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, during 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 of, combating hearth 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 power declare: “genuinely tough paintings is really democratic.” Such is the bizarre, ambivalently adversarial place of poetry within the current international and hence the distance of our genuine connection to it: “Whatever unusual courting we have now with the poem, it isn't one in every of leisure. it's extra like being brushed prior, or apart, by means of an alien being” (Hill). Befriending this estrangement, embracing it as a extra amicable brushing-up-against, Hassan’s Annotations supply an intensive and sufferer explication of Speech! Speech! that either clarifies and deepens the poem’s problems, illuminating its polyphonic language and careening discursive stream. The author’s procedure 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 tougher and effective record of “the actual nature / of this success” (stanza 92), a capacious, open knowing of the textual content that may end up worthy to its current and destiny readers. punctumbooks.com
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Additional resources for Annotations to Geoffrey Hill's 'Speech! Speech!'
Speech! Speech! is Hill’s effort to rescue the heroes (Diana, Princess of Wales, or David Bomberg, or Isaac Rosenberg, or Charles Ives) and the “innocent bystanders” of history (those unnamed, “speechless dead”113 who, “missing their stars”, are forgotten, such as the women of the Resistance movement) from the potential product of the “distance” between us and them, of being reduced to nothingness by the great “auto-da-fé” of time which destroys any trace of their existence. There are other perils, too.
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.
Camera! ’ of the film director, and testify to the learning and agony that is inseparable from poetic enlightenment. This allusion to film is the first of many within the poem to affirm something at which the title – Speech! Speech! – hints: the poem as public performance, directed by the poet. Further emphasizing this element is the contrast between music produced for public performance and private ‘practise’: music simply for demonstrating virtuosity (“crossed / hands”); simple to play but entertaining (‘Chopsticks’, scored “for two fingers”); music to numb the senses (‘Muzak’), such as that played before the take-off of aeroplanes and at cremations.
Annotations to Geoffrey Hill's 'Speech! Speech!' by Ann Hassan
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