Le Monde on August 5th ran two articles concerning the end of the Lambeth conference that emphasized the unresolved tensions within Anglicanism. My thoughts went to Rowan Williams who admirably conversed with Geoffrey Hill at the opening of “Geoffrey Hill & His Contexts” at Keble (July 2, 2008). What follows are excerpts from notes taken at the conference and may (unintentionally) misrepresent the speakers. I do hope that a complete transcript will become available soon.
RW: began by quoting Ruskin, “Everything costs its own cost and one of the best virtues is a just desire to pay it.”
GH: spoke of his new article in the Warwick Review, concerning the just state, “…we live in plutocratic anarchy,” destroying the sense of intrinsic value.*
RW: “Poetry embodies the labor of seeking…” he said and mentioned two ways a poem shows laboriousness, through the need expressed and the muscles (heroism) of fixing the reader on complexity.
GH: “I see difficulties on the way leading to semantic epiphany . . .” T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets mumble and proclaim difficulties in a low-grade way. Those “pensées” don’t engage with real struggle like the lesser-known Kierkegaardian poems that Eberhart wrote.
RW: quoted Bradley, “the judgment to contain the condition of the judgment . . .”
GH: Bradley’s “somehow” signals the epiphanic final moment of a poem. John Berryman, quoting R.P. Blackmur in a poem suggests that the art of poetry is amply distinguished from verse by its fresh idiom, language twisted and posed such that a poem “adds to the stock of available reality.” Poems change the course of the world by extending reality. “A great poem is an annunciation or epiphany.”
GH: The poem is a monumental object that contains bidding. “Difficulty” is the greatest safeguard democracy can have.
RW: What about time, the time to read and understand and make criticism?
GH: Velocity is increasing exponentially and will destroy memory. Computer technology is a velocity thing: a plethora of information speedily applied will destroy criticism.
*See: Geoffrey Hill, “Civil Polity and the Confessing State,” The Warwick Review 2:2 (June 2008)