Selima Hill

Selima Hill’s most recent collection is The Magnitude of My Sublime Existence.

Two Poems

Selima Hill, 14 July 2016

My Mother’s Mattress

Upstairs, in the heat, beside the handkerchiefs, my mother’s navy-blue horsehair mattress

still, although it’s August, smells of damp, of horses in the hush of damp forests,

of Spassky, still a child, playing chess all day long, with nobody, in silence –

Spassky, whose seductive ingenuity my mother has no need to understand.

Eerie Bittern...

Poem: ‘Orchids’

Selima Hill, 23 April 1992

The aeroplane must have been there for several weeks. A few birds were absent-mindedly picking through the mangled remains of small children, and a gold dog ran in and out of the empty cabin, cradling a spotted quince in its mouth. The man we were looking for was lying on a day-bed under a red tree. He seemed to be having some problem with his skin, and was wearing a pair of white silk gloves...

Three Poems

Selima Hill, 7 March 1991

I have never been to Africa

I have never been to Africa – I’ve only seen it from an aeroplane and longed to go there – it looked like a giant peach, half-asleep, gracefully draped in a dried civet-cat skin someone had sewn bells and teeth onto, and small figures made of ivory that carry miniature gongs and miniature hoes –

so no, I’ve never been to Africa, and...

Two Poems

Selima Hill, 12 July 1990


‘“Possible titles: HAPPINESS: GRIEF: MY CROW.” That’s what it said, in tiny screwed-up handwriting that only I could follow, and maybe her mother, who wrote her the long intriguing letters I was on my word of honour not to read. We used to come up here most afternoons. Stacey would sit on her pillow, and, taking a lock of white hair between her fingers, would...

Poem: ‘The Hare’

Selima Hill, 4 May 1989

Beside the river in the dead of night, a cry, and then another, like a spell, turns the darkened beeches into light, the silence of the woods into a bell; and in the cottage on the moonlit hill a woman shivers in her narrow bed to hear the hare; and then the hare is still; she feels its ginger paws against her head, its dusty fur, like ghostly butterflies that fall in winter from the...

Silent as a Fire Alarm: Selima Hill

Emily Berry, 6 October 2022

Children often interpret symbolic language literally, which might seem counter to the work of a poet, who is usually in the business of making metaphors, not dismantling them. But the child’s perspective...

Read more reviews

Neil Corcoran confronts the new recklessness

Neil Corcoran, 28 September 1989

For a writer who several years ago published a ‘Manifesto Against Manifestoes’, James Fenton has published his fair share of manifestoes, including a disguised one for a...

Read more reviews


John Kerrigan, 13 October 1988

August is the cruellest month, breeding tailbacks on the Dover Road and logjams in every departure lounge. Travel reverts to travail, stirring dull roots in trepalium – that classical...

Read more reviews

Tropical Storms

Blake Morrison, 6 September 1984

Johnson’s Imlac, urging that the poet neglect the ‘minuter discriminations’ of the tulip leaf in favour of ‘general properties’, has been unpopular for two hundred...

Read more reviews

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences