Sir Geoffrey Hill

1932 –

Sir Geoffrey Hill was born June 18, 1932, in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, a former market town of England. The son of a police constable, he received both his BA and MA from Keble College, Oxford University, where he studied English literature. While at Oxford, he published his first poems in Fantasy Press’s Fantasy Poets Series, edited by Donald Hall.

Hill went on to publish numerous books of poems, including Broken Hierarchies: Poems, 1952–2012 (Oxford University Press, 2013); Odi Barbare (Clutag Press, 2012); The Orchards of Syon (Penguin Books, 2002); The Triumph of Love (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), winner of the Heinemann Book Award; Canaan (Penguin Books, 1996), winner of the Kahn Award; and Tenebrae (A. Deutsch, 1978); Mercian Hymns (A. Deutsch, 1971), which received the Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize; King Log (A. Deutsch, 1968); and For the Unfallen: Poems 1952–1958, Hill’s first full collection of poems, published in 1959 by Andre Deutsch.

Hill's poetry is known for its barbed humor, personal intensity, and deep interests in culture, history, and religion. About Hill’s poetry, the critic Harold Bloom writes, “Geoffrey Hill is the central poet-prophet of our augmenting darkness, and inherits the authority of the visionaries from Dante and [William] Blake on to D. H. Lawrence.”

The poet and critic John Hollander writes,

Just as George Herbert redeemed the wit of erotic verse for a vaster purpose, Hill wrestles triumphantly with the fallen angel of a public language whose every turn, gesture, device, and expression seems to have been falsified at a terrible time for the voice of moral imagination.

Hill also published several collections of essays as well as journal and periodical articles, prose, and an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Brand (University of Minnesota Press, 1981).

Hill received many honors and awards during his lifetime, including the 2009 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism, the Faber Memorial Prize, the Hawthornden Prize, the Loines Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the T. S. Eliot Award for Creative Writing from the Ingersoll Foundation, and a Churchill Fellowship at the University of Bristol.

A poetry professor at the University of Oxford for many years, Hill was an honorary fellow of Keble College, Oxford, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, London, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He taught at Emmanuel College, Boston and Cambridge Universities, and the Universities of Ibadan in Nigeria, Leeds, and Michigan at Ann Arbor. He also gave the Clark Lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, and served as professor emeritus of English literature and religion and as codirector of the Editorial Institute at Boston University. In 2012, Hill was knighted for services to literature.

Hill died in Cambridge, England, on June 30, 2016, at eighty-four years old.