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Geoffrey Hill

The Drama of Reason


Alex Pestell

Geoffrey Hill (1932–2016) was often hailed as one of the most important – and one of the most difficult – poets of his lifetime. This book is a timely investigation into a writer whose work seems simultaneously to invite analysis and to refuse explanations of its sensuous, allusive language. It provides an introduction to Hill’s work for readers coming to it for the first time and offers an account of his poetics that will be of interest to his more experienced readers. Alongside many close readings of poems spanning Hill’s long and varied career, the author brings to light findings from the Geoffrey Hill Archive in Leeds and investigates the poet’s important critical writings. Hill’s often antagonistic engagement with the thought of other poets and philosophers supplies the book’s structure. Coleridge, Eliot, F. H. Bradley and Ezra Pound are engaged by Hill in a dramatic contest over what the author claims is his visionary aim for poetry: the realisation of the objective conditions of judgement. Above all, Hill is presented as a quintessentially modernist poet – at odds with modernity, and at the same time creating a language answerable to its rich, traumatic complexity.
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I have used the following abbreviations for references to works by Geoffrey Hill.

I have for the most part used Broken Hierarchies as the source text for Hill’s poems. When quoting from poem sequences, I include the poem number to make it easier to find in the original volumes. For example, ‘Speech! Speech! (60, BH 318)’ refers to Poem 60 on page 318 of Broken Hierarchies. Where a passage has not been retained in Broken Hierarchies I quote from the original volume. Material from the Geoffrey Hill Archive in the Brotherton Collection at Leeds University Library is given by class mark, with the title of the file in square brackets. ← xi | xii →

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