After Lili Elbe
In the history of medical arts I do not exist.
The archive is destroyed.
A simple white frame illuminates my skin.
Hands clasped, neck and jaw one continual line,
painted bow mouth and my eye drawn
to the muscles in my face, the cut of this shirt,
the false unevenness of these breasts.
This landscape is a brute.
It is not with my brain, not with my eyes,
not my hands that I want to create
but with my heart and with my blood.
Lay your body over mine like a stencil,
know that nothing stranger will ever happen,
that nothing stranger could.
by Nicola Bray
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‘Landscape’ is copyright © Nicola Bray, 2021, and is reprinted here from Boi (Bad Betty Press, 2021) by permission of Bad Betty Press. You can read more about the pamphlet on the press website.
Notes from Bad Betty Press:
In Boi, Nicola Bray recasts gender as poetry, as a grounding, as blurred ink, slippery and fishlike. This speaker reminds us that selfhood is not a mast to which we are tied, but the waves we traverse, still or stormy, pulling us under, lifting us up. The journey here speaks to predecessors, to an ancient story with no archive. Bray’s linguistic and narrative art is both precise and instinctive: we feel our way through it, knowing by touch rather than sight, that we have been here before.
Find out more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Bad Betty website.
Nicola Bray lives in London where she graduated from Royal Holloway’s Creative Writing MA. Her poems were highly commended in the 2015 Faber New Poets scheme and in 2017 she was selected for the inaugural Poetry London mentoring scheme. Boi (Bad Betty Press) is her debut pamphlet.
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 on our website 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.