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Helen Ivory

The Anatomical Venus

Helen Ivory

Publication Date : 23 May 2019

ISBN: 9781780374697

Pages: 65
Size :216 x 138mm
Rights: World

Winner of the East Anglian Writers Book by the Cover Award (East Anglian Book Awards 2019)

Shortlisted for the poetry category of the East Anglian Book Awards 2019

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.

The cover of The Anatomical Venus, which features Helen Ivory's own artwork, won the East Anglian Writers Book by the Cover Award (East Anglian Book Awards 2019).

The Anatomical Venus is an often disturbing journey of how women have been treated by men through the ages. It is historical reportage. It is controlled and focused anger without sentiment. It is subjugation and oppression laid bare in subtle and often mesmerising ways. It is Angela Carter’s eye meets Elaine Showalter’s brain. It is dark, upsetting and erotic. And it’s laced with magic from the first page until the last. It’s the suffering of women, and women fighting back in delicious and unusual ways. It says as much, if not more, about men throughout history as it does about women.  Read this book. Then read it again. And again. With each reading, The Anatomical Venus will reveal something new, like all great books do.’ – Mark Connors, Northern Soul

‘Historical it may well be but this collection’s contemporary relevance is searing… This collection is a stunningly curated linguistic exhibition on the historical abuse of women. Enticing and yet flinching, this disquieting house of dolls makes abuse seen and urges us to reevaluate why women are where they are now, and it does so with an eerie and unforgettable beauty.’ – Rachel Smart, Storgy Magazine [on The Anatomical Venus]

'If Waiting for Bluebeard was the collection that not only delivered on the promise of Ivory’s earlier titles but announced itself as a defiant treatise on what it means to be a survivor, then The Anatomical Venus – populated by women who refuse to be tamed, instructed or fit neatly into categories – is a clarion call for the fight back.' - Neil Fulwood, The High Window

‘This is a collection to browse, to devour, to return to. Unless you have a strong stomach for nightmares, it is not bedtime reading. Maybe it is best read in daylight, beside an open window so the ghosts and horrors can escape. Every library, wunderkammer and bookshelf needs a copy of this book.’ - Hannah Stone, The Lake on The Anatomical Venus

'The poems deal with women treated as curiosities of various kinds, from the anatomical Venus of the title... to witches, dolls, asylum inmates and even a sex robot... It's an excellent idea, both a history of different sorts of objectification and a mirror of mens' attempts to catalogue what they identify as aberrant, and it works beautifully... an absorbing, intriguing collection.' - Frank Startup, The School Librarian

‘This collection is a rich exploration of the vast difference between men and women at a time when gender definition is becoming blurred and contentious…These poems, at times using archaic language and referencing fixed misconceptions, form a sort of Wunderkammer of precious specimens for us to gaze upon in amazement. As with any cabinet of curiosities, the contents are both beautiful and intriguing, shocking and bizarre, but most of all a reminder of attitudes and practices which should stay in the past.’ – Pat Edwards, London Grip

'...Ivory not only calls attention to the historical practices that have been used to subjugate women, she also reminds us of the process of double-vision: here is an entire collection written in an ironic double-vision, a female writing the female through the male historical gaze. The result is nothing less than what Shuttle describes as “a strong explosion in the sky.” - Elisabeth Sennitt Clough, The North on The Anatomical Venus

‘Sometimes a poem, a book, a voice speaks to you, makes you sit up. The Anatomical Venus does that for me, to me, no question… This is a passionately felt collection that quietly seethes with righteous anger and pity, at the world of women who have too often found their only protest in hurting themselves; the ones who resisted, burned or drowned as witches, force-fed as suffragettes, or diagnosed as mad, and treated accordingly. By men.’ – John Foggin, The Great Fogginzo’s Cobweb

'Whether using the language of religion, science or domestic abuse, the ironies here are obvious, and Helen Ivory explores them with a lingustic and imaginative energy which is both inventive and exhilarating.  This is exciting stuff from a writer with a long way yet to go.’ – William Bedford, Poetry Salzburg Review on The Anatomical Venus


Helen Ivory: 'The Hanged Woman Addresses The Reverend Heinrich Kramer'

Helen Ivory reads 'The Hanged Woman Addresses The Reverend Heinrich Kramer' from The Anatomical Venus in her 'from the basement' series filmed in The Butchery in Norwich. Kramer was one of the authors of Malleus Maleficarum (1486), a popular handbook for witchfinders at the time.


Helen Ivory: 'Hellish Nell'

Helen Ivory reads 'Hellish Nell' from The Anatomical Venus in her 'from the basement' series filmed in The Butchery in Norwich.


Helen Ivory reads from The Dog in the Sky and The Breakfast Machine

Helen Ivory reads a set of nine poems: 'Learning to Talk', 'Alchemy', The Disappearing' and 'Missing You Spell' from her second collection The Dog in the Sky (2006), and 'Magicians', 'Bedtime Story', 'Sleep' and 'The Beginning' from her third, The Breakfast Machine (2010). Neil Astley filmed Helen Ivory at her home in Norwich in November 2009.


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BOOKS BY Helen Ivory

The Breakfast Machine

Helen Ivory

The Breakfast Machine

Publication Date : 29 Apr 2010

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The Dog in the Sky

Helen Ivory

The Dog in the Sky

Publication Date : 23 Feb 2006

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Waiting for Bluebeard

Helen Ivory

Waiting for Bluebeard

Publication Date : 30 May 2013

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Related News & Publicity

News & Publicity

Helen Ivory's The Anatomical Venus wins the East Anglian Writers Book by the Cover Award

Helen Ivory's The Anatomical Venus wins the East Anglian Writers Book by the Cover Award

Helen Ivory's fifth collection, featuring her own artwork on the cover, wins the East Anglian Writers Book by the Cover Award 2019.

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