Frances and Martine


"Knock hard. Life is deaf." —Mimi Parent

For a long time I've been drawn to the surrealists and this month I decided to get to grips with what it really means to be a 'Surrealist'. I am interested in this subject because the word 'surreal' is often attributed to the work I write. But am I a surrealist? And who cares?

This week, I ordered David Gascoyne's book of 1935 and now published by Enitharnon, A Short Survey of Surrealism. David Gascoyne was a translator of the 'leading' French Surrealists: Dali, Ernst, Breton, Eluard and others. I was struck by the lack of women. Surely there were women.

"Certain critics and curators have attempted to isolate women surrealists from the Surrealist Movement as a whole, not only by reducing their work to the traditional aesthetic frameworks that surrealists have always resisted but worse yet by relegating them to a subbasement of the art world known as “Women’s Art.” Ironically, the old (mostly male) critics who ignored or minimized women in their studies of surrealism are not that different from these newer (often female) