Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Reading Geoffrey Hill's "Respublica"

In light of recent events and our collective state of mind, I thought it might be appropriate, and perhaps necessary, to consider the ambiguities of Geoffrey Hill's short poem "Respublica." The poem is available online here, so even if you have not otherwise been involved in our group Hill-reading project, you have the option of stepping into this conversation--publicly here, privately with me, or inside your own head.

"Respublica" reminds me that radicals and reactionaries often borrow parallel metaphors of revolution and righteousness. If you want another big "r" word, you can throw romance into that list as well. I find this co-optation both painful and maddening. I also find it difficult to parse the narrator's opinion about such blurred borrowings, which makes the poem both more interesting and more disturbing. Thus, I think the poem does offer a opening into a conversation about the vagaries of overthrow: into what Hill calls "the strident high civic / trumpeting of misrule." I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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