By Ann Hassan

Geoffrey Hill’s Speech! Speech! (2000) encapsulates thousand years’ worthy of utterances in a symbolic act of remembrance and expression of melancholy for the present age, within which we discover “our minds and ears fouled through 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 precise Hill’s chronic declare: “genuinely tricky artwork is really democratic.” Such is the bizarre, ambivalently adversarial place of poetry within the current global and therefore the distance of our actual connection to it: “Whatever unusual dating now we have with the poem, it isn't one in all amusement. it's extra like being brushed prior, or apart, by way of an alien being” (Hill). Befriending this estrangement, embracing it as a extra amicable brushing-up-against, Hassan’s Annotations supply a radical and sufferer explication of Speech! Speech! that either clarifies and deepens the poem’s problems, illuminating its polyphonic language and careening discursive stream. The author’s approach is instantly commentarial, descriptive, and narratorial, staying faithfully with the poem and following its complicated verbal and logical turns. The ebook generously presents, instead of direct interpretative incursion, a tougher and efficient rfile of “the precise nature / of this success” (stanza 92), a capacious, open knowing of the textual content that might end up important to its current and destiny readers.

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

Sample text

SPEECH! 8 means / files The virgule/verticule usually works as an agent of double articulation (see Introduction, pp. 40-1). Here, the phrase can be read as either a) ‘the definition of archaic is pillaged files’ or b) ‘the archaic method of pillaging and erasing files’. 9 auto-da-fé Portuguese: ‘act of faith’. Widely used at the Inquisition to refer to the procedure whereby heretics, condemned to die at the stake, were called to make an act of faith to redeem their lost souls. With time, the words acquired the meaning of ‘persecution’ and ‘disaster’.

46 ANNOTATIONS I. In memoriam David Wright. I. David Wright Wright was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1920 and died of throat cancer in 1994 (see stanza 25). When in his teens, Wright and his family relocated to England, where he attended Northampton School for the Deaf and (in 1942) graduated from Oriel College, Oxford. After working as a freelance writer for The Sunday Times, he cofounded and co-edited, with Patrick Swift, the quarterly literary review X from 1959-1962. He also wrote, with Swift, three books about Portugal.

Stanza 83. 118 ‘The Art of Poetry LXXX’, 284-285. 29 GEOFFREY HILL’S SPEECH! SPEECH! In memorializing history, Hill must be careful (especially as he has “nothing about which he can decently complain”) 119 lest panegyric spill over into faux-autobiography; he must ensure that he bears witness to his own experience. The act of looking into the dead, as he notes in stanza 113, is both “destructive” and “vital”; destructive in that the act of ‘autopsy’ – seeing for oneself, eye-witnessing – requires the dissection of the dead, but “vital” in that it brings the dead to life, pulls them “back into being” by the authentic act of bearing witness.

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