Berg was the winner of the Forward Poetry Prize Best First Collection 2010
In this first collection from Hilary Menos, icebergs floating down the Thames jostle with transvestites in Singapore, aliens wading the Hudson River and the lively crew from the local slaughterhouse. We go shopping with Ingomar the barbarian and watch Bernard Manning gigging at Totnes Civic Hall. Other poems are populated with characters from fiction; we step off the cartoon cliff with the Road Runner, join Iggle Piggle in a subverted Night Garden, and hitch a lift with the micro-crew on their Fantastic Voyage.
Throughout, Menos brings a sophisticated sensibility to her poetry. Her subjects are seen aslant, with ironic as well as tender intentions. She ranges from the intimate and local to the ambitious and far flung, with poems that capture ‘elsewhere’ set in Paris and Havana and New York, and mini ‘ecological’ epics, often in the voice of an invented persona, alongside poems about geese and babies and farming life in rural Devon.
“For Best First Collection we chose Hilary Menos’s Berg. We loved its wit, range and strength, the way that each poem is a complete world in itself, and moves you out to strange places. The poems are contemporary, varied and highly imaginative.” — Chair of judges, Ruth Padel
“[Her] poetry is infused with an earthy quality and, frequently, a good dollop of humour … Her poems often take inspiration from everyday objects or events but present them to us in new and surprising guises. This is a compelling and skillfully crafted début”
— PBS Bulletin
“This is grown-up verse, able to take on the world.” — Poetry Review
“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.” — John Stammers
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.