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This review is taken from PN Review 266, Volume 48 Number 6, July - August 2022.

Cover of Men Who Feed Pigeons
Carla-Rosa ManfredinoSelima Hill, Men Who Feed Pigeons (Bloodaxe) £12;
Hannah Lowe, The Kids (Bloodaxe) £10.99
The seven sequences in Selima Hill’s Men Who Feed Pigeons are linked by relationships, mostly between a man and a woman, narrated by a woman observing a man. The poems make deceptively simple statements, ‘He is one, and I the other, gender’ (‘Childhood Sweetheart’), but carry deeper, darker meanings.

Each poem is like the piece of a jigsaw and seems to reflect the book’s overarching question: can we ever fit comfortably with another person? This uncertainty plays throughout and can be seen in the stacking and de-stacking of images. Cake features in many of the poems: ‘The man whose tea is never hot enough/ is peering at the row of fancy cakes / that may look good to everybody else / but not, as a promise that is never fulfilled’ (‘His Victoria Sponge’), and ‘a wedding cake deep inside its icing / is concentrating on not thinking knife’ (‘Wedding Cake’).

There is a sense that deeper feelings are being avoided, or brushed over with something lighter. They find their way into the poems obliquely, however, as in ‘Golden Sands’, where the speaker says, ‘We’ve suddenly found ourselves alone / and feeling all the feelings of the tenderness / we came out here to try to forget’. And in the description of the patient who ‘slides across the ward like a door // that leans against the nurse as if to say / please can she be sparing with the truth’ (‘The Patient’).

In one of the marriage poems, ‘Snowdrop’, the speaker says ‘You love me like a man loves a bird / on whose tiny white foot he slips ...

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