A. D. Hope 1907-2000
(Full name: Alec Derwent Hope) Australian poet, essayist, critic, and editor.
The following entry presents criticism of Hope's poetry from 1962 through 2000.
Hope is recognized as one of the most influential and celebrated Australian poets of the twentieth century. Critics classify him as a “classic poet,” in that much of his work utilized traditional forms and rejected modernist and postmodernist poetic trends. He also incorporated mythology, legends, and fables in his verse. Despite the anachronistic nature of Hope's poetic oeuvre, commentators praise his biting satire, the clarity of his language, and sophistication of his poetic vision and view him as an important contributor to traditional prosody in contemporary poetry.
Hope was born on July 21, 1907, in Cooma, New South Wales, Australia, and spent most of his childhood in rural areas in New South Wales and Tasmania. He received his B.A. from Sydney University in 1928 and then went on to Oxford University for two years. He returned to Australia, working as a psychologist with the New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry. In 1937 he accepted a position as lecturer at Sydney Teachers' College, and then in 1945 at the University of Melbourne. In 1951 he was appointed the first Professor of English at Canberra University College, and held the position until his retirement in 1968. In his mid-thirties his poetry was starting to appear in periodicals, but it was not until 1955 that he published his first collection of poems, The Wandering Islands. After his retirement from teaching, he was appointed Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University. He was awarded the Robert Frost Award for Poetry in 1976, the Levinson Prize for Poetry in 1968, and the Myer Award for Australian Literature in 1967. He was awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1972. He died on July 13, 2000 in Canberra, A.C.T, Australia.
Although Hope's poetry is regarded as stylistically conservative—he utilized the iambic quatrain—the subjects of his verse were varied in scope. He is considered a major writer of erotic verse. Several of his early poems, such as “Phallus,” reject the pleasures of sexual relationships and romantic attachment. Yet in later work, the beauty of the human body and the thrill of passion and erotic adventure become a central theme in many of his poems. In others he reflects on the dual nature of love; in “Imperial Adam,” for example, Adam finishes a pleasurable sexual tryst with Eve only to visualize that their act has unleashed the first murderer, their son Cain, on the world. Hope is also viewed as a satirical poet, as many of his works poke fun at technology, conformity, and the absurdity of modern life. In “Australia” he notes the lack of culture and intellectual challenges to be found in Australian society. “The Return from the Freudian Islands” skewers the trend of psychological theorizing. Other poems explore such topics as creativity, nature, music, and the wonders of science. Hope's incorporation of myth and legend is viewed as a defining characteristic of his poems. “The End of the Journey” is an imaginative and bleak retelling of the Ulysses-Penelope story. “Paradise Saved” and “Imperial Adam” concern the Edenic myth. In other works Hope discusses the role of the artist in contemporary society and asserts his theory of poetic expression. His long poem, “Conversation with Calliope,” investigates the status of epic poetry in our modern world.
Much of the critical reaction to Hope's poetry focuses on his rejection of modernist and postmodernist poetic forms—particularly the free verse poem—and his utilization of traditional structure as well as classical mythology and legend. His poetic theory has led many commentators to view his verse as neoclassical, outdated, and too conservative—more in line with eighteenth-century poetry than twentieth century verse. However, in recent years, critics have reassessed Hope's verse, and have found much value in his formalized style. Critics have noted the lack of any identifiable Australian material in his work and perceive him as an outsider within the tradition of Australian literature. Thematically, commentators have traced his treatment of eroticism and sexuality, and have detected a vein of male chauvinism in many of his poems. His satirical verse has been a recurring topic of critical attention, and his nonconformist and biting viewpoint has attracted mixed reactions. Moreover, he has been derided for the self-pity, strident tone, and condescension in some of his verse. In general, however, commentators commend his poetic achievement and regard him as one of the most important Australian poets of the twentieth century.
The Wandering Islands 1955
Collected Poems, 1930-1965 1966; revised as Collected Poems, 1930-1970 1972
New Poems: 1965-1969 1969
Dunciad Minor: An Heroick Poem 1970
Selected Poems 1973
A Late Picking: Poems, 1965-1974 1975
A Book of Answers 1978
The Drifting Continent and Other Poems 1979
Antechinus: Poems, 1975-1980 1981
The Age of Reason 1985
Selected Poems 1986
Selected Poems 1992
A. D. Hope: Selected Poetry and Prose (poetry and criticism) 2000
Australian Literature, 1950-1962 (criticism) 1963
The Cave and the Spring (essays) 1965; revised 1974
Midsummer Eve's Dream: Variations on a Theme by William Dunbar (essays) 1970
Native Companions: Essays and Comments on Australian Literature, 1936-1966 (essays and criticism) 1974
The Pack of Autolycus (essays) 1978
The New Cratylus: Notes on the Craft of Poetry (essays) 1979
Ladies from the Sea (play) 1987
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SOURCE: Suchting, W. A. “The Poetry of A. D. Hope: A Frame of Reference.” Meanjin Quarterly 89, no. 21 (1962): 154-63.
