By Ann Hassan
Geoffrey Hill’s Speech! Speech! (2000) encapsulates thousand years’ worthy of utterances in a symbolic act of remembrance and expression of depression for the present age, within which we discover “our minds and ears fouled by means of degraded public speech—by media hype, insipid sermons, hole political rhetoric, and the ritual misuse of words.” via one hundred twenty densely allusive stanzas—“As many because the days that have been | of SODOM”—the poem wrestles this situation from inside of, struggling with hearth with hearth in an alchemical symbolic labour that transmutes the dross of corrupt and clichéd idiom right into a dynamic logopoeia that proves real Hill’s power declare: “genuinely tough artwork is really democratic.” Such is the bizarre, ambivalently adverse place of poetry within the current global and hence the gap of our actual connection to it: “Whatever unusual dating we have now with the poem, it's not considered one of entertainment. it's extra like being brushed earlier, or apart, via 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 circulate. The author’s approach is right now commentarial, descriptive, and narratorial, staying faithfully with the poem and following its complicated verbal and logical turns. The publication generously presents, instead of direct interpretative incursion, a harder and efficient record of “the real nature / of this fulfillment” (stanza 92), a capacious, open knowing of the textual content that would end up useful to its current and destiny readers. punctumbooks.com
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Additional info for Annotations to Geoffrey Hill's 'Speech! Speech!'
Romana Huk has commented: Any conventional performance of lyric expressivism becomes all but impossible in Hill’s poems, which are much more frequently spoken in a strangely choral voice, even when the personal pronoun is present – as though culture itself were speaking, or an “I/We” whose choices of form and response are so heavily overdetermined by cultural possibilities that volition becomes the nonissue at issue, flickering in the gaps opened by contradictions and conventionalities. 139 This lack of a unified – however fragmented – authorial ‘I’, no trace of “that transcendent poetic self”140 to which readers are accustomed, has its own politics.
Speech! by the preponderance within it of multiple – sometimes competing – voices and the difficulty of separating from these the ‘I’ of the poet. The authorial voice – the ‘I’ in poetry – is a locus fraught with difficulty in twentieth-century work. 132 Readers have learned not to trust, at least not entirely, any ‘I’ they encounter; in Hill’s oeuvre this ‘I’ is often altogether absent. His work has been characterized by a kind of voicelessness, a suspicion of the authorial ‘I’ so deep and so profound that it is almost entirely ignored.
Likewise, “dó you” is both a rhetorical question and a direct challenge to the reader.
Annotations to Geoffrey Hill's 'Speech! Speech!' by Ann Hassan