Poetry Month Celebration


What’s better than a communal celebration centered on poetry? It’s National Poetry Month, and I just found out from Hanna over at Book Geeks Anonymous that there’s a tag to help us celebrate. You can find out more about the link up over at The Edge of the Precipice.

What are some poems you like?

ALL OF THE POEMS! Okay, maybe I should name a few. “Ithaka”, “Spring and Fall: To a Young Child”, The Ballad of the White Horse, “Variations on the Word Sleep”, “Lament for the Rohirrim” (It’s basically “The Wanderer”), In Memoriam (I’m that guy who actually likes the Prologue and Epilogue), “Envy of Other People’s Poems”

What are some poems you dislike?

This one is the hardest to answer. So many poems that I disliked at first have grown on me (especially as I’ve grown older). I’m not so sure about the longevity of poems that are merely blank pages performed by the poet clearing his throat or saying his phone number.

But I don’t want to discount the possibility of meaning making. And here’s why:

C. D. Wright’s (who, sadly, recently passed) poetry has always been difficult for me. The first time I read Deepstep Come Shining, I had no clue what was going on. But those are the poems, the ones we don’t get, that we need to struggle with and stay with. Marianne Moore reminds us that “we / do not admire what / we cannot understand.” Once a classmate pointed out how much Wright keeps focusing on the word whole even though so much is fragmented just like the court reporting shorthand adopted from the poet’s mother, I had a new way to enter into the road-trip through the South with her. And now that I’m living in the South, it’s become much more important to me.

Are there any poets whose work you especially enjoy?  If so, who are they?

Gerard Manley Hopkins is basically my poet-formator. When I first randomly came across one of his poems back in 2004, I thought, “This is poetry!” Hopkins along with Tennyson and C. P. Cavafy are probably my favorite poetic triad. It’s a contentious triad, with Hopkins accusing Tennyson of being “Parnassian,” and Cavafy balking at Tennyson’s Stylites poem because “the complaints of Simeon, his eagerness for the ‘meed of saints, the white robe and the palm,’ his dubious humility, his latent vanity,” were not worthy of “so great a saint, so wonderful a man” (You can read more about that here).

Do you write poetry?

Yeah…but let’s not get into that. Move along, move along.

Have you ever memorized a poem?

Absolutely! I memorized “Spring and Fall” and it still comes back to me during moments that Hopkins would say were “charged” or “chimed” with other moments.

Do you prefer poetry that rhymes and had a strict meter, or free verse?  Or do you like both?

I like both. Theodore Roethke has some great free verse. But what really draws me are poems that are pulled together somehow through shared sounds. This is why I like Hopkins’s “The Windhover” so much (and you can read more about that here). It doesn’t have to be rhyme though. There are so many other ways to highlight parallelism, like with alliteration, rhythm, or repetition (but with a difference). What I find most fascinating is when a form is adopted by the poet only to be subverted in some way that opens up even more meaning for us as readers.

Do you have any particular poetry movements you’re fond of?  (Beat poets, Romanticism, Fireside poets, etc?)(If you haven’t got any idea what I’m talking about, that’s fine!  You can check out this list for more info, if you want to.)

I tend to like poets who are on the margins of movements. Jack Gilbert and Thomas Merton have some connections with the Beats, but they aren’t quite inside the movement. Hopkins is very much a Victorian, but he was inaccessible to readers of his time, seemed to strike a chord with the Modernists, and was strongly influenced by the poets he studied as a classicist.

Now’s your chance to share your favorite poets and poems.

12 Responses

  1. Thanks for joining in! How interesting that you like poets on the edges of movements — that’s a neat pattern. A lot of the poets you reference aren’t very familiar to me, so thanks for including those links — I’ll check them out!

  2. I love Hopkins! And have been meaning to tackle Tennyson for a while now, and specifically, In Memoriam. I actually started on my Norton Critical Edition of In Memoriam, last year, but sadly have been sidetracked (I actually started to think maybe Tennyson wasn’t for me, but I’m still going to give it a shot). The Ballad of the White Horse is another on my “To Read” list.
    Anyway, had no idea it was Poetry month, not a huge poetry fan per se, but the Poets I love, i.e., Gerard Manley Hopkins and T. S. Eliot I really love. Maybe I’ll the tag as well.
    Nice to see someone else really passionate about Hopkins. Also, great Blog title. The Golden Echo is one of my favorites.

    • Thanks Meg! Eliot and Hopkins are a great combination. Check out Reading the Underthought. It’s a fascinating reading of both of them that applies rabbinical hermeneutics.

