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This review is taken from PN Review 199, Volume 37 Number 5, May - June 2011.

FRAUGHT CELEBRATION GEOFFREY HILL, Oraclau/Oracles(Clutag Press) £15

Sometimes, a good poet still writing in old age will publish a last volume of poems, to set a crown upon a lifetime's effort. But the news that Geoffrey Hill is to include five new collections in the 'deathbed edition' of his Collected Poems (scheduled for 2013, from OUP) seems like an embarrassment of riches. Grouped together as The Daybooks, they are Clavics (due to be published in April by Enitharmon), Odi Babare (to be published in 2012 by Clutag; sections have already appeared in Poetry, Chicago), Al Tempo de' Tremuoti, Familiar Epistles, and Oraclau/Oracles - published first, despite saying 'The Daybooks III' on the frontispiece.

Oraclau/Oracles follows on thematically from 'Coda' in Hill's last collection, A Treatise of Civil Power, where he wrote of discovering that his great-grandfather was a Welsh iron-puddler. The book is dedicated to him, and is more broadly a love-song to Wales. To take a distant family connection and make it the basis for a body of poetry might seem like the behaviour of the eccentric old man Hill sometimes half-jokingly depicts himself as, but there's more to it than that: Oraclau/Oracles broadens and deepens the themes that have most concerned Hill throughout his career.

On first looking into the book, one discovers that this is Hill's first extended sequence in a rhyming form since the quatrains of The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy (1984). The Oraclau/Oracles stanza is a nine-line unit, comprised of a quatrain rhymed ...


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