Thursday, July 14, 2016

Glad and Proud to be English Working Class

Matthew Bannister reminds listeners on BBC Radio 4's Last Word program (July 8 and 10, 2016) that Sir Geoffrey Hill said he was "glad and proud to have been born into the English Working Class." Let the great poet walk around in your mind's eye by listening to his wife and Robert Potts speak about his poetry.

Robert Potts situates Hill as a religious poet in line with George Herbert and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Alice Goodman recalls that Seamus Heaney suggested in 1978 that she read Geoffrey Hill and David Jones, as the most important poets of Britain, while she was an undergraduate at Harvard. Her encounter with Hill's poetry only happened after she had the experience of Hill as lecturer. "He was wonderfully funny," she said, describing how the humor she felt was both intentional and unintentional on his part. Hill's voice reciting passages from his poetry may also surprise — as though they were directed to events of this past week.

The eight minutes or so devoted to Hill in this BBC broadcast occur within the context of other recent losses, including Elie Wiesel, described by Barack Obama as "one of the great moral voices of our time." Menachem Rosensaft speaks here of his "imperative to bear witness."

Matthew Bannister, The Last Word, produced by Dianne McGregor, BBC Radio 4 (July 8 and 10, 2016).