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The Triumph of Love
ISBN 0395912350 / 9780395912355 / 0-395-91235-0
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
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The Triumph of Love is a swan song for our most violent and turbulent of centuries. Geoffrey Hill has a reputation as a difficult poet, and it's true that this volume is no easy read, but it's by no means inaccessible, either. Forming a book-length poem divided into 150 sections, its free verse is rich with allusions from Petrarch to the Scott expedition and dense with the weight of history and philosophy. Hill takes nothing less than suffering as his subject, and his poems aren't shy about staring evil straight in the face--in particular, the Holocaust, an evil compounded by our inability to distinguish one of its victims from the next: "this, and this, / the unique face, indistinguishable, this, these, choked in a cess-pit of leaking Sheol." If the subject matter is uniformly somber, the style is not. Fragmented, colloquial, often interrupted by editorial asides, parodies, and snatches of song, The Triumph of Love marks something of a departure from the stately formalism of Hill's earlier books. Through it all runs the self-interrogating, self-mocking voice of the poet, questioning his right to write about such matters as well as the language he uses to do so. In the end, however, Hill finds that the elegy itself is the only answer to the questions history poses. "What / Ought a poem to be?" he asks himself, and answers (three times), "a sad and angry consolation." Widely recognized as one of Britain's distinguished poets, here Hill has produced a memorably sad and angry consolation for "a nation / with so many memorials but no memory." [via]