with the eloquence of a professional poet. Throughout her adult life, she scribbled poems on scraps of paper, old airport stationary, or anything she could find. Despite her lifelong hobby, Earhart only ever published one poem. “Courage” went to print in June of 1928, after Earhart’s first trans-Atlantic flight on the Friendship, when she flew as a passenger and first gained celebrity status. She had submitted other poems, including “To M.,” “Palm Tree,” and “From an Airplane,” for magazine publication in 1926, but they were rejected. In these instances, Earhart used the pen name, Emil Harte, for her work(4). Poetry speaks volumes about its author, and Earhart’s poems, with about thirty samples collected in the Purdue Archives, reveals several nuances of her personality. I will analyze her poetry for its literary merits, position the poems into the context of her life, and interpret them for her character and voice.

Figure 1. Emil Harte, “To M.”16 April 1921, Box 6, Folder 104, The George Palmer Putman Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, 1785-1948, The Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

Figure 1. Emil Harte, “To M.”16 April 1921, Box 6, Folder 104, The George Palmer Putman Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, 1785-1948, The Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

“To M____.”
1              Like your body’s beauty
2              the humor of your frankness
3              pleased them—who saw the surface only,
4              nor saw you
5              laughing at them with a wistful scorn
6              and eyes of cool intelligence.

This first poem impresses with the idea that only the speaker sees the true features of that special kind of person whom everyone admires. The structure of the poem implies disdain for those who only admire the surface image. The irregular alternation between iambic and trochaic feet, with several hanging syllables, emphasizes the thematic ideas of admiration and contempt(5). Written in free verse, the poem follows conversational patterns of emphasis, and is freer than other types of scansions (the pattern of stresses on syllables). Admiration appears in the poem as liberally given, especially by the speaker, as shown by the unrestrained free verse. Moreover, the iambic foot in line 3 contrasts with the trochaic foot in line 5 relating to the word “them,” repeated in both lines. With the iambic foot, “them” is stressed to show the force of the disdain for the people who admire by only looking at the surface of a person. The trochaic foot changes “them” in line 5 to be unstressed, therefore making “them” unimportant. The focus of the poem, with these changing feet, therefore demonstrates contempt for those who do not look past beauty.

Additionally, the hanging syllable in line 5 emphasizes “scorn” because it has no unaccented word to follow it. The stressed and dangling word adds emphasis to its significance in the poem. Therefore, scorn describes the tone toward shallow people. The use of enjambment, or the continuation of a sentence across different lines without punctuation, accentuates the false admiration that some people feel for surface beauty. In lines 1-2, “Like your body’s beauty/ the humor…,” creates a flow of praise with no pauses between lines. The beauty visually flows into the humor, and the readers’ eyes travel down the poem as the admirers’ eyes might travel down the beautiful body. Furthermore, punctuation reflects content. The first punctuation mark, a dash, separates the complementary beginning lines with the truth of the artificial appreciation of beauty and humor. Before the dash, admiration and esteem create the overall impression. Then, the comma in line 3 transitions into the evidence of contempt for the posturing admirers. The tone then changes to disdain for surface level admiration. Therefore, structurally, foot, hanging syllables, enjambment, and punctuation emphasize the tone of scorn amid admiration.

Alliteration, the repetition of the beginning sound of adjacent words, and diction, word choice, confirm Earhart’s tone of disdain for superficial admiration. To begin, the first example of alliteration occurs in the first line, “…body’s beauty.” Like “them” in the poem, Earhart draws the reader’s attention to the beauty of the addressee with the repeated sound. Also, the hard ‘b’ emphasizes the considerable beauty possessed because it sounds authoritative and strong. In line 3, “…saw the surface only” features alliteration with the ‘s’, highlighting the oblivion of others to the actual beauty and displaying a disdainful tone. Moreover, the diction in the poem adds to the ideas of contempt and admiration. For example, in line 1, Earhart uses “body’s beauty” and the use of the word body, as distanced from the beauty of the person possessing it. Saying “[her] beauty” would have had a completely different meaning than “body’s beauty.”  Body represents the exterior of a person’s soul, simply the casing. The casual observer appreciates the body’s beauty rather than the inner beauty, exemplifying a kind of glib appreciation. The speaker, on the other hand, sees past the surface, and “frankness” in line 2 exemplifies this deep perception. Frankness describes a sense of humor with this word, showing the speaker’s aptitude of perceiving the addressee’s traits. “Surface” in line 3 shows how beauty and humor, which the common public universally admires, are superficial. Beauty and humor, two of the most common and desirable attractions to a person, simply scratch the “surface.” The beautiful person’s attractive features do not begin to delve into the intelligence or personality of the addressee. Therefore, the misplaced admiration of the surface traits deserves to be laughed at in contempt.

