FRANZ WRIGHT TAKES ON GEOFFREY HILL: MORE MARCH MADNESS EAST BRACKET ACTION!

No. 3 seed in the East, Geoffrey Hill (pictured in trees) will rumble with the American, 14th seed Franz Wright
This piece by Franz Wright, “Alcohol,” appears in Rita Dove’s anthology and any preface would mar its power.  Just read it to yourself a few times.  It’s the voice of melancholy hell.  I don’t care what people say, Franz is a throw-back (in the best way).  Life is sad, horrible, and depressing, and modern poets are busy telling us this all the time in accents meant to replicate the worst of what life has to offer,but art is melancholy—and Wright knows the restraint and the rhythm and the-moment-to-flash-the-knife.   He just knows how to do it.  He doesn’t slather on the detail, he doesn’t announce things in prose; he whispers just enough details—like a poet.
ALCOHOL
You do look a little ill.

But we can do something about that, now.

Can’t we.

The fact is you’re a shocking wreck.

Do you hear me.

You aren’t all alone.
And you could use some help today, packing in the
dark, boarding buses north, putting the seat back and
grinning with terror flowing over your legs through
your fingers and hair . . .
I was always waiting, always here.
Know anyone else who can say that.
My advice to you is think of her for what she is:
one more name cut in the scar of your tongue.
What was it you said, “To rather be harmed than
harm, is not abject.”
Please.
Can we be leaving now.
We like bus trips, remember. Together
we could watch these winter fields slip past, and
never care again,
think of it.
I don’t have to be anywhere.
Poems want you to feel their hell.  This poem makes you feel its hell.  But it does so without a trace of hell.  We don’t feel one thing that Franz felt.  “Winter fields” has taken up the pain.
Geoffrey Hill (no. 3 seed) is a poet of landscape, landscape, landscape.  Hill gives us a million “Winter fields.” If Wright is a drop in a pail, Hill is a waterfall.
This contest is cleary one of offense versus defense.
Hill would make love to the fens.   Wright will freeze them first.
Wright’s a wafer.
Hill’s a wedding cake.
AN APOLOGY FOR THE REVIVAL OF CHRISTIAN ARCHITECTURE IN ENGLAND

the spiritual, Platonic old England …
S. T. COLERIDGE, Anima Poetae

‘Your situation’, said Coningsby, looking up the green and silent valley, ‘is absolutely poetic.’
‘I try sometimes to fancy’, said Mr Millbank, with a rather fierce smile, ‘that I am in the New World.’
BENJAMIN DISRAELI, Coningsby

