Bloody Amazing! Taboo-breaking anthology wins accolade
One of the stories that emerged from the recent Saboteur awards was the success of Bloody Amazing, the best anthology winner, “full of taboo-breaking poems about bleeding” - menstruation and the menopause. The anthology was published in September 2020, and is edited by Gill Lambert and Rebecca Bilkau.
The anthology’s website addresses all women and says: “Bloody amazing is what you are! You have back ache, front ache, headache, you're weary and teary as hell, and still you go on. Pass exams, gleam at jobs, raise kids. All too bloody likely accidentally colluding in a taboo that says you shouldn't talk about your periods or your menopause because you're a nice girl. Woman. Heroine. Except, excuse me, we're half the world, us women, more, and we've nothing to taboo about. And this anthology is the place to shout, yell, rant, rave, laugh - like drains - and cry. Why? Because if we wanna change the world we need to speak the unspoken. The manipulation by our cultures, their vultures and the sodding ad industry. The tax men.”
Gill, a poet and a managing editor for Yaffle publishers, told Write Out Loud: “We began planning the anthology in October 2019 when I shared an article on Facebook about the menopause. The replies and comments I got on the post really opened a conversation about a subject that is either never mentioned or made into a joke: 'is it me or is it hot in here' etc. Rebecca Bilkau of the publishing house Beautiful Dragons contacted me and said it would be a good idea to publish a book of poems on the subject.
“The anthology is on the subjects of menstruation and menopause but the poems are really wide-ranged and are 123 different experiences. Some are sad, some moving, some funny and some uplifting. Although we never actually asked for only poems by women, we thought it would be women's voices that would be heard. We do have a poem by a trans man and one very thought-provoking one by a woman born intersex.”
The anthology’s cover was designed by poet and artist Jane Burn, who described it as “fairy tale imagery with a bloody twist - I thought of this because of the amount of myth that surrounds our bodies. Sort of a Red Riding Hood but instead of her trademark cloak, she is stripped of such a cover of shame and her cloak is now a red flood behind her.” She added: “I didn't want to shyly allude to it. I wanted guts and glory honesty and unflinching, unmissable truth.”
Writing on her blog Gill Lambert said: "The book has shown that many women find the menopause difficult ... But we get on with it without talking about it. Or, like menstruation, we hide it under jokes and innuendo. Bloody Amazing has shown how much we want to talk about it. Women are unsure or even ignorant about the help that is available and we often find out from other women about the treatment we can get or the tricks and tips which make our symptoms easier. The media has recently picked up on the subject with many high-profile celebrities being vocal about their own menopause journey."
Bloody Amazing’s first print run of 500 copies sold out “and we are on our second one now”, she said. “We hope to be able to give some money to period poverty after costs.” The anthology has been endorsed by comedian, novelist and actor Jenny Éclair. “She's been great at supporting us along with Deb Alma at the Poetry Pharmacy,” said Gill.
ILLUSTRATION: JANE BURN