In line 5, the diction in the word, “wistful,” provides the first description of the person below the surface. This describes the hopelessness of being perceived so artificially by almost everyone; the feeling of longing shows in the regretful scorn that the addressee feels towards those around her. The word “cool” in line 6 describes both the eyes and intelligence of a melancholy beauty. The diction has several layers of meaning. The coolness of the addressee derives from the disdain felt for those who have a shallow perception of beauty. Also, the “cool intelligence” describes the personality of having a calm and levelheaded demeanor, worthy of appreciation. Thus, the alliteration and diction in the poem emphasize the scornful feelings of the addressee and the admiration felt by everyone else, including the speaker.

Written in 1921, when she was twenty-four years old, Earhart’s poem, with these structural and linguistic elements, not only shows her real talent for writing, but also reveals much about her mindset. “To M.” shows Earhart’s appreciation for beauty, both inner and outer, and her perception of the human condition. In the poem, Earhart does not scoff at physical beauty; instead, she seems enamored by it. She scoffs at the people who cannot see beyond a person’s features. With a keen sense of observation and even foresight, Earhart tells the brief story of a kind of person with whom she will eventually identify. For example, before her own fame, and before the Friendship flight, Earhart once recounted the experience of interviewing for the flight across the Atlantic. “The candidate, I gathered, should be a flyer herself, with social graces, education, charm, and, perchance, pulchritude”(6). Obviously, she received the offer, showing that Earhart did in fact possess all the charm and elegance that such an important project desired of a woman. Within a few years, after achieving a series of further aviation records, she reached a level of popularity, admiration, and even adoration wherever she went. While attending a party with Earhart, the pilot Anne Morrow Lindbergh once described the experience in her memoir as such: “Amelia Earhart, a shaft of white coming out of a blue room”(7). Like the addressee in the poem, she possessed the uncommon skill of charming almost everyone she met. The inspiration for “To M.” may have originated from her own experiences of objectification and understanding.

Earhart’s voice as an author enjoyed both power and elegance, traits she displayed in areas besides poetry. She championed for women’s rights with such force and persuasion that she actually made a difference. Her position at Purdue University as a women’s career counselor allowed Earhart to work with young women, inspiring female success in higher education and career fields(8). At the time, feminism faced social opposition, yet Earhart never lost her authority or passion toward the subject. In the poem, the addressee, probably a beautiful female, had so much more to offer than simply looks. Earhart described her as intelligent and wistful, displaying Earhart’s own feminism and strong opinions. For example, in every one of her published books, Earhart made a case for women’s rights. Particularly in Last Flight, she wrote, “One of my favorite phobias is that girls, especially those whose tastes aren’t routine, often don’t get a fair break. This situation is not new. It has come down through the generations…which produced the corollary that women are bred to timidity”(9). Her eloquence on the topic of beauty and female strength, and female repression, reveals her observant and creative character. Earhart expressed what she felt and saw in words, requiring an intense perception and poignant insight. Her creative edge, powerful voice, and elegant articulation endure through the pages of her poems, which describe a self-possessed and centered personality.

Figure 2. Emil Harte, “From an Airplane,” 16 April 1921, Box 6, Folder 104, The George Palmer Putman Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, 1785-1948, The Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

Figure 2. Emil Harte, “From an Airplane,” 16 April 1921, Box 6, Folder 104, The George Palmer Putman Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, 1785-1948, The Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

“From an Airplane”
1              Even the watchful, purple hills
2              that hold the lake,
3              could not see so well as I
4              the stain of evening
5              creeping from its heart;
6              nor the round yellow eyes of the hamlet
7              growing filmy with mists.

