I get this daily email from Garrison Keillor (well, from the NPR "Prairie Home Companion" folks) called the Writer's Almanac. It has a poem each day, and some interesting facts about various authors and other major (mostly American) figures: birthdays, death dates, anniversaries of one kind and another.
I mention this because today it announced that it's the birthday of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Who wrote, among many other things, this:
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
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 Whát I do is me: for that I came.
It strikes me, reading this again, that if there's one dead white guy I would instantly recommend to pretty much any spoken word or hip-hop poet, it's Manley Hopkins. Look at what he's doing with sound in this short bit! I've loved Hopkins since high school, really, but he doesn't get a whole lot of airplay. I sort of feel like the lone voice saying, "Hey, check this guy out!" But I feel like if a lot of the poets I know through the slam scene gave him a read, they'd recognize all sorts of things that they've been doing too. Internal rhyme, polysyllabic rhyme, assonance, consonance, rhythm. This guy was born in 1844, but I hear echoes of what he did on slam stages across the city in 2010.
Manley Hopkins is the man. Happy birthday, Gerard.