Poetry Book Society Recommendation
Selima Hill’s The Hat is a disturbing portrayal of a woman’s struggle to regain her identity. Her story emerges through a series of short poems, often related to animals: how she is preyed upon and betrayed, misunderstood, compromised and not allowed to be herself. Like all of Selima Hill’s books, The Hat charts ‘extreme experience with a dazzling excess’, with dark humour and surprising combinations of homely and outlandish.
The Hat was published at the same time Selima Hill’s Gloria: Selected Poems, which draws on ten previous collections.
‘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, Guardian
'In the quarter-century since that debut, her voice has deepened and strengthened as its subject matter has widened from bereavement and life in a psychiatric unit to more general difficulties with men, family relationships, and the business of living. The simultaneous publication of Hill's new collection The Hat, and a Slelected Poems, Gloria, is the perfect moment to rediscover this inimitably exhiliarating poet.' - Simon Jenner, Poetry Express
‘Wayward, funny, terrifying. Her writing scintillates with hatred, love and absurd insights’ – Gillian Beer, Financial Times
‘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
‘Every page reveals her unique ability to invert the world and shake it, until it reveals its truth.’ – Kathleen Jamie & Maurice Riordan, PBS Bulletin
‘Brilliant mischief’ – Independent
‘She is truly gifted. She invests mundane things with visionary, delirious brilliance’ – Graham Swift, Sunday Times
‘Hill is a unique voice in British poetry, handling central subjects with wit, great metaphorical beauty, and deep clarity. Her two most characteristic features, the off-the- wall images and no-holds-barred straight talk, work flawlessly together.’ – Ruth Padel & Sean O’Brien, PBS Bulletin
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).