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 via degraded public speech—by media hype, insipid sermons, hole political rhetoric, and the ritual misuse of words.” via a hundred and twenty densely allusive stanzas—“As many because the days that have been | of SODOM”—the poem wrestles this situation from inside of, scuffling with fireplace 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 continual declare: “genuinely tough artwork is actually democratic.” Such is the unusual, ambivalently adverse place of poetry within the current global and hence the distance of our genuine connection to it: “Whatever unusual courting we've with the poem, it's not one in all leisure. it's extra like being brushed previous, 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 a radical 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 process is immediately commentarial, descriptive, and narratorial, staying faithfully with the poem and following its complicated verbal and logical turns. The booklet generously offers, instead of direct interpretative incursion, a harder and effective rfile of “the real nature / of this fulfillment” (stanza 92), a capacious, open realizing of the textual content that would end up precious to its current and destiny readers. punctumbooks.com
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Extra resources for Annotations to Geoffrey Hill's 'Speech! Speech!'
For Hill, the apparent disjunction between the serious and the comic passages is wholly intentional: The whole structure of the sequence, particularly the way phrases are shaped, the way certain allusions are made to Laurel and Hardy, and comic papers is an acknowledgement of this monstrous inequality; and to read it in any other way seems to me to reveal humourlessness and an inability to listen. 128 When Hill states that he has “learnt as much from Daumier, Hylda Baker and Frankie Howerd” as from “John Donne and Gerard Manley Hopkins”, 129 there is no compelling reason to doubt him.
Speech! 105 Hill champions the responsible use of language, and attention to semantic, syntactic and lexical detail. He aims to produce a language and a “fine-edged discourse”,106 capable of reproducing the complexity of everyday life in the written word. 107 Language for Hill has always the potential for nuance and fine distinction; it is the sustenance of these qualities that is required of those who use it. 102 Holocaust Poetry, 71. Don’t Ask Me What I Mean, 118. 104 Collected Critical Writings, 174.
138 The authorial ‘I’ is notably absent throughout Hill’s oeuvre, but particularly so in Speech! Speech!. 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.
Annotations to Geoffrey Hill's 'Speech! Speech!' by Ann Hassan