Geoffrey Hill on poetry.
From Hill's notes to section 1 of 'The Annunciations' in The Penguin Book of Contemporary Verse 1962.
"The Word (line 1) is the impulse that makes and comprehends. Poetry before the poetry-banquet. The Word is an Explorer (c.f. Four Quartets passim). By using an emotive cliche like 'The Word' I try to believe in an idea that I want to believe in: that poetry makes its world fromthe known world; that it has a transcendence; that it is something other than the conspicuous consumption (the banquet) that it seems to be. What I say in the section is, I think, that I don't believe in the Word. The fact that I make the poem at all means that I still believe in words."
From 'Language, Suffering, and Silence' in 'Collected Critical Writings'2008.
"I would seriously propose a theology of language; and a primary exercise to be undertaken towards its establishment. This would comprise a critical examination of the grounds for claiming (a) that the shock of semantic recognition must also be a shock of ethical recognition and this is the action of grace in one of its minor, but far from trivial, types; (b) that the art and literature of the late twentieth century require a memorialising, a memorialising of the dead as much as, or even more than, expressions of 'solidarity with the poor and the oppressed'....Hopkins, with Victorian aesthetics at his fingertips, sometime pupil of Walter Pater, leans away from the aesthetic equation, takes the weight of the more awkward stresses of a world which, in justice, contains aesthetics as a good, but is not either ruled or saved by them."
From 'A Postscript on Modernist Poetics' in 'Collected Critical Writings'2008.
"I would name Simone Weil's - also late - L'Enracinement, as an uncondescending attempt to reduce ('reduce', at least in her case, is not reductive) the intractable nature of poetry to a position of moral influence; to be able to say of it; 'it has connected': "Simultaneous composition on severl planes at once is the law of artistic creation, and wherein, in fact, lies its difficulty. A poet in the arrangement of words and the choice of each word, must simultaneously bear in mind matters on at least five or six planes of composition....Politics in their turn form an art governed by composition on a multiple plane."
The above have been selected to give some idea about how Hill may feel about his own work. There's a consistent downplaying of the importance of verse (ie it isn't as powerful as some would think and it should take second place to issues of faith. There's also the recognition that poetry can and should operate across several planes and that this should have an ethical component. Hill's notion of memorialisation is also tied up with his faith.
Finally, this is from 'The Triumph of Love which was published in 1998:
"So - Croker, Macsikker, O'Shem - I ask you
what are poems for? They are to console us
with their own gift, which is like perfect pitch.
Let us commit that to our dust. What
ought a poem to be? Answer, a sad
and angry consolation.What is
the poem? What figures? Say,
a sad and angry consolation. That's
beautiful. Once more? A sad and angry