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Philip Horne, 28 September 1989

The Pale Companion 
by Andrew Motion.
Viking, 164 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 670 82287 6
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... a consciously smooth and reader-friendly go at the anachronistic childhood memoir invented by Geoffrey Hill in the pricklier Mercian Hymns. ‘Scripture’ manifests the ‘renewed interest in narrative’ of which the 1982 Introduction spoke; and its subject-matter – school friendships, traumas and epiphanies, seen with ingenious irony as episodes ...

English Fame and Irish Writers

Brian Moore, 20 November 1980

Selected Poems 1956-1975 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 136 pp., £3.95, October 1980, 0 571 11644 2
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Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 224 pp., £7.95, October 1980, 0 571 11638 8
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... outside the Catholic churches, the big run is on the local Irish papers. Lonely on Highgate Hill outside St Joseph’s Church I rushed to buy my Dundalk Democrat and reading it I was back in my native fields. Now that I analyse myself I realise. that throughout everything I write, there is this constantly recurring motif of the need to go back ... So it ...

The Iron Way

Dinah Birch: Family History, 19 February 2015

Common People: The History of an English Family 
by Alison Light.
Penguin, 322 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 1 905490 38 7
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... to claim is the workhouse, the institution which haunts this book. Her great-grandmother Sarah Hill is a pitiful representative of the poor who travel through Light’s reconstructions of the past. The daughter of an unmarried and destitute servant girl, Sarah spent the first nine years of her life in the Cheltenham workhouse where she was born. She was ...

In Fiery Letters

Mark Ford: F.T. Prince, 8 February 2018

Reading F.T. Prince 
by Will May.
Liverpool, 256 pp., £75, December 2016, 978 1 78138 333 9
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... acquired a number of illustrious admirers – including those poetic polar opposites, Geoffrey Hill and John Ashbery – his poetry is still not widely known. ‘Soldiers Bathing’, it’s true, is likely to feature in any anthology or critical account of the poetry of the Second World War, and assiduous scholars of both ...


Seamus Deane, 30 December 1982

Selected Poems 
by John Montague.
Oxford, 189 pp., £5.95, May 1982, 0 19 211950 8
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Ghosts at my Back 
by Tom Rawling.
Oxford, 55 pp., £3.95, June 1982, 0 19 211951 6
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A Late Harvest 
by John Ward.
Peterloo, 48 pp., £3, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... into his sixties, and he, too, is concerned with the retrieval of a North Country past. Perhaps Geoffrey Hill has given the English North the imaginative status which the Irish Revival gave to the West of Ireland. There is the same attribution of authenticity, the same regret for its loss or dilution, the same sense of a past miles deep. There are ...


Robert Crawford, 7 December 1989

Perduta Gente 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, £5, June 1989, 0 436 40999 2
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Letting in the rumour 
by Gillian Clarke.
Carcanet, 79 pp., £4.95, July 1989, 9780856357572
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Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman 
by Grace Nichols.
Virago, 58 pp., £4.99, July 1989, 1 85381 076 2
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Studying Grosz on the Bus 
by John Lucas.
Peterloo, 64 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 02 8
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The Old Noise of Truth 
by Joan Downar.
Peterloo, 63 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 03 6
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... The Plashy Fen School.’ But they don’t. Like the independent Ian Hamilton Finlay, and like Geoffrey Hill, to whom the early Reading of such phrasing as ‘congregations/are still here mulched into the cider orchard’ pays his dues, this is a poet who likes to investigate the strains and alliances between violence and the language of art. He is ...

English Changing

Frank Kermode, 7 February 1980

The State of the Language 
edited by Leonard Michaels and Christopher Ricks.
California, 609 pp., £14.95, January 1980, 0 520 03763 4
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... says, we ought to join them, or rather change them and use them in surprising ways, like the poets Geoffrey Hill and Bob Dylan, who is admired for altering ‘Take it to heart’ to ‘Take it to your heart.’ No cliché is irredeemable; we should seize on them, give them, so to speak, a new loss of life, and so contribute to the renovation of the ...

The Devilish God

David Wheatley: T.S. Eliot, 1 November 2001

Words Alone: The Poet T.S. Eliot 
by Denis Donoghue.
Yale, 326 pp., £17.95, January 2001, 0 300 08329 7
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Adam’s Curse: Reflections on Religion and Literature 
by Denis Donoghue.
Notre Dame, 178 pp., £21.50, May 2001, 0 268 02009 4
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... locutus est.’ In a much-quoted footnote to his review of The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry, Geoffrey Hill complained about the decline of Eliot’s poetry from the ‘pitch’ of ‘Prufrock’ to the ‘tone’ of Four Quartets, the former as thrillingly unstable as the latter is calculated and reassuring. Donoghue isn’t having any of it, but ...


