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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

Fool’s World – Tarot Publication

31 December 2015

I am really pleased to say that the Tarot project that Tom de Freston and I have been working on for a couple of years has come into fruition!  We have called it Fool’s World, which seemed appropriate, given the narrative of the major arcana begins with The Fool, and ends with The World.  If the Fool is lucky enough to have come out the other side of his journey, he will attain the World.

Here is a little extract from an interview Tom and I did for Lighthouse recently which describes the practicalities of making something other than a book:

In our discussions about how to make the pack into a physical object, we decided to focus solely on the Major Arcana cards, which are traditionally the most significant and represent the large turning points in life.   They are also the most universally recognised outside of the Tarot-reading world. There are many spreads that can be done with the Major Arcana, so we hope that the cards will be useful to work with.

Practicalities came to the fore, such as the size of the cards and therefore the legibility of the font. We also didn’t want Tom’s powerful visuals to shout over the poems. Nor did we want the poems to have dominion of the cards, allowing Tom no space to play in. For this reason we lighted upon the notion of a set of visual cards and a set of poems cards, with each taking prominence respectively.

I feel very lucky that Tom wanted to work on this collaboration, and we both feel blessed that Gatehouse Press would want to publish something more challenging than a book.  They worked incredibly hard to produce something gorgeous.

Below is one of the poem cards – the first in the pack.  Here is a link to the Gatehouse shop, should you be tempted:



Cut-ups and Collage

25 April 2015

Destruction and re-creation is coming on apace!  I have perhaps become a Trickster archetype!  It’s all part of my fetish for recycling and re-imagining lives for found objects.  The image below was taken from a falling-apart fairy-tale book I found on ebay for a song, or more like, a few notes.  I have transferred the image onto un-stretched canvas and painted into it with acrylics.  You’ll see the gold hasn’t come out too well in this photograph – it is very difficult to photograph reflective surfaces and I’m not a pro!

The words here were taken from two stories in another damaged fairy-tale book.  It’s hard to see the quality of the paper from this picture, but it is a cheaply printed wartime book.  The book’s previous owner has crayoned on lots of the pages, so I didn’t feel mean about cutting it up.

The avant garde publishing house Knives, Forks and Spoons Press has expressed an interest in publishing a collection of my cut-ups which I’m very excited about.  This has given me the impetus for more experimentation with materials and has caused me to open my paint drawer again after a hiatus of fifteen years.  Perhaps I will see how my oil paints have fared during hibernation.  I do love the smell of oil paint in the morning.

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