Selima Hill wins The King's Gold Medal for Poetry 2022
The King has approved the award of His Majesty’s Gold Medal for Poetry for the year 2022 to Selima Hill, Buckingham Place announced on 14 January. This is the first Gold Medal for Poetry to be presented in The King’s name since His Majesty’s Accession.
Selima Hill will be the 53rd recipient of this prestigious award instituted by King George V in 1933 at the suggestion of the then Poet Laureate John Masefield. The award is made for excellence in poetry, and will be presented to Selima Hill at a later date.
Hill joins the two most recent winners of The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, Grace Nichols and David Constantine, along with five other Bloodaxe poets who have previously been honoured with this award. The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry for 2021 was presented to Grace Nichols by Her Majesty at Windsor Castle on 16 March 2022.
The Poetry Medal Committee, chaired by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, recommended Selima Hill as the 2022 recipient on the basis of her body of work, and what continues to be a flourishing and strengthening creativity, with special recognition for her retrospective Gloria: Selected Poems, published by Bloodaxe Books in 2008. This brings together work from her first ten collections, including her Whitbread Poetry Award-winning Bunny. She has since published nine further collections, with her 21st book of poetry, Women in Comfortable Shoes, forthcoming from Bloodaxe in June 2023.
Over the past 40 years, Selima Hill’s poetry has been pared down, and is now often characterised by sequences of short observational poems employing vivid and sometimes absurdist imagery. Her most recent collection, Men Who Feed Pigeons, was shortlisted for the 2021 Forward Prize for Best Collection as well as for the 2021 T.S. Eliot Prize and the Rathbones Folio Prize 2022. The Forward Prize judges commended her ‘mastery of the portrait in miniature’.
The Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, commented:
“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.”
Neil Astley, Selima Hill’s publisher at Bloodaxe Books, said:
"It has been a delight and a privilege to work with Selima over the past 30 years, publishing 17 of her books, with another to follow – her 21st – in June, Women in Comfortable Shoes. Her work has become even more adventurous, risk-taking and idiosyncratically hers over that time, something I’ve loved witnessing at first hand and enjoyed enormously as a reader. It’s wonderful that Selima has been honoured as the first recipient of The King’s Gold Medal for Poetry since His Majesty’s Accession in September."
Selima Hill joins the seven Bloodaxe poets who were honoured with The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry: Grace Nichols (2021), David Constantine (2020), Gillian Allnutt (2016), Imtiaz Dharker (2014), John Agard (2012), Fleur Adcock (2006) and the late R S Thomas (1964).
Selima Hill grew up in a family of painters in farms in England and Wales, and has lived in Dorset for the past 40 years. She received a Cholmondeley Award in 1986, and was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Exeter University in 2003-06. She won first prize in the Arvon International Poetry Competition with part of The Accumulation of Small Acts of Kindness (1989), one of several extended sequences in Gloria: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2008), which includes work from ten collections including Bunny (2001), winner of the Whitbread Poetry Award. She has published nine further collections from Bloodaxe, most recently Men Who Feed Pigeons (2021), which was shortlisted for the 2021 Forward Prize for Best Collection, the 2021 T.S. Eliot Prize, and the Rathbones Folio Prize 2022. Her 21st book of poetry, Women in Comfortable Shoes, is published by Bloodaxe Books in June 2023.
Selima Hill is unavailable for interview. Please contact Bloodaxe Books if you would like suggestions for people who would be able to write about her work.
To request jpegs or review copies of Men Who Feed Pigeons (2021), or any other Bloodaxe titles by Selima Hill, please email Christine Macgregor: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information on The King's Gold Medal for Poetry, please contact Royal Communications on +44 (0)20 7930 4832.
Announcement on the Buckingham Palace website: https://www.royal.uk/kings-gold-medal-poetry-2022
Selima Hill was interviewed for The Poetry Review podcast in 2021. She spoke to Emily Berry about Men Who Feed Pigeons and read poems from the collection.
Listen here or watch the video below, which includes audio extracts from the podcast accompanied by photographs of Selima Hill taken over the years.
Emily Berry wrote about Selima Hill's poetry in the London Review of Books of 6 October 2022. Read the article here.
Selima Hill: Men Who Feed Pigeons
In a very rare interview, 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.
Selima Hill reads seven poems from Gloria: Selected 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).
[14 January 2023]