Jan Brierton: ‘I have the hot flushes, the fog, the rage and everything else’

The ‘accidental’ poet talks about the inspiration behind her new collection of poetry, Everybody is a Poem.

Listen | 33:09

After a visit to a menopause specialist a couple of years ago, Dublin woman and poet, Jan Brierton wrote a poem called ‘The Handbook’.

It’s a tongue in cheek take on society’s attitude to the menopause and the culture of secrecy that surrounds it, she explains on the latest episode of The Women’s Podcast.

Speaking to podcast presenter Róisín Ingle, Brierton says, “When I went in to see the specialist, I think there was like 36 different symptoms of the menopause and she was calling them out…. and I was kind of going, yeah, tick, yeah, I have that, yeah, the hot flushes and the fog and the rage and everything else”.

But following the appointment, the mother of two, was left feeling a bit overwhelmed and deflated, essentially up the menopause creek without a paddle: “There was no leaflet, there was no handbook, there was nothing. So that’s how I kind of wrote the poem, you know, about all the horrible stuff that kind of happens that you don’t really talk about”.


This “horrible stuff” the poet is referencing, appears in the opening verse:

No one tells you that your eyebrows fall out and they grow from your chin.

They don’t tell you that your teeth twist and that your hair gets thin.

Or that without a bra your boobs tuck into your socks.

And beyond 46 you’ll still get spots.

‘The Handbook’ is just one of the 52 poems featured in Brierton’s new collection of poetry, Everybody is a Poem, which covers themes of love, loss, midlife, the mental load, and much more.

In this conversation, Brierton talks about the real-life events which inspired her latest batch of poetry and recites a couple of her favourites.

Listen back in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan is an audio producer at The Irish Times