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 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 from inside, combating fireplace with fireplace in an alchemical symbolic labour that transmutes the dross of corrupt and clichéd idiom right into a dynamic logopoeia that proves actual Hill’s continual declare: “genuinely tough paintings is actually democratic.” Such is the unusual, ambivalently adversarial place of poetry within the current global and hence the distance of our genuine connection to it: “Whatever unusual dating we've got with the poem, it's not one among amusement. it really is extra like being brushed prior, 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 flow. The author’s strategy is instantaneously commentarial, descriptive, and narratorial, staying faithfully with the poem and following its complicated verbal and logical turns. The publication generously offers, instead of direct interpretative incursion, a harder and effective record of “the real nature / of this fulfillment” (stanza 92), a capacious, open realizing of the textual content that might turn out priceless to its current and destiny readers. punctumbooks.com
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Extra resources for Annotations to Geoffrey Hill's 'Speech! Speech!'
Hill’s repeated interrogation in Speech! Speech! 105 Hill champions the responsible use of language, and attention to semantic, syntactic and lexical detail. He aims to produce a language and a “fine-edged discourse”,106 capable of reproducing the complexity of everyday life in the written word. 107 Language for Hill has always the potential for nuance and fine distinction; it is the sustenance of these qualities that is required of those who use it. 102 Holocaust Poetry, 71. Don’t Ask Me What I Mean, 118.
What replaces the ‘I’ is a cacophony; a multitude of voices competing for space on the page, some ‘shouting’ via capitals, others cooing in italicized French or German. 138 The authorial ‘I’ is notably absent throughout Hill’s oeuvre, but particularly so in 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.
The equivocal “Archaic means” indicates that history (“files”) has been obliterated (“erased”) in only “one generation”, but also that the 48 ANNOTATIONS definition of ‘archaic’ has been reduced to a single generation: in this degraded democratic age (“PEOPLE”), history is lost; heroic verse is no longer an option. The stanza ends with the poet/director “judging the distance” – finding the perfect point from which to consider his subject matter in this, the poem’s début. The detachment of the cinematic ‘take’ is the primary image of the stanza: as the poem taxis “to take-off”, music sets the scene, as in a film score; extras, “bystanders on standby” (a neat chiasmus), wait until required.