[In the following essay, Suchting delineates the “frame of reference” in Hope's verse.]
Every significant artist has a fundamental axis about which his work revolves, a basic perspective from which, in which, he sees the world and himself. (This is true even—perhaps especially—when the central attitude is composed of different, and maybe opposing elements.)
The aim of the following essay is to attempt to demarcate this ‘frame of reference’ in the poetry of A. D. Hope, as far as it has been published in The Wandering Islands (1955) and Poems (1960), and to discuss some of the implications of such a position.
The poem which gives its title to Hope's first collection expresses this basic perspective with simple directness: human isolation. ‘Wandering islands’ are by no means without points of possible, and sometimes even actual contact, but the meetings are in principle external, temporary only: for the ship-wrecked sailor there is no hope of rescue. (Compare here the island image in ‘Ascent into Hell’, and also the penultimate stanza of ‘X-ray Photograph’.)
Because of its awkwardly yoked images, roughnesses of rhythm, because of its mode of statement which is at once...
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SOURCE: Wright, Judith. “A. D. Hope.” In Preoccupations in Australian Poetry, pp. 181-92. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1965.
[In the following essay, Wright offers a thematic and stylistic analysis of Hope's poetry.]
As a poet, McAuley, in spite of his austerity, has sometimes seemed too gracefully nostalgic to present a firm front against the disregard and mere incomprehension that this commercial age and country accords to poetry. Its much more violent adversary has always been A. D. Hope. The two have at least this in common, that both insist on the imposition of order and metrical discipline on a poetic experience that seems to each to be chaotic. But Hope has often suffered from being as much his own adversary as that of the world; so that, instead of castigating the hypocrisy and insensitiveness of others, he seems rather to be preoccupied with enormous and half-real terrors which originate as much within himself as without—terrors of sexuality, of impotence, of cruelty and of decay.
Against these, and against the world's ignorance and spite, he has armed himself with a kind of half-hysterical cocktail-party wit, a conventional gift for caricature, and a repertoire of thrusts and parries that seems sometimes designed to conceal his real feelings even from himself. This manner, which has come to stand as Hope himself to superficial readers, can however modulate into...
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SOURCE: Zwicky, Fay. “The Prophetic Voice.” In The Lyre in the Pawnshop: Essays on Literature and Survival, 1974-1984, pp. 246-52. Nedlands: University of Western Australia Press, 1986.
[In the following review of A Late Picking, Zwicky discusses Hope's reputation as a poet in Australia and elucidates the central themes in his verse.]
The man alone digging his bones a hole; The pyramid in the waste—whose images?
When A. D. Hope asked this question in ‘Pyramis or The House of Ascent’ in 1948, he was trying to reconcile the ambiguity of the creative consciousness in the image of the Egyptian Pharaoh: the artist/priest snagged in tension between the heart's passions and that clear-sighted perception of illusion which cuts him off from other human beings. In this early poem the artist's work becomes a monument to his self-assertion in a spiritual wasteland, and there was some admiration implied for ‘those powers that fence the failing heart: / Intemperate will and incorruptible pride’. By invoking Blake, Milton and Swift and the hovering presence of insanity, Hope showed continuing awareness of the dangers and glories of over-assertive individualism to man as social being and as artist. Much of his earlier work kicked off from a dissociation and conflict within the personality; reason against passion, morality against desire, individual feeling against the collective...
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SOURCE: Steele, Peter. “Peregrinations of A. D. Hope.” In The Double Looking Glass: New and Classic Essays on the Poetry of A. D. Hope, edited by David Brooks, pp. 170-80. St. Lucia, Australia: University of Queensland Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, which was originally published in 1988, Steele examines the theme of voyage in Hope's poetry, focusing on “the character of his quest.”]
Bad luck to The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary (1st Edition) for leaving “peregrination” out of its record, when it runs to “percoid”—“resembling a perch”—and “perihelion”—“point in planet's orbit nearest the sun”. Perhaps they are mute witnesses to its absence, both having to do with rovers as they do. But peregrination too richly constellates meanings to be easily spared. And if anything can naturally be a place of lodgement for Hope, this may be it.
