Ivory Honey is the gutsy and curious debut poetry collection from Swiss writer and curator Barbara Polla. Such a frank expression of a female sexuality has rarely been seen in contemporary poetry. Polla’s first person, confessional poems are intensely erotic, underscored by a belief that “the expression of sexual desire by women is one path towards the abolition of predator-victim relationship between men and women.”

She sets out to encourage men to recognise that their sexual organ is to give pleasure and make life, though not necessarily together. “Pleasure and life – wouldn’t that be a change from the idea that men have about themselves – the eternal predators? I am also keen to offer my daughters and all young women today a sense of themselves as something other than prey.” 

Polla’s interest in sexual liberty is long standing. In 2016 she edited a collection of essays in praise of the erection, Eloge de l’érection. In 2014 she published Tout à fait homme, a collection of interviews with two-hundred men discussing private life and desire. In 2012 she curated an exhibition of twelve female artists Beautiful Penis. After years as a research medical doctor, she became a Liberal politician fighting for the legalization of abortion in Switzerland. 

Many of the poems have dedications, to lovers, friends, and heroes, including Alexander McQueen and Italo Calvino. The collection includes, in French, a fabulous feminist response to Andre Breton’s well known poem L’union libre. Her unabashedly romantic poems are a joy to read, in the spirit of the pornographic letters between James Joyce and Nora Barnacle. These short poems are the raw, surreal, and comic snapshots of a restless imagination accompanied by the beautiful drawings of Julien Serve.

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