In this second poem, the speaker both brags about the fantastic view from the sky and marvels at its beauty. The two conflicting feelings combine to add a fresh perspective to the landscape that Earhart describes, creating the tone of boastful wonder. While appreciating the scenic beauty, the poem insinuates a distance from humanity and a connection with nature. Using elements of foot, personification, imagery, and the idea of sight, Earhart eloquently describes the first time she flew.

To begin, the speaker establishes her gloating admiration of the view she sees from the airplane through personification. This creates images of sight throughout the poem, connecting the elements of nature, the hills, and the evening sunset to the speaker on a personal level. For example, in line 1, Earhart describes the hills as “watchful,” personifying them to be something like her equal, and first demonstrates the sight motif. The idea of sight exemplifies the view that the speaker has from the airplane. Reveling in the scenes witnessed by the speaker, the tone reflects the wonder of nature from the sky. Additionally, the personification of the hills continues in line 3, in that they “could not see so well as I.” This section brings out the boastful aspect of the tone; the hills cannot see as well as the speaker from the airplane. The sight motif exists to compare and contrast the hills’ view with the speaker’s view, rendering such feelings as the awe of observing, and the pride of seeing better than the hills. Moreover, in lines 6-7, Earhart personifies the hamlet to show the speaker’s distance from the rest of the world. The “eyes of the hamlet,” or the lights and windows from humanity, are “growing filmy with mists,” and can no longer see the speaker so high above the world. The sight motif pairs up with the personification to make the hamlet’s eyes lose importance and significance, which the tone reflects. In addition, in line 5, Earhart personifies the hills again without the sight motif; “creeping from its heart” shows the speaker’s deep admiration and connection with the view alone. Giving the hills a heart makes them human, with emotion and passion; the speaker senses this passion and the tone reflects the awe felt. The personal link between the speaker and the hills creates the wonder of the tone, and also contributes to the distance between the speaker and the rest of civilization. In these ways, the personification and sight motif throughout “From an Airplane” gives evidence to the tone of conceited amazement.

Furthermore, Earhart develops a boastful, admiring tone from the poem’s imagery and diction. In the first line, “purple hills” creates visual imagery to show the speaker’s appreciation for the view from the airplane. The descriptive language, representing the speaker’s observations, shows the tone of awe. Moreover, “the stain of evening/creeping” in lines 4-5 contributes to the wonder that the speaker experiences, because the imagery creates a visual for the reader as strong as the visual that the speaker sees. The appreciation for the scene emerges from the worded encapsulation of the beautiful sunset. While the diction of “stain” and “creeping” may seem to have negative connotations, they function to paint the picture of the sunset being witnessed. Both words are visually stimulating.  Combined, “stain…creeping” serves to show the speaker’s intense admiration of the gradual, deep change in the sky’s color, revealing a tone of awe. In addition, the imagery in line 6, “…the round yellow eyes…” provides evidence, not only of the speaker’s love of natural beauty, but also her distance from people. Although it is a part of human development, the speaker symbolizes the hamlet from a higher view, it below and she above. The imagery prompts visual pictures in the reader’s mind of the glowing windows of a village among the hills. In addition to expressing the speaker’s observational awe, the imagery contrasts the human with nature. The “purple hills” and the “yellow eyes of the hamlet” exist as two colorful aspects of the view from the airplane. Purple complements yellow on the color wheel. This fact, that the two complementary colors describe the hills and the hamlet, add extra significance to their respective imagery. While opposites, purple and yellow, and the hills and the hamlet, create a sort of harmony, visually and socially. Everything fits together and balances each other, including the hills and the hamlet, which represents the admiration and wonder felt toward the harmonious scene. Thus, the diction paired with imagery verifies the appreciative tone.

Earhart’s poem, written in free verse with irregular feet, also displays the tone of boastful awe. To begin, “From an Airplane” uses these irregularities in foot to emphasize the tone. The conversational free verse of the poem creates the idea that the speaker talks to nature, the hills and the lake. It feels easy and friendly, showing the connection between the speaker and everything she witnesses. Moreover, the poem has iambic foot, with the exception of lines 1 and 5, which have trochaic feet. In line 1, beginning with the emphasized “Even” displays the boastful tone. The foot draws attention to the emphasis of the fact that the speaker can see better than “even the watchful purple hills.” Line 1 begins the boasting and bragging about the speaker’s observations. Additionally, in line 5, “creeping” has emphasis with the trochaic foot in order to display the admiring tone. By changing the foot, the imagery of sunset that the speaker witnesses capture the reader’s attention, expressing the tone of awe.

