Helen Ivory

Helen Ivory is a poet and visual artist. Her fourth Bloodaxe collection is the semi-autobiographical Waiting for Bluebeard, and The Anatomical Venus is due from Bloodaxe in 2019.  She edits Ink Sweat and Tears, and is a tutor for the WCN/ UEA online creative writing programme.

Photo: Dave Gutteridge


#MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology »

The Scottish launch of the #MeToo anthology

Thu 8 March | 18:15 - 18:45 | FREE | The Byre Theatre, Abbey Street, Conference Room


Hellish Nell

Open my ears, that I may hear
          Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
          Everything false will disappear.
                   Spiritualist hymn: Open My Eyes, That I May See, Clara H. Scott, 1895

They plead with me to birth their dead for them –
what mother could refuse a sister-mother?
So I allow their soldier-boys to use my voice
to shape their cheery valedictions.
But the mothers, they want to see their angel-boys;
to touch their faces one last crowning time.

I must get theatrical, says my spirit guide;
then comes cheesecloth eggwhite ectoplasm
leaking from my breasts; the labour stabs;
the delivering of a shroud into the world.
And their mouths agape like greedy fish,
Is that him? my baby? oh yes they gulp it down!

In quiet times, without all eyes on me
I am forced to reconsider what is spirit;
what is nature; I am unsteady with it all.
And so I make a meal of carpet tacks
to weigh me to the floor. I deserve this pain,
for sullying the gift bestowed on me by God.

Now dim the lights if you really want a show;
see the candles burning vacancies into my meat.
Does my brashness disturb you?
You would prefer me fey?
Stand back! I might regurgitate all hell
into your choking auditorium!


Helen Ivory

From A Face in the Mirror, a Hook on the Door: An Anthology of Urban Legends and Modern Folklore (Three Drops Press, 2017)

Victoria Helen McCrae Duncan was in 1944, the last person to be imprisoned under the British Witchcraft Act of 1735.