Cover image by Jane Burn
Bloody Amazing is a collection of 123 taboo smashing poems about periods, the menopause and more. It is a collaboration between Yaffle and Beautiful Dragons Press, Dragon Yaffle. It is edited by Gill Lambert and Rebecca Bilkau. In the editorial they write that women are 'accidentally colluding in a taboo that says we shouldn't talk about our periods or our menopause because we're nice girls. Heroines.'
Opening with Doireann Ní Ghríofa's While Bleeding, a poem in which the writer tries on a red coat in a vintage boutique 'as a cramp curls again/where blood stirs and melts', the collection describes an array of situations in which women adjust to their bodies, its changes and needs. In Red Dragon, Yvonne Ugarte is only 10 when her period arrives 'causing panic and confusion' in her foster care home, 'staining sheets'. Ugarte is thankful 'for the menopause when the red dragon left my life for good.' A lot of the poets are glad to see the end of their periods. Finola Scott finds herself free to be herself when 'Those scarlet tsunamis' are gone in After The Hysterectomy. Similarly, in Sonnet For Women Of A Certain Age, Tonnie Richmond says 'Your shrivelled womb means happy days to come/of even-tempered mood, no monthly tears.' Mandy MacDonald feels 'bloody amazing' after The End Of Her Period Period.
The arrival of menstruation is a common subject in the anthology, as it should, being a remarkable occasion in a young woman's life. For Sandra Burnett it is a frightening event when she even fears 'I'm on my way to Heaven.' Luckily a friend's sister passes her a book about 'how girls are transformed into women' in 1954 - A Period of Time. Luckily times have changed, somewhat! Jhilmil Breckenridge advises a welcoming attitude to, and an acceptance of, the monthly cycle in her wise The Visitor Who Ends Up Staying Forever.
Many women feel that their time of the month is like a curse, finding pain but a sense of power, communion and magic in its spell. Sue Hubbard writes in The Curse, 'We are joined in blood/by the slow pull of the moon's/waning' and in Cursed, Sarah Miles names her period 'the stain of womanhood'. In Eve's Punishment, Miranda Lynn Barnes is 'On all fours like a dog,/I'm crawling, crying,'. In Witch Club Izzy Brittain imagines 'Each month we grow a bit more wolf-like'. She calls on us to 'Sing songs about the potency of pussy'.
There are 123 poems and reasons to get a copy of Bloody Amazing. Denni Turp's How Change Comes - and not in a good way is a thoughtful, reflective work, Pat Edwards writes cleverly and sadly about conception in Misconception, and Maeve McKenna touches on fertility too in A Meal for One. Regardless of one's age there will be a piece that speaks to the woman you currently are, in the book. I found some consolation within its pages and this is always a good thing to offer a reader.
Congratulations to the editors and to all the women who contributed to Bloody Amazing. The variety of subject and personal account in its womb, are a gift to women. Men might also find these testimonies informative and enlightening. As Lambert and Bilkau write 'we're half the world, us women, more, and we've nothing to taboo about.' Bloody Amazing costs £10 plus postage and packing and this modern anthology of poetry can be purchased here.