Guest post by Thomas Juvan
The coincidence of Geoffrey Hill’s death this summer with Dawn’s call for suggestions for a poet to read together was irresistible for me. I’ve dipped in and out of his work for years now, and the results have been equally bewildering and marvelous, so I jumped at the idea of a group reading in which to sustain some of my attention on some of Hill’s poems and to bounce ideas off the members of this lovely and thoughtful group of readers and writers. Approaching a poet as allusive and formidably learned as Geoffrey Hill is always intimidating to me (I lapse back into panicked academic mode), but one of the helpful by-products of my own time at the Frost Place under Dawn’s and Baron’s guidance there has been a greater willingness on my part to proceed from the ground floor and open up the poem with less worry about “getting it right” (thank you, Dawn and Baron!). So thanks to you all for joining in to explore Hill’s work together!
I thought it appropriate to begin with “Genesis,” the first poem in Hill’s first book, For the Unfallen. After all, it even announces itself as a beginning! I think it’s interesting, too, as a poem in which Hill uses the first person, which his poems often seem to avoid. He’s often engaging with historical figures or is speaking from a kind of quasi-omniscient, metaphysical point of view, which I think some can find a bit too grandiose or overweening.
But it’s also a poem that raises a question I often ask myself when reading poems: Why do poets break poems into sections? To get the discussion rolling, I’d ask you to think about this question in relation to “Genesis,” and also perhaps to reflect on your own writing as poets. What seems to be the sense of the divisions in “Genesis”? Do you divide poems into parts? What’s your motive in doing so, and does that shed light on why and how Hill is dividing up the parts of “Genesis”?
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Note from Dawn: With Tom's questions in mind, we'll take a few days to read and mull over the poem. In the meantime, do leave comments here as you begin to develop your own questions and ideas.