There is probably no book in a poet’s career more important than their first Selected Poems. It is here that poets have the opportunity to display the best of their work in all its variety over several decades. Individual collections are a mere step on the way. Collecteds tend to be posthumous and of interest mainly to scholars, reference libraries, and a cluster of devotees.
Barry Hill’s Eagerly We Burn: Selected poems 1980–2018 is a fine example of the format: not too long at 193 pages, but sufficiently comprehensive and indicative of his changing and developing concerns. Hill has chosen to arrange his samples in reverse chronological order. This reviewer, perversely perhaps, decided to consider them in the order of their first appearance.