In the old days you could not be peregrine unless you were both a quester and on the move: pilgrim blood was the only type that counted. Spurred or stung by it, you might make tracks towards the classic goals of pilgrimage—Rome or Compostela or Jerusalem. The cockleshell or the palm might boast your accomplishment, but more importantly they were mnemonics for the journeyings themselves. More drastically, there were the courses adopted by those who, with devotion, in penitence, or out of more obscure...
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SOURCE: Martin, Philip. “A. D. Hope, Nonconformist.” Journal of Popular Culture 23, no. 2 (fall 1989): 47-53.
[In the following essay, Martin asserts that although Hope is perceived as a conservative, almost archaic poet, he is in his own way an unorthodox and unique Australian poet.]
Such savage and scarlet as no green hills dare Springs in that waste, some spirit which escapes The learned doubt, the chatter of cultured apes Which is called civilization over there.
A. D. Hope, who will be eighty next July, is the son of a Presbyterian minister and his wife: of Nonconformists in the religious sense of the word. But he himself is a nonconformist in the other sense as well: one who does not conform to accepted opinions or attitudes. And though he by no means adheres to his parents' Christian beliefs it may well be that the religiously Nonconformist cast of mind helped to shape his character, helped to make him a nonconformist with a small “n”. Even the need to break away from his parents' faith, in order to safeguard the freedom of his imagination, may have played its part in this formation. At any rate I think that his nonconformism has made Hope in his own way a very Australian sort of poet.
That may at first sound an odd thing to say, because when people think of Hope's poetry, and of the attitude to poetry expressed in his prose writings, many are likely to put...
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SOURCE: Wallace-Crabbe, Chris. “True Tales and False Alike Work by Suggestion: The Poetry of A. D. Hope.” Australian Literary Studies 14, no. 4 (October 1990): 415-24.
[In the following essay, Wallace-Crabbe argues that Hope's poetry resists easy categorizations and investigates the poet's relationship to symbolism.]
Attempts to characterise A. D. Hope's poetry fail very frequently because of a common tendency to see his oeuvre holistically. Simple caricatures emerge, portraying him in bold strokes as neoclassical, parnassian, art nouveau, anti-modernist, remorselessly iambic or whatever. All such categorisations underplay the extent to which Hope's poetry is strategically restless and subversive. The old tales he tells are nearly always undermined. The commonly bland critical prose sorts oddly with the poetic violence: indeed, much of his suaver criticism seems remote from the feminist high spirits of A Midsummer Eve's Dream. And the physical density of his compressed narratives is held with difficulty and at some cost between a declared thirst for glimpses of transcendence and the fear of non-being:
The solid bone dissolving just As this dim pulp about the bone; And whirling in its void alone Yearns a fine interstitial dust.
The ray that melts away my skin Pales at that sub-atomic wave: This shows my image in the grave, But that the emptiness within...
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SOURCE: Brooks, David. “The Ring of Isopata: Orpheus and The Age of Reason.” In The Double Looking Glass: New and Classic Essays on the Poetry of A. D. Hope, edited by David Brooks, pp. 274-80. St. Lucia, Australia: University of Queensland Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, which was originally published in 1992, Brooks reevaluates Hope's reputation as a poet through an examination of his collections Orpheus and The Age of Reason.]
I have long suspected that A. D. Hope's notorious traditionalism and poetic formalism have been generally misunderstood, and that, truistic as it has come to seem, the critical assumption that he is ultimately and perhaps simply an artist of inherent contradictions is reductive at best. The recent appearance of Orpheus, a new collection of his poems, has done nothing to change my thinking.
Even Nietzsche, iconoclast that he was, recognised the need for a pierpost—the need to have a system, a standard of measurement, arbitrary as it must be, by which to orientate one's thought: in a sea full of wandering islands, with no fixed point on the horizon, no one island can know its relative position or whether it has moved at all. And my understanding of A. D. Hope's formalism is something along these lines: that it represents a pierpost, a standard of measurement, or set of such standards—a fixed point in circumambient flux by...
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SOURCE: Bowers, Neal. “Form as Substance in the Poetry of A. D. Hope.” Shenandoah 44, no. 1 (spring 1994): 68-80.
[In the following essay, Bowers contends that the defining characteristics of Hope's poetry—particularly his reliance on conventional forms and his rejection of modernism—have now come back into vogue in literary circles.]
