Poetry is its own thing, and in the case of Sir Geoffrey Hill’s proclamations in lectures as Oxford Professor of Poetry, listeners became aware that poetry is its own world that is a vibrant part of the real world: it is not a subset of reality, but reality itself. The complete works of Hill also demonstrate that poetry does not stand alone. As an art form, it incorporates into itself not only a variety of intellectual disciplines such as philosophy, political thought, history, and theology, but also a wide breadth of other art forms such as music, painting, photography, sculpture, and film. Hill’s essay ‘Our Word is Our Bond’ (1983) posits, in contrast to J.L. Austin’s How to Do Things with Words
(1962), that poetry is performative. Because the forms of poetry are partly what make it what it is, the reader is invited to take a journey of forms.
The dominant forms of For the Unfallen
(1959) were quatrains and sonnets, yet the fifth section of ‘Genesis’ had offered tercets (4)1
and there were already form experiments, with rhyme in the tetrameters of ‘The Bidden Guest’ (8), and in the blank verse in ‘To the (Supposed) Patron’ (35). King Log
(1968) took more liberties with form. It began with two sonnets, but several pages into the volume, the sonnet form broke in ‘September Song’ (44), and then was again predominant, in the sequence ‘Funeral Music’ (47-54). But even these sonnets brought something new. Jeffrey Wainwright, in his memorial speech for Hill at Keble College (October 22, 2016) recalled the ‘shock effect’ when he first heard Hill read:
‘“In honorem Trinitatis”. Crash. The head / Struck
down into a meaty conduit of blood.’ Crash! like a
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