Human Tissue was a winner in The Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition 2019-20
HUMAN TISSUE because that’s what’s written on the white insulated bags they use to transport organs for transplant. Sometimes HUMAN ORGAN, or ORGAN FOR TRANSPLANT, but mostly HUMAN TISSUE. In blue capital letters on a white background — like the cover of this pamphlet. When Hilary Menos’s son Linus was sixteen he was told he needed a kidney transplant and when he was seventeen, she gave him one of hers.
But this pamphlet is not just about a kidney transplant. It’s also about what we do when bad things happen that we can’t fix, and we really want someone, or something, to swoop in and save the day. It’s about bargaining, and the search for some authority in which to place trust, and what we do when all available authorities come to seem flimsy and unconvincing.
“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. We all found it easy to agree that this was an outstanding collection, because of its material, but also because of its openness and artistry. It is a worthy winner and one that many people will engage with and appreciate.” — Judges Neil Astley, Michael Schmidt and Amy Wack
” … a life and death thriller of a poetry book. A gifted poet, 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 readers will surely be impressed by the eloquence and beauty of her insight.” — Hugo Williams
“Menos’s son Linus, the dedicatee, suffered kidney failure, and took one of his mother’s kidneys — ‘your kidney / which I am keeping warm’ — in what at first appeared to be a successful transplant. Two years later, his body rejected it, and he went on dialysis. This pamphlet documents these experiences, sometimes aslant and sometimes head on, with an acuity available only to a genuinely superb poet with a heightened passion for her subject. The result is one of the most moving, stylish and, indeed, life-affirming pamphlets I have read in years.” — Rory Waterman, PN Review 253 (May / June 2020)
Linus has an arm cat. It purrs day and night
without stroking. When I cup my hand
over the snaked bulge in his forearm
I feel it hum like a turbine.
Linus’s arm cat has nine lives
of indeterminate length. Its name is turbulence.
We know about turbulence, me and Linus,
we know interruptions to flow, what it is to be
roistered by breakers in a mad sea,
the strange quiet of the eye of the storm,
standing in a hospital corridor, not knowing
where you are, or where you’re going.
And we know reversals, and rejection,
that silent slipping away.
And we know about grief. There are many kinds
and it’s not always a person that dies.
What else do we know? How things pass.
We are both learning about acceptance.