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This review is taken from PN Review 57, Volume 14 Number 1, September - October 1987.

AN AMERICAN IN ENGLAND Henry Hart, The Poetry of Geoffrey Hill (Southern Illinois University Press)

In one respect Donald Hall's introduction to Henry Hart's The Poetry of Geoffrey Hill is rather misleading. Referring to Geoffrey Hill's 'intense Englishness' he states:


He is roughly as distant from American literature - from Robert Frost or Robert Creeley - as Gerard Manley
Hopkins from Gilgamesh. Therefore it is an American critic, struck by the alien, who introduces us to Hill.


Now this is odd, since one of the most useful contributions Hart makes to the study of Hill's work - as one would hope for from an American scholar - is his careful acknowledgement of Hill's debt to Richard Eberhart, Hart Crane, Robert Lowell and Allen Tate. The teasing conundrum of 'Annunciations' - 'Our God scatters corruption' - clearly owes something, as Hart points out, to Lowell's 'Winter in Dunbarton' in which God is imagined as a 'snow-monster' who 'wipes the coke-fumes from his eyes/ And scatters his corruption'. Similarly, he is no doubt right to suggest that Hill's phrase, 'Summer burned well', ('Locust Songs'), echoes Hart Crane's line 'Dangerously the summer burned' from 'Passage'. As well as shedding light on literary sources, Hart also draws attention to the many biblical references in Hill's early work: he informs us, for example, that the 'Shiloh' of 'Locust Songs' denotes not only an American battle (evoked previously by Tate in 'Ode to the Confederate Dead' and Lowell in 'Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket') but also, ironically, an Old Testament title for ...


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