Acceptable words

Essays on the poetry of Geoffrey Hill

By Jeffrey Wainwright

Acceptable words


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-6755-6
  • Pages: 168
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: November 2011
  • BIC Category: Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: poetry & poets, Literature, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Literature: history & criticism, Literary studies: poetry & poets, Ireland, POETRY / General, LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Literature & literary studies / Poetry by individual poets


Geoffrey Hill has said that some great poetry 'recognises that words fail us'. These essays explore Hill's struggle over fifty years with the recalcitrance of language. This book seeks to show how all his work is marked by the quest for the right pitch of utterance whether it is sorrowing, angry, satiric or erotic. It shows how Hill's words are never lightly 'acceptable' but an ethical act, how he seeks out words he can stand by - words that are 'getting it right'.

This book is the most comprehensive and up-to-date critical work on Geoffrey Hill so far, covering all his work up to 'Scenes from Comus' (2005), as well as some poems yet to appear in book form. It aims to contribute something to the understanding of his poetry among those who have followed it for many years and students and other readers encountering this major poet for the first time.


Wainwright's essays on Geoffrey Hill draw on his discriminating ear and analytic intelligence to great effect. Wainwright is always compelling, so deep is his understanding of the poet, so keen his awareness of what is going on in the poet's language.'


Jeffrey Wainwright is a poet and Professor of English at Manchester Metropolitan University


Short Titles
1. 'Acceptable Words'
2. 'The speechless dead': 'King Log' (1968)
3. Poet, lover, liar: 'Lachrimae' (1975)
4. 'Our love is what we love to have': 'Tenebrae' (1978)
5. Things and words: 'The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy' (1983)
6. History as poetry: 'Churchill's Funeral' and 'De Jure Belli ac Pacis' (Canaan, 1996)
7. 'The Triumph of Love' (1998)
8. 'Beauty is difficult': 'Speech! Speech!' (2000)
9. 'Here and there I pull a flower': 'The Orchards of Syon' (2002)
10. 'In wintry solstice like the shorten'd light': 'Scenes from Comus' (2005)
11. Afterword: '"I have not finished"'
Notes and references

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