Furthermore, the pyrrhic feet in lines 1, 5, and 6 emphasize the examples of personification. Pyrrhic means having two short, unstressed syllables in a foot(10). In line 1, the second syllable in “even” and “the” do not have stress, and the pyrrhic foot, being two unstressed syllables, emphasizes the syllables directly before and after. This pyrrhic thus gives power to the impact of the “watchful, purple hills,” highlighting their personification, and signifying their importance and beauty in a tone of awe. The pyrrhic in line 5 of the unstressed beats, “from its,” emphasizes once again the personification of the hills. The hills’ “heart” follows the pyrrhic, giving it more stress and importance, along with the personification in line 6, which also features a pyrrhic foot. Line 6 has unstressed “of the” between “eyes of the hamlet.” This example of pyrrhic, paired with personification, emphasizes the distance between the speaker and the rest of humanity. In the other two examples of personification of the hills, the pyrrhic foot completely preceded it; however, when mentioning the hamlet, the pyrrhic divides the personification, which shows the speaker’s division from the hamlet as well. This division proves her connection with the hills of nature rather than with humanity, proving the tone of wonder for natural beauty. Therefore, the foot and its irregularities show the conceited tone of division and appreciation.

The poem also features several elements to connect the speaker with the wondrous view as seen from the airplane. Earhart seems to feel united with the hills and the lake, personifying them to be the people with whom she talks. Distancing herself from humanity, the airplane allows Earhart to be alone with her own thoughts and ideas. Boasting about the view to the hills, she feels both proud and humble to share part of nature in such a beautiful way. “From an Airplane,” written in 1921, allows the reader to share the inspiration Earhart felt when flying at the very start of her great flying career.

From the beginning, planes fascinated Earhart. In 1920, she moved to California, where she saw her first air show. In her book, 20 Hrs. 40 Min., Earhart described the experience: “Of course, at that time I knew somewhat less than I do now. However, one thing I did know that day. I wanted to fly”(11). Clearly, the sky and its machines called to Earhart right away, and she did not miss the call. The poem, inspired by one of Earhart’s first trips in a plane, highlights the passion she had for flying: the beauty and awe translated into words. After Earhart flew for the first time, she wrote: “When I came down I was ready to sign up at any price to have a try the air myself”(12). The sky did, in fact, cost a lot to obtain, monetarily and socially. Her parents refused to pay for the lessons, so Earhart took her first job, as a telephone operator, in order to finance her expensive dream. Also, society had not yet accepted female pilots as a social norm, and Earhart had a keen awareness of this judgment. Despite the fact that she wanted to bob her hair, she kept it long so as to “offset the usual criticism of [Earhart’s] behavior”(13). Against all the hardships and disapproval, Earhart earned her pilot’s license. She strove for the sky, perhaps because, according to Robert Wohl, airplanes are an “essentially aesthetical and moral experience”(14). Earhart brought Wohl’s principle to life, because she found artistic inspiration in the sky. Earhart’s poem shows her ability to observe and appreciate the wondrous view from the sky, while allowing the reader to feel the intensity of her passion for flying. The poem vividly describes a setting sun from an airplane, and Earhart’s wonder clearly seeps through the words on the page. She painted the beauty, the colors, the view, and the feeling with astounding realism. The reader can picture the scene below, a little town nestled in a hill that dips into a lake. Earhart’s poem effectively shows her eloquence and skills of observation. Flying kindled her passion, which she followed the rest of her life, eventually gaining fame from it. Aviation nurtured her creativity, which resulted in the beautiful poem “From an Airplane.”

