Despite the fact that I regularly share about what I read here, something you might not know about me is that I also read a fair bit of poetry. In fact, I studied both fiction and poetry in university. (I myself am an unremarkable poet but I occasionally try.) I rarely sit down and read a whole book of poetry (I don’t think that’s how you’re supposed to read poetry anyway) but I have several poetry books that I love and delve into, as well as usually having one or more subscriptions to a literary journal. My current subscription is The Fiddlehead, which was a Christmas gift.
All this to say, I like poetry and I want to talk about and share it more. Poetry is notorious for only being read by poets and for most of us, our experience of poetry probably comes from high school English classes and is limited to Shakespeare and Robert Frost (who are both excellent but there’s a lot more out there). So I’ve decided that once a month I’m going to share some poetry from my bookshelves.
One of my very favourite poets is Gerard Manley Hopkins. My first introduction to him was his short poem “Pied Beauty”. This is the second stanza:
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
I love the way Hopkins plays with sound and alliteration. His poems feel good to speak out loud. Hopkins was also a Jesuit priest and his faith comes through in many of his poems. Many of his poems read as prayer and praise and remind me that there are so many beautiful ways to speak to God.
In fact, I love Hopkins’ poetry so much that I chose a poem by him to be read at our wedding. I picked an untitled poem by him that ends with these two beautiful lines:
I have found the dominant of my range and state—
Love, O my God, to call Thee Love and Love.
Hopkins certainly isn’t a new poet (he died in 1889) but his work still reads as surprisingly modern. He shook loose from many of the forms and structures that were associated with poetry in his day and the results are truly beautiful.