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A. D. Hope (1907 – 2000)

A.D. Hope, photographer unknown A.D. Hope, photographer unknown

Alec Derwent Hope was born on 21 July 1907 at Cooma, in the Snowy Mountains area of southern New South Wales, where his father was a Presbyterian minister.  He was  educated at home and at schools in Tasmania and New South Wales as the family moved around to different parishes.  Matriculating to Sydney University, he graduated Bachelor of Arts with majors in English and Philosophy in 1928 and won a scholarship to University College, Oxford.  His Oxford career, however, was not a distinguished one;  he returned to Sydney in 1932 with a disappointing third-class degree and trained as a teacher. In 1937 Hope married Penelope Robinson with whom he had three children. He was appointed lecturer in education at the Sydney Teachers' College in 1937, later becoming lecturer in English there from 1938-44. During the 1940s Hope took part in the Australian Broadcasting Commission's Children's Session, as 'Anthony Inkwell' conducting the literary section of the Argonaut's Club. In 1945 he moved to the University of Melbourne and in 1951 was appointed Professor of English at Canberra University College (later the Australian National University) where he taught until his retirement in 1968.

Although he had been writing for many years, Hope did not publish any of his poems until the 1930s.  His first collection, The Wandering Islands, did not appear until 1955, by which time he had built a reputation as a poet through publications in various periodicals. It was praised for Hope's skilful use of traditional verse forms and critique of contemporary values and received the Grace Leven Poetry Prize.  His second collection, Poems (1960), was published in London, underscoring the fact that for many years Hope was the best-known Australian poet internationally, appearing in many anthologies and receiving in 1965 the Arts Council of Great Britain Poetry Award, in 1968 the Levinson Prize for Poetry (Chicago) and in 1969 the Ingram Merrill Award for Literature (New York). 

A small volume of selected poems, A. D. Hope (1963) in Angus and Robertson's Australian Poets series, was soon followed by Collected Poems 1930-1965 (1966).  Thereafter collections of new poems appeared at regular intervals, interspersed by new editions of Selected Poems in 1972, 1986 and 1992, the latter sharing the Australian Capital Territory Book of the Year Award for 1993. A Late Picking: Poems 1965-1974 (1975) received  The Age Book of the Year Award, Imaginative Writing Prize for 1976. The satiric note so strong in much of Hope's earlier work, and seen especially in his mock-heroic Dunciad Minor (1970), a contemporary version of English eighteenth-century poet Alexander Pope's The Dunciad, is less evident in his late poems.  His interest in mythology, seen as embodying 'the great commonplaces' of  human life, remained until the end, as is apparent in the title of his final collection Orpheus (1991).

In addition to his many volumes of poetry, Hope was a widely published critic, reviewer and editor. The Cave and the Spring: Essays on Poetry (1965) won both the 1965 Britannica-Australia Literary Award and the Volkswagon Award for 1966. After some years in a Canberra nursing home, Hope died on 13 July 2000. In 1981 he had been made a Companion of the Order of Australia for services to literature.

Poetry Collections

The Wandering Islands (Sydney: Edwards and Shaw, 1955).

Poems (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1960).

A. D. Hope (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1963).

Collected Poems 1930-1965 (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1966).

New Poems 1965-1969 (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1969).

Dunciad Minor (Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press, 1970).

Selected Poems
(Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1973).

A Late Picking: Poems 1965-1974 (Sydney: The Wentworth Press, 1975).

A Book of Answers (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1978).

The Drifting Continent and Other Poems (Canberra: Brindabella Press, 1979).

Antechinus: Poems 1975-1980 (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1981).

The Age of Reason (Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press, 1985).

Selected Poems (Manchester, UK: Carcanet, 1986).

Orpheus (North Ryde, NSW: Angus and Robertson, 1991).

Selected Poems (Pymble, NSW: Angus and Robertson, 1992).

A. D. Hope: Selected Poetry and Prose (Rushcutters Bay, NSW: Halstead Press, 2000).

Suggested Further Reading

David Brooks, 'A. D. Hope and the Symbolistes,' in Jill Anderson, ed., Australian Divagations: Mallarme and the Twentieth Century (New York: Peter Lang, 2002), pp. 40-54.

David Brooks, 'An Appreciation,' 'The Scythe Honed Fine': A. D. Hope: A Celebration for His 90th Birthday (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 1997), pp. 1-14.

David Brooks, ed., The Double Looking Glass: New and Classic Essays on the Poetry of A. D. Hope (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 2000).

Vincent Buckley, 'A. D. Hope: The Unknown Poet,' in David Brooks, ed., The Double Looking Glass: New and Classic Essays on the Poetry of A. D. Hope (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 2000), pp. 35-50.

Catherine Cole and A. D. Hope, The Poet Who Forgot (Crawley, WA: UWA Publishing, 2008).

Diane Fahey, 'Greek Mythology in Modern Australian Poetry,' Southerly 53.1 (1993), pp. 5-20.

Kevin Hart, A. D. Hope. Oxford Australian Writers (South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press, 1992).

A.D. Hope, The Cave and the Spring (Adelaide: Rigby, 1961).
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Paul Kane, 'A. D. Hope and Romantic Displacement,' Australian Poetry: Romanticism and Negativity (Cambridge, UK: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1996), pp. 119-140, 229-31.

A. M. McCulloch, A. D. Hope: The Dance of Language (Geelong, Vic: Deakin University, 1997).

A. M. McCulloch, 'A. D. Hope, the Life and Art: Let It Rip,' Southerly 68.3 (2008), pp. 264-81.

Xavier Pons, 'A. D. Hope and the Apocalyptic Splendour of the Sexes,' Australian Literary Studies 19.4 (2000), pp. 373-86.

John Thompson, 'Poetry in Australia: A. D. Hope,' Southerly 26.4 (1966), pp. 237-46.

Chris Wallace-Crabbe, 'A. D. Hope: The Wicked Little Poems,' Southerly 68.3 (2008), pp. 31-36.