Animals in English by Hilary Sideris


In Animals in English Hilary Sideris uses Temple Grandin’s study of animal behavior as a starting point for her remarkable poems that map a conflicted growth into maturity. They come to us in short lines, few of which complete an image or a thought, often by way of abrupt pauses, as though insight grew on utterance itself. Sideris prefers monosyllables, searches for meaning, word by slow word. Pound warned us to “Go in fear of abstraction.” Sideris, celebrating concreteness, says in “Aweless,” “I look up words–/ marvel, sublime,// wonder—but they/ all mean each other.” Or, in “Certain Infinitives,” she says, “even today/ the phrase to be//means nothing to me.”

The larger implication of this work we can infer from Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents. Civilization requires that “to be” we suppress the child in ourselves. Sideris’s poems belong to the long history of literature, beginning with Blake’s “Songs of Innocence,” that protest child labor and prostitution. They agree with Wordsworth that “The child is father to the man”. They keep company with Dickens’ Little Nell and Tiny Tim. Even with Eliot who was “moved by…The notion of some infinitely gentle, Infinitely suffering thing.” This is the node of life—whatever of the child that survives in us—that the Romantic movement hitched its horse to. Sideris’s poems are a stunning addition to the struggle we still have in seeing all creatures compassionately. —Roger Mitchell, author of Reason’s Dream (2018)


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 70
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: August, 2020
  • ISBN: 978-1-948017-92-3


“Cows saved me.” Hilary Sideris writes in Animals in English. “One summer in high/ school I saw a herd/ go through the chute/ to get their shots.” It’s sound that drives these persona poems, her new book in the voice of Temple Grandin, a spokesperson for both animal rights and autism, making us aware, for example, of flip-over disease, where chickens are bred to be so fat, their food mixed with painkillers, they fall over and die. Sideris’ work in this collection as always, is spare and elegant. There are several poems which refer to her squeeze machine, the parallels between slaughter chutes and the calming machine useful for those on the spectrum. One can’t help but consider the irony of using words to attempt to express the thoughts of someone who struggled to communicate verbally, but Sideris handles the challenge skillfully. These are poems about animals, often with reference to human cruelty and misperception—horses, cows, pigs, and others—as with Hans the Horse, better at reading his trainer than understanding math. They are also poems about coming of age, the construction of the brain, and from the pen of this very special poet, the struggles of a very special public figure. —Susana H. Case, author of Dead Shark on the N Train and Drugstore Blue

“Autism is a survival trait among prey animals. It’s a rational instinct for separating a detail from the whole of something because a detail can kill you, while the whole of everything will let you live—most of the time. Sideris too focuses on those magic details. And in each of these short, lusty poems, she weaves the detail back into a fuller picture, now sharing its space with revelation to prepare us for the quickly approaching hour when we humans will become the prey animals, the shy but curious feast of our own predation.” —Barrett Warner, editor, Free State Review and Galileo Press


Apology to a Collie
Making collies stupid wasn’t the point, of course.

Your low intelligence
was not our goal. We loved
the elegance of your sharp
face, that long, patrician

nose so much we got
carried away & shrank
the space inside your skull.
Forgive us. Look at loss

this way, a pretty pet like
you, whose owner spent a lot,
even if you bite, you won’t
be put to sleep without

a second thought,
like some dumb mutt.


Hilary SiderisHilary Sideris is the author of Most Likely to Die (Poets Wear Prada 2014), The Inclination to Make Waves (Big Wonderful 2016), Un Amore Veloce (Kelsay Books 2019), and The Silent B (Dos Madres 2019). She has a B.A. in English literature from Indiana University and an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Sideris works as a professional developer for The City University of New York’s CUNY Start program and lives in Brooklyn.

Additional information

Weight 5.1 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in