Episode 28: Helen Ivory – The Anatomical Venus

Picture: Dave Gutteridge

Poet and visual artist Helen Ivory discusses her latest collection The Anatomical Venus. The poems explore 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. 

The Anatomical Venus takes its name from life-size wax figures of women that could be dissected and were used in medical studies. Find out more about them here. Artwork by Helen Ivory.

Helen discusses the historic texts which inspired the poems written in the course of six years extensive research. She also invites listeners to explore historical texts as a source for new poems.

Writing from primary historical texts

There are many places to find primary texts: Libraries, books, newspapers, archives and online. Enjoy reading at first and see what you can discover. When something captures your imagination try writing a poem using some of the phrases and tone of the text. A good site to browse is www.eyewitnesstohistory.com

Helen Ivory edits the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears and teaches creative writing online for the UEA/WCN. A book of mixed media poems Hear What the Moon Told Me is published by KFS, and chapbook Maps of the Abandoned City by SurVision.  She has work translated into Polish and Ukrainian as part of the Versopolis  project.

Episode 26: Paul Chambers – Mastering haiku

meadowsweet
notes of a blackbird
after rain

Paul Chambers

Haiku may be short but the best are finely crafted with no excess words. Award-winning poet Paul Chambers has made this succinct, beautiful and often misunderstood form his specialty.

On this podcast he explains how the form works and shares some of his own haikus as well as explaining why it took three years to write the haiku above. He also offers a masterclass to get you started writing haiku. See below for details.

Paul’s haiku writing exercise

I think it is important to centre your focus primarily on the subject, and not on form or syllable-counting. Haiku poetry is the sharing of a sensory experience, usually set against the backdrop of the seasons. This exercise allows you to explore this:

Write the words ‘summer night’ at the top of the page. In your mind, place yourself in a familiar location on a summer night, such as your garden or on a beach. Then create a bullet-point list of everything you can experience through your senses (see, hear, touch, taste, smell) in that place on a summer night. Begin with obvious things, such as waves crashing or the moon shining, and then start to notice the smaller things, such as the taste of salt on the breeze, or sea fleas running over stones. Then, using ‘summer night’ as the first line of your haiku, write lines two and three using imagery from your sensory list. Such as:

summer night
sea waves crashing
through moonlight

summer night
sea fleas running
over moonlit stones

You can repeat this as many times as you like, and you can explore different seasonal settings too, such as ‘winter morning’, or ‘departing spring’.

As always do share your haiku for possible inclusion on the podcast or blog. Please send submissions here.

Thanks to Le Pub in Newport for providing a quiet, Covid-secure venue for the first face-to-face recording in over six months.

Paul Chambers is an award-winning haiku poet and the Editor of the Wales Haiku JournalTo date he has published two full-length collections of poetry, and has had work appear in some of the world’s most prestigious journals and anthologies, including Modern Haiku, Presence, Frogpond, the Heron’s Nest, the Atlanta Review, and the Red Moon Anthology. A selection of his haiku has also been published in the celebrated North American poetry series, A New Resonance.

Paul’s haiku has been described as ‘a poetic spell’ (Modern Haiku), and he has contributed creative and critical material to the Times Literary Supplement, the BBC, NHK World, the Arts Council of Wales and the Wales Arts Review, as well as national Japanese newspapers, the Mainichi and the Asahi Shimbun.

He has won the Museum of Haiku Literature Award, the NHK Haiku Masters Award, the Golden Triangle Haiku Award, and has been shortlisted for both the Haiku Foundation’s Distinguished Book Award and Distinguished Poem Award – the most prestigious prizes in the field of English-language haiku. 

www.paulchambershaiku.com