Adam Phillips: Christopher Ricks, 22 July 2010

True Friendship: Geoffrey Hill, Anthony Hecht and Robert Lowell under the Sign of Eliot and Pound 
by Christopher Ricks.
Yale, 258 pp., £16.99, February 2010, 978 0 300 13429 2
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... personal friendship or personal feelings. I have published for more than 40 years my gratitude for Hill’s art and for Lowell’s, and for 30 years my gratitude for Hecht’s,’ it is difficult not to feel that the repetitions override the disclaimers, and not to wonder what gratitude is when there is so much of it, and when it has been so insistently ...

Davie’s Rap

Neil Corcoran, 25 January 1990

Under Briggflatts: A History of Poetry in Great Britain 1960-1988 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 261 pp., £18.95, October 1989, 0 85635 820 7
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by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, November 1989, 0 19 282680 8
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Possible Worlds 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 68 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 0 19 282660 3
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The boys who stole the funeral: A Novel Sequence 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 71 pp., £6.95, October 1989, 0 85635 845 2
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... Book), all make this a criticism willing to ‘take the rap’. Davie is caustic about the way Geoffrey Hill teases that phrase in his critical prose, and Hill is often himself made to take Davie’s rap. There is a telling account of Ted Hughes’s and Hill’s varyingly suspect ...

Out of the blue

Mark Ford, 10 December 1987

Meeting the British 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 53 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 571 14858 1
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Partingtime Hall 
by James Fenton and John Fuller.
Salamander, 69 pp., £7.50, April 1987, 0 948681 05 5
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Private Parts 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Chatto, 72 pp., £4.95, June 1987, 9780701132064
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Bright River Yonder 
by John Hartley Williams.
Bloodaxe, 87 pp., £4.95, April 1987, 1 85224 028 8
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... the poems are donnishly based on literary jokes like these, and probably the best in the book is a Geoffrey Hill parody which pictures Hill playing tennis against his devoted admirer Martin Dodsworth: Who crouches at the net, his mouth compressed Severely to a little Gothic slit? On the whole, though, the book falls ...


Patrick Wright: The Cult of Tyneham, 24 November 1988

... fields of EEC oil seed rape and travelled up onto the rougher, more English ground of Povington Hill. The heath still resembles the one Thomas Hardy imagined as Lear’s, but it is now part of the Royal Armoured Corps’s gunnery range: enclosed and blasted in a new sense. The road goes up past the turf-covered rings of Flower’s Barrow, and then turns off ...

Donald Davie and the English

Christopher Ricks, 22 May 1980

Trying to Explain 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 213 pp., £6.95, April 1980, 0 85635 343 4
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... that you should not calumniate the unnamed, or incite parlour-game guesswork about poetry. (Is it Geoffrey Hill? Fifteen sonnets doesn’t fit, though there would be something boldly winsome about offering Hill as your example of the poet insufficiently dedicated to his art.) Even more important, there is the assertive ...


Tim Dee: Derek Walcott’s Birthday Party, 22 May 2014

... the exhibition: William Empson, Seamus Heaney, Charles Tomlinson, Salman Rushdie, Robert Lowell, Geoffrey Hill. The only other bare feet besides Walcott’s belong to a corpse on a dissecting table in front of Keith Simpson, the forensic pathologist. An illegible name-tag is attached to a big toe. St Lucia may not be the Isle of Man, but legs matter ...


Christopher Ricks, 3 May 1984

Swift: The Man, His Works and the Age: Vol III. Dean Swift 
by Irvin Ehrenpreis.
Methuen, 1066 pp., £40, December 1983, 0 416 85400 1
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Swift’s Tory Politics 
by F.P. Lock.
Duckworth, 189 pp., £18, November 1983, 0 7156 1755 9
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Jonathan Swift: Political Writer 
by J.A. Downie.
Routledge, 391 pp., £25, March 1984, 0 7100 9645 3
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The Character of Swift’s Satire 
edited by Claude Rawson.
Associated University Presses, 343 pp., £22.50, April 1984, 0 87413 209 6
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... legendary figure upon a lettered coin, made strangely comfortable for us by being (in the words of Geoffrey Hill about a coin of Offa) ‘cushioned on a legend’. Not exactly eclipsed by Ehrenpreis’s biography, but necessarily rather occluded by it, are three recent books on Swift. F.P. Lock’s Swift’s Tory Politics draws ‘freely’ on ...

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