The truly great poet Geoffrey Hill has died. Death, there is thy sting.
Unlike nearly every other poet of every era, Geoffrey Hill precedes his poems in death.
I performed a memorial reading of some of Geoffrey Hill’s poems today in the Dialog coffee house in W. Hollywood, California. I was the only one there aware of this ceremony, of course, because I read silently, while having lunch.
At the table next to me, five young women were being lavishly and theatrically chatted up by a waiter old enough to seem harmless but not old enough for them to call the police.
Between Geoffrey Hill stanzas I heard that waiter say in an accent I did not recognize, following a comment that I did not hear, “I would go to Kandahar for you, Honey,” which drew shrieks of laughter. Ah, love and death, those eternal inseparables.
Some day those five young women might be drawn to the dark and erudite poetry of Geoffrey Hill, but there is no need to hurry. Hill is a wonderfully comic poet at times, but his is a dark comedy, and the young women might as well enjoy the light comedy of performance compliments as long as they can.
If you are unfamiliar with Geoffrey Hill’s poetry, may I recommend his long-poem books Speech! Speech! or The Triumph of Love as great beginnings. Neither one is a fast read, but both reward careful rereadings.