William Anderson, Head of the English Department of Ulm University in Germany, launching the new book with author Desmond Egan. Picture: Tony Keane
Poet and Gerard Manley Hopkins scholar Desmond Egan launched his latest book, Hopeful Hopkins, at a reception at Newbridge Silverware last Thursday.
Special guest at the launch, Dr William Adamson, Head of the English Department, University of Ulm, Germany, writes of the book:
Desmond Egan’s latest publication, Hopeful Hopkins, is a collection of essays on, or based around the 19th century Jesuit priest and poet, and is a refreshing and informative addition to Hopkins studies. The title of the book signposts the author’s critical purpose: to give the lie to the accepted and virtually unilateral notion that Hopkins was a poet of melancholy, a man alienated and despairing. Whilst not denying that Hopkins was plagued by bouts of depression and self-doubt, Desmond Egan’s message is that, despite all this, he never gave in to despair, indeed, that in a sense his suffering was a transformative and life-affirming experience that was, in great part, the creative impulse in his writing.
The book itself contains eight chapters ranging from the initial eponymous essay through topics as seemingly diverse as Modernism, Hiberno-English, neurosis and art, Joyce, exile and a particularly personal final essay on the great Irish sculptor and writer James McKenna and Hopkins. Each of the essays is, in its own way, a valuable contribution to Hopkins scholarship, but two stand out in particular for their scholarly and profound engagement: Desmond Egan’s close reading of the poem As Kingfishers Catch Fire and his essay James Joyce and Hopkins.
With Hopeful Hopkins, Desmond Egan, long recognised as one of the leading poets writing in Ireland today with 23 collections to his name and translated into more than 25 languages, has presented us with a selection of eloquent and perceptive essays that are warmly sympathetic to their subject. Desmond Egan has a gift for coming up with arguments so thoughtfully selected, so exactly right, that they strike the reader as inevitable. Great poetry and outstanding critical commentary spring from such detail and intensity of response, and many of these essays are classics for their insight and style.