Geoffrey Hill, a poet regularly hailed as one of the, if not the greatest in the English language, died on 30 June at the age of 84.
Hill’s wife, librettist Alice Goodman, announced his death on Twitter. “Please pray for the repose of the soul of my husband, Geoffrey Hill, who died yesterday evening, suddenly, and without pain or dread,” she wrote. The news was confirmed by Emmanuel College in Cambridge, where Hill was an honorary fellow.
Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy paid tribute to Hill, stating, “he was, in poetry, a saint and a warrior who never gave an inch in his crusade to reach poetic truth. In four words – ‘God is distant, difficult’ – he could suddenly illuminate, like lightning over a landscape.”
Hill worked as the professor of poetry from 2010 until 2015 at Oxford, and was knighted for his services to literature in 2012. He was also greatly acclaimed by critics and fellow poets. His 1971 publication, Mercian Hymns, was a collection of prose poems that combined memories of Hill’s own childhood in the Midlands with the life of the eighth-century Mercian ruler, King Offa. The Times Literary Supplement adjudged Broken Hierarchies, a collection of 60 years of poetry published in 2013, to be “work of the first importance”.
Hill often claimed to have been “glad and proud of being born into the English working class”. His father worked as a village policeman. Hill went on to study English literature at Oxford University, where he gained a first, and also published some of his early poems.
Hill was critically acclaimed as the greatest English poet of the last 70 odd years. In one of his most famous and loved poems, The Triumph of Love, Hill wrote, “What / ought a poem to be? Answer, a sad / and angry consolation,”.
Hill’s poems focused primarily on England and everything in and around it. He was decorated with the Faber Memorial Prize and the Whitbread for poetry, and also was awarded the Truman Capote award for literary criticism for his Collected Critical Writings in 2008.