Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dappled praise

I was going to write about mixed-language stage plays today, and I may get to that (if not, stay tuned--it's one of my ongoing preoccupations, sure to reappear), but dabbling around, sampling other people's blogs, I came across the Poetry Society of America's request that people share via Twitter the line of poetry that first made them fall in love with the art. 

The line that jumped to mind was "Praise God (sic) for dappled things." (When I went to look for the poem, it turns out--surprise, surprise!--I had misremembered that first line; should be "Glory to God.") Anyway, it's the dappled things I remember, the quilted landscape, the piper. When we read Gerard Manley Hopkins' Pied Beauty in English Lit. (or was it AP?) I was already in love with poetry and writing lots of poems. I was the preached-to choir. But I remember the relish

mischievous glint
true generosity

with which Mrs. Niblock presented the poem. She loved it. Loved the sound of the words and the strange combinations that are nonetheless just right and the message, too: the crumpled, pied, dappled, unexpected is beautiful, worthy of praise. When I was there, Helen Niblock was legendary at East Lansing High School. She stood at the front of the class in her pink and black houndstooth suit, matching salt-and-pepper hair piled in a disarranging bun, and pulled us into the poem. So this is my small shout-out in her memory. I have held Hopkins' lines, and her teaching of them, in the back of my mind ever since: "rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim"-- praise them!

(other poetry-related blogs I've enjoyed today: Giving up the Ghost and Cut out the Stars)


  1. One of my favorite poems of all time. And thanks for letting me know about that hashtag. Hadn't seen it!

  2. A great exercise for anyone who loves poetry. The foundational verses for me would have to be either "Turning and turning in the widening gyre" or "I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas." Who can read the latter without feeling a prehistoric shiver?

  3. Great lines, Michael! I don't recognize the ragged claws / scuttling. . . Point me to the poem?