The King's Gold Medal for Poetry, 2022
Poetry Book Society Recommendation
Hot on the heels of her previous collection Men Who Feed Pigeons, Selima Hill's Women in Comfortable Shoes is her 21st book of poetry, presenting eleven contrasting but well-fitting sequences of short poems relating to women:
Fishface: A disobedient young girl is sent to a Catholic convent school to give her mother a break.
My Friend Weasel: The 50s. A girls' boarding school where the girls are somehow managing to make new friends.
Susan and Me: On friendship. Two close friends, one of whom, Susan, is heading for a nervous breakdown.
Dolly: Dolly is a duck. The other 29 women are, in their various ways, human.
My Mother with a Beetle in Her Hair: A daughter's passion for swimming – despite of her mother hating every minute.
Fridge: Lorries, geese and fridges speak of death, grief and absence.
My Spanish Swimsuit: A daughter fears her rabbit-trapping father.
The Chauffeur: A pair of bad-tempered sisters, a parrot and a cat.
Girls without Hamsters: An older woman's obsession with a spider-legged young man.
Reduced to a Quivering Jelly: Vera is old, and getting older, but she doesn't seem to care.
Dressed and Sobbing: A woman is surprised to find herself getting older and lazier.
'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
‘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)
'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
‘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 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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