Saturday, June 28, 2008

Poets in H, or HISTORY in poetry by Hall, Harrison, Heaney, Hill, & Hughes

Heaney's "Englands of the Mind" (1976) described how poets writing after World War II were "afflicted with a sense of history," and preoccupied with "not just the matter of England, but what is the matter with England."

How are Seamus Heaney and Geoffrey Hill alike and different?

Strange Likenesses?
As to their possible similarities, there seem to be rather few, apart from the concern for history, but I think they diverge on this very issue...

Hill is not one for nostalgia...or anecdotal events portrayed in poetry. "I think my sense of history is in itself anything but nostalgic, but I accept nostalgia as part of the psychological experience of a society and of an ancient and troubled nation," he said to Blake Morrison.  "The poet's true commitment must always be first to the verticval richness of language.  The poet's gift is to make history and politics and religion speak for themselves through the strata of language."  The interview was published in the New Statesman (1980).

William Wootten's review of Heaney's District and Circle in the TLS, May 31, 2006

Ted Huges & Geoffrey Hill:
Jeremy Hooker noted in  The Presence of the Past: Essays on Modern British and American Poetry (1987):
- "There is a geat difference...between Ted Hughes, who sees all history as tghe enactment of a stark myth, and Geoffrey Hill, who bears witness to the actuality of specific historical events and deeds" (p.10).
- "'There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism'.  Walter Benjamin's words are apt to Geoffrey Hill's English 'histories', in which admiration of English civilisation is constantly subjected to awareness of its barbarism" (p.26).

Tony Harrison and Donald Hall seem to have more in common with Hill, although their methods are different.  

Concerning the history of British Poetry since 1945, see Peter Finch's article on the subject for the Continuum Encyclopaedia of British Literature (2003).