Frank O’Brien—“Pied Beauty” by Gerald Manley Hopkins
Though my “favorite” poem changes frequently, the one poem I keep going back to every year for the sheer brilliance of its word play is “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Since Hopkins had basically only one theme, he was totally free to concentrate on all other aspects of the art, even coming up with a whole new concept, “sprung rhythm”, in doing so. Although very much English, he picked up the use of alliteration from his studies of the Welsh language (most Celtic languages rely more heavily on alliteration than they do on rhyme). The way Hopkins welds together images with striking word selections and inventive alliteration remains amazing to me after decades of reading and repeating his poems. If you’re not in any way religious, the poesy itself should be inspiring; if you are indeed religious, then you should find it to be as good a single prayer as any you might have learned at school.