Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Avant Garde (a draft)

There is some confusion about where to place Hopkins and some people have a desire to place Hopkins within the avant-garde due to his playfulness and experimentation with language. Christopher Wilson writes that Hopkins doesn’t have “a comfortable place in literary history” (137) due to his idosyncracies and “unusual style” (137) placing him both before and after his time, a kind of harbinger and throwback, but other crtcis “are quite certain that Hopkins belonds to the Victorian age, even though they find his literary style difficult to trace” (137). Tom Zaniello describes Hopkins as “a Victorian poet but also a forerunner of modernist poetics”(4) Meredith Martin, likewise, writes “construed by critics as “always obscure” and “on the whole disappointing; . . . too often needlessly obscure, harsh, and perverse” (qtd. in Roberts 89, 111), the first edition of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poems, published in 1918, baffled more readers than it converted.”

In fact, in a letter to Robert Bridges, Hopkins wrote of his own work:
“No doubt my poetry errs on the side of oddness. I hope in time to have a more baanced and Miltonic style. But as air, melody, is what strikes me most of all in music and design in painting, a design, pattern, or what I am in this habit of calling 'inscape' is what I above all aim at in poetry. Now it is the virtue of design, pattern or inscape to be distinctive and it is the vice of distinctiveness to become queer. This vice I cannot have escaped” (qtd in Milroy 6)

Thus, Hopkins knew that his work was odd, that it was influenced by the science of the day, and that he was out of time. His desire was not necessarily to move poetry forward to a new place for a new time, but to be part of the tradition of poetry that had come before him. In this way, as a poet he has much more of the English attitude than the French.

William Donald Harvey’s dissertation at the University of Toronto, written in 1999, discusses Appolinaire, Mallarme, and Hopkins. But two of those writers came out of the French tradition rather than Victorian England and while Hopkins spoke French, he also associated “Parnaissanism” to describe competent but uninspired poetry. He identified this trend particularly with the work of Alfred Tennyson, citing the poem "Enoch Arden" as an example[citation needed].[1] Thus there is little evidence to suggest that Hopkins was influences by any kind of proto-avant-garde activity in France, despite the fact that Hopkins; own life was wthin 20 years of the beginning of avant-garde activity in France. The Chat Noir the bohemian parisien cabaret, started in 1881. Stephen Mallarme, who was considered a precursor to the avant garde, was writing in France from until his own death in 1898. Gerard Manley Hopkins died in 1889, so it is entirely conceivable that he was aware of these goings on. Whether or not he found them significant or paid them any mind is another question. A very cursory glance shows that in the 19th century France was still dealing with the after-effects of revolution, internal strife, and certainly anti-clericalism, which would continue to dominate into the early 20th century of the avant-garde as well.

In fact, The pull between tradition and advance, which would be part of Hopkins’ struggle, that would mark him as somewhat different than avant-gardists, especially of the French, as they rushed forward to embrace the new and impending technology, as evidenced from the Italian Futurists and the Dadaists, who embraced newness. Hopkins found himself caught, trapped, by Victorianism, which in poetry, resulted in trying to deal with, manage, the increasing onslaught of industrialization and in many cases, to retreat back into nature.

No comments: