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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry



Geoffrey Hill

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Title: Tenebrae
Author: Geoffrey Hill
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1978
Length: 44 pages
Availability: in: New & Collected Poems, 1952-1992 - US
. in: Collected Poems - UK
. in: New & Collected Poems, 1952-1992 - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B- : religiously oriented, but effective poetry by a talented writer

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Please refer to reviews for New and Collected Poems.

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The complete review's Review:

       Tenebrae is Hill's most overtly religiously oriented collection. Obviously a man of faith and conviction, as is reflected in all his poetry, Hill here addresses religious issues directly and without the inclusive breadth of most of his other collections.
       Tenebrae means darkness -- as is appropriate for any Hill collection -- and also refers to a Christian ceremony involving singing. There are four longer poems included here, and several short ones. The deceptively simple first poem, The Pentecost Castle, is quite brilliant, and does not bog down in the overt religious features that some of the other poems -- especially the Lachrimae cycle -- do. The broad and clever Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England most effectively fuses Hill's religious and other concerns, turning to history to lend the poem a necessary depth. Also interesting are the Two Choral-Preludes, an attempt to do in poetry what is common in music, in this case writing poems based on melodies by Paul Celan. We would have liked to see more of this type of work, though admittedly it does fit well in this particular collection as is.
       The Christianity of the texts is not entirely overwhelming, though we did find that it limiting. Hill is a God-fearing man, and it is a main source of both his strength and his weakness as a poet, so we accept it and take the good with the bad.
       This collection is recommended, but it is probably not ideal for someone not yet familiar with Hill's work.

       N O T E : this collection is included in Hill's New and Collected Poems, 1952-1992 and we recommend that you get this more comprehensive collection.

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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 was born in 1932. A graduate of Keble College, Oxford, he has taught at the University of Leeds, at Cambridge, and at Boston University.

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