The poetry of Hilary Menos

Hilary Menos is a Devon based poet who won the Forward Prize for best first collection in 2010 (Berg)

Carol Ann Duffy said of Berg that it “… crackles with formal skill, with extraordinary, vibrant language … and with great style.”

while John Stammers thinks “She has the rare ability to uncover the wide range of implications of the world we live in, be they emotional, spiritual or literary. Here is a new poet with a full locker of accomplishments. She is sure to make an immediate impact.”


here is the poem “Berg” from her highly recommended website


After the Larsen breakout of ninety-five,
when a mound the size of Rutland calved with a howl
into the Amundsen sea, and bergy bits and growlers
surrounded Cape Longing, we were on standby.

Glaciologists from Colorado to London
argued over fracture mechanics and bed forms.
Every satellite map looked like a storm
breaking. We put a watch on the ice tongue

Now everything mattered; melt water ponding,
the crystallography of frazil ice, the hole in the ozone layer
the thermodynamics of polar-bear hair.
We sandbagged East Anglia, Holland

They came like brides, majestic over Barking Reach,
queued to check-in at the Barrier, their tabular tops
reflecting weak sun, waltzed towards Wapping
and Wandsworth, cold and hooded, each one

like an inmate from some asylum holding the flowered
hem of her ancient slip too high up her pale thighs,
a thousand mile stare in her eyes,
saving the last dance for the Post Office Tower.

©Hilary Menos

In her more recent and critically acclaimed collection, Red Devon, Menos “reveals her experiences as a “blow in” from “upcountry” moving into a tight-knit rural community.” with poems that reflect “her concern for farmers around the world whose livelihoods — and lives — are threatened by global changes in agriculture. Surreal sonnets about pigs sit next to poems about crop spraying, super weeds, and GM crops.”

here in the poem Shambles Menos reflects on slaughter, death and animal husbandry:


This is the cow that peered down the black hole of the captive bolt
shrugged its clod against the head-gate
and said, like Gary Gilmour facing a five-man firing squad in Utah State,
“Let’s do it!”

This is the sheep that held out a hoof
as the tongs ear-muffed her temples
and said, like John Amery greeting the hangman in Wandsworth Gallows,
“Oh Mr Pierrepoint, I’ve always wanted to meet you,
but not, of course, under these circumstances.”

This is the goat that, incompletely stunned,
offered his throat to the knife
and said, like Walter Raleigh mentally thumbing the axe,
“So the heart be right, it is no matter which way the head lieth”.

This is the chicken that, shackled by one foot to the rack,
reached the electric bath for a partial KO
and said, like Tony Mancini receiving the hood at Pentonville Prison,

And this is the pig that, trotting through the race to the gas cubicle,
put down his regulation issue bible
and said, like Sean Patrick Flanagan readying his arm in a small white room in Nevada,
“I love you”.

© Hilary Menos

Hilary Menos is published by Seren Books


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