A week-long Hopkins festival
The American Ambassador to Ireland, Ms Claire D Cronin, will open the 35th Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ Conference in Newbridge College, Co. Kildare, Friday 21 July 21 to Thursday 27 July 2023.
“Hopkins has been honoured now in this conference format for many years with attendees, guest speakers, poets, scholars and musicians, coming from all over the world and this year’s lineup is top-class as ever,” says Brendan Staunton SJ, who himself has been honoured by the Hopkins conference which he has attended down many years.
Poet and conference organiser Desmond Egan, who has made a significant contribution to the scholarship concerning the Jesuit poet, says that a highlight this year will be the concert by legendary Swedish pianist Hans Palsson. “His repertoire will include music by Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart and Bach,” says Desmond, “and it will take place on Saturday 22 at 8 pm in the Newbridge College. There’s an excellent train service to and from Dublin so we’re extending a warm welcome to all to come for this really exceptional event.” Click here to view the full programme »
Desmond Egan says that “The festival aims to celebrate not only Hopkins’s magnificent poetry but also his wider vision and interests – including music, conservation, art and of course the Catholic way. Uniquely, our Festival also offers a parallel programme for young people, with a wide range of interests. Indeed anyone interested in Hopkins’s vision will find something of special interest over the course of this almost week-long event.”
The festival also offers a Youth Programme in the college every day from 10 am to 4 pm, excluding Sunday. It is geared towards 5th Year students who have an interest in literature, writing or the arts in general and students attend from all over Kildare as well as Dublin, Laois, Offaly and Carlow, according to Desmond Egan.
“This is a great opporutnity for young people to meet and learn about Hopkins and his poetry – in plenty of time for their exams!” says Egan, adding, “And it’s very good value at only €50 for the week instead of over €300 because the Hopkins Society is subsidising the cost. Indeed overall the whole festival is very cost-effective at only €360 for the whole week, and of course, there are daily rates too so people can choose what they want.”
Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, the renowned Victorian poet, had a profound connection with Ireland, says Egan, noting that though he was born in England in 1844, he spent a significant portion of his life in Ireland, particularly in Dublin where he was seconded by the Jesuits to lecture in Newman’s Catholic University.
During his time in Dublin, he composed approximately one-third of his poetry, including the sonnets in which he battled with desolation. “His “magnificent assertive ’That Nature Is A Heraclitean Fire’,” explains Desmond Egan, was written a few months before his death, from typhoid in 1894. Egan added that “Hopkins visited Clongowes Wood and wrote three poems there, and he also went on retreat in the Jesuit novitiate in Rahan. He is now admired worldwide, as the Hopkins Festival well attests, with participants from 20 countries due to attend this year.”
The vibrant landscapes of Ireland, with its lush meadows and rugged coastlines, also inspired Hopkins to delve deep into his spirituality and explore themes of nature and divine presence. His poetic style, characterized by its innovative use of rhythm and sound, continues to captivate readers and leave an indelible mark on the literary heritage of Ireland.