In 1868, at the age of 23, Gerard Manley Hopkins decided to burn the poetry he’d written up to that time: “Slaughter of the Innocents,” he noted in his journal. Recognizing that poetry depended on deep and perhaps dangerous feeling — and given what he would later concede was a disturbing affinity with Walt Whitman (“a very great scoundrel”) — Hopkins decided it was incompatible with his calling to the Jesuit priesthood. In that capacity Hopkins would persevere amid ghastly privations, though he could not entirely escape his destiny as one of the most influential poets of the 20th century (a century he would not live to see). As Paul Mariani points out in “Gerard Manley Hopkins,” his generous new biography, the “unpromising beginnings” of Hopkins’s prosodic revolution were in a Jesuit classroom in London, where as a teacher of rhetoric he tried to impart something of his enthusiasm for the later rhythms of Milton and the alliterative effects of the Anglo-Saxons.
more from the NY Times here.