This year, Fair Acre Press are issuing a dozen pamphlets by Selima Hill, for decades a cult classic of the poetry world.
The typically laconic titles include The Fly, Susan, and Men in Shorts.
In them this “daughter of a mother/ it’s too late/ to say I’m sorry to/ for being me” is now adventuring fiercely towards older age, a territory with black humour to match her own.
Fantastical and highly readable, this extraordinary poetry is too often sidestepped as unclassifiable.
We should relax, and admire its formal and emotional virtuosity.
Saturday Guardian’s Books of the Month, Issue 45, 6 August 2022 by Fiona Sampson
At 77, Hill is writing faster than ever, publishing a new pamphlet every single month in 2022 with the terrific small press Fair Acre.
She’s beloved by today’s young writers, but not as well-known among the general public as she deserves to be. I hope this award will change that.
Tristam Fane Saunders, Telegraph – on the news Selima Hill has been awarded the King’s Medal for Poetry, Jan 2023
About Selima Hill:
In 2021 her Bloodaxe collection is shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and the T.S.Eliot prize. And her pamphlet published by Rialto is shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award. She is at the top of her game, as the saying goes!
Selima Hill says of herself that she “has won lots of prizes, and not won many more. She lives by the sea in Dorset with her dog and a bald robin.”
About Fair Acre Press:
Fair Acre Press has published a hardback A to Z by Selima Hill and artist Tim Nicholson ~ From Angel to Zebu
and the highly regarded poets Mario Petrucci, Martin Figura and Fred D’Aguiar; the acclaimed NHS anthology These are the Hands; the prize-winning #MeToo anthology; the Ted Hughes Award for New Poetry-winning play by Kate O’Reilly; the first novel of polymath and nature writer Charles Foster; and other eclectic award-winning and 5 star reviewed books. Please click here for more information on other books published by Fair Acre Press.
January ~ THE CHAUFFEUR
Something horrific is occurring; Selima Hill is playing eye-spy with us, focusing our brains on little pieces of the picture – donkeys, dresses, pencil sharpeners – and, as time goes on, we half-forget where we are, wrapped up the child’s play, enjoying the innocence… until the game ends and we realise, with a jolt of dread, just how much we’ve seen. Caroline Bird
Heartbreakingly honest and glistering encapsulations of a complex blood relationship – The Chauffeur drives, is driven, stokes up the heat and watches somewhat joyful, somewhat bemused as the vehicle trails away. Selima Hill’s voice is, as ever, a smidge above reality yet deeply embedded in reality’s cat fur and teabags. Helen Ivory
February ~ DOLLY
Selima Hill is like our very own Emily Dickinson, but quintessentially herself and unique. We must treasure her. Her poems are usually short but compressed as bombs, and simmer with electrifying power. They are often funny but each word is written as if with bone marrow. Every collection is a world wonder. Pascale Petit
Selima Hill is an expert in mixing the dinky with the dangerous. Dolly is the pinnacle of just that. Keenly observed and complex in the relationships they portray, these poem-portraits of women are both so darkly surreal and intensely intimate, you shouldn’t be surprised if their eyes follow you wherever you go. Isabel Galleymore
March ~ DRESSED AND SOBBING
Straight talking, strange and darkly funny, these poems walk the pathway between the bewilderment and the surprising comforts of becoming an old woman. ‘cosy in our large expensive swimwear’ All the women the poet has been, seem to make their appearances in this marvellous feat of magic; of facecloths, the gratitude of warm underwear on a heated towel-rail and an amazing tenderness. Selima Hill at her best! Deborah Alma
These new poems, trenchant and suave, see Hill in charge of all she surveys. As wry in tone as ever, the experience of aging is addressed with nonchalant jest beyond which we glimpse universal hard truths. Her world is energetically peopled with seagulls, pigs, the Messiah. And throughout Hill’s bracingly-lyrical wit sparkles with astonishing immediacy and purpose, as do the wondrous conversations with the self. Penelope Shuttle
April ~ THE ELEPHANT
These poems are the only facts you need. In The Elephant, Selima Hill pays due respect to porcupines, finds a language for bereavement, gifts stowaways, bungalows, lovers, sons, skinny jeans and daughters equal attention and gives invaluable life advice (‘never hide chocolate in an oven / in a sandpit, on a level crossing’). Her writing is indispensable. Don’t go anywhere without it. Helen Mort
We usually think of facts as being hard as a quarry, Selima Hill manages to reinvent facts as trapeze works that fling us back to the old truths utterly refreshed. Hill remains among the vanguard poets of the line. Daljit Nagra
May ~ FISHFACE
‘Yet again Selima Hill creates a brand new country out of language and invites us to enter. I urge you to cross the border and take a journey through this enchanted land.’ Ian McMillan
“Selima Hill never disappoints. She shines a torch into the corners of small worlds, lights up the strangest of details and oddest of angles. Fishface is sad, beautiful and completely compelling.” Emma Purshouse
June ~ THE FLY
