Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Library Books and Geoffrey Hill

They'll soon know all about you.

You've taken out this book before, the librarian said as I presented my choice at the desk. I think it was meant purely as a matter of information not as a Have you forgotten you read it before? I smiled I'll try to actually read it this time and took it. It's not as if there was a queue of eager readers waiting to grab the book. There was only one other date stamp inside the cover and that for two years ago so that must have been when I borrowed it previously. The book? Selected Poems by Geoffrey Hill.

Geoffrey Hill is regarded by many people as one of the greatest living British/English poet. He is often regarded as being difficult, scholarly, highly allusive, political, inventive. Critic Peter McDonald says “His is poetry which, in making demands of its readers’ intelligence, engages them in a discourse about things—sometimes difficult things—that matter.”

Recently I read his Mercian Hymns which is a series which links the eight century king Offa of Mercia with Hill himself. They are written in a sort of prose poetry which expertly interweaves history and the contemporary world.

from Mercian Hymns by Geoffrey Hill


King of the perennial holly-groves, the riven sandstone: overlord of the M5: architect of the historic rampart and ditch, the citadel at Tamworth, the summer hermitage in Holy Cross: guardian of the Welsh Bridge and the Iron Bridge: contractor to the desirable new estates: saltmaster: moneychanger: commissioner for oaths: martyrologist: the friend of Charlemagne.

‘I liked that,’ said Offa, ‘sing it again.’

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