Wednesday 3 July 2019

Featured Poet: Helen Ivory

Photo by Dave Gutteridge

Helen Ivory is a poet and visual artist. Her fifth Bloodaxe collection is The Anatomical Venus (May 2019). She edits the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears and is a tutor for the UEA/NCW online  creative writing programme. Fool’s World, a collaborative Tarot with Tom de Freston (Gatehouse Press), won the 2016 Saboteur Best Collaborative Work award. A book of mixed media poems Hear What the Moon Told Me appeared from KFS in 2016, and a chapbook Maps of the Abandoned City was published by SurVision Press (Ireland) earlier this year. She lives in Norwich with her husband, the poet Martin Figura. Her website is

About The Anatomical Venus
An Anatomical Venus is an eighteenth-century anatomical wax sculpture of an idealized woman, a heady mix of eroticism, death and biological verisimilitude. Venus could be opened up and pulled apart by all the men that studied her. She would give up her secrets the first time of asking. The Anatomical Venus examines how women have been portrayed as ‘other’; as witches; as hysterics with wandering wombs and as beautiful corpses cast in wax, or on mortuary slabs in TV box sets. A hanged woman addresses the author of the Malleus Maleficarum, a woman diagnosed with ‘Housewife Psychosis’ recounts her dreams to Freud, and a sex robot has the ear of her keeper. The Anatomical Venus imagines the lives of women sketched in asylum notes and pictures others, shut inside cabinets of curiosity. You can read a poem from the collection below, and see further details about the book here

The Hanged Woman Addresses The Reverend Heinrich Kramer 

To conclude. All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable.
Malleus Maleficarum  1486, Revs Kramer and Sprenger 

Do you cower in your crib at night
against encroaching evil tongues?
I picture you skittish inside your nightgown
as swollen tempests swoop upon your roof
and rattle the door you bolted thrice
against the dark invisible.

You said my womb knew such hunger
that I might devour a man entire.
Pray tell me in your clearest chapel voice
what tales they told you at the breast? 
A pretty Devil’s pact that would render
your creeping flesh delicious!

A sough of wind stirs papers on your desk.
You say women have weak memories,
then you shall be perplexed
that, despite my ruined body in the noose,
I recall each gnawing passage of your book.
When the sun awakens, they will cut me down.

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