In addition to her passion for flight, Earhart expressed an appreciation for nature in both poetry and life. From so high above the ground, Earhart and her voice rose above humanity and connected with the bigger, more important world of nature. After her first solo flight, Earhart said, “It’s so breathtakingly beautiful up there”(15). The view of the world below and its natural beauty took her breath away, inspiring this poem. Earhart also expressed this appreciation of nature through the way she spent her time. As she once wrote, “I was fond of automobiles, tennis, horseback riding, and almost anything else that is active and carried on in the open”(16). Earhart liked to breathe the fresh air. Adventure and the outdoors appealed to her. Thus, the transition to piloting made perfect sense to her. The poem reflected her love of the air as part of nature. Eloquently describing something about which she felt passionate, Earhart revealed the talents of a true poet, deriving her inspiration from the sky.

“From an Airplane” sheds light on Earhart’s nature as a pilot and person. We see her appreciation for flying and for natural beauty, along with a talent for vividly descriptive articulation. In this respect, Earhart shared a love for flying and a talent for poetry with a number of celebrities, pilots who wrote creative fiction, non-fiction, and poetry to celebrate the wonders of flight. Take the case of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife to the famous Charles Lindbergh. Both Amelia and Anne were friends and praised one another in their respective writings: Earhart in Locked Rooms and Open Doors and Lindbergh in The Fun of It(17). Sharing this close bond and other similar life experiences, the two women revealed how the sky stimulated their writings. Earhart published The Fun of It, 20 Hrs. 40 Min., and Last Flight, though the public recognized her more for her piloting achievements. Lindbergh, on the other hand, had a reputation of being a co-pilot for her famous husband rather than an accomplished pilot of her own, though in reality she earned the highest grade flying license(18). She was most famous for her writings. While recognized for different merits, Anne and Amelia still shared the sky. Earhart’s poem, “From an Airplane,” clearly demonstrated her love of the air. In North to the Orient, Lindbergh similarly wrote: “There—the sky was blue above—the sky and the sun…Oh, let us stay here, I thought, up in this clear bright world of reality, where we can see the sky and feel the sun. Let’s never go down”(19). The sky, the sun, the air—these elements fascinated and inspired Lindbergh, as they did Earhart.

Figure 3. Amelia Earhart, “Courage,” 1927, Box 6, Folder 114, The George Palmer Putman Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, 1785-1948, The Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

Figure 3. Amelia Earhart, “Courage,” 1927, Box 6, Folder 114, The George Palmer Putman Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, 1785-1948, The Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

1           Courage is the price that Life exacts
2           for granting peace.
3           The soul that knows it not,
4           knows no release
5           from the little things:
6           Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
7           Nor mountain heights where bitter joy
8           can hear
9           The sound of wings.
10         How can life grant us boon of living,
11         compensate
12         For gray dull ugliness and pregnant hate
13         Unless we dare
14         The soul’s dominion? Each time we
15         make a choice, we pay
16         With courage to behold resistless day,
17         And count it fair.

This third poem, Earhart’s “Courage,” illustrates the theme that courage improves life, but does not come free. Stanza structure, rhyme scheme, alliteration, oxymoron, diction, and a money motif speak to the monotony of life and the stifling of the soul without courage.

To begin, the structure of the stanzas and rhyme develop the theme that courage makes life worth living. The poem’s structure has four stanzas, the first with five lines and the following stanzas with four lines each. The structure lends itself to the theme because it separates the ideas. The first stanza explains that life demands courage to have peace, and ends in a colon. The colon indicates that the following stanza will list the way life improves with courage. In the second stanza, Earhart discusses the wonderful things a person will miss when lacking courage. Ending in a period, the second stanza finishes with a completed thought about the experiences that are impossible without possessing courage. The third stanza introduces the question: how can life make up for daily monotony without pushing the boundaries of the soul? The question carries into the fourth stanza, and ends half way through the first line, melding into the fourth stanza to show the place of courage in every part of one’s life. The rest of the last stanza speaks of the exchange inherent in every choice: decisions paid for by courage turn into daily adventures. Ending with a period, the poem concludes the entire idea, leaving readers with the impression that, every day that feels “fair,” is the direct result of some courageous act.

