Shortlisted for the 2021 T S Eliot Prize
Shortlisted for the 2021 Forward Prize for Best Collection
Men Who Feed Pigeons brings together seven contrasting but complementary poem sequences by ‘this brilliant lyricist of human darkness’ (Fiona Sampson) relating to men and different kinds of women’s relationships with men. The Anaesthetist is about men at work; The Beautiful Man with the Unpronounceable Name is about someone else’s husband; Billy relates to friendship between a man and a woman; Biro is about living next door to a mysterious uncle with a dog; The Man in the Quilted Dressing-gown portrays a very particular old man; Ornamental Lakes as Seen from Trains is about a woman and a man she’s afraid of; while Shoebill is another sequence about a woman and a man, but quite different from the others. Like all of Selima Hill’s work, all seven sequences in this book chart ‘extreme experience with a dazzling excess’ (Deryn Rees-Jones), with startling humour and surprising combinations of homely and outlandish.
'The collection is by turns surreal and direct, but always arresting. Her trademark humour is present throughout, but its wit can often surprise the reader, conveying truths in hilarious and sometimes shocking ways. The judges were impressed by Selima's mastery of the portrait in miniature - one of the judges calling her 'the UK's Emily Dickinson'.' - Forward Prize Judges, on Selima Hill's Men Who Feed Pigeons
‘Like the authors of the classical epigrams that are these poems’ ultimate model, Hill uses a spare, brief span that can give gravity to light matters as well as supporting the weightiest. Hill’s poems, however small, feel complete.’ – William Wootten, Literary Review, on Men Who Feed Pigeons
‘Born in 1945, Hill might be the heir to Stevie Smith: both are wholly original voices who pay no heed to anyone else’s idea of what a poem should be; funny writers whose humour can leave the reader startled, puzzled or uneasy as often as amused.’ – Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph, Poem of the Week, on Men Who Feed Pigeons
‘Despite their brevity, and their role in the larger narrative, these poems are far from fragmentary, being tightly self-contained, whilst also articulating with one another within the collection’s wider scope… Overall, this is a remarkable collection, demanding considerable revisiting, and it is set to pierce very deeply.’ – Beth McDonough, DURA (Dundee University Review of the Arts), on Men Who Feed Pigeons
'In both her themes and how she treats them Hill’s quality is classical.' - Steven Lovatt, The Friday Poem, on Men Who Feed Pigeons
‘Arguably the most distinctive truth teller to emerge in British poetry…Despite her thematic preoccupations, there’s nothing conscientious or worthy about Hill’s work. She is a flamboyant, exuberant writer who seems effortlessly to juggle her outrageous symbolic lexicon…using techniques of juxtaposition, interruption and symbolism to articulate narratives of the unconscious. Those narratives are the matter of universal, and universally recognisable, psychodrama…hers is a poetry of piercing emotional apprehension, lightly worn… So original that it has sometimes scared off critical scrutineers, her work must now, surely, be acknowledged as being of central importance in British poetry – not only for the courage of its subject matter but also for the lucid compression of its poetics’ – Fiona Sampson, The Guardian, on Gloria: Selected Poems
‘Her adoption of surrealist techniques of shock, bizarre, juxtaposition and defamiliarisation work to subvert conventional notions of self and the feminine…Hill returns repeatedly to fragmented narratives, charting extreme experience with a dazzling excess.’ – Deryn Rees-Jones, Modern Women Poets
‘She is truly gifted. She invests mundane things with visionary, delirious brilliance.’ – Graham Swift, The Sunday Times
‘Selima Hill is a unique voice in contemporary British poetry, as the title of her latest collection — I May Be Stupid But I’m Not That Stupid — implies, there is more to her than meets the eye. Her poetry is eclectic and electric; it cartwheels through juxtapositions and leaps of logic, and, as Proust opined, thanks to her poetry the world we see, through her art, is multiplied. Seemingly mundane subjects, such as farmyards and country life, are painted with new layers of vivid colour, forever fracturing a new world from the old…. I May Be Stupid But I’m Not That Stupid is an entertaining collection from a complex, warmly welcome poet. Highly recommend.’ – Charlie Baylis, The London Magazine
'Selima Hill's Jutland has an astounding vivacity. Hill is a complete original whose body of work is unique in British poetry and this volume is an example of her at her best. Jutland consists of two extended sequences: Advice on Wearing Animal Prints, a kaleidoscope of shifting perspectives presenting the character Agatha, and Sunday Afternoons at the Gravel-pits, portraying a little girl and her father. Each poem tells an uncomfortable truth, through fireworks of surreal images. Every image is a surprise, sometimes funny, usually shocking, but at the same time archetypal as a brand new fairy-tale, and all this is achieved with crystalline brevity.’ – Pascale Petit, chair of the 2015 T.S. Eliot Prize judges
Selima Hill reads seven poems
Selima Hill reads seven poems from Gloria: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2008): ‘Cow’, ‘Don’t Let’s Talk About Being in Love’, ‘Desire’s a Desire’, ‘Being a Wife’, ‘Why I Left You’, ‘The World’s Entire Wasp Population’ and ‘PRAWNS DE JO’. Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Selima Hill in London on 2 November 2007. This film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008).
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