I’ve mentioned my ‘problem’ with Selima Hill before. As a poet whose work I don’t really get, she has quite clearly managed to get under my skin as I own no less than six of her collections.
Somehow, when I read much of her poems, I feel like there’s a knowing joke going on in the background that I’m not party to. Often, I’m reminded of those joke poems where the last line doesn’t scan or rhyme, but you’re supposed to substitute something naughty and funny that would have fit better. You know, like “There was a young fellow from Chukov, who I didn’t like the look of, he stared at me meanly, so I knocked him out cleanly, and told the young man he could go away.”
Except with Hill it’s like I just can’t get the substitution to unlock the poem and get the joke.
For all I say about not getting any of it, I still have a favourite collection – The Hat. I think the reason is that the individual poems stand alone, rather than being an intrinsic part of a narrative, unravelling when extracted from the whole.
The Darkness of her Meekness
She rages in the darkness of the meekness
in which they have installed her as in stalls
while in the lounge her mother and her sisters
further their spectacular depressions.
Perhaps you can see what I mean about finishing the poem and being left wondering what you’ve done wrong in reading it. Or perhaps you’re lucky and you get it. As I said before, I find this disconnect so compelling I keep going back.
See the intro/roundup.