Ten must-read Gerard Manley Hopkins poems: Poetry to scratch our bellies on

Gerard Manley Hopkins was an innovator who wrote about nature and faith, rapture and despair. For me, we are all eccentrics, all individuals. Not everyone will share this view, but Gerard Manley Hopkins was idiosyncratic on anyone’s terms, often to his cost.

While at Balliol College at Oxford, he converted to Catholicism, tearing himself from his artistic, loving Anglican family to a tougher life as a Jesuit. He never regretted his decision, but struggled with depression and the drudgery of some of his duties. Conflicted about whether writing was compatible with his vocation, he wrote relatively little after his conversion. At the time of his premature death in 1889 his work was largely unknown. Continue reading

Grasmere: an uplifting walk round the poet’s lake

Grasmere lake view

During our visit to Grasmere yesterday, clouds lay low over rolling hills, but the greyness just added atmosphere to the water, hills, woods, dry stone walls, ferns and wildflowers along our way.

Grasmere woodland view

We’d stopped off here to walk around the lake: my idea of exercise! Our route took us past houses, lakeside businesses, farmland and woods before swinging down to the path around the shore.  Continue reading

Tithonus: nature and poetry

Cicada

I’m not a voracious reader of poetry, but my favourite love poems and lyrics are part of my life, drawing me back to revisit them at the slightest prompt. This spring, I witnessed the culmination of the weird lifecycle of cicadas in Jackson, Mississippi. These creatures spend 13 years underground as nymphs before emerging together for a brief period of sunlight, flight, singing and mating to continue the cycle.

As we drove around the neighbourhood with the windows down, lured like the lady cicadas to listen to the loud chorus centres of males in local groves of trees, lines from one of my favourite poems – Tithonus by Alfred, Lord Tennyson – drifted back into my mind. Continue reading

Poetry and design: how constraints can help us

Online friends may have noticed I’m taking part in Blogging 101. One task has been perplexing me, as I seemed to have so many constraints to overcome. Today I’ve been thinking of William Shakespeare and his sonnets – my benchmark comparison when creative constraints appear particularly challenging. It can’t be as hard as a sonnet, right?

Perhaps, in some peculiar way, constraints can help us to get something more right creatively, provided we actively embrace them.  Continue reading