Thursday, January 5, 2012
Sir Geoffrey Hill
Even though I think honours lists are a load of rubbish it's still good to see poetry honoured in the UK New Year honours list with Geoffrey Hill, elected last year as Oxford's professor of poetry receiving a knighthood, now or soon to be Sir Geoffrey Hill.
Hill, 79, who had an academic career, has been described as the finest living English poet. He is also routinely criticised or praised, depending on your viewpoint, as a "difficult" poet. He is quoted as saying in reply: Difficult poetry is the most democratic because you are doing your audience the honour of supposing they are intelligent human beings. So much of the popular poetry of today treats people as if they were fools.
This is no doubt in answer to the well known and oft quoted saying of poet Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008): Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people.
So which side are you on? The nice think is of course you don't have to be on any side. Poetry is or should be broad enough to encompass both wings. If you press me though I'm on Hill's side.