      In Memoriam can be very draining. With how long it took Tennyson to get from the cantos to writing the Prologue and Epilogue, we can’t be expected to get through it all in one go. I sometimes just pick up a few cantos at a time (the ones about the morning star and evening star are my favorite). Another way to go at it is to read until the narrator gets to Christmas and then take a break. Grief takes a long time, especially Tennyson’s mourning of Hallam, and reading this poem slowly with its seasonal rhythms simulates that. So in a way, getting sidetracked is a very authentic way to experience In Memoriam.

      Looking forward to your responses to the tag!

      • Thanks for the “Reading the Underthought” recommendation! Any idea where I can get find a copy that isn’t gonna cost over seventy dollars? 🙂 I’ve never really come across anyone or anything that looked at the two poets together before; it’s nice to see them together. Does the book connect them somehow or is it more of a separate look at their poetry individually?
        I’ve actually looked into what Eliot thought of Hopkins. From what I can remember (of the top of my head), Eliot was aware of Hopkins, but didn’t seem to think very highly of him. Although, it’s funny, when I finally read Four Quartets, last year, I remember subconsciously thinking that certain parts seemed a bit Hopkins-esque.
        In re In Memorium, good point! I never really thought about the fact that it took him 17 years to write and how I could apply that to my reading of it. Thanks for the excellent idea! Now I can go at it slowly, guilt free. Ha. I will do just that.
        Been quite busy, but hoping to still do the poetry tag, before the month is up.

        • Oh wow, that’s really high! I didn’t think about the price. University presses tend to overprice like that, which is so frustrating. I’ve read it at a couple different college libraries. Worldcat might help finding the closest library that has it. Here’s the preface and table of contents to see if it’s something you’ll like: http://cuapress.cua.edu/res/images/books/frontmatter/MERU.pdf

          If I remember correctly, it treats Hopkins and Eliot in different sections, bringing them together more as religious authors whose poetry works with rabbinic hermeneutics. But it also links them through the idea of underthought from Hopkins, which resonates with Eliot’s idea that poems act on us even if we don’t fully understand them.

          I don’t get Eliot’s response to Hopkins either. But, I’m the last person to understand why anyone wouldn’t like Hopkins. Similar concerns seem to drive them. I’ve wondered if the falling towers in The Wasteland had anything to do with the towers of heaven in Hopkins’s “The Shepherds Brow”

          • Sorry, I meant to reply to this much earlier. I’ve been busy.

            Interesting about the falling towers. I’ve always had the feeling that Eliot, likely, became aware of Hopkins after “The Waste Land”, since the First Edition of Hopkins’ poetry was published in 1918. Only 750 copies were printed (a bit of a tangent, but imagine getting your hands on a Hopkins First Edition!) and it took 10 years for that run to sell out. But, yeah, lightning and falling towers. Maybe Eliot was one of those 750 people who decided to take a chance on an unknown poet or it might just be a coincidence. 🙂
            I went and scanned Four Quartets for the passages that I thought seemed Hopkins-esque. Reading them again, I would say the connection is almost undeniable. The alliteration and rhythm in these few passages is quite unlike almost everything Eliot did prior and so much like Gerard Manley Hopkins. I’m actually thinking of doing a post on it, one of these days. Here’s just one example. This one from “Burnt Norton” is perfect, there’s even a reference to a “kingfisher catch[ing] fire” (I kid you not):
            Time and the bell have buried the day,
            The black cloud carries the sun away.
            Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
            Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
            Clutch and cling?
            Fingers of yew be curled
            Down on us? After the kingfisher’s wing
            Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
            At the still point of the turning world.

            It’s still very much Eliot, but I feel like it’s Eliot with a slight Hopkins twist. I don’t know if the influence is there subliminally or consciously, nonetheless, I think it’s there. If Eliot is conscious of it, which is likely the case, since he’s a very deliberate genius, he isn’t gonna go and blatantly use Hopkins’ technique, he’d incorporate it very subtly, probably in the exactly same way as the above example.

          • WOW! I did not notice that in “Burnt Norton.” That’s great. I’ve been meaning to look more into the possible chain of events before getting back to you, but haven’t had a chance yet. The 1918 edition is a good reason for Eliot coming to Hopkins later. I think I had in the back of my head a scene in Ron Hansen’s exiles where Virginia Woolf and Eliot both meet Robert Bridges to see Hopkins’s poems, but I’m not sure what his source is for that. Hansen was in contact with the librarians in charge of the collection over at Gonzaga, so I wonder if he came across something.

            I keep meaning to write a post like the one you’re working on looking at E. E. Cummings “For Any Ruffian of the Sky.” It’s like he’s looking at all this kingfisher and windhover talk and quips back, “your kingbird doesn’t give a damn.” I was just thinking about Hopkins, but now with your Eliot insight, I wonder if he’s poking at both poets.

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