Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Small Poem For April

(image: Gerard Manley Hopkins)

If memory serves, I first read the poetry of Hopkins when I was 17 and a freshman in college. I was a bit younger than other freshmen because I'd skipped second grade. I don't think they have students skip grades anymore, but I'm not sure about that.

Anyway, when I read "Glory be to God for dappled things" (from "God's Grandeur"), I immediately was taken by Hopkins' poetry and his view of things, a view that is in many ways far from pious. Later I embarked on an exhaustive study of Hopkins' "sprung rhythm," the simple version of which is that instead of spacing out stresses regularly (as in iambic meter), you jam them together and then emphasize them with alliteration. I often like to say Hopkins brought Be-Bop rhythms to English verse, but I'm not sure how helpful or accurate that statement is. It is fair to say he jazzed things up.

Since I first read Hopkins' poetry, I've had many opportunities to try to teach it. A majority of students simply don't take to it, even students who are otherwise open to poetry and to poetry that may seem, at first, difficult. I've tried innumerable different ways of helping students to get inside his poetry, but nonetheless, Hopkins' poetry remains not so much an acquired taste as an instant taste. If you "get" the poetry, you are likely to "get" it right away, I've decided. At any rate, I still cherish Hopkins' counter-intuitive love of "dappled" things--that which is squiggly, dotted, spotted, cluttered, and kind of a mess in Nature. The following poem may or may not be in that vein, but it satisfies my desire to write a short poem in April. (And there's one more day to go in write-a-poem-a-day April, my friends.)

Small Poem In April

This small poem honors
smooth blue pebbles,
flecks of color on birds'
feathers, stalwart friends,
fair wages, and rest.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom
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