Getting to Know Selima Hill

 In Poetry

Selima Hill, born in Hampstead in 1945, is a poet touching beyond the realm of reality. Her poetry often uses surrealism to illuminate the truths that surround our simple lives. She leads the reader along a path all too familiar of domesticity, with images of married life, family, and the home, easing us into something deceptively comfortable. Then, she rips the carpet from under our feet with finely crafted juxtaposition of wildly strange, sometimes disturbing elements, hinting toward more sinister truths. Such contrasting images draw the light on a darker theme to domestic life, but at the same time, evoke an intimate tenderness.

Selima Hill’s poetry has ben compared to the likes of Sylvia Plath for her soothsayer styles and confessional nature. Her first collection, Saying Hello at the Station, was published in 1984 and twenty collections have followed since, with her latest being Splash like Jesus (2017). Her success has brought her much acclaim, winning her awards such as the Arvon International Poetry Competition and the Whitbread Poetry Award for her earlier work, while her more recent work, such as Jutland (2015) and The Magnitude of My Sublime Existence (2016) has been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and Roehampton Poetry Prize. Her poems are, in themselves, emotionally raw and rich, yet her own audio recordings of them infuse a deeper intensity that gives the poems even more punch.

Some of her famous poems such as “Why I Left You,” and “Portrait of My Lover as a Dress” invoke startling images juxtaposed with tender familiarity. “Why I Left You,” plays with the ambiguity of English pronouns as she addresses both her subject as “you,” as well as using the second person “you” to describe her own experience in the narration. The final lines, “By ‘you,’ I mean ‘me.’ / One of us had to [leave]: / I did.” are sharply personal and emphasize the complex intertwining of the two people in the poem. “Portrait of My Lover as a Dress,” offers an equally poignant image, juggling a double meaning of scissors being stuck into a dress – either innocently as a seamstress would as she mends it, or violently as an attacker would of a dress worn by an unfortunate victim.

Selima Hill’s unique poetic expressions open an all-at-one playful, sinister, and honest perspective of the world that can hardly be ignored. She speaks with deft exactitude and clarity, without compromising on any depth of emotion. Her poems are well-worth a read.

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