King Charles awarded first poetry medal to mental health and family conflict author

Selima Hill - Christopher Jones

Selima Hill – Christopher Jones

King chose to award his first Gold Medal for poetry to an author whose work focuses on family conflicts and mental health.

Selima Hill has been described as “a unique talent” by Poet Award Winner Simon Armitage, who chairs the Poetry Medal Committee.

The award was presented to Queen Elizabeth II in September. The first Gold Medal for Poetry awarded in the King’s name since Elizabeth’s death.

Hill, 77, published his first book of poetry, Saying Hello At the Station, in 1984 and went on to publish 19 more collections.

The London-born poet is known for addressing “difficult” topics such as mental illness and sexual abuse, often exploring domestic conflicts and women’s vulnerability.

He is famous for juxtaposing seemingly opposite 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 … and walks like Belmondo in A Bout de Souffle”.

His work has led to comparisons with poets such as Sylvia Plath and Stevie Smith.

Hill, who lives in a waterfront cottage in Dorset, said he wrote “more or less nonstop” last year. “If I’m not writing something, I feel like a waterless tea bag!”

Queen Elizabeth II Grace Nichols - Steve Parsons/Pool Photo via AP

Queen Elizabeth II Grace Nichols – Steve Parsons/Pool Photo via AP

Armitage said, “Selima Hill is a unique talent. The mind is fragile and unreliable in his poetry, but it is also stubborn and puzzling, capable of the most unusual responses and always fighting language as a survival kit.

“Life in general can be said to have complexities, contradictions, and consequences of simply being. Yet Hill’s writings are highly readable and approachable, sometimes even entertaining, the voice of a person and a poet who will not be silenced and do not live up to expectations, especially poetic ones.”

The Poetry Gold Medal was established by King George V in 1933 and had previously been won by British and Commonwealth poets such as Siegfried Sassoon, John Betjeman, WH Auden, Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes.

Queen During Elizabeth’s reign, the award was known as the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. Most recently, Commonwealth writer Grace Nichols won, who spoke of celebrating Caribbean heritage along with “the British traditions we inherited as a former British colony.”

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

Tristram Fane Saunders, poetry critic of The Telegraph, said: “I am thrilled to see this medal go to Hill, one of the most distinctive voices in British poetry.

“His sharp, funny, shocking poetry can never be confused with someone else’s work. This is not a lifetime achievement award for an old poet on his laurels.

“The 77-year-old Hill writes faster than ever, and in 2022 the terrific little press publishes a new brochure every month with Fair Acre. He is loved by today’s young writers, but is not as well-known among the general public as he deserves. I hope this award changes that.”

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