Influenced by TS Eliot’s later work, Geoffrey Hill was famed for his esoteric density. His poems rarely reveal their true meaning to a casual glance. They can be called complexes of obscure allusions, lyrical riddles of vivid imagery, meandering yet meaningful labyrinths of inventive language. Born in Worcestershire in 1932, Hill wrote extensive critical works and published eleven books of poetry. A fellow of Oxford and Cambridge, he was described as “the greatest living poet in the English language” by Nicholas Lezard and was called a “mind-altering talent” by Grey Gowrie.

Hill’s poetry was not designed for mass consumption and has never matched its critical acclaim with commercial success. That is not to say that he had supercilious aims for his art. Despite the implied exclusivity that an understanding of his work might necessitate, Hill considered literature to be a thoroughly democratic activity, one that no social class or single perspective should control. He proved that an inevitably heterogeneous audience hungers for varieties and craves for specialities. There is something acutely democratic about the difficulty of Hill’s poetry. He writes in a way that suggests he expected his reader to be as clever, if not cleverer, than himself. Being a markedly capable thinker, Hill’s approach of assumed equality with his reader should be acknowledged as modesty.