Arise, Sir Migraine

Professor HillI noted the other day that British poet Geoffrey Hill had been awarded a knighthood for services to literature by Queen Elizabeth of England Et Cetera. Kind of her to notice a poet. The «Bromsgrove Advertiser» notes that Professor Hill was born in Bromsgrove and brought up in Fairfield where his father was a village policeman. His mother made hand-made nails in a room at the back of their shop.

When I was in London in 1996 I read for Poetry International, at the London Southbank Centre, with Polish poet Tadeus Rosewicz, British poet Anne Stevenson and German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger, on the evening of Hallowe’en, 31 October. I had met Mr Enzensberger some years before when he visited Australia under the auspices of the Goethe Institute, and I felt it a great honour to share the platform with one of Europe’s most brilliant and incisive writers, Germany’s “Chancellor of Irony”. The house was full, the audience was very responsive, and I felt the evening was a great success.

Geoffrey Hill also read that night, dressed in what seemed to be a home-made sackcloth garment, which made him look like the priest of some neglected Christian cult. He prefaced his reading with a lugubrious complaint about how hard it was to write poetry, and how painful to have to read it aloud in public. That is, in front of us, most of whom had paid to be there for exactly that purpose. His demeanor was that of a man bravely suffering a dreadful headache.

Well, if you don’t like it, don’t do it, I thought to myself. No one’s making you.

Driving home later in a taxi through the midnight wilderness of service bays and construction equipment at the rear of the Southbank Centre, I noticed a lively fox quickly cross the road and disappear into an alley.