1 QUAINT MAZES
And, after all, it is to them we return.
Their triumph is to rise and be our hosts:
lords of unquiet or of quiet sojourn,
those muddy-hued and midge-tormented ghosts.
On blustery lilac-bush and terrace-urn
bedaubed with bloom Linnaean pentecosts
put their pronged light; the chilly fountains burn.
Religion of the heart, with trysts and quests
and pangs of consolation, its hawk’s hood
twitched off for sweet carnality, again
rejoices in old hymns of servitude,
haunting the sacred well, the hidden shrine.
It is the ravage of the heron wood;
it is the rood blazing upon the green.
2 DAMON’S LAMENT FOR HIS CLORINDA, YORKSHIRE 1654
November rips gold foil from the oak ridges.
Dour folk huddle in High Hoyland, Penistone.
The tributaries of the Sheaf and Don
bulge their dull spate, cramming the poor bridges.
The North Sea batters our shepherds’ cottages
from sixty miles. No sooner has the sun
swung clear above earth’s rim than it is gone.
We live like gleaners of its vestiges
knowing we flourish, though each year a child
with the set face of a tomb-weeper is put down
for ever and ever. Why does the air grow cold
in the region of mirrors? And who is this clown
doffing his mask at the masked threshold
to selfless raptures that are all his own?
3 WHO ARE THESE COMING TO THE SACRIFICE?
High voices in domestic chapels; praise;
praise-worthy feuds; new-burgeoned spires that sprung
crisp-leaved as though from dropping-wells. The young
ferns root among our vitrified tears.
What an elopement that was: the hired chaise
tore through the fir-grove, scattered kinsmen flung
buckshot and bridles, and the tocsin swung
from the tarred bellcote dappled with dove-smears.
Wires tarnish in gilt corridors, in each room
stiff with the bric-a-brac of loss and gain.
Love fled, truly outwitted, through a swirl
of long-laid dust. Today you sip and smile
though still not quite yourself. Guarding its pane
the spider looms against another storm.
4 A SHORT HISTORY OF BRITISH INDIA (I)
Make miniatures of the once-monstrous theme:
the red-coat devotees, melees of wheels,
Jagannath’s lovers. With indifferent aim
unleash the rutting cannon at the walls
of forts and palaces; pollute the wells.
Impound the memoirs for their bankrupt shame,
fantasies of true destiny that kills
‘under the sanction of the English name’.
Be moved by faith, obedience without fault,
the flawless hubris of heroic guilt,
the grace of visitation; and be stirred
by all her god-quests, her idolatries,
in conclave of abiding injuries,
sated upon the stillness of the bride.
5 A SHORT HISTORY OF BRITISH INDIA (II)
Suppose they sweltered here three thousand years
patient for our destruction. There is a greeting
beyond the act. Destiny is the great thing,
true lord of annexation and arrears.
Our law-books overrule the emperors.
The mango is the bride-bed of light. Spring
jostles the flame-tree. But new mandates bring
new images of faith, good subahdars!
The flittering candles of the wayside shrines
melt into dawn. The sun surmounts the dust.
Krishna from Radha lovingly untwines.
Lugging the earth, the oxen bow their heads.
The alien conscience of our days is lost
among the ruins and on endless roads.
6 A SHORT HISTORY OF BRITISH INDIA (III)
Malcolm and Frere, Colebrooke and Elphinstone,
the life of empire like the life of the mind
‘simple, sensuous, passionate’, attuned
to the clear theme of justice and order, gone.
Gone the ascetic pastimes, the Persian
scholarship, the wild boar run to ground,
the watercolours of the sun and wind.
Names rise like outcrops on the rich terrain,
like carapaces of the Mughal tombs
lop-sided in the rice-fields, boarded-up
near railway-crossings and small aerodromes.
‘India’s a peacock-shrine next to a shop
selling mangola, sitars, lucky charms,
heavenly Buddhas smiling in their sleep.’
7 LOSS AND GAIN
Pitched high above the shallows of the sea
lone bells in gritty belfries do not ring
but coil a far and inward echoing
out of the air that thrums. Enduringly,
fuchsia-hedges fend between cliff and sky;
brown stumps of headstones tamp into the ling
the ruined and the ruinously strong.
Platonic England grasps its tenantry
where wild-eyed poppies raddle tawny farms
and wild swans root in lily-clouded lakes.
Vulnerable to each other the twin forms
of sleep and waking touch the man who wakes
to sudden light, who thinks that this becalms
even the phantoms of untold mistakes.
8 VOCATIONS
While friends defected, you stayed and were sure,
fervent in reason, watchful of each name:
a signet-seal’s unostentatious gem
gleams against walnut on the escritoire,
focus of reckoning and judicious prayer.
This is the durable covenant, a room
quietly furnished with stuff of martyrdom,
lit by the flowers and moths from your own shire,
by silvery vistas frothed with convolvulus;
