The King's Gold Medal for Poetry, 2022
Shortlisted for the 2021 T S Eliot Prize
Shortlisted for the 2021 Forward Prize for Best Collection
Shortlisted for the 2022 Rathbones Folio Prize
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.
Selima Hill was awarded the The King's Gold Medal for Poetry 2022 on the basis of her body of work, with special recognition for her 2008 retrospective Gloria: Selected Poems.
'Selima Hill is an inimitable talent. The mind is fragile and unreliable in her poetry, but is also tenacious and surprising, capable of the most extraordinary responses, always fighting back with language as its survival kit. Life in general might be said to be her subject, the complications, contradictions and consequences of simply existing. Nevertheless, Hill’s writing is eminently readable and approachable, even fun at times, the voice of a person and a poet who will not be quieted and will not conform to expectations, especially poetic ones.' - Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate, on behalf of The King's Gold Medal for Poetry Committee
'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
'Here we are again, at the poets’ Christmas party. Pour yourself a mugful of mulled wine and try not to get stuck in the hallway with the sort of Men Who Feed Pigeons, inimitably skewered in Selima Hill’s bite-sized portraits. “Familiar, inert, he’s like a table,” she writes of one. “Watching him eat brandy snaps, I’m learning/ not to keep expecting to be heard.”' – Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph (Christmas Books, 2021)
‘Poetry in English is more varied now than ever. I love that Selima Hill’s Men Who Feed Pigeons is shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize. Her surreal, surprising lyrics always shed dark illumination on relationships...' - Ruth Padel, Ars Notoria (Poetry Books of the Year 2021)
‘In Hill’s early collections, such as Saying Hello at the Station (1984) and The Accumulation of Small Acts of Kindness (1989), the poems are considerably longer, with more of a narrative drive. It’s not that the recent work has no narrative – the poems always come in sequences – but they have the feel of comic strips rather than novels, and the unit of currency is the image…. the sequences accrue their characters and moods; the poems are part of something larger, like ornaments crowded together on a mantelpiece.’ – Emily Berry, London Review of Books, on the poetry of Selima Hill
'I loved Men Who Feed Pigeons, Hill’s huge book of tiny poems. One sequence, “Billy”, captures the kind of sacred friendship found only between a man and woman who have nothing in common and don’t much like each other but have been friends forever and so must soldier on regardless. It’s very, very funny...' - Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph, on the 2021 T S Eliot Prize Shortlist
'Selima Hill is a one-off, and her restless magpie mind unpicks the fragile seams of everyday experience, revealing the darkness beneath. We can choose to laugh, or we can choose to cry, but there’s no easy escape from the disconcerting experiences Hill promises her reader.' - John Field, for the T S Eliot Prize, on 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
'Men Who Feed Peigeons is an atlas of relationships populated by small vivid islands, strung together in an absurd yet astute archipelago. This collection is a prime example of the power and vitality of brevity. Hill sees people and relationships in a way that few others can.' - Ellora Sutton, Mslexia
'The beauty of these delightful, strange poems lies in their puzzlement and their refusal to explain things away. Men Who Feed Pigeons invites the reader to connect and reconnect its meanings, offering a unique lens through which to view our most ordinary exchanges.' - Carla-Rosa Manfredino, PN Review
'The triumph of the poems in Men Who Feed Pigeons is that even in clearly showing... darker sides of life, they delight and inspire with the fineness of their timing and expression, the vitality of their intelligence, their exuberant humour and sometimes a sheer beauty that makes it tempting to describe them as lyrical.' - Edmund Prestwich, Acumen
'Her simplicity of language combined with concision and direct address is spell-binding.... Men Who Feed Pigeons is not a book you can dip into - once you start reading Selima Hill, you are compelled to stay with her fom beginning to end.' - Pauline Rowe, Orbis
‘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
‘I love Selima Hill. There are several sequences in this book – that’s just one that I’ve talked about and I've only talked about a fraction of the short poems in it - but you get so much from them. The juxtaposition of poem after poem is a fabulous experience. Her first collection came out in 1984, and she’s been very prolific, so there’s lots of Selima Hill out there - if I were you, I’d go get some!’ – Frank Skinner – Frank Skinner, Frank Skinner's Poetry Podcast, 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: Men Who Feed Pigeons
Selima Hill talks to Emily Berry about Men Who Feed Pigeons and reads a selection of poems from the book first published in The Poetry Review: 'Standing on His Doorstep', 'The Beautiful Man Whose Name I Can't Pronounce', 'A Happy-looking Man', 'Jelly', 'Bucket', 'What Kind of Woman Am I', 'Chickens', 'You Either Love a Person or You Don't', 'My Horse-hoof Soup', 'Berries' and 'The Tank'. The interview was recorded by Emily Berry for The Poetry Society podcast in 2021. This film was edited by Neil Astley and Peter Hebden and was included in Bloodaxe's online book launch event shared with Hannah Lowe and Stephanie Norgate on 16 September 2021. The full podcast can be heard by clicking on the RELATED AUDIO tab below.
Selima Hill reads seven poems from Gloria
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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