Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Gerard Manley Hopkins and the beginning of the school year.

Photo by Ken Oguss

I have been reading Gerard Manley Hopkins this week. Perhaps I pulled out his book of poetry because of a few scarlet leaves popping out in the trees or perhaps because I have just finished reading the first round of essays from my college freshmen.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was born in England in 1884, the first of nine children. He won his first poetry prize in grammar school and went on to study theology in Northern Wales in 1874. While in Wales he learned to adapt the Welsh rhythm of poetry to his own work. He worked in the clergy for a short time and then took a position in Dublin as Professor of Greek and Latin at the University.

While grading exams (five or six a year, over 500 pages of grueling student essays), he found the writing of the students so poor, so discouraging, that he fell into a deep depression.

He died of typhoid fever in 1889 without ever having been published.

No, I am not in a deep depression over the essays. I believe I look at their work as a challenge to me as their professor and mentor to help them find the core of their own writing and possibly enjoy it as the semester unfolds.

I begin each class with a poem. It is so silent in the classroom when I read. Everyone needs poetry and is good there are those among us who provide that experience.

Until tomorrow.

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