Selima Hill enacts all the qualities that we cherish in poetry: enigma, epigram, surrealism, vulnerability, politics viewed ‘at-a-slant’ (Emily Dickenson), laughter and serious play. She has the light touch of the enlightened, the depth of the metaphysicals, the feel for sensuous detail of an embodied sensibility. Fred D’Aguiar
It’s over two decades since Selima Hill’s poetry first jolted me awake to with its courage and insight, the way her darkly surreal imagery makes reality at once deeper, stranger and more knowable. In the “The Fly”, she turns her gaze to the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, and his anguished relationship with his mother. Speaking in the voice of a man who massacred 77 people takes an astonishing degree of skill and control. Deeply sinister, reflective and unsettling, this sequence is testimony not just to Selima Hill’s mastery of language, or to humankind’s ability to damage each other horribly; but to poetry’s ability to embody meaning in the darkest of stories. In “The Fly”, Selima Hill continues to expand my expectations of poetry, to take my breath away. Clare Shaw
July ~ THE HOUSE BY THE SEA
Selima Hill is one of our greatest living poets. She has always found new ways to speak the unspeakable. Each of these tiny poems somehow contains a vast grief. After reading The House by the Sea, I stood up vertiginous and changed. Clare Pollard
In this remarkable set of poems – something like a narrative, something like a sequence, but also something like a drystone wall or a mosaic – Selima Hill brings a rare weight to the pamphlet form. It’s no longer sufficient, she seems to be telling us, to feel uneasy at the sound of water moving stones on a shore. We are a long way beyond such small emotions, faced with sounds and pressures from both elsewhere and the heavy centre of our lives. They combine and threaten to crush us. Without ever saying it quite directly, the intense and often suffocating scenes of these poems make our frayed imaginations feel once again all the burdens we see and hear and cannot quite cope with anymore. That she does this with precision and calm, and flickers of natural light and landscape, makes the thing even more striking. James Sheard
August ~ MEN IN SHORTS
Men in Shorts offers us a world of Bull Terriers called Toothpaste and conversations with power boat owners, cricket played in mist and octogenarian romance. These fabulous short glimpses of poems are so alive, a celebration of the world of the park and its fascinating brief encounters – to read the poems is like throwing open a window and seeing all these people there, in all their wonderful realness. Each short poem is so much bigger than itself, suggestive, leading us everywhere, and the reading experience is one of such enjoyment. The pamphlet’s last line might also summarise the joy of these poems: ‘Perfect! Not a cloud in the sky!‘ Jonathan Edwards
The small talk of dog owners is a wonderful thing – Selima Hill’s trademarked sharpness combines tact, intrigue, dachshunds and delight. Chrissy Williams
September ~ MY FRIEND WEASEL
‘Everything looks innocent from here, says one poem – yet nothing does. This is experience – of a girls’ boarding school in the Fifties, and parents encased in frighteningly gendered armour – recollected in fragility. Selima Hill’s immaculate observations of tiny things offer hugely compassionate glimpses of loneliness, tenderness and hope. There is no one like her.’ Ruth Padel
“I have always been in awe of Hill’s blazingly perceptive raids on the unconscious which say so much more and feel so much more awake and alive than any so-called straightforward account could ever claim to. In My Friend Weasel we enter a picture-perfect and nightmarish boarding school, and the minds of its abandoned charges as they contemplate fatherhood, motherhood, absence, femininity, and their picturesque and hellish lot. As you’d expect from Hill, there’s a matchless clarity and honesty to every poem, and it’s beautiful and terrifying.” Luke Kennard
October ~ THE NIGHT NURSE
This fragmented narrative with its determined focus on loneliness, ageing and desire unfolds into a quietly dazzling, reverberating web of poems. Dogs, snails and humans cohabit in a series of simultaneously surreal and credible moments and meditations, providing flashes of laugh-out-loud humour that only serve to highlight a profound and inescapable pathos. Jacqueline Saphra
The delight, surprise, and attack of Selima Hill’s poetry: an accumulation of miraculous acts of anarchy. David Morley
November ~ REDUCED TO A QUIVERING JELLY
Selima Hill, who always wakes up the language and stirs up our notions of emotional and social propriety, is up to her brilliant tricks once again. This time she confounds us with the spectacle and spectre of age, alternately threatening us with what dementia does and cajoling our compassion for last journeys. Compelling and salutary. Fiona Sampson
Selima Hill is the queen of UK poetry. I cannot imagine how much worse off we’d be without her. Thankfully, I don’t have to – she keeps producing work like Reduced to a Quivering Jelly, in which a depth of experience we don’t have language for is somehow made manifest. Wayne Holloway-Smith
December ~ SUSAN
Selima Hill is expert in her craft, and wonderful at creating juxtapositions that surprise. This new pamphlet, a sequence about love and loss, is a thing to celebrate. Michael Mackmin
Just knowing Selima Hill is in the world gives me great joy. Freewheeling, wayward and brilliantly anarchic, her poems are a singular bliss. Liz Berry