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Selected Poems Hardcover – March 31, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Is Hill the greatest living English poet? Many critics (including Harold Bloom) have said as much, since the 1970s, when a few dense books inspired transatlantic admiration. After four decades with just five books, the past 10 years have seen Hill offer six more, including a trio of long works some liken to Dante and Blake. This first selected since 1994 (and first since his move to Yale as his U.S. publisher) should get instant critical attention (and sustained academic adoption) even though it contains no new work. Here, entire, is Mercian Hymns, with its gorgeously medievalized evocation of a rural English upbringing. Here, complete, are all three recent long poems, with their erudite mix of elegy and jeremiad: Age of mass consent: go global with her, Hill admonishes himself in Speech! Speech! Challenge satellite failure, the primal/ violent day-star moody as Herod./ Forget nothing. Reprieve no one. Here are his late intimations of mortality: Last days, last things, loom on: I write/ to astonish myself. Here, too, are the descriptive beauties that sparkle through even Hill's most rebarbative works: in a rural lane, the mass-produced wax berries, and perhaps/ an unearthed wasps' nest like a paper skull,/ where fragile cauls of cobweb start to shine. (Mar.)
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“Hill is without question the strongest British poet currently writing, and his Selected Poems is an import of significance for American readers.”
The New Republic

(The New Republic)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300121563
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300121568
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,071,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For decades Geoffrey Hill has been called by critics the best active british poet. And they're right. What's more, barring the possible exceptions of John Ashbery and Derek Walcott, he might be the best living poet in the english language. His range of reference, philosophical weight, obvious technical accomplishment, and severe moral sensibility make Hill's work uncommonly rewarding.

Yet the very things that make his work so consistently good (and I can't think of another poet more consistent) also make his work too demanding to appeal to any but the most dedicated readers of poetry. Like Alvin Feinman (a great poet whom he otherwise doesn't much resemble), Hill demands much from his readers-- possibly too much. He is pretty much guaranteeing himself the moniker of "poet's poet" (not a label to sneeze at, of course, but not perhaps the best way to broadcast a poetics of such moral seriousness). Still, the device of a "selected poems" keeps things from becoming too overwhelming, giving us an overview of his entire career and, therefore, a chronology to help us along.

If anyone wants to read a wonderful, if demanding, contemporary poet then Geoffrey Hill is your man.
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Format: Hardcover
British poet Geoffrey Hill is one of the best poets alive, and certainly the one who takes Christianity the most seriously--he is positively tormented by the possibility of injustice, and his mastery of the English language is only one of his tools to express his righteous (not self righteous) rage. An unapologetically religious poet, he is the living prosodic contradiction to the ruse of postmodernism.

This book includes work from eleven Hill titles; two in their entirety--("Mercian Hymns" and "The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy"). While it is true that one needs a bit more than a working knowledge of craft, prosody, and even some words that aren't in most dictionaries ("claustral","atrorubent"). He is heavy handed without being pretentious, a moralist without being pompous; the hostility to his work is amongst critics is due to one of two things; he will not cease to be himself, and never once steps back from the "bard" role as poet.

The series of poems that really delivers for me, in this collection, are his extended elegies to the German resisters of the Third Reich. The compact, sparse, and uncompromising beauty of these pieces are unrivalled in my mind by anything I have read in the past couple of years. Dedicated to Claus Von Stauffenberg's adjutant Hans Bernard Haeften (9 October 1908 - 21 July 1944) and Carl Friedrich Goerdeler (31 July 1884 - 2 February 1945) who were executed quite horribly for their part in the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler. Who today can equal these lines?
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Format: Paperback
For those who haven't taken the plunge, this makes an excellent introduction to an exemplary body of poetry in our time. Whatever might be your taste or creed, it's phrase- and image-making that make a poet. As poetry, there's nothing in English today to rival what Hill has accomplished. It's a difficult style that requires tremendous effort, and has distinguished Hill from the first, all through the efflorescence of his later volumes. The Triumph of Love and Speech! Speech! show what a gift Hill has for capturing voices. I find The Orchard of Syon deeply moving, much less angry. The earlier poems are indispensible as well. I have a particular love for The Songbook of Sebastian Arrurruz - a heartbreaking sequence of love poems that someone, I can't remember who, has called Hill's happiest achievement. Mercian Hymn is simply astounding.

Just one comment on Hill's much-commented on difficulty. Hill himself has said it best, when he remarked (in the Paris Review) that people seem to demand accessibility in poetry, but not in other forms of art. We experience real difficulty everyday in life, so why should poetry be easy? Its allusions can be obscure, but more often public and, if one were ignorant, leading to amazing discoveries. In this day of Google and Wikipedia, it's hard to call such things difficult.

What might be lastingly difficult is Hill's moral stance. I for one find it hard to care about some of his themes - but it doesn't matter, does it? Hill is more contemporary than many experimental poets; and as a practiced rhetorician, he's never less than engaging. Anyway, just wanted to join the chorus of praise...
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