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.