radiance of dreams hardly to be denied.
The twittering pipistrelle, so strange and close,
plucks its curt flight through the moist eventide;
the children thread among old avenues
of snowberries, clear-calling as they fade.
9 THE LAUREL AXE
Autumn resumes the land, ruffles the woods
with smoky wings, entangles them. Trees shine
out from their leaves, rocks mildew to moss-green;
the avenues are spread with brittle floods.
Platonic England, house of solitudes,
rests in its laurels and its injured stone,
replete with complex fortunes that are gone,
beset by dynasties of moods and clouds.
It stands, as though at ease with its own world,
the mannerly extortions, languid praise,
all that devotion long since bought and sold,
the rooms of cedar and soft-thudding baize,
tremulous boudoirs where the crystals kissed
in cabinets of amethyst and frost.
10 FIDELITIES
Remember how, at seven years, the decrees
were brought home: child-soul must register
for Christ’s dole, be allotted its first Easter,
blanch-white and empty, chilled by the lilies,
betrothed among the well-wishers and spies.
Reverend Mother, breakfastless, could feast her
constraint on terracotta and alabaster
and brimstone and the sweets of paradise.
Theology makes good bedside reading. Some
who are lost covet scholastic proof,
subsistence of probation, modest balm.
The wooden wings of justice borne aloof,
we close our eyes to Anselm and lie calm.
All night the cisterns whisper in the roof.
11 IDYLLS OF THE KING
The pigeon purrs in the wood; the wood has gone;
dark leaves that flick to silver in the gust,
and the marsh-orchids and the heron’s nest,
goldgrimy shafts and pillars of the sun.
Weightless magnificence upholds the past.
Cement recesses smell of fur and bone
and berries wrinkle in the badger-run
and wiry heath-fern scatters its fresh rust.
‘O clap your hands’ so that the dove takes flight,
bursts through the leaves with an untidy sound,
plunges its wings into the green twilight
above this long-sought and forsaken ground,
the half-built ruins of the new estate,
warheads of mushrooms round the filter-pond.
12 THE EVE OF ST MARK
Stroke the small silk with your whispering hands,
godmother; nod and nod from the half-gloom;
broochlight intermittent between the fronds,
the owl immortal in its crystal dome.
Along the mantelpiece veined lustres trill,
the clock discounts us with a telling chime.
Familiar ministrants, clerks-of-appeal,
burnish upon the threshold of the dream:
churchwardens in wing-collars bearing scrolls
of copyhold well-tinctured and well-tied.
Your photo-albums loved by the boy-king
preserve in sepia waterglass the souls
of distant cousins, virgin till they died,
and the lost delicate suitors who could sing.
13 THE HEREFORDSHIRE CAROL
So to celebrate that kingdom: it grows
greener in winter, essence of the year;
the apple-branches musty with green fur.
In the viridian darkness of its yews
it is an enclave of perpetual vows
broken in time. Its truth shows disrepair,
disfigured shrines, their stones of gossamer,
Old Moore’s astrology, all hallows,
the squire’s effigy bewigged with frost,
and hobnails cracking puddles before dawn.
In grange and cottage girls rise from their beds
by candlelight and mend their ruined braids.
Touched by the cry of the iconoclast,
how the rose-window blossoms with the sun!
 Geoffrey Hill “has a way with words.”  I suspect he loves crossword puzzles.  One can read his poems in all directions—and it makes no difference.  His poems don’t do anything, because the words are so busy lavishing us with their odors.  There are groves and nooks, and air swimming in them, but it is as if a Wordsworth poem, which always feels absent of people to begin with, were deserted and no one was ever coming back.  Now the words tell us this and now the words tell us that.  But where is the beating heart of the poet?  Where is this all leading?  Not only is nothing happening in the poem, there is no speaking voice or personality, either.  All lanes lead to a wordy pile of leaves.  There are some beautiful words and sounds, but the whole resembles a sweet spot—and nothing else; the bee’s honey, but not the bee.  All is drowned in words.
Franz Wright 58 Geoffrey Hill 42
Wright advances.
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3 Comments

  1. MM support said,

    March 17, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Coleridge and Disraeli
    May have been Hill’s Big Two,
    But the pair came up short
    ‘gainst the “Alcohol” Crew.

  2. MM support said,

    March 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    My mistress watched this match,
    But its power didn’t faze her—
    She still can’t stop talking
    ’bout “Divine Rights” by Mazer.

  3. Anonymous said,

    March 18, 2012 at 8:12 am


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