Hear What the Moon Told Me
‘Stepping out of a limousine designed by Joseph Cornell into a cosmos of its own, Helen Ivory presents us with a world where the apparently ordinary meets the enchanted and the haphazard. And that is precisely where the magic and tension lie.’ George Szirtes
‘What’s remarkable in these pieces is how much the words are needed. How much the cumulative effect of words is needed. And that there are no howlers, dissonances, or bum notes, among the phrases. The art on show here is often working with both broad sweep (of bold colour) and anatomical fascination as close-up as a mouse having a sniff; at risk in its magical access to a whole level of detail and brutal reality.
The words are needed not to complete, or tidy, the images. They are needed because here is a practitioner who needs to assemble and make visual images, and who needs to set a project in motion that releases messages and tones: it’s not, in other words, about cutting up books in order to say how stupid or arbitrary all language is. No, it’s finding a voice. (Not the voice).
It’s little known that Glen Baxter hung out in the New York poetry scene just as it was going towards L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry. Baxter was in some ways the nearest the UK had to a person with the popular culture sensibilities, visual sense and ear of suspicion for the well-meaning bourgeois of the late 70s. What Helen Ivory is doing here takes up some of that different place-to-be in Baxter, the drawing in of the art world and of language too cold and too hot to be easily versified; but she is questioning it fresh, and is in some ways making a serious book of poems compared to Baxter’s diverting light verse. They both understand the art of the poetico-visual.’ Ira Lightman
‘Delightfully odd fragments of text carefully teased from long-forgotten books and reconstructed with serendipitous aplomb. Helen Ivory’s enchantingly evocative visual poetry creates unexpected and engaging text and image combinations while celebrating the well considered absence of the material left behind.’ Graham Rawle
Waiting for Bluebeard
Waiting for Bluebeard tries to understand how a girl could grow up to be the woman living in Bluebeard’s house. The story begins with a part-remembered, part-imagined childhood, where seances are held, and a father drowns in oil beneath the skeleton of his car. When her childhood home coughs up birds in the parlour, the girl enters Bluebeard’s house paying the tariff of a single layer of skin. This is only the first stage of her disappearing, as she searches for a phantom child in a house where Bluebeard haunts the corridors like a sobbing wolf.
“Each poem shows a mastery of nerve as layers of survival are unravelled…. Not a word is out of place. Language is used superbly to obtain the effects she seeks.” Sally Evans Poetry Scotland
“Ivory’s unique voice and stark language makes her world remarkably refreshing. Its beautiful simplicity is engaging, allowing the reader to be easily lured into this seemingly familiar world, while being seduced by the poet’s subtle use of magical realism.” The List
The Breakfast Machine
Inside The Breakfast Machine a chicken on squeaky tin legs is cooking you eggs and a squirrel plays tape-recorded birdsong high up in a tree. The Horsemen of the Apocalypse high-tail it into town as cowboys, and the fate of the world is decided by a game of cards. The Breakfast Machine is driven by the transformations of fairytale where the dark corners of childhood are explored and found to be alive and well in offices, kitchens and hen-houses. There is more than a hint of East European darkness in Helen Ivory’s third collection, which sits more comfortably alongside the animations of Jan Svankmajer than any English poetic tradition.
“Helen Ivory creates a troubled yet beguiling world rich in irony and disquiet. She possesses a strongly-grounded narrative voice which, combined with her dextrous transformative takes both on reality and on what lies beyond reality’s surface, puts one in mind of the darker side of Stevie Smith who said that poetry “is a strong explosion in the sky”. The Breakfast Machine is such an explosion in the sky of contemporary poetry.” Penelope Shuttle
“A direct approach, via deep folklore and dream imagery, to the conundrum of being a woman…in keeping with what I think we mean when we say ‘women’s writing.’ This book is mischievously dark, rick with ant-logic and harnessed to the power of something we used to call magic.” Katy Evans-Bush
“She is a visually precise poet, with the gift of creating stunning images with an economy of means…Ivory has established an eerily engaging style. Her poems are like mobiles suspended on invisible threads, charming to watch as they seem to spin by themselves in the air, but capable of administering more than a paper cut on the sensibility of the reader.” James Sutherland-Smith
The Dog in The Sky
The Dog in the Sky offers a view of the world that is skewed, vibrant and larger than life. Here words turn into tiger-moths or laughing birds, the Minotaur finds his Ariadne and Pinochio’s sister cuts loose from her strings. The Dog in the Sky is drunk on life, on love, on air thick with peach light, but also shows the flipside where you can’t trust the earth beneath your feet.
“The Dog in the Sky twitches the dark; light-hearted personae playful against a cosmic shiver. Any surrealism relies at bottom on a certain passionate madness.”
The Double Life of Clocks
Helen Ivory speaks in tongues and alters time in her first collection. Here are voices lost inside mental illness, divided and diverting selves as well as sinister voices. Drawing also from fairytale and myth, she creates puppet shows in which larger-than-life forces pull the strings and write the scripts.
“Quite exquisite… vision, instinct and frayed edgy experience playing it dead straight.” George Szirtes