To identify A. D. Hope as an Australian poet and strict formalist is to employ terms he might well reject, the first on the grounds that true poetry transcends national boundaries, the second because it is redundant. In Hope's world, poetry is its own domain, and any poem lacking meter and rhyme is a mere sham. In an age when writers have eagerly indulged in chauvinism and free-form experimentation, such sentiments as Hope's seem decidedly old fashioned, even reactionary. Indeed, in Hope's own country, his almost total lack of interest in anything overtly Australian has disappointed some critics, and his open contempt for free verse has at times made him seem narrow-minded and anachronistic. In short, Hope has not been regarded as the Walt Whitman of his native land. And yet when viewed from the edge of a new millennium, and probably beyond the exhausted epoch of postmodernism, he seems to possess some of Whitman's prescience and a good bit of his self-assuredness.
Rather than a blinkered curmudgeon bent on reviving old forms and grumbling over the...
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SOURCE: Maver, Igor. “The Baudelairean Decadent Strain in A. D. Hope's Verse.” In Readings in Contemporary Australian Poetry, pp. 27-35. Bern, Germany: Peter Lang, 1997.
[In the following essay, Maver considers the links between the poetry of Hope and Charles Baudelaire.]
The Australian poet A. D. Hope never felt the particular need to stress the degree of ‘Australianness’ inherent in his poems; rather, as exemplified by his poem “Australia,” he would refer to “the Arabian desert of the human mind” in Australia. Hope is described by the critics as an academic and largely intellectual poet, because of his usage of traditional poetic forms and numerous allusions from classical literatures and cultures, which he considers the source of Western and also Australian culture. Although he did, in fact, find frequent inspiration in the English neo-classicist literary models and satirical impulses of the eighteenth century, Romantic and even Decadent content is to be found in a significant body of his poems. In this light, his literary affiliation with the French poet Charles Baudelaire is examined here.
Hope the poet, as opposed to Hope the critic, seems to be torn between the traditional and formal poetic impulse on the one hand, and Romantic despair over reality, over the concept of love as expressed through the images of deviant and unnatural...
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SOURCE: Pons, Xavier. “Hope and the Apocalyptic Splendour of the Sexes.” Australian Literary Studies 19, no. 4 (October 2000): 373-86.
[In the following essay, Pons explores the erotic and chauvinistic dimensions of Hope's verse.]
I was then your music and you mine
(‘Vivaldi, Bird and Angel’)
Among Australian poets, few owe a greater part of their inspiration to Eros than A. D. Hope. ‘Love and desire have prompted some of his best poetry’, Candida Baker noted, ‘and some of Australia's most erotic poems’ (Baker 162). This characteristic exposed him to much censure, both from those critics, like Max Harris, who regarded him as sex-crazed, or Vincent Buckley who thought him ‘sexually obsessed, and obsessed in an unpleasant manner’ (Hart 9; Brooks 46) and those who took him to task for his male chauvinism (see Docker 52 or Ann McCulloch in Brooks 264-65, 268). Oddly enough, however, the principal literary histories of Australia tend to ignore the erotic dimension of his writings.
Whether it censures or ignores his preoccupation with sex, criticism of Hope's verse too often presents a skewed vision of the part played by Eros in it. The spell of what he termed ‘the sensual miracle’ (Hope, Collected Poems [CP] 96)1 is unmistakable, as can be seen from his repeated expressions of delight in the female form:...
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Brissenden, R. F. “A. D. Hope's New Poems.” Southerly 30, no. 2 (1970): 83-96.
Evaluates Hope's literary achievements.
Brooks, David, ed. The Double Looking Glass: New and Classic Essays on the Poetry of A. D. Hope, St. Lucia, Australia: University of Queensland Press, 2000, 298 p.
Collection of critical essays that explore Hope's literary career.
Goldberg, S. L. “The Poet as Hero: A. D. Hope's The Wandering Islands.” Meanjin 69, no. 2 (March 1957): 127-39.
Discusses Hope as an existentialist and an Australian poet.
Hart, Kevin. “Sexual Desires, Poetic Creation.” Raritan 12, no. 2 (fall 1992): 28-43.
Investigates the ways in which the legends of Faustus and Don Juan influence Hope's verse.
Kane, Paul. “A. D. Hope and Romantic Displacement.” In Australian Poetry: Romanticism and Negativity, pp. 119-40. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Considers Hope's verse as a mix of romanticism and negativity.
King, Bruce. “A. D. Hope and Australian Poetry.” The Sewanee Review 87, no. 1 (January-March 1979): 119-41.
Surveys the work of several prominent Australian poets, including Hope.
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