Sunday, 30 December 2012

Poetry Book of the Year 2012 - 'Naked Clay' by Barry Hill

From concept to delivery this book of poems really excels. The idea of tackling a painter’s work and transposing those images as words may not be new but the honest, sometimes brutal, way that Barry Hill sets about portraying Lucian Freud’s work is nothing short of masterful. My relatively new introduction to poetry, Dylan Thomas and Basho to one side, has been further excited by this incredible body of work.

Unlike a novel which has a narrative that propels you along urging you to follow its course until you reach that final page, poetry, or so it strikes me, is far more contemplative. As I read one poem I found myself dwelling on it, ruminating over its marvellous rhythms, its meaning and the way the words cascaded.  This book has left me breathless. I return to it again and again.

Barry Hill not so much praises the art of Lucian Freud, although in circumspect fashion he does, as examines it. His take on the famed artists work, his portraits, is as honest an appraisal as it often is blunt and questioning. He really does ask of the art and the artist why? Did Freud ever consider the implications of painting his daughter naked whilst menstruating? It is the 'edgy' approach that elevates this set of poems above all else I have read this year.

Barry Hill is an Australian historian, poet, journalist and academic. He was born in Melbourne, Australia and studied at the University of Melbourne where he gained his Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Education (B Ed) and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and from there went to London where he gained his Master of Arts (MA) degree from the  University of London.

Hill has worked in both Melbourne and London. In London he worked for the Times Literary Supplement. Since 1975 Hill has been a full-time writer and is currently Poetry Editor of  The Australian newspaper.

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