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Hopeful Hopkins, a book on the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, was launched by Brendan Staunton SJ, on Tuesday 31 October, in the Ignatian Chapel, in Gardiner St Church, Dublin. The author is Desmond Egan, himself a poet. His family, friends and colleagues gathered on Halloween night to celebrate his work. Among them was the papal nuncio, Archbishop Jude Okolo, Czech ambassador, Hanna Mottlová, Irish Jesuit Provincial Leonard Moloney, and a number of Jesuits. Words, wine and music flowed whilst Conor Mahon, on classical guitar, punctuated inputs from various speakers with renditions of well known pieces.

Noel Barber SJ, co-editor of Vol 5 of  The Collected Works of Gerard Manly Hopkins, to be published next year, gave a few important words by way of introduction to Desmond’s book. He said that Des Egan was a poet who always has something to say that will elude the most eminent academic scholar. “His contribution to Hopkins’ studies has been immense,” he said, “in particular through his organisation of the annual Hopkins Festival at one time in Monasterevin and now in Newbridge.” (The Hopkins festival has attracted  many renowned scholars, poets and musicians to honour the Jesuit poet.)

Noel said that there were certain key matters concerning Hopkins the man, that gave rise to important questions. Questions such as whether the Jesuits were good or bad for Hopkins? How to explain that Hopkins is a prose poet in his Journals but prosaic in his spiritual writings? Or how does the self-loathing to which Hopkins admits in his retreat notes of 1883 and 1889 and in the Dublin sonnets fit in with a vision of Hopkins as a man of hope? And why, in giving a retreat in Mayport, Cumberland, does the poet not exhort his congregation to go out to contemplate God in nature? He concluded that, “these were questions that Des was singularly capable of tackling.”

Brendan Staunton SJ, formally launched the book by referencing the unique contribution Desmond Egan brings to the study of Hopkins.

Hopeful Hopkins, by Desmond Egan is published by Goldsmith Press.

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