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This report is taken from PN Review 238, Volume 44 Number 2, November - December 2017.

Letter from Ipsley Martin Caseley
A brief stroll with Geoffrey Hill

Five minutes off the main A435 leading to Redditch gets you there, and initially there’s nothing especially lyrical about the place. Seeing as I was driving past, however, I sought out Ipsley Church Lane, the location for three Geoffrey Hill poems in Without Title, his 2006 collection. Having struggled with some aspects of late Hill, would the landscape illuminate his fraught, fragmented loquacity, or was my desire to see the place rather foolishly straightforward?

The modest sign ‘Ipsley’ comes after negotiating generic light industry blocks, bus shelters advertising ‘KFC’ and anonymous developments of new houses. The truncated lane, barely three hundred and fifty yards or so, curves down to the Arrow Valley Country Park, a narrow stretch of river and fields bounded by the link roads and highways of Redditch. These can be heard endlessly funnelling traffic around the eastern purlieus of Birmingham: it is not a place of silence and reflection, but an urban green pocket.

I first realised these settings were local to my travelling through Worcestershire when I came upon the sequence ‘In the Valley of the Arrow’ in the same Hill volume. Arrow is a small hamlet just outside Alcester, a familiar junction of ‘A’ roads used in preference to the M42 and the M5. For years I had turned off past the scattering of small blue and white cottages, then reading this collection I suddenly noticed the name. The River Arrow winds through meadows below Ipsley and St Peter’s Church, eventually meandering here ...

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