The Magnitude of My Sublime Existence is the account of a young woman's stay in the psychiatric ward of a large hospital. The only time she feels safe is when swimming; the only place, the sea, preferably underwater. Selima Hill's 17th book of poetry – her 14th from Bloodaxe – takes her back to the territory of her third book, The Accumulation of Small Acts of Kindness (1983), but this revisiting is quite different in style and mood. Over thirty years later, ‘this brilliant lyricist of human darkness’ (Fiona Sampson) is more able to chart and illuminate ‘extreme experience with a dazzling excess’ (Deryn Rees-Jones), with startling humour and surprising combinations of homely and outlandish.
‘The collection's title is not ironical. There is magnitude and sublimity in this latest chronicle of a long, hard pilgrimage to inner freedom.’ – Carol Rumens, Observer (Poetry Book of the Month)
‘Arguably the most distinctive truth teller to emerge in British poetry…Despite her thematic preoccupations, there’s nothing conscientious or worthy about Hill’s work. She is a flamboyant, exuberant writer who seems effortlessly to juggle her outrageous symbolic lexicon…using techniques of juxtaposition, interruption and symbolism to articulate narratives of the unconscious. Those narratives are the matter of universal, and universally recognisable, psychodrama…hers is a poetry of piercing emotional apprehension, lightly worn… So original that it has sometimes scared off critical scrutineers, her work must now, surely, be acknowledged as being of central importance in British poetry – not only for the courage of its subject matter but also for the lucid compression of its poetics.’ – Fiona Sampson, Guardian