Geoffrey Hill

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for the British aeronautical engineer and professor, see Geoffrey T. R. Hill

Geoffrey Hill (born June 18, 1932) is an English poet, professor of English Literature and religion, and co-director of the Editorial Institute at Boston University, Massachusetts, USA.


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Writing
  • 3 Controversy and Parody
  • 4 Bibliography
    • 4.1 Poetry
    • 4.2 Essays
  • 5 External links


Geoffrey Hill was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, England, in 1932. When he was six, his family moved to nearby Fairfield, part of Worcestershire, where he attended the local primary school, then the grammar school in Bromsgrove. In 1950 he was admitted to Keble College, Oxford to read English, where he published his first poems in 1952, at the age of twenty, in an eponymous Fantasy Press volume edited by Donald Davie (however before that he'd been published in the Oxford Guardian—magazine of the University Liberal Club—and The Isis).

Upon graduating from Oxford with a first, Hill embarked on an academic career, teaching at the University of Leeds from 1954 until 1980. After leaving Leeds, he spent a year at the University of Bristol on a Churchill Scholarship before becoming a teaching Fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he taught from 1981 until 1988. He then moved to the United States, to take up the position he currently holds as University Professor and Professor of Literature and Religion at Boston University. As of 2006, he moved back to England, and is now living in Cambridge.

Professor Hill was awarded an honorary DLitt from the University of Leeds in 1988. He is also Honorary Fellow of Keble College, Oxford; Honorary Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge; Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature; and since 1996 a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is married to Alice Goodman.


Geoffrey Hill is widely considered one of the most distinguished poets of his generation. Set apart from contemporary 'Movement' writers of the 1950s, and seemingly uninfluenced by the writers of subsequent decades, Hill's writing encompasses a variety of styles, from the dense and allusive writing of "King Log" (1968) or "Canaan" (1997) to the simplified syntax of the sequence "The Pentecost Castle" in "Tenebrae" (1978) to the more directly accessible poems of the "Mercian Hymns" (1971), one of his most widely read books, a series of thirty poems (sometimes called "prose poem," a label which Hill rejects) which juxtapose the history of Offa, eighth century ruler of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, with Hill's own childhood in the modern Mercia of the West Midlands.

Hill is frequently described as a difficult and demanding poet. This is a reflection of both his style and subject. He makes full use of traditional rhetoric, including Modernist techniques, but he also (especially in his later work) incorporates the languages of public life, including those of media entertainment, political slogans, and the pronouncements of pundits. For his subject, Hill has frequently been drawn to morally ambiguous and often violent episodes in British and European history, though it should be noted that his descriptions of landscape (especially of his native Worcestershire) have the same intensity as the history. In an interview in the "Paris Review" (2000), Hill defended the right of poets sometimes to be difficult as one form of resistance to the demeaning and profitable simplifications imposed by the "maestros of world".

Controversy and Parody

The violence of Hill's aesthetic has been criticised by the Irish poet-critic Tom Paulin, who draws attention to the poet's use of the Virgilian trope of 'rivers of blood' – as deployed infamously by Enoch Powell – to suggest that despite Hill's multi-layered irony and techniques of reflection, his lyrics often seem to draw their energies from an outmoded nationalism expressed in what Hugh Haughton has described as a 'petrified language largely invented by the Victorians'.[citation needed] And yet Hill's worldwide reputation exceeds that of any other living British poet; Harold Bloom has called him 'the strongest British poet now active.'[citation needed]

Hill's unmistakable style has been subject to parody: Wendy Cope includes a parody of a 'Mercian Hymn' in Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis.



  • For the Unfallen (1958)
  • King Log (1968)
  • Mercian Hymns (1971)
  • Tenebrae (1978)
  • The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy (1983)
  • New and Collected Poems (1994)
  • Canaan (1997)
  • The Triumph of Love (1998)
  • Speech! Speech! (2000)
  • The Orchards of Syon (2002)
  • Scenes from Comus (2005)
  • A Treatise of Civil Power (2005; 2007)
  • Without Title (2006)
  • Selected Poems (2006)


  • The Lords of Limit (1984)
  • The Enemy's Country (1991)
  • Style and Faith (2003)
  • Collected Prose (2007)
  • [2] Geoffrey Hill Study Centre
  • [3] The Geoffrey Hill Server
  • [4] Guardian profile of Hill, celebrating his 70th birthday
  • [5] Hill on the 'beautiful energy' of his poetry
  • [6] Criticism and a little praise of Hill's poetry in "Subduing the reader" by Laurie Smith in Magma, No. 23, Summer 2002
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