The Anatomical Venus–Helen Ivory

The Anatomical Venus by Helen Ivory. Bloodaxe Books, 2019. 64 pages. $9.95, paperback.

Gentlemen, the Venerina is a dissectible young woman

            presented voluptuously in her final moments.

               from The Little Venus

In the forty-eight poems that comprise Helen Ivory’s latest collection, she herself dissects society’s attitudes to women over the past 500-odd years, from the dark days of puritans and witches to our own (supposedly) enlightened era of AI and ex machina porn. The Anatomical Venus literally refers to an 18th Century wax effigy of an idealised woman, to be examined and deconstructed by (typically male) medical students, but also provides a neat metaphor for every doll, real or figurative, that has ever found itself marginalized, manipulated and misunderstood – or else confined to the eponymous house, in which

            A woman lies so tidily

            below the belly of her cooking range,

but

            A child presses fingers to a pattern of blood

            on the candy-stripe wallpaper,

            traces the outline of the pink blanket

            draped over the edge of the cot

            while her mother explains

            that something bad has happened

            in the dolls’ house.

               from The Dolls’ House Mysteries

          Helen Ivory is a feminist, an intellectual, an historian and (very nearly) a scientist, and yet above all she is an artist, not a polemicist, a poet, not a politician, and subject matter that might, in clumsier hands, have become mere manifesto is transformed into gorgeous riffs on a multifaceted theme where

            The rattle of clockwork

 fell about her feet

            as faces blazed down

            from every high place they’d been hiding.

            And the vesper, that evening star, rang out.

               from Chair

In The Anatomical Venus you will find wit and compassion, intelligence and research, realism and surrealism, allusion and illusion, history and myth. But most importantly, you will gain access to a carefully constructed work of poetry that quite simply needs to be read –

  In the third dream

  I am shining the silver

  of every smoke-tainted

  coffeehouse in Vienna.

  Spoons queue up –

  clever schoolboys

  on the first day of term –

  I polish their faces.

  All of the girl-children

  are folded lace parasols

  packed up in a casket

  at the back of the nursery.

     from Housewife Psychosis

In short, this is a wonderful (in the original sense of the word) collection, a literary wunderkammer, a work of serious intent and deft achievement that deserves an essay, not a review. The essays, I am sure, will be forthcoming. In the meantime, let this review suffice.

—Michael Paul Hogan

Aidan Coleman–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

I like the idea of writing in coffee shops, and often do drafting there but the main business of writing takes place in my cluttered study at home.

What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?

I mostly work on the computer … Boring, I know.

What is your routine for writing?

With poetry at least, I’m usually working on something else and I’m taken by a line – never by an idea. I try to write the line down as I receive it, and that usually provides a way into something. Often my first draft is quite similar to the final version in terms of the trajectory, rhythm, tone etc. but some of the language will sharpen through drafting. I have more of a set routine writing prose because you can just turn up with prose and some days are better than others, but you know you’ll get something down. With poetry you’re really at the mercy of the Muse.

How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?

I wrote limericks and stuff like that as a kid but I started writing seriously when I began university—so about 22 years now.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?

I would have said in the past for as many people as possible, but I have come to the reluctant conclusion that most people like clichés, and as poetry is a war against cliché (a statement that may be a cliché itself) the poet really can’t write for everyone if they want to be true to their art.

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

Reading great poetry, especially contemporary work.

I’m not particularly prolific, but I’ve never worried about writer’s block.

What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?

I teach, play with my kids, read, watch soccer, and go to church.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

The initial rush of a line, and the final edit.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Read all you can … and—if they’re not too famous—seek out those writers you admire and ask for some pointers. Most likely, they’ll have done the same in the distant past, and they will be happy to help. This is an easier proposition if they’re poets. If you are aspiring to be a poet, just enjoy being part of the community and you will quickly improve. Once that happens, never assume a poem you write is good just because you’re a good poet. Resist becoming one of the two or three stereotypes society assigns to poets. … Keep reading.

Check out Aidan’s work in Volume 5, Issue 1.

J.B. Stone

J.B. Stone is a writer from Brooklyn, now residing in Buffalo. He is the author of two digital chapbooks, A Place Between Expired Dreams And Renewed Nightmares (Ghost City Press 2018) and forthcoming, Fireflies & Hand Grenades (Stasia Press 2019). His work has appeared in and/or is forthcoming in BlazeVOX, Occulum, Crack the Spine, Maudlin House, Glass, and elsewhere. His work will also appear in the following anthologies such as Your Body Is Not a Temple: A Tribute to Anthony Bourdain and Mansion: An Anthology.

Ode to Waterfalls by TLC, Ode to It’s the End of the World As We Know It by R.E.M., Ode to Heart of Glass by Blondie, and Soliloquy for my 16 Year-Old Self, Volume 5, Issue 2

J. Conrad Smith

J. Conrad Smith studied poetry at Kansas State University, and he currently works as a Lead Editor for a govtech company that creates and designs websites. His work has appeared in Touchstone. Smith grew up on a farm on the Great Plains of North Central Kansas, and he now writes and resides in the Flint Hills.

Hummingbird in the Petunias and Dormant, Volume 5, Issue 2

Margarita Serafimova

Margarita Serafimova was shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize 2017, Summer Literary Seminars 2018 Poetry Contest, and the University Centre Grimsby International Literary Prize 2018; long-listed for the Erbacce Press Poetry Prize 2018 and the Red Wheelbarrow 2018 Prize, and nominated for Best of the Net 2018. She has three collections in Bulgarian. Her work appears in Agenda Poetry, London Grip, Trafika Europe, European Literature Network, The Journal, A-Minor, Waxwing, Orbis, Nixes Mate, StepAway, Ink, Sweat and Tears, HeadStuff, Minor Literatures, Writing Disorder, Birds We Piled Loosely, Orbis, Chronogram, Noble/ Gas, Origins, miller’s pond, Obra/ Artifact, Blue Mountain Review, Califragile, TAYO, Shot Glass, Opiate, Poetic Diversity, Pure Slush, Harbinger Asylum, Punch, Tuck, Ginosko, etc. Visit: https://www.facebook.com/MargaritaISerafimova/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Untitled, Untitled, Untitled, Untitled, Untitled, and Untitled, Volume 5, Issue 2

Taylor Risinger

Taylor Risinger studied creative writing and literary studies at Marshall University. He is planning to proceed on with his education with a MFA in poetry. Currently, he is working on poetry that advocates for transgender equality (being a transman himself) and spending a lot of time with his dog, Stark. 

You’re always praying, How to Throw a Birthday Party, Four Deaths Ago, Wolf’s Bane, and Emptying the Blue Jar, Volume 5, Issue 2

Robert P. Parker

Robert P. Parker, PhD, taught at the University of Chicago, Rutgers University, and the University of LaFeltra (used to be the University of La Verne). Before the strokes, Parker published five books on English Education. After the strokes, Parker published three more diverse books. The second one is Poems & Stories 2016 (Amazon). The fourth book is under contract. Half poems, half prose interspersed. This is the first time that Parker focuses on poems exclusively. Parker came to poems late in the day.

Flowing, Going, and Whirling, Volume 5, Issue 2