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This review is taken from PN Review 210, Volume 39 Number 4, March - April 2013.

We All Do Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his Later Work, edited by John Lyon and Peter McDonald (Oxford University Press) £50

In a searching review of Peter Robinson's 1985 edited collection Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his Work (Open University Press), to which Lyon and McDonald's Essays on his Later Work pays its dues, David Gervais voiced misgivings about the 'consensus of praise' and 'strong whiff of orthodoxy' he detected in the essays, suggesting that the book 'might have been so much more of a challenge to all readers if only it had included two or three strong voices of dissent and doubt'. One of the epigraphs to his piece was a quotation from Hill's 'Poetry as "Menace" and "Atonement"': 'fashionable adulation of the "maestro" when there is so little recognition of the "fabbro", "homo faber", is one aspect of what C.K. Stead mordantly but not unfairly calls the "struggle between poets and 'poetry-lovers'"'. But Gervais wanted to suggest that fashionable adulation of the maestro can also masquerade as recognition of the fabbro, and that the attentive close analysis practised by Robinson's contributors was underpinned by an unwavering, unarticulated faith in the greatness of the poet. It was the implicit closing down of debate, or the sense of a debate already put to bed, that Gervais most objected to, seeing this as potentially damaging to the kind of writer Hill is and a sad but all too familiar abdication of responsibility in the critical confrontation with new work. He concluded by hoping that Hill would be able to resist the temptation of buying into his own greatness that would increase with ...


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