Thursday, July 09, 2009
Why Read Hopkins?
Image: How would you tell a young poet why he or she should read Gerard Manley Hopkins?
Paul Mariani: There are so many reasons for young (or old) poets to read Hopkins. There’s the history of influence: of Hopkins’ direct impact on poets as diverse as Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, Auden, Dylan Thomas, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Seamus Heaney, as well as his indirect impact on hundreds of other poets. There’s the authority of his voice, whether he is celebrating the world around him—kingfishers and dragonflies and windhovers and doves, or snowflakes and the taste of plums or the smell of summer hay, or whether he is plumbing the depths of loss and existential isolation, the felt loss of his one friend, God, in “I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day” or “Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, not feast on thee.” But then too the magnificent Handel-like oratorio sweep of “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and in the comfort of the Resurrection,” answering Lyell and Darwin with another kind of time, God’s time, aeonic or instantaneous as the flash of the atomic bomb. Hopkins remains a standard by which those for whom God and the Christ or the maternal face of Mary are distinct counters in the summing up of what Reality has to offer us.
From an interview with the author of a new biography of G.M. Hopkins, which I am eager to read.