Annotations to Geoffrey Hill's 'Speech! Speech!' by Ann Hassan

By Ann Hassan

Geoffrey Hill’s Speech! Speech! (2000) encapsulates thousand years’ worthy of utterances in a symbolic act of remembrance and expression of depression for the present age, during which we discover “our minds and ears fouled by means of degraded public speech—by media hype, insipid sermons, hole political rhetoric, and the ritual misuse of words.” via a hundred and twenty densely allusive stanzas—“As many because the days that have been | of SODOM”—the poem wrestles this from inside of, battling hearth with hearth in an alchemical symbolic labour that transmutes the dross of corrupt and clichéd idiom right into a dynamic logopoeia that proves actual Hill’s power declare: “genuinely tough artwork is really democratic.” Such is the bizarre, ambivalently opposed place of poetry within the current global and hence the gap of our actual connection to it: “Whatever unusual dating now we have with the poem, it's not one in every of amusement. it's extra like being brushed earlier, or apart, by way of an alien being” (Hill). Befriending this estrangement, embracing it as a extra amicable brushing-up-against, Hassan’s Annotations offer an intensive and sufferer explication of Speech! Speech! that either clarifies and deepens the poem’s problems, illuminating its polyphonic language and careening discursive circulate. The author’s process is right now commentarial, descriptive, and narratorial, staying faithfully with the poem and following its complicated verbal and logical turns. The publication generously offers, instead of direct interpretative incursion, a harder and efficient rfile of “the precise nature / of this success” (stanza 92), a capacious, open figuring out of the textual content that might turn out beneficial to its current and destiny readers.

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Additional info for Annotations to Geoffrey Hill's 'Speech! Speech!'

Example text

Carries this philosophy through to its logical conclusion: the resulting verse – 120 stanzas of juxtaposed fragments – is difficult. Its difficulty arises not only from the arguments within (memory, responsibility, and speech are all profoundly difficult) but also lexically, syntactically and typographically. The devices which cause this difficulty and engender a sense of reader-alienation, the symptoms which appear on the page as diacritics, capitals and other devices, represent Hill’s efforts (not always successful, nor yet always failures) to speak to his audience with their own language and to use it with the utmost responsibility.

138 The authorial ‘I’ is notably absent throughout Hill’s oeuvre, but particularly so in Speech! Speech!. Romana Huk has commented: Any conventional performance of lyric expressivism becomes all but impossible in Hill’s poems, which are much more frequently spoken in a strangely choral voice, even when the personal pronoun is present – as though culture itself were speaking, or an “I/We” whose choices of form and response are so heavily overdetermined by cultural possibilities that volition becomes the nonissue at issue, flickering in the gaps opened by contradictions and conventionalities.

143 If speaking in one’s own voice is agreed to be so problematic as to be “a stinker”, and if one is always contending with a hundred, a thousand other voices in a din of noise, then the poem’s title, Speech! Speech! – the call for one voice to speak out – is surely ironic. And yet, with Hill, such a call is not entirely ironic: just as his politics of language dictate that his difficulty be not élitist but democratic, so his politics of heroism dictate that – although he knows that speaking in a 141 R.

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