meaning of shookfoil

For anyone who was wondering.

For a couple of years I was really, really into the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. He was a priest poet teacher in the 19th century.

One of his most known poems is called God's Grandeur, with the line: "it will flame out, like shining from shook foil."

There is something very different about his poems that I can't name--they are very thick and very unusual. He developed this whole aesthetic of writing that was very Celtic in its symbolic understanding--as in, each word he chose was intended to radiate being and the supernaturalness of something. He wanted to get at the stuff something really was and not just say this is like that. So in the process there are alot of nonsensical words and phrases and are just about sounds...

kind of reminds me of tongues, speaking in tongues... which is not just about random, abstract sound but about something manifesting through our voices. That sound is very real and very literal, in heaven and earth, and not just some John Cage experiment.

Now can't words hold that kind of trembling, too? Can't each word be a manifestation of being and not just a metaphor? I think Mr. Hopkins was trying to get at that somehow.

Anyway, just wanted to share a poem of his. It's late, and I was remembering this poem, what it felt like to try and read it... running and stumbling over it. And then after all that coming to myself as an immortal diamond...

That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection

CLOUD-PUFFBALL, torn tufts, tossed pillows ' flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs ' they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, ' wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle in long ' lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous ' ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest’s creases; in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed ' dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks ' treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, ' nature’s bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest ' to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, ' his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig ' nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, ' death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time ' beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, ' joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. ' Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; ' world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, ' since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ' patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

Etch a Day (or so)

My heart rouses
thinking to bring you news
of something
that concerns you
and concerns many men. Look at
what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
despised poems.
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.
--William Carlos Williams, from Asphodel, that Greeny Flower


Amy McDonald Chapman pretends to write here from time to time. This is her virtual outpost, with occasional interjections from her writerly partner in crime Derek Chapman. Aesthetics, music, comedy, film, writing, kitsch, retro, fashion, ideas, architecture, bad art/good art.