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Dance of the Nomad

Dance of the Nomad: A Study of the Selected Notebooks of A.D.Hope

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: ANU Press
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    Dance of the Nomad
    Book Description:

    The notebooks of A. D. Hope are a portrait of the contradictory essence of the poet's intellect and character. Shot through with threads of self-awareness and revelation, Hope imbued his notebooks with irony and humour, forming them as a celebration of the joy and terror of human existence. Stripped of intimate revelation, the entries give witness to Hope's view that art is a superior force in the creation of new being and values, and a guide for the conduct of our lives. Seeking to find pathways through the maze of an intellectual life, this is a profound and timely contribution to Australia's literary scholarship. Ann McCulloch's analysis of this thematic selection of Hope's notebooks reveals him to be relentless in his experimentation with ideas. Revealing the originality of his thinking and the astonishing range of his reading and interests, this edition is a testament to the intellect of one of Australia's towering literary figures.

    eISBN: 978-1-921666-91-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. iii-vii)
  2. LETTER TO ANN McCULLOCH (pp. viii-x)
    A. D. Hope
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS (pp. xi-xii)
    Ann McCulloch
  4. Table of Contents (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. PREFACE (pp. xv-xx)

    When I was selecting entries from A. D. Hope’s notebooks, there were certain comments Hope had made to me that merged together and became a preoccupation: ‘not deliver me neat’; ‘Laughter is a very serious business’; ‘Poetry is a dance of language’; writing poetry is ‘the creation of new being’. The notebooks themselves emerge as the most intricate of dances, a dance of images that never ends; it is a dance with rhythmical gestures that infiltrate lightly, ironically and always musically towards the lands of mind, space, desire and the unknown. Readers of Hope’s writings are also ‘led on a...


    Hope was naturally drawn towards the concept of ‘negative capability’; it provided him with an unlimited environment in which he could taste, test and explore the vagaries of human existence. Life was to be a continual celebration of ‘being’ and ‘becoming’, lived with a sense of irony and Nietzschean perspectivism.²

    Hope, as a young poet, acknowledged that the creative life was as significant in human existence as a life of action or a life of contemplation. The poet was most rich if he/she was continually open to a field of forces unhampered by the privilege of one epistemological, logical or...

  9. III ANTI-MODERNISM (pp. 61-96)

    Hope’s antagonism towards free verse reaches passionate proportions. It is the one area of his thought that brings out the poet’s personality, despite his views on the need to suppress personality when creating a poem. He is a poet who, outside the poem, happily acknowledges the mask he wears, being as an actor entering a situation, an emotion or a particular belief, testing them while he creates something new. On all other issues he appears tranquil and assured, but it seems he has an engagement here that defies his stated preference for detachment.

    Current theory would not be sympathetic to...


    The notebooks record with humour, impartial argument and sometimes with passionate fury Hope’s views on the art and/or the disease of criticism. His distaste for free verse and its associated side effects is expressed through analogies with other disciplines or by drawing on modes of operation of social structures. Within these large frameworks, Hope takes on writers, critics, poets and artists who have dared to stray into the ‘enemy’ camp.

    Hope does not hold back when he comes across fraudulent research, incoherence and vanity among celebrated writers and critics. Robert Graves, Yvor Winters and F. R. Leavis are some of...

  11. V WHAT IS ART? (pp. 137-164)

    A. D. Hope, in his poetry and his criticism, is fascinated with the contemporary state of the arts. His favoured form of analysis is the use of analogy. The subsequent speculative arguments present varied modes of measuring and identifying the extent to which art has been corrupted by ideas and techniques of some modernist practitioners and critics. Although his interests extend to the visual and the musical, his prime focus is poetry, which he understands as ‘a contemplative and creative activity concerned to bring into being a new order of nature and to maintain it’.¹

    In his earlier writings, there...

  12. VI SOURCE OF HIS POETRY (pp. 165-186)

    Hope seemed to be always on the lookout for a launching pad for his poetic vision, whether in letters from friends, newspaper articles or the odd quote he came across in his readings. The titles of his entries and the titles of his poems provided in the bibliography will demonstrate how often what began as an idea in the notebooks finally found itself expressed in a poem.

    What is interesting is the diversity of these ‘ideas’. A letter from a friend and fellow poet demanding reasons for Hope’s silence elicits a poem from him offering not only the reasons requested...

  13. VII A SENSE OF DETACHMENT (pp. 187-218)

    Hope often emphasises that the special significance of a true work of art resides in the fact that it has ‘escaped from the limitations of the personal and has soared beyond the personal concerns of its creator.’ Poetry, he believes, is not so much a ‘document’ nor a communication but a ‘performance’ and a ‘creation’. He is insistent that if it is used as a means to confess and exploit personal feelings of grief and loss as ‘open wounds’, it fails as great poetry. The confession of personal, immediate stories of suffering in a poem, he suggests, invokes a subtle...

  14. VIII COSMOLOGY (pp. 219-244)

    ‘All time is now’, Hope tells us, and yet he is aware of the complexity that occurs in the poetic imagination, fed by concepts of the past and the future from the perspective of an intangible present. Eternity is a paradox. Eternity is not a state of things but a state of mind which contemplates all the moments of time as though they were present. This is the case whether one is looking at a star whose light came into existence in times past, or whether one is, at this moment, thinking of a philosophy from antiquity or imagining a...


    Hope’s concern with sex in general and with his own sexuality is one of the sources of strength in his poetry. His attempt to understand female sexuality is recorded throughout the notebooks, as is his awareness of his exclusion from understanding. He felt that an understanding of the differences between men and women was the key to constructing a new metaphysical world view. Hope maintains that as long as our knowledge of these differences is left untapped, our metaphysical view of the human condition will remain limited. The excerpts Hope has chosen from the Kinsey Report are important in regards...

  16. X A SENSE OF DESTINY (pp. 279-302)

    This chapter examines the way that the poet views his pathway and its pitfalls, and also its seductive powers, which prevented him from following any other road.

    In terms of public acclaim, A. D. Hope was a modest man. Literary awards meant less to him than the moment that followed the completion of a poem. From the age of eight, when he wrote his mother a poem, he knew that it was his destiny to spend his life writing poetry. His academic profession was in many ways experienced by him as a disruption and interruption to his calling. He conceded,...

  17. XI THE DREAM-TEAM (pp. 303-332)

    Hope refers to Freud’s theory of dreams as ‘mumbo jumbo’, and he records his own theory of dreams along with copious dreams of his own. It might be the case that Hope’s antagonism to Freud is based on his protectiveness towards his own work; he did not want his readers to reduce his poems to their sexual basis alone. Of course, along with Freud, he accepts the existence of an unconscious, but for him it was not composed of repressed desires; it housed his dream-team.

    Hope’s dream-team is composed of ‘revellers’ and ‘roisterers’, who invent whole scenarios for his imagination...

  18. XII ARGUMENT BY ANALOGY (pp. 333-356)

    Hope’s poems often take the form of an argument about some philosophical question; but the argument is usually couched in analogy. Hope uses comparisons because he sees them as the only means of saying what cannot be said by any form of direct statement and of extending the limits of experience and feeling beyond what they are capable of by other means.

    Analogy, Hope concedes, might be poor argument and it might break under the test of logic, but it is, he argues,‘the perpetual source of discovery, insight, illumination, the marriage of disparate experiences drawn together by a natural desire...

  19. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 357-367)
  20. Back Matter (pp. 368-368)