The 34th edition of the Gerard Manley Hopkins International Festival took place in Newbridge, Kildare between 22-29 July. One of Ireland’s foremost literary events, the Festival celebrates the life and work of Hopkins, an English poet and Jesuit priest (1844–1889) who in 1884 was appointed professor of Greek Literature at University College, Dublin.
Even though only a few of Hopkins’s verses were printed before his untimely death of typhoid fever, his collected works were published in 1918 by Robert Bridges, then poet laureate, and went on to exert significant influence on such eminent poets as T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden and Dylan Thomas. Hopkins’s innovative use of the prosodic element of “sprung rhythm” as well as his vibrant synthesis of personal experiences, astute observation of nature and engagement with the divine mystery are commemorated to this day, poignantly revisited by contemporary poets and scholars alike.
In addition to comparative analyses of Hopkins’s poetry, which this year included presentations of his literary rapports with Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson – by William Adamson (Bamberg Uni.) and Brett Millier (Middlebury College, USA) respectively – the Festival offered visits to Ireland’s cultural sites and ancient monuments, perhaps the most impressive of which was the 18 ft. Celtic Cross of Moone in County Kildare, an 8th or 9th c. richly-carved granite monument.
A Youth Programme, directed by Derek Egan, ran in parallel with the main events, alongside book launches and international poetry readings. This year, Cyprus was featured among the participating countries, as Armida’s Giorgos Christodoulides Selected Poems 1996-2021 was launched by the Festival’s Artistic Director, acclaimed Irish poet Desmond Egan.
Egan has been acquainted with Christodoulides’s poetry since 2005, but the Cypriot poet’s recent English edition, in a vibrant translation by Despina Pirketti, has shed new light on his body of work. The book features poems drawn from eight collections of poetry as well as anecdotal poems — all of which, according to Egan, “exemplify the mature Christodoulides style: that distinctive mixture of the whimsical and a Cypriot version of the surreal, where a drawer may hold bones or a lollipop.” Christodoulides addressed the Festival’s participants with remarks on the poet’s task, followed by readings of his work in both Greek and English.
Caption: Desmond Egan launches Christodoulides’s Selected Poems in Newbridge College Theatre