The rhyme scheme in the poem contributes to the reader’s understanding of the theme that courage makes life worth living. The inconsistent rhyme scheme verifies the theme. The last lines in the first two stanzas and the last two stanzas, rhyme, representing the consistency of courage in life. The last lines rhyme to show that one ultimately needs courage. The rhyme scheme also emphasizes the words that rhyme, which when combined, illustrate the theme. In lines 5 and 9, the rhyme “things” and “wings” show the letting go of material “things” and gives the person the ability to fly with “wings.” The rhyme in lines 13 and 17 of “dare” and “fair” confirms the idea that daring allows a person to have beauty and fairness in the monotony of daily life. Moreover, the rhyme in each stanza, line 2 and line 4; line 6 and line 8; line 11 and line 12; and line 15 and line 16, add a semi-regular flow to the poem that audibly demonstrates the flow of life. The rhyme scheme helps to illustrate the regularity of daily life, and the minor changes in rhyme illustrate the bold changes that can happen with courage. The pattern spotlights a way that life can become more colorful if one has the courage to move beyond habit. Therefore, the rhyme scheme and stanza structure prove the theme that courage remedies dullness.

In addition, the alliteration and oxymoron in this poem demonstrate Earhart’s theme that to be courageous is to have joy. In lines 3-4, “knows it not, knows no release” features alliteration of the lulling ‘n’ sound. This draws the reader’s attention to the theme in the poem. These lines basically sum up that anyone without courage also lives without the release from daily monotony. Moreover, in line 6, “livid loneliness” emphasizes the repercussions of lacking courage. In this case, Earhart makes the argument that courage is rewarded with the “livid loneliness of fear.” The oxymoron in line 7 best highlights the seemingly contrasting ideas of this argument. Courage has a dual nature that, in fact, makes it all the more worthwhile. The oxymoron, “bitter joy” features two words with contrasting meaning. Courage has a similar concept: the wonderful courage cannot exist without the presence of fear. It is bitterly joyous. Referring to the alliteration of “livid loneliness,” Earhart desires this exquisite, inspiring, yet painful feeling to remedy the stifling of the spirit. Therefore, dull, boring existence awaits anyone who cannot act courageously, as shown by the alliteration and oxymoron.

Furthermore, the diction, paired with the motif of monetary exchange, verify the theme that one must pay for a soulful, fair life with courage. The money motif runs throughout the entire poem with such diction as “price,” “granting,” “grant,” “compensate,” “pay,” and “count.” These words, all with a connotation of bartering, generate the idea that courage works as a type of currency. It costs something to feel happy; it costs to escape the torments of everyday life. Life demands payment for being more than dull. Courage exchanges the ordinary for the fair. Additional examples of diction provide evidence for the idea that courage buys an escape. For example, Earhart packed line 12 with powerful diction to convey her message: “gray dull ugliness and pregnant hate.” These words drive our reading of the poem. “Gray” and “dull” both serve as descriptors to enhance and specify the “ugliness.” Both words have connotations of boredom, monotony, and lack of color. Paired with “ugliness,” “gray dull” show the type of ugliness that exists; not a grotesque, gruesome thing, rather a colorless and emotionless ugliness. Additionally, “pregnant hate” has a loaded meaning. Hate, the ultimate form of dislike, has a strong negative connotation to show the powerful negative effect of lacking courage. Therefore, the diction and an exchange motif display the power of courage. Without it, life would be dull and gray.

Earhart packed her poem, “Courage,” with symbolic meanings that actively applied to her own career as an aviator, written before the Friendship flight in 1927. This trip across the Atlantic sparked her fame and popularity across the globe. Yet, these earlier words now provide us with a core revelation about the more private Amelia, in the way that she sought to act bravely and live adventurously. Her personality shines through this poem, specifically her view on life and the way she lived it. Earhart not only wrote about the theme that courage buys an escape from daily monotony, but she lived by it. She never stopped moving. Throughout her life, Earhart held jobs in so many different fields: nursing, social work, editing, writing and of course, piloting(20). She rarely feared to try something new. She did not sit idly by and watch her life pass. Earhart also often did what she wanted in terms of sporting. She loved outdoor, active sports, and these often included such dangerous activities as flying. She also scuba dove; or as one article headlined, “Just Another Thrill”(21). Earhart had an established reputation as someone who sought out excitements, as someone who possessed the courage to act as she pleased. Her poetry reflects this journey, in a voice that possesses an authority and certainty.

