Category Archives: Readings

Muti-lation at the end of the line

In Broken Hierarchies: Precursor to a Variorum? I noticed major revisions to a poem in Geoffrey Hill’s Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952-2012, which I argued amounted to a totally altered poem following a new and different philosophical development. Because the revisions in BH are widespread and significant, I suggested that critics writing on Hill are now and […]

Seamus Heaney in Between

At last weekend’s Seamus Heaney conference and commemoration at Queen’s University, Belfast, I gave a paper in which I referred offhandedly to “a pretty conventional way, by now, of understanding his poetics” as in some way conditioned by a sense of being “in between”, which goes back to the first word of the first poem […]

Advance Access: Method as Tautology in the Digital Humanities

My article, “Method as tautology in the digital humanities” has gone up on Literary and Linguistic Computing‘s advance online publication area. If you have an institutional affiliation that lets you access Oxford Journals, it can be found here: [It appears Oxford are now offering the article free: download PDF here] In the article I […]

Wood, a poem

Here is “Wood”, a kind of poem:

Dies Caniculares

Lines against lines in summer:   Though I in Prochyta with greater ease Could live, than in a street of palaces. What scene so desert or so full of fright, As towering houses, tumbling in the night, And Rome on fire beheld by its own blazing light? But worse than all the clattering tiles, and […]

Poetic Antagonyms

The verb “cleave” has two contradictory senses in English: it means both “to separate” and “to join together” (and so figures its own self-separated, self-joined meanings). Out this week is a journal article in which I discuss “cleave” and other self-antithetical words (I call them “antagonyms”) when they occur in English poetry, as well as […]

Sorts of Hierarchies

I was intrigued when I read that Geoffrey Hill’s forthcoming collected poetical works would be called Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952-2012 (OUP: 2013). I recognized it as the title of a poem in Without Title (itself a title that suggests the breaking of a certain kind of hierarchy), but I hadn’t thought of that poem or the […]

Domokun and Symbolism

In my poetry classes I often find myself going on about symbolic conventions and symbolic systems, especially in the context of broader discussions of figurative language, and often to point out some distinctions between symbol and metaphor, or to show why a certain set of symbolic equivalences are irrelevant to the poem at hand (colour […]

Ways of Looking at “The Windhover”

Gotthold Lessing is credited (among other things) with pointing out that it’s weird for Classical writers to describe the art of poetry in terms of the visual arts, since poetry happens sequentially in time, and painting happens statically in space. But Lessing is wrong, or at least overly categorical. Before a word is read, a […]

Attributions and intertexts: ‘Wrinching and spraining the text’

Recently I posted about my idea to teach a computer to look for allusions to the Oxford English Dictionary in poems. A while ago I came across an instance of intertextual reference in a poem by Geoffrey Hill which illustrates really well several of the issues that arise when dealing with the OED, which is […]

“Obsession” on the active-passive divide?

Geoffrey Hill’s poem “Of Commerce and Society: 4” has received critical attention from almost everyone (partial list: Sherry, Knottenbelt, O’Neill, Robinson, Wainwright, Hart, Bloom, Ricks, and me). So I was surprised recently when I had (what I think is) a brand new thought about it.


In 2011-13, I’m investigating questions about poetry, value, and accident, in the context of a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, intended to ‘enable the development of new research questions, as well as experimentation with new methods, theoretical approaches and/or ideas’. The questions and methods I’m exploring all have something to do with why contingency, or accident, […]