Sean Hill reads "Insurance Man 1946"

Sean Hill performs his poem “Insurance Man 1946.” “Insurance Man 1946” is the ninth film in Above Strands of Earth: Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation at Tippet Rise, a film series produced in collaboration with the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation and the Academy of American Poets.

Directed by Matthew Thompson and shot at Tippet Rise Art Center.

Insurance Man 1946

Silas, you might not be here come April.
Ain’t none of us ever promised tomorrow.
If you died right sudden, you’d need a will.

That way you control who gets your nickel
when you gone. Get your ducks in a row,
Silas. You might not be here come April.

Yeah, your policy’s up-to-date and we’ll
pay, say, if you lose an arm at the elbow
at the mill, but if you die, you’ll need a will.

Double pay for accidental deaths? We still
have you down, your wife won’t need to borrow.
Silas, you might not be here come April.

Being alive is enough to get you killed.
Did you hear about them folks up in Monroe?
If they hang you from a tree, you’ll need a will.

Your folks won’t have to worry about a meal
with this insurance when that day of sorrow
comes. Silas, you might not be here come April.
If you died right sudden, you’d need a will.

Sean Hill

Photo by Matthew Thompson

Sean Hill

Poet Sean Hill was born and raised in Milledgeville, a small city in Central Georgia. He was drawn to poetry in college, where he studied with Judith Ortiz Cofer and discovered the work of poetic influences including Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Seamus Heaney, Marilyn Nelson, Sterling Brown, and C.P. Cavafy. Hill earned his MFA from the University of Houston in 2003 and was awarded a Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellowship at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing in 2006.

Hill is the author of two poetry collections: Dangerous Goods (Milkweed Editions, 2014), winner of the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry, and Blood Ties & Brown Liquor (UGA Press, 2008), named one of the “Ten Books All Georgians Should Read” by the Georgia Center for the Book in 2015. His poems and prose have appeared in journals such as Callaloo, Harvard Review, New England Review, Orion, Oxford American, Poetry, Tin House, Ploughshares,, and many others, and in over two dozen anthologies, including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry and Villanelles. His poems have also been featured on Poem-a-Day and The Slowdown. Poems selected from his two books have been translated into a book published in South Korea. In 2015, Hill collaborated with musician Eric Des Marias on Distance Grows in the Bones, an album incorporating his series of postcard-themed poems from Dangerous Goods.

Hill’s work, informed by his own travels and by in-depth cultural research, threads together themes of Black and American history, migration, alienation, and belonging. Per CutBank, “Sean Hill’s poems on landscapes, Southern identity, and African American community…subvert expectations while adhering to timeless poetic forms.” His numerous awards include fellowships from Cave Canem, the Region 2 Arts Council, the Bush Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison, as well as a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University and a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Hill has served as the director of the Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference at Bemidji State University since 2012. He is a consulting editor at monthly broadside published Broadsided Press. Hill has taught at several universities, including the University of Alaska–Fairbanks and Georgia Southern University. He currently lives in southwestern Montana with his family and is an Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Montana.

Discover more on Sean Hill

Text: Read four poems by Hill at Academy of American Poets
Audio: Listen to Hill’s poem “Hello” at The Slowdown
Text: Hill discusses the villanelle, Bishop, Thomas, and his own “Insurance Man 1946” at Mentor and Muse