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Geoffrey Hill and his Contexts


Edited By Piers Pennington and Matthew Sperling

Geoffrey Hill is one of the most significant poets currently at work in the English language. The essays gathered in this book present a number of new contexts in which to explore a wide range of his writings, from the poems he wrote as an undergraduate to the recent volumes A Treatise of Civil Power (2007) and Collected Critical Writings (2008). Connections are made between the early and the later poetry, and between the poetry and the criticism, and archival materials are considered along with the published texts. The essays also make comparisons across disciplines, discussing Hill’s work in relation to theology, philosophy and intellectual history, to literature from other languages, and to the other arts. In doing so, they cast fresh light upon Hill’s dense, original and sometimes challenging writings, opening them up in new ways for all readers of his work.


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Steven Matthews - Hill’s Uncollected Oxford Poems 5


Steven Matthews Hill’s Uncollected Oxford Poems 1 Geof frey Hill’s first collection, For the Unfallen: Poems 1952–1958, fol- lowed the model of Allen Tate’s Poems 1922–1947 by ordering its contents chronologically, with ‘Genesis’, the earliest poem he wished to collect, placed first. The poems were followed by their date of completion in the book’s first edition, and from this we can ascertain that the first six poems had been finished while Hill was a student at Oxford, and the remainder once he had moved to work at the University of Leeds in the autumn of 1954. Both the tone and the themes of the poems in For the Unfallen were to some extent established by the time Hill left Oxford, then; they are ref lected in the various uncollected poems and pieces of prose which he published while he was there, and this chapter will discuss selected key pieces chronologically.1 Hill established a considerable presence in Oxford periodicals and journals from 1951 onwards. Several examples of his work featured in the Keble College magazine, The Clock Tower; in the university student newspa- per, The Isis; and in the annual Oxford Poetry magazine, which Hill himself 1 My selection here is intended partly to fill the gaps left in the pioneering work by Henry Hart, and partly to provide more context for Hart’s readings. His chapter on the ‘Early Poems: Journeys, Meditations, and Elegies’, in Peter Robinson (ed.), Geof frey Hill: Essays on his Work (Milton Keynes: Open University...

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