A fraction of PITCH is sad. (The others are somewhere in Hampshire, or London.)

Always the hireling of our audience, we were saddened to find we had none. This information, presented by Google Analytics with its cold uninvolvement, we found a grim affront. Though it may be blameable on our infrequency posting, PITCH would prefer to think our heterodox, no-prisoners take on modern poetry has riled a silently conservative critical public to studied inattention. You’re listening by ignoring, see. You bastards can’t evade our voice.

So (because we thunk our way out of it, like WS in his Christian /non-Christian 146 thinks his way away from Death), this was not the occasion of our downcast temper. What also could have caused it?

If you were to guess, you might try Thomas Day, who weeks back reviewed A Worldly Country in the Saturday Times’ book section:

[Ashbery’s] is not the difficulty of a poet such as, say, Geoffrey Hill, who tends to view the reader as an enemy, making burdensome demands of us, unforgiving of our weak-mindedness. With Ashbery there is no guilt trip, only gentle encouragement not to give up: ‘Still at it, friend?’

Christ, is Day deaf and blind? Hill’s words are first, before all beautiful. The effect of their beauty is to surprise, to shock:

In the Orchard palliates my distress
with slender familiarity. So much
for schooling of the eyes. I could show rather
unstudied transformations, although rare.
Rare for me, I mean: wreathed encounters
on the threshold of late friendships, things
unrecovered, even if unrestored, sad
Succoth, the feast of booths. Can you stand

cleft but in the spirit, as a tree
by lightning, close to the shored heart?

[...] Survivors
live out their lives as though by will
and freedom, with or without fulfilment.
Not that is matters now: such frequencies
largely dispersed, the myriad-
faceted black holly of endurance
itself, keeping sombre-bright clusters
exilic. By the way, this
has to show winter in its boundary,
Goldengrove laid bare, becalmed,
lightly sketched in snow; peacock
and peahen treading the white grass.

We often fear the fault of Hill’s detractors is they haven’t read him, or haven’t read him well for like all great poets he’s more experienced than read. If you’ve the resources to see out the wet weather of resentment, see through the stratus of doubt which gathers especially as you tread, stalling, through the tense, hushed early books, when you approach Mercian you should find light begins to break the squall; by Tenebrae you see the landscape with altered vision, are ready for the late work’s close wood. Is the pleasure of challenge not known to Thomas Day? we ask. Hasn’t he known the joy of absorbing a single Sonnet for hours, the just awe of accepting that, yes, it means both this, and its opposite? I’m confident he has. What Day dislikes is Hill’s persona. People have called it ‘crabby’, which is a low slur on age. PITCH agrees his way is to be rebarbative, to keep his intellectual fists clenched and chest-high, bespeaking insecurity. Others’ trouble understanding him, which somewhere he regrets, has become a topic to fire his ballsiest stanzas. We don’t know that enmity is there: of course wariness, even fear, but the reader is less his enemy than his sparring partner. To believe otherwise is probably to mistake rhetoric for open statement. The burdensome demands are Hill’s drama. If you love his beauty, this is your access to ease with the dramatised self which seeks unserious competition (with those who’ll listen), and you start noticing jokes where before you’d known unsmiling composure. His beauty, his language, is what persuades. Finally we strive to understand him because we love his music so, because, being aesthetes to the ankles, we’ve fallen for his style.

Abruptly the sun’s out, striking a new
cleave; skidding the ridge-grass, down steep hangers;
buddleia in dark bloom; a wayward covey
of cabbage-whites this instant
׀ balanced
and prinking, the light itself aromatic.

Sad. We were going to write about the piebald LRB (fun on politics; boring on fiction), and perhaps the serendipity of the dopamine muse; but minutes press. We have not begun our Malory.

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