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'Unfinished to perfection': Geoffrey Hill, revision and the poetics of stone

Isaacs, D; (2021) 'Unfinished to perfection': Geoffrey Hill, revision and the poetics of stone. Textual Practice 10.1080/0950236X.2021.1900377. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

In his early criticism, Geoffrey Hill conceives of the work of poetry as a process of strenuous revision towards a definable point of ‘technical perfecti[on]’, identifying the poet’s ethical engagement in the end-directed ‘act of selfcritical decision’. The early poetry, contrastingly, expresses a distrust of the poem as finished product which is often manifest in a poetics of stone: a finished poem petrifies that which it attempts to remember. Employing a genetic methodology, this article tests whether these two conflicting attitudes might produce a friction that affects how the poems develop. It finds that the poems are animated by the question of how, ethically, to finish a poem and traces the vicissitudes of that animation in their developing deployment of stone imagery. Finally, it addresses the customary critical division between ‘early’ and ‘late’ Hill, arguing – through extended close attention to the notebook drafts of The Triumph of Love (1998) – that a dramatic shift in Hill’s revisionary ethic catalyses a profound poetic change expressed in a reconception of stone as flux. Hill’s new, late poetic seeks to comprise itself of its own revisionary processes, thus to remain perpetually in process and, in its unfinishedness, to manifest an ethical openness to alterity.

Type: Article
Title: 'Unfinished to perfection': Geoffrey Hill, revision and the poetics of stone
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/0950236X.2021.1900377
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/0950236X.2021.1900377
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Poetry; revision; manuscripts; genetic criticism; ethical criticism; Geoffrey Hill; The Triumph of Love
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of English Lang and Literature
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10123703
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