The Daily Telegraph

‘Family conflict’ poet wins King’s award

- By Victoria Ward

THE King has chosen to award his first Gold Medal for Poetry to an author whose work covers family conflict and mental health.

Selima Hill was described as an “inimitable talent” by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, who chairs the Poetry Medal Committee.

The award is the first such award presented in the King’s name since the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September.

Hill, 77, published her first book of poems, Saying Hello at the Station, in 1984 and has gone on to publish 19 further collection­s. The London-born poet is known for tackling “difficult” subjects, such as mental illness and sexual abuse, often exploring family conflict and female vulnerabil­ity.

She is famed for juxtaposin­g seemingly opposing objects. Among her most popular poems is ‘Please Can I Have a Man’, which imagines the ideal man “who knows the names of 100 different roses… who walks like Belmondo in A Bout de Souffle.”

Her work has prompted comparison­s with poets including Sylvia Plath and Stevie Smith.

Hill, who lives in a coastal cabin in Dorset, said last year that she wrote “more or less non-stop”. She added: “If I am not writing something, I feel bereft, like a teabag without water.”

Armitage said: “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.”

Hill is likely to be presented with the award by the King at Buckingham Palace at a later date.

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