The West Midlands poet Geoffrey Hill has passed away. Hill came of age in the years immediately after the Second World War, in a rural Worcestershire village on the northern outskirts of Bromsgrove. He went away to study at Oxford in 1950, and then taught in the blunt northern city of Leeds from 1954-80. During the 1980s he taught at Cambridge, under the open skies of our flat eastern fenlands.

He was best known for his accessible book of poems Mercian Hymns (1971), in the bulk of which he delved for his Worcestershire roots and elided the ancient kingdom of Mercia with his childhood. The reading public nestled him in their minds somewhere alongside Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. His later hermetic and unashamedly elitist poetry was “difficult”. It had less readers, while rousing great acclaim from critics and fellow poets. Many named him England’s greatest poet.


 

XX

Primeval heathland spattered with the bones of mice
    and birds; where adders basked and bees made provision,
    mantling the inner walls of their burh:

Coiled entrenched England: brickwork and paintwork
    stalwart above hacked marl. The clashing primary
    colours ‘Ethan dune’, ‘Catraeth’, ‘Maldon’, ‘Pengwern’.
    Steel against yew and privet. Fresh
    dynasties of smiths.

    —”XX” from Mercian Hymns

 


 
The early obituaries:

The Daily Telegraph: “Geoffrey Hill: ‘poetry should be shocking and surprising'”

The New York Times: “Geoffrey Hill, Dense and Allusive British Poet, Is Dead at 84”

The Times (London): “Sir Geoffrey Hill” ($)