Monday, 19 March 2012

Geoffrey Hill on difficulty

I went to Geoffrey Hill's most recent Professor of Poetry lecture last week. He concluded by stressing the need for difficulty difficulty difficulty, though nothing earlier in the lecture had prepared for it, except the difficulty of following his argument about the medieval and the early modern. He'd be surprised to know how much he shares this emphasis with 'experimental' poets, given his view that postmodernism is all about accessibility, mindlessly generous reviewing etc. But it's surely a perverse emphasis, a perverse quality actually to aim for, and has damaged his work, as in his elegy for Ken Smith. When you write a very difficult elegy, what's going on? When it's difficult so that it bears no trace of the dead friend, isn't this plain rude?