Back Story

So I made myself a seagull
dyed everything grey and white
glued sexless feathers to a Weetabix box
and circled the school carpark                                                           

bombing children with lip-shaped
sweets if I liked them
and smaller creatures’ eggs
if I didn’t                                                           

hovered by the gates studying
how girls in bunches became bananas
still green and hard
but not as hard as me                                                           

I was an unblinking seagull
always out of reach
I was the chip-stealer
the sky-klaxon                                                           

a squawk so loud
nobody would want
to hurt me
couldn’t if they tried                                                   

and I beat my wings
till the white vans and boys
in their bad uniforms
blew out out out to sea

by Helen Bowell

Happy World Poetry Day! It’s a busy week for the Poetry Centre and we invite you to join us for one (or both!) of the events we have coming up. Tomorrow (Tuesday) from 6-7pm online, the Oxford Brookes Poetry Showcase will gather together Brookes poets from undergraduate to PhD level to share a sample of their work. Join us to hear a wonderful range of writing. To register and receive the Zoom link, please visit this Zoom page.

Then on Friday from 7-8pm online, as part of the university’s Creative Industries Festival, we’ll be hosting a panel about independent poetry presses. We’ll be in conversation with three of the leading indie presses in the UK: Bad Betty Press, represented by Amy Acre; Out-Spoken Press (Anthony Anaxagorou); and Nine Arches Press, represented by Jane Commane. We’ll be discussing topics such as how presses select poets, editorial policy, funding models, markets and sales, and how we enable people from a broader range of backgrounds to get involved in publishing. To register to attend, visit this Zoom page.

‘Back Story’ is copyright © Helen Bowell, 2022, and is reprinted here from The Barman (Bad Betty Press, 2022) by permission of Bad Betty Press. You can read more about the pamphlet on the  press website.

Notes from Bad Betty Press:

Helen Bowell and The Barman form a relationship from which you won’t easily look away. This debut pamphlet is a sharp, witty exploration of the nuances of a sometimes reluctant co-dependency. At times it feels like you are the third housemate, unashamedly pressing your ear to the wall to hear conversations as intimate as they are absurd. Bowell deftly interrogates what it means to feel both othered and adored, comfortable and wary. The Barman is an introduction to a poetic voice unique in its ability to subtly express its desires, leaving enough room for the reader to find parts of themselves in the world it creates.

You can read more about The Barman and buy a copy on the Bad Betty website.

Helen Bowell is a poet, critic and producer based in London. She is a co-director of Dead [Women] Poets Society, a live literature organisation which ‘resurrects’ women poets of the past. Helen is a Ledbury Poetry Critic and an alumna of The Writing Squad, Roundhouse Poetry Collective, London Writers Awards and London Library Emerging Writers Programme. Her work has appeared in MagmaThe NorthPoetry WalesAmbitharana poetry and elsewhere. Since 2017, she has worked at The Poetry Society.

You can read more about Helen’s work on her website, follow her on Twitter and watch her read from her work in this Creative Future Writers’ Award video.

Bad Betty Press is an independent publisher of new poetry, born in 2017 and run by Amy Acre and Jake Wild Hall. Our authors include Gboyega Odubanjo, Anja Konig, Charlotte Geater, Susannah Dickey, Tanatsei Gambura, Matthew Haigh, Kirsten Luckins and Tom Bland. Our books include PBS Pamphlet Choices, Poetry School Books of the Year, a Telegraph Poetry Book of the Month, Laurel Prize longlistees and BAMB Readers Award shortlistees. We’ve been thrice shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers Award, named The Book Hive’s Indie Publisher of the Month, and described by The Big Issue as ‘the epitome of bold independence’. Find out more about our books  here and follow Bad Betty on  Facebook,  Twitter and  Instagram.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.