Human Tissue


Publication date 2020-02-01.

Winner of the 2018/19 International Book & Pamphlet Competition
Judged by Neil Astley, Michael Schmidt and Amy Wack

Exploring the tension between our need for spiritual comfort and the stark realities of science, Human Tissue tells of one family’s experience of kidney donation — their fears, hopes and losses — together with the history and future of organ donation, and the hard truths that people who live with chronic kidney disease have to face.

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What Writers and Critics Think

  • There is a genuine pressure of content in the best of these skilfully managed and imaginatively engaged poems. The evidently real life story as it unfolds is quietly told and affecting.

    Neil Astley, Michael Schmidt & Amy Wack
  • A wonderful, far-reaching collection of poems ... Wise, and finely-rendered.

    The Yorkshire Times


A Note on Human Tissue [extract]

A prose version of this book might be called “What they don’t tell you about transplants”. The public likes to imagine that organ transplant is a universal blessing and salvation. The truth is these are early days of the science and many patients suffer in the name of progress.

Hilary Menos’s son Linus, who suffered from kidney failure, had a “successful” transplant, aged 17, of one of his mother’s kidneys — “successful” in that it took quickly and functioned well to start with. What nobody told him about, or her, were the headaches, the itching and the permanent shaking. Aged 19, Linus had a massive rejection episode. They had to remove his mother’s kidney and he is now on dialysis.

Such is the horrific background to a life and death thriller of a poetry book, if I can put it crudely. A gifted poet, whose earlier collection, Berg, won a Forward prize, Menos writes the kind of English that operates like a surgeon’s knife on its material, with the difference that it has a sure grasp of the metaphorical implications and potential of its subject matter. Her determination to understand every last detail of the failure and replacement of the body’s second most complex organ may be a revelation to doctors and public alike. Her readers will surely be impressed by the eloquence and beauty of her insight.

— Hugo Williams




“A poetic journey which takes the narrator around regional rural hinterlands, to Druidic ceremonies, to churches, to Spain’s Camino Trail, looks at first sight, like an attempt to find succour or comfort in spiritual enlightenment. But this would be a misjudgement: Menos’ tenor is observant but skeptic, admiring but profoundly critical – she is a detached viewer at a feast whose reward is made on earth, not in heaven. The church, the ancient equinoctial observances which draw in the hippy and the traveller, hold less warranty than the surgeon’s knife.” – The Yorkshire Times (read the full review here)




Hilary Menos was born in Luton in 1964 and studied PPE at Oxford and an MA in Poetry at MMU. She has worked in politics, journalism and theatre, and co-ran a 100-acre mixed organic farm in Devon. Her first collection, Berg (Seren, 2009), won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2010. Her second collection, Red Devon, was published by Seren in 2013. She lives in France with her husband and one of her four sons.