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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry



Geoffrey Hill

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Title: Canaan
Author: Geoffrey Hill
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1996
Length: 72 pages
Availability: Canaan - US
Canaan - UK
Canaan - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : demanding and intense political and religious poetry

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Globe A 12/10/1997 Andrew Frisardi
Chicago Rev. B+ Vol. 44.3/4 Devin Johnston
Commonweal A 7/11/1997 David Yezzi
The Guardian B- 10/10/1996 John Redmond
London Rev. of Books . 1/7/1999 James Wood
The New Republic . 22/6/1998 Srikanth Reddy
The NY Rev. of Books B 20/5/1999 Denis Donoghue
Poetry B 7/1998 John Taylor
Publishers Weekly A 22/9/1997 .
The Spectator B+ 26/10/1996 Nigel Spivey
TLS . 17/1/1997 Lachlan Mackinnon
World Lit. Today C+ Summer/1998 Peter Firchow

  From the Reviews:
  • "(T)he stark spareness and fragmented brevity of these poems leads one to wonder if substantial parts of them did not get lost on the way to the publisher." - Peter Firchow, World Literature Today

  • "(A) volume of dazzling coherence and cumulative effect." - Publishers Weekly

  • "This is, then, a volume with an unusually coherent vision, one which informs each of its parts. It is also, though, very hard going. (...) The architecture and intelligence of this book are admirable, but too often the individual poems are close to unintelligibility." - Lachlan Mackinnon, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       A quarter of these poems will be familiar to the readers of Hill's New and Collected Poems, 1952-1992, but that should not deter you. Hill has taken the baker's dozen included in that collection and placed them in a better setting in this cohesive and separate volume.
       These are largely political poems, presented in Hill's familiar though difficult style. To emphasize the unity of the collection a number of the poems share certain of the titles. Several are titled Mysticism and Democracy, and a number (including, tellingly, the first and the last) are titled To the High Court of Parliament. Three are titled Dark-land, two Parentalia -- all of which give clues as to Hill's interests and objectives here.
       These are English poems -- British in origin and concerned with British politics -- but Hill is poet enough to easily transcend these nominal concerns. The poems themselves, though often dealing with specific grievances, do soar beyond them. They are also angry and sad poems, with Hill seemingly seething on occasion. Hill's god (or, at any rate, the religion he turns to) seems anachronistic in our age, but he is a true poet which allows him to get away with it.
       Hill is, as always, a demanding read, and the darkness and anger of his poetry (carefully restrained, but always near boiling over) can be off-putting. We do recommend this collection -- it does contain some stunning poetry -- but we warn readers that it is not necessarily readily accessible. The poems are not especially long, but they are very dense and demanding.

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Canaan: Reviews: Geoffrey Hill: Other books by Geoffrey Hill under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See also the index of Poetry under review

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About the Author:

       English poet Geoffrey Hill lived 1932 to 2016. A graduate of Keble College, Oxford, he has taught at the University of Leeds, at Cambridge, and at Boston University.

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