(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, Geoffrey Hill’s work is defined by his working-class upbringing (his father and grandfather were police officers), his early memories of World War II, his views of European history, and his Christian vision of the world. Hill, who is deaf in one ear, was educated at Bromsgrove High School. He went on to attend Keble College, Oxford, where he studied English literature and first began to publish his poems. After graduating from Oxford, Hill taught at Leeds University for the better part of three decades. During this time, he also taught in Michigan and Nigeria. After leaving Leeds University, Hill taught at Emmanuel College and Boston University. He retired from Boston University in August, 2006, and assumed the title of professor emeritus. A revered poet, Hill has published numerous poetry collections, including The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy (1983) and Canaan (1996). The Triumph of Love is widely considered his finest work.

Hill is popularly considered an inaccessible poet, a poet whose work can be appreciated only by a chosen few. This speaks to a profound decline in cultural literacy, as readers are less and less willing to invest themselves wholly in a work of literature. Like T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, Hill is a poet who demands every bit of his readers’ attention. His work is littered with majestic and esoteric allusions and with foreign words and phrases. To the common reader, Hill’s unannotated work is murky, but to the curious and invested reader, his work is rich and rewarding.

The Triumph of Love is no exception to this rule. It seems to have divided readers and critics. A profound work (and a profoundly difficult one), The Triumph of Love is a book-length poem that spans 150 cantos and seeks to make sense of the explosive and violent twentieth century. It is a meditation on ruination and forgiveness,...

(The entire section is 792 words.)