As the only poem that Earhart ever published, “Courage” is also a meaningful study of the public’s attraction to her newfound celebrity. Several important publications, for example, have made use of it. Jean Adams’ and Margaret Kimball’s study of women aviators, Heroines of the Sky, and Marion Perkins, who wrote the introduction for 20 Hrs. 40 Min., both cited this poem to showcase Earhart’s sparkling and brave personality(22). The poem made a significant impact on writers who valued Earhart. For example, Mary Lovell’s biography, entitled The Sound of Wings, took its title from “Courage.” Even Amelia’s sister Muriel felt the impact of this poem, for she entitled her biography, Courage is the Price(23).

In sum, Amelia Earhart’s poems offer insight into what she believed, valued, and set out to accomplish. They reveal an admiration for something bigger than herself: beauty and bravery, humanity and the natural world. Her poems reveal an artist, a person with sharp senses, with an eye and ear and voice for the poetry of observation and interpretation. They may even show how she transformed her poetry of words into the poetry of actual flight(24). All appearing before taking her famous Friendship flight, these three poems bring to light someone ready for perception, adventure, and action.


(1) Selden Rodman, ed., The Poetry of Flight (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1941), 12-13; Thomas Collison, This Winged World: An Anthology of Aviation Fiction (New York: Coward-McCann, 1943), xi. For scholarly studies on flying and poetry, see Laurence Goldstein, The Flying Machine and Modern Literature (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986); and Karen Y. Olsen, “Preface” in On the Wing: American Poems of Air and Space Flight (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2005).
(2) Antoine Saint Exupery, Wind, Sand, and Stars, trans. Lewis Galantiere (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1939), 162. For a more recent take on this insight, see William Langewiesche, Inside the Sky (New York: Vintage Books, 1998), 31.
(3) Muriel Earhart Morrissey, Courage is the Price: The Life of Amelia Earhart (Wichita: McCormick-Armstrong, 1963).
(4) Sammie Morris, “What Archives Reveal: The Hidden Poems of Amelia Earhart,” Provenance (Journal of the Society of Georgia Archivists) XXIII (2005): 21-38.
(5) Iambic foot is the pattern of repeating unstressed and stressed syllables; while trochaic foot is the pattern of repeating stressed and unstressed syllables. John Lennard, The Poetry Handbook (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 3.
(6) Amelia Earhart, Last Flight (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1937), 9.
(7) Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Locked Rooms and Open Doors (New York: Helen and Kurt Wolff Book, 1935), 5.
(8) Hilary Masters, “Amelia Earhart’s Last Standing,” Sewanee Review 120, no. 3 (2012): 471-475.
(9) Earhart, Last Flight, 47.
(10) Lennard, The Poetry Handbook, 3.
(11) Amelia Earhart, 20 Hrs. 40 Min. (New York: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers, 1928), 44.
(12) Earhart, 20 Hrs. 40 Min., 49.
(13) Amelia Earhart, The Fun of It (Chicago: Academy Press Limited, 1977 [1933]), 26.
(14) Robert Wohl, “Republic of the Air,” The Wilson Quarterly 17, no. 2 (1993): 106.
(15) Jean Backus, Letters from Amelia (Boston: Beacon Press, 1982), 57.
(16) Earhart, 20 Hrs. 40 Min., 44.
(17) Lindbergh, Locked Rooms and Open Doors, 5. Earhart, The Fun of It, 170.
(18) Jean Adams and Margaret Kimball, Heroines of the Sky (Garden City: Doubleday, Dorian & Company, Inc., 1942), 228.
(19) Anne Morrow Lindbergh, North to the Orient (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1935), 155.
(20) Earhart, 20 Hrs. 40 Min.
(21) Newspaper Articles, 26 July 1929, Scrapbook 3, The George Palmer Putman Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, 1785-1948, The Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.
(22) Kimball, Heroines of the Sky. Marion Perkins, introduction to 20 Hrs. 40 Min. (New York: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers, 1928), 16-17.
(23) Mary S. Lovell, The Sound of Wings: The Life of Amelia Earhart (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989). Morrissey, Courage is the Price.
(24) In his introduction, Joseph Corn, ed., Into the Blue: American Writing on Aviation and Spaceflight (New York: The Library of America, 2011), included a section of Earhart’s logbook, illustrating that even in a technical piece of writing, she wrote poetically and captured the magic of flight.

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