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This article is taken from PN Review 230, Volume 42 Number 6, July - August 2016.

Love and Sex in Hill’s Pindarics

Getting Personal
Simon Collings
GEOFFREY HILL is not a ‘confessional’ poet, at least not in the sense in which that term is commonly used. He has challenged, in forceful language, the ‘contemporary pseudo-dogma’ which equates the degree of a poet’s suffering with artistic merit.1 Hill’s disapproval of ‘confessional’ poetry could not be clearer. So it is interesting to find him, in Pindarics, writing about personal sexual experience with a degree of openness not typical of his work. In ‘The Songbook of Sebastian Arrurruz’ (published in King Log, 1968) a fictional Spanish poet speaks of the pain of separation from a woman, seemingly his wife. Several poems in the sequence contain erotic imagery, and some commentators have interpreted the poem as referring to Hill’s first marriage.2 Apart from this rare example, and a few lyrics in Without Title (2006) Hill’s poetry has not broached these topics, though in a 1999 interview, published in Paris Review, Hill does say that the erotic is ‘very important’ to him. In that same interview he also talks of how his views on objectification have relaxed over time, and that an approach to the ‘truth’ requires that ‘the shortcomings of the self shall be admitted’. In Pindarics Hill addresses the reader in his own persona, eschewing the device of a fictional narrator. While not ‘confessional’, the poetry is, at least in part, about sexual relationships, and about the messiness of sex. Hill says in the Paris Review interview: ‘I’ve experienced the power of Eros in some of its most joyous and in some of its most destructive and humiliating ...

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