Geoffrey Hill Analysis

Other literary forms

Geoffrey Hill published Lords of Limit: Essays on Literature and Ideas (1984), a collection of literary criticism and essays, including work on rhythm in poetry, George Eliot, and Tory radicalism. The Enemy’s Country: Words, Contexture, and Other Circumstances of Language, (1991), a revision of Hill’s 1986 Clark Lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, is a monograph on the language of judgment, focused chiefly on the seventeenth century English poet John Dryden. Hill also translated Henrik Ibsen’s Brand, in 1978.


Since his attendance at Oxford in the early 1950’s, Geoffrey Hill has won recognition as a significant poet; in the late 1960’s and 1970’s many critics, notably Donald Hall, Christopher Ricks, and Harold Bloom, championed him as a major poet of the twentieth century. Mastery of difficult rhyme patterns and allusions to historical and literary figures characterizes his verse. He portrays his most frequent themes, religion and tradition, in complex, often-contradictory ways. Some critics attack his verse as obscure; others defend its density as perfectly suited to the difficulty of the thought conveyed. Awards won include the Eric Gregory Award for Poetry (1961), the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize (1970), the Whitbread Award (1971), and the Russell Loines Award (1983). In 1996, he became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He won the Kahn Award for Canaan in 1998. The Triumph of Love won the Royal Society of Literature’s Heinemann Award in 2000. Hill received the Ingersoll Foundation’s T. S. Eliot Award for Creative Writing (2000) and the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine (2006). In 2009, his Collected Critical Writings (2008) won the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Ingelbein, Raphaël. Misreading England: Poetry and Nationhood Since the Second World War. Atlanta: Rodopi, 2002. An analysis of Hill along with Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes, and Seamus Heaney that considers the way in which each poet “misreads” his predecessors’ visions of England during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and also assesses the contrast between Heaney’s Northern Irish nationalism and the Englishness of the other three.

McDonald, Peter. Serious Poetry: Form and Authority, from Yeats to Hill. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Looks at the interaction of their roles as critics as well as poets in William Butler Yeats, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice, Seamus Heaney, and Hill.

McNees, Eleanor Jane. Eucharistic Poetry: The Search for Presence in the Writings of John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dylan Thomas, and Geoffrey Hill. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1992. Includes an analysis of some of Hill’s poetry with an emphasis on the religious symbolism that it contains.

Milne, W. S. An Introduction to Geoffrey Hill. London: Bellew, 1998. Critical analysis of Hill’s poetry with bibliographic references.

Roberts, Andrew Michael. Geoffrey Hill. Tavistock, England: Northcote House, 2002. This clear but subtle introduction to the poet and his work combines a close reading of Hill’s poems with an overview of the critical debate they engender. Roberts captures the uniqueness of and the controversy aroused by Hill’s work and ties it to contemporary issues.

Wainwright, Jeffrey. Acceptable Words: Essays on the Poetry of Geoffrey Hill. New York: Manchester University Press, 2006. A comprehensive critical study of Hill’s work. It provides an introduction to Hill for new readers as well as in-depth analyses aimed to contribute to the understanding of Hill’s poetry by those familiar with his work.