Sent in by faithful jotter RMH. Fans of Nobel Prize winner Heaney might be peeved by his closing remarks but c'est la guerre...
I once had tea with ….Geoffrey Hill
Our Greatest Living Poet is not known for his bonhomie, but on this particular occasion the man who while teaching at Cambridge was often seen moping around with an expression that made him look ( according to one colleague ) 'as if he had been raped by God', showed a more buoyant side to his personality. It was around 1993 and my dear friend, the late lamented Patricia Huskisson ( a descendant of the unfortunate Tory minister who was run over by a locomotive in 1830), lived in the next village and had invited me to meet the famous poet. I had contemplated bringing along my copy of Mercian Hymns, arguably the best poetry collection to appear for the past 40 years, for him to sign. I can’t remember if I actually took the book along to the meeting, but when I arrived it was obvious that this was not the occasion for a demonstration of cheap fan worship.
Hill was already there and so was Patricia’s old friend Guy Lee, the Latinist and translator of Ovid. Tea, which featured the usual mountain of sandwiches and cakes, was brought and although I cannot recall any scholarly bon mots from the mouth of Hill, I seem to remember him laughing on at least two occasions, which from the author of Tenebrae, seemed to me unexpected .
More unexpected still was the appearance of Hill in front of Patricia’s square piano, where he and Guy proceeded to play a duet---a baroque piece, I seem to recall. The whole meeting lasted no more than an hour. Our Greatest Living Poet ( sorry, Seamus, but you’re not in the same league ) left before I could ask him any serious literary questions.[RMH]