Annotations to Geoffrey Hill's 'Speech! Speech!' by Ann Hassan

By Ann Hassan

Geoffrey Hill’s Speech! Speech! (2000) encapsulates thousand years’ worthy of utterances in a symbolic act of remembrance and expression of melancholy for the present age, within which we discover “our minds and ears fouled by means of degraded public speech—by media hype, insipid sermons, hole political rhetoric, and the ritual misuse of words.” via one hundred twenty densely allusive stanzas—“As many because the days that have been | of SODOM”—the poem wrestles this situation from inside, struggling with hearth with hearth in an alchemical symbolic labour that transmutes the dross of corrupt and clichéd idiom right into a dynamic logopoeia that proves real Hill’s power declare: “genuinely tricky paintings is actually democratic.” Such is the unusual, ambivalently opposed place of poetry within the current international and hence the distance of our genuine connection to it: “Whatever unusual dating we have now with the poem, it isn't one in all leisure. it's extra like being brushed earlier, or apart, by way of an alien being” (Hill). Befriending this estrangement, embracing it as a extra amicable brushing-up-against, Hassan’s Annotations offer an intensive and sufferer explication of Speech! Speech! that either clarifies and deepens the poem’s problems, illuminating its polyphonic language and careening discursive circulation. The author’s approach is right away commentarial, descriptive, and narratorial, staying faithfully with the poem and following its advanced verbal and logical turns. The e-book generously offers, instead of direct interpretative incursion, a tougher and efficient rfile of “the actual nature / of this success” (stanza 92), a capacious, open knowing of the textual content that might end up valuable to its current and destiny readers.

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Romana Huk has commented: Any conventional performance of lyric expressivism becomes all but impossible in Hill’s poems, which are much more frequently spoken in a strangely choral voice, even when the personal pronoun is present – as though culture itself were speaking, or an “I/We” whose choices of form and response are so heavily overdetermined by cultural possibilities that volition becomes the nonissue at issue, flickering in the gaps opened by contradictions and conventionalities. 139 This lack of a unified – however fragmented – authorial ‘I’, no trace of “that transcendent poetic self”140 to which readers are accustomed, has its own politics.

The poet is to public ‘Author! ’, 65. Anonymous, ‘Books and Arts: Trust in Words’, review of Speech! , The Economist 21 June 2001: 81. S. 3 (2006): 267. 111 According to Logan they are not: it is “not the allusions but the arguments that have fallen into mystery” (‘Author! ’, 65). 109 27 GEOFFREY HILL’S SPEECH! SPEECH! ” 112 The opening stanza, with its obscure staccato dictum, “Erudition. Pain. ”, provides a great deal of information about the reasons for the poet’s need to speak. Speech! Speech!

Cross references within a stanza are made using the note number; cross references from one stanza to another are made using the stanza number. References to Hill’s criticism are to the Collected Critical Writings (2008) if they are included therein; where pertinent, I have included the title of the original piece or collection. In the commentaries, the terms ‘Hill’, ‘the poet’ and ‘the author’ are used interchangeably to describe the first person position; while aware of the problematic nature of the ‘authorial “I”’ in Hill’s – as in most twentieth-century – work, I have interchanged these terms in the interests of fluidity and ease of reading.

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