Constructing a Witch

31 August 2023

I am very exited to reveal the cover image of my forthcoming (sixth!) collection from the wonderful Bloodaxe Books. The book will appear in October 2024, in time for Samhain. I’ve been working on this since 2019 and was lucky enough to receive ACE funding for research and writing time. I have in no way finished with this vast subject – it’s in my blood!

Regarding the image itself: I made the sculpture, which is a doll draped in plaster of Paris based on a poppet I saw in a museum at Salem. My husband Martin Figura took the photograph of the trees and the crows at Buckenham Carrs (where thousands roost in winter). Martin photographed my sculpture and then did some wizardry with photoshop. There is no colour filter applied to the image – the camera recorded the colours of dusk, exactly like that. I love how Bloodaxe have echoed the reflection in the type.

Here is the blurb which will go on the back of the book:

Despite the Devil being conceived to direct human baseness away from our goodly selves, there has always been sin in the world.  The Bible has it that woman is the weaker vessel, therefore her inferior ways could easily let the Devil into the house, and into her oh so corruptible body – and thus the story begins.  

Helen Ivory’s new collection Constructing a Witch fixes on the monstering and the scapegoating of women and on the fear of ageing femininity. The witch appears as the barren, child-eating hag; she is a lustful seductress luring men to a path of corruption; she is a powerful or cantankerous woman whose cursing must be silenced by force.

These bewitching poems explore the witch archetype and the witch as human woman.  They examine the nature of superstition and the necessity of magic and counter-magic to gain a fingerhold of agency, when life is chaotic and fragile.  In the poems of Constructing a Witch Helen Ivory investigates witch tourism, the witch as outsider, cultural representations of the witch, female power and disempowerment, the menopause, and how the female body has been used and misunderstood for centuries.

Wunderkammer: New and Selected Poems (MadHat Press)

4 March 2023

I am delighted to announce this! How lovely to have something to announce.

The book comprises a selection of poems from all of my Bloodaxe collections, my Tarot from ‘Fool’s World’ (Gatehouse Press), the entirety of Maps of the Abandoned City (SurVision) and some collages/ assemblages.

It will be available in the UK in May via Amazon, and I will be launching it in the US. I’ll add it to the book page when it becomes available. Pre-orders here:

East Anglian Book Awards

20 November 2019

I am so pleased to announce that The Anatomical Venus has won the by the Cover Award in this year’s East Anglian Book Awards.

I was very happy to have been shortlisted in the poetry category of the awards alongside Rebecca Goss and Lavinia Greenlaw, and although that award went to Lavinia Greenlaw this time, East Anglian Writers kindly sponsor another award for the best designed book cover from the shortlisted titles. Having started out as a visual artist, and now existing as a poet/artist hybrid, I am extremely honoured to receive recognition for both parts of my practice.

When it came to going up to receive the award for my cover image, I was stunned and didn’t really say much but a flustered ‘thank you’! I felt immediately terrible when I sat down, but couldn’t storm the stage and have another go! I was so focussed on the poems part of the book which I spent about four years researching and writing, none of that seemed relevant and all of it fell out of my head.

Here is my L’esprit de l’escalier, or what I should have said . . .

The cover image comes from the same place as the poems do. I wanted a figure of a woman on the cover, but did not want an actual anatomical venus – that’s too literal. I wanted more of a witch’s poppet, something elemental made of wax and feather, flowers, seashells and pearls. The cover image just grew out of objects I had lying around in my studio – they kind of inched together like a Svankmaejer animation when my back was turned!

I should have thanked Bloodaxe Books for allowing me my head, not only for my poems but for the cover images of all my books. I should have thanked Martin Figura for photographing my always hard-to-photograph assemblages. I should have thanked East Anglian Writers for recognising the importance of book covers, thus recognising the importance of visual artists and cover images in these days of Kindle backlit text. I should have thanked everyone who voted for Venus. I didn’t, I scurried off and necked half a glass of fizz before the guilt set in!

Here’s a link proving my wordlessness when put on the spot, and telling you who all the other winners are:

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Wunderkammer with Black Coffee – Interview

6 June 2019

I am delighted that William Bedford chose to interview me about my work – the words and the images – and that David Cooke published our chat over at The High Window.

This is to coincide with the publication of The Anatomical Venus (May 2019) and can be found if you mouse over the words below and click:

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The Anatomical Venus

1 November 2018

I am most thrilled that the wonderful Bloodaxe Books has released my fifth collection The Anatomical Venus.  I made the Venus for the front cover from a boudoir doll bought from a flea-market and various foraged elemental bits – pearls, feathers, string from the beach, a shell from Waxham beach and dried flowers from a friend’s wedding bouquet.  Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

An Anatomical Venus – which gives this book its title – was an eighteenth-century anatomical wax sculpture of an idealised woman, a heady mix of eroticism, death and biological verisimilitude. Venus could be opened up and pulled apart by all the men who studied her. She would give up her secrets the first time of asking.

Helen Ivory’s new collection 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.


Hear What the Moon Told Me

13 May 2016


I am delighted to announce that after all of my cutting and sticking and painting of the last three years, this book now exists in the flesh!  I began writing poems at Norwich Art School (as was) so I am really pleased that both elements of my practice have come together in this way.  It’s taken me quite a long time to achieve this – since last century in fact!

Here is a link to the book on the lovely Knives Forks and Spoons Press site.  You can see a PDF of samples from the book. The print quality of the book will be lot higher res. and therefore sharper that the samples here.

If you would like to a buy a print of any of the poems please click here

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