Monday, December 5, 2011

Very much on the attack

Via Zachary Bos's blog: A report on Geoffrey Hill's most recent turn at the lectern as Oxford Professor of Poetry.

According to the audience member Peter McDonald, the lecture was as much jeremiad as learned allocution.

Here's a slightly edited version of the account McDonald submitted to the Geoffrey Hill Exchange [Facebook group]:

Very much on the attack (which with Hill is often something done under the cover of defense): on the values of 'oligarchical' consumerist politics and culture. The Poet Laureate was accorded respect (at least her office was) before a pitiless exposure of the vacuousness of her publicly angled notions of poetry, and of 'texting' as a model for a supposedly -- and Hill implied, fraudulently -- 'democratic' model of modern poetry. Contemporary lit-biz was roundly deplored, especially bookfests, poetry prizes, 'flourishing' poetry lists etc. None 'scaped whipping - not least the University of Oxford, and its association with the deplorable tawdry bookselling festival antics of the Oxford Literary Festival. ... Fascinating reflections on August's riots as profoundly traditional occasions, conditioned by the values of very society they only seem to challenge. Overall a real -- rather scary, funny but when you think about it not funny at all -- call for head-on confrontation with the shambles of contemporary literary and political culture. Hill explicitly endorsed obscenity as a literary weapon in this, and it was no surprise to hear his praise of Swift in that context. As ever, he spoke with the bravery and conviction that punches a hole through the complacencies of 'professional' dealers in literature. Was it my imagination, or did one or two of them, usually so impervious to criticism, seem to shift a little uncomfortably in their comfortable seats -- or should I say chairs? No, I was imagining it: they know (as H. acknowledges) where the real power lies.


A new video of the maestro in action can be viewed on The Economist website, of all places.  BBC's Newsnight even sent someone out to see what makes the great man tick; video here.

Podcasts of his Oxford lectures are/will be archived here.

Pictured: Chairs suitable for shifting in; Geoffrey Hill and the Oxford logo.

1 comment:

Liam Guilar said...

Well, thankfully, he was never going to do anything else but go down swinging.

Glory be to God for dappled things
For All things counter, original, spare, strange;