Monday, April 27, 2009

Against Accessibility

But think on: that which is difficult
preserves democracy; you pay respect
to the intelligence of the citizen.

Geoffrey Hill.


  1. i was just reading Cynthia Ozick's fine essay on George Steiner's 'Archives of Eden' - Steiner's argues that democracy cannot create great art, that it requires an elitist, cruel culture. i think he's mistaken, though - it's rather that great artists tend to be elitist and cruel - they can quite easily manage that in a democratic culture, it just costs them more, personally.

  2. Thats Bollocks Elb, great art has been created in all periods of human history.

    I think what we regard as "great" is what marks out the era.

    As the essence that is mine to the all pervading sea,
    Turneth, all my atoms shine in sublime resplendency.
    On the road of Love, behold! like a candle I do blaze,
    That one moment may enfold all the moments of my days.

    that moment is what we all look for is it not elb, Artists, artisans, philosophers and politicians, we would all love to leave our mark, few of us do.

  3. Patrick Kurp comments on this "statement of Hill's poetics" here, and quotes Hill from a profile in the Guardian:

    "Hill says of the accusation of 'inaccessibility' that 'the word accessible is fine in its place; that is to say, public toilets should be accessible to people in wheelchairs; but a word that is perfectly in its place in civics or civic arts is entirely out of place, I think, in a wider discussion of the arts. There is no reason why a work of art should be instantly accessible, certainly not in the terms which lie behind most people's use of the word.'

    "'In my view, difficult poetry is the most democratic, because you are doing your audience the honour of supposing that they are intelligent human beings. So much of the populist poetry of today treats people as if they were fools. And that particular aspect, and the aspect of the forgetting of a tradition, go together.'"

  4. i like the idea of living a decent life, dying, and being utterly forgotten. To have nothing to be ashamed of in your life - that's enough. It's true i did once dream of leaving my mark, but that sort of thing seems silly now, trivial.

    i don't know if great art has been created in every period of human history - there have been some awfully unremarkable eras in history. But it is heartening that out of some particularly messy and ghastly times something of merit has been created, that will last.

  5. poetry, is it? I have no time for it if it has no time for me.

  6. I take the view that there's plenty of room in this world for all of it - from the populist to the most obscure. I appreciate that this is so dull and uncontroversial a view that's it's hardly worth the time it takes to read it, so if you have read this far, sorry.

  7. An LA Times Jacket Copy blogger comments on the public and private Hill: "Geoffrey Hill’s 'Selected Poems' (Yale University Press) comes with a confrontational cover . . . with the British poet’s face looking agitated, if not angry, at the thought that you might dare to reach and pick up his book." "I had the privilege of studying with Hill: He was genial, good-humored and tended to rephrase our dumb questions so that we sounded much smarter than we were." The posting also includes a reference to Brit.