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This article is taken from PN Review 14, Volume 6 Number 6, July - August 1980.

Geoffrey Hill

It is a creative paradox, by which we ought not to be too much surprised, that we owe to a deaf man some of the most finely-attuned celebrations of music and some of the most striking images of sound in contemporary English poetry. David Wright became deaf in early childhood: "Abstracted by silence from the age of seven". Vision, the faculty of sight, had also to do the work of "vision": Wright began to see into the life of sound, "the loud/Shades of thunder-cumuli on the grass". He has praised "the animal/Eye of a child" but it is with an "animal" awareness of sound that he records the "increment of hubbub", the "clash", "jangle", "clack", "tap", "hiss" and "sizzle" of the man-made and natural world. The shapes and vibrations of sound manifest both the destructive and creative, the natural yet numinous, "presences" and "energies" that surround us; but they are also "the experience of . . . order", "inaudible . . . But legible" which Wright celebrates in "The Musician" and the two "St Cecilia" poems. The "animal" being is rapt by the clamour of the world like a child in a smithy, but this is a poetry which remains aloof from the mere guzzling of sensation. He is, as C.H. Sisson has said of Crabbe, a "solid and pertinacious observer". Yet it is worth remarking of this visionary, anti-utilitarian empiricist that his poems about silence and sound "prove" the axioms of those sensual-ascetic theorists of music, Schopenhauer and ...


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