"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

17 May 2010

Another New Love

I love finding new poets whose works I think I shall love.

My Paul Mariani biography of Gerard Manley Hopkins arrived today. I have read the acknowledgments, the first paragraph of the first chapter, and a poem of Mariani's dedicated to Hopkins . . . and I've fallen in love with Mariani, who will, I have no doubt, make me fall in love with Hopkins all over again.

Kendall sent me a picture of a kingfisher ("As kingfishers catch fire") from the November 2009 National Geographic. Here a couple of links to the article and its photos. This is, of course, the "fisher" to which Mariani's poem below refers.

Here's the dedication poem by Mariani that opens the book (those who are familiar with Hopkins will especially appreciate it):

Hopkins in Ireland
for the Jesuit community at Boston College

Above the bluebleak priest the brightblue fisher hovers.
The priest notes the book upon the table, the lamp beside the book.
A towering Babel of papers still to grade, and that faraway look
as once more the mind begins to wander. Ah, to creep beneath the covers

of the belled bed beckoning across the room. He stops, recovers,
takes another sip of bitter tea, then winces as he takes another look
at the questions he has posed his students and the twists they took
to cover up their benighted sense of Latin. The fisher hovers

like a lit match closer to him. The windows have all been shut against
the damp black Dublin night. After all these years, his collar chokes
him still, in spite of which he wears it like some outmoded mark
of honor, remembering how his dear Ignatius must have sensed
the same landlocked frustrations. Again he lifts his pen. His strokes
lash out against the dragon din of error. The fisher incandesces in the dark.


Stephen said...

I haven't seen my copy of Mariani yet - it's waiting for me at home - but the sample pages I read on Amazon looked quite good. I'm very much looking forward to the class.

Natasha said...

How beautiful! I especially love that last line. Thanks for giving me another excuse to go to Barnes & Noble!

Anonymous said...

MARVELOUS book! And there was an excellent review of it in First things last summer, I think. His prose is just as lovely as his poetry. Dr. Mariani was lecturing at my local college last fall, so I got to meet him briefly afterwards; very nice man, and I quite enjoyed talking with him.

alaiyo said...

I am so looking forward to this class, too, Stephen!

Natasha, always glad to help a fellow book addict.

Oh, Ellen, I am SO jealous of you right now! It looks like he has two or three collections of poetry out; I shall have to buy them ALL . . .

Anonymous said...

We're even: I'm jealous of your having met Antony Esolen :). I missed seeing him at Baylor, too; LOVE his Dante and his _Ironies of Faith_ is marvelous as well. Mariani I think understands Hopkins better than Ron Hansen, whose _Exiles_ I liked okay, but have reservations about (unlike _Mariette in Ecstasy_, which I loved). When I met Dr. Mariani, I mentioned having read his commentary on Hopkins' poems, which I had come across randomly and read just for the pure enjoyment of it. It was his doctoral dissertation, so he looked at me with absolute incredulity: "You read the commentary? NO ONE reads that." :) :) We had a nice, though brief, interaction. In a related note, he did a blurb in praise of both Richard Austin's Hopkins reading (which is SUPERB) and of Sean O' Leary's The ALCHEMIST (available thru http://www.earthsweetearth.co.uk), which sets Hopkins' poetry to music. I was suspicious, but bought the CD anyway based on PM's recommendation, and LOVE LOVE LOVE it.