Geoffrey Hill was born June 18, 1932, in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, a former market town of England. The son of a police constable, he received his BA and MA from Keble College, Oxford, where he studied English literature. While at Oxford, he published his first poems in the Fantasy Poets pamphlet series, edited by Donald Hall.
His first full collection of poems, For the Unfallen: Poems 1952-1958, was published in 1959 by Andre Deustch, followed by King Log (A. Deutsch, 1968) and Mercian Hymns (A. Deutsch, 1971), which received the Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize.
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).
Hill's poetry is known for its barbed humor, personal intensity, and deep interest 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 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, journal and periodical articles, prose, and an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Brand (University of Minnesota Press, 1981).
He received many honors and awards, including 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.
He died on June 30, 2016, at eighty-four years old.