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Flapper Press Poetry Café Series: My Favorite Poetry—Gerard Manley Hopkins

By Flapper Press Poetry Café:

The Flapper Press Poetry Café continues a new series of articles about favorite lines of poetry and the poets who wrote them. We’re reaching out to poets, writers, and lovers of poetry to submit their favorite lines of poetry and tell us why you love them.

Check out our submission guidelines and send us your favorites!

We'll feature your submission sometime this year on our site!

This week, our submission comes from Flapper Press contributor Pol Weissman:

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manly Hopkins

Pol Weissman writes:

Gerard Manley Hopkins wraps his thought in lines of such beauty that I want to stand up and shout them. Sing them. The nineteenth-century Jesuit priest is in Westminster Abbey's Poet Corner, but I didn't discover him until freshman year, when I put on my dorm door the line I then loved most:

"Sheer plod makes plow down sillion shine."

I repeated it to myself whenever I needed to make a big deadline or take a hard test: we have to work in order to become our best selves. I'm not religious, but I had to live up to that declaration of faith on my door.

On my bathroom mirror now I have another of his more intimate chunks of gorgeous wisdom:

O, the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall Frightful, sheer, no-man fathomed. Hold them cheap May who ne-er hung there.

The twisting and curvetting alliteration and repetition creates the feeling of falling, of danger, but also of determination and of an understanding that claims control of the moral compass. Life is about making difficult choices, with our souls in the balance, and great poetry helps us find that balance.


Now considered one of the premiere Victorian poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins (born in July 1844 in Stratford, Essex, England) did not find poetic fame in his lifetime. At the time, his poetic style was neither appreciated nor understood. His “sprung rhythm" introduced a new flexibility in the creation of form, and his penchant for unusual combination of words and context inspired the work of T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, and Cecil Day-Lewis. Hopkin's volume Poems was edited by his friend and fellow poet Robert Bridges and published in 1918, nearly thirty years after his death.

To read more about Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Pol Weissman

Pol Weissman Bio:

I have wanted to write novels since I was six, but I have such a teacherly streak that till now I've published only nonfiction, mostly textbooks, mostly for Pearson—except for a couple of political "rage" poems in Room magazine. I have written kid’s books on topics ranging from Harriet Tubman to bridges. I have also been a teacher and am a volunteer tutor, specializing in what I call "Harry Potter math." And I'm working on a novel.

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