In the spring of 2018, while I studied abroad in Tokyo, I only brought one book with me: a bound volume of poems by G.M. Hopkins, a Victorian poet and priest I had studied in a class the previous fall. Hopkins had been the subject of my major paper in that class, his poem “The Windhover” in particular, but I was by no means a fan of his, or of poetry at all, when I departed Newark Airport for Narita. No, my paper had been an examination of time as two forms–kairos and chronos–co-existing in the poem and their relation to Hopkins’s vocation as a Jesuit, the same order under which I’d received my high school education. It was a topic I’d chosen for simplicity: I had neglected to read the prose pieces assigned for the class, my usual focus, and thought I’d be able to rest on the laurels of my kilt-clad religious education when making an argument.
When we read the poem aloud, I had dominated the ensuing discussion, condemning Hopkins as artless, slack-jawed, and hopelessly bent by the Jesuit credo of ‘for others’ to where his verses were nothing but crowd-pleasing missives instead of art. My classmates nodded along, smirking, already accustomed to this crass vernacular from my campus stand-up routines. My professor, I think shocked by my sudden passion, said nothing at the time to rebuff me but when the paper was returned, she commented she found it hard to believe I truly held Hopkins in contempt when I wrote about him with such fondness. And, upon giving my essay the second look I hadn’t before turning it in, I realized she had a point.
So, when I happened upon the Hopkins volume in a donation bin a week before my departure, I felt like I had no choice but to pocket it. If anything, having it would help me construct further criticisms of the material and so it found its way into my carry-on. Eventually, after hours spent slogging through the bland prose of a well-regarded Japanese author who will remain nameless in my sole literature class for the term, I found myself looking up “The Windhover,” reading it aloud once, then twice, eventually affording this same treatment to the rest of the collection. The lines stuck in my head and I had already spent a fair amount of time analyzing them before it occurred to me that I truly had come to love G.M. Hopkins in spite of myself.
What I took away from this moment is that sometimes things can seem easy, can seem good, because they are. No trick, no trapdoor. Glitters can be gold, it would seem. Another takeaway was that I need to be more open to broadening my horizons, which is something I hope to accomplish through this internship. Though I now fully identify as a fan of poetry, I have a lot to learn about what makes a poem more than just a string of words on a page. With its commitment to varied, thoughtfully circulated content, Sundress seems like the perfect overseer to this next phase of my education, and I’m thrilled to join the team.
Nora Walsh-Battle is a recovering stand-up comedian currently living and working on an organic farm outside of Asheville while she plans her next move. She is endlessly enraptured by the poetry of Richard Siken, considers Wikipedia to be a primary source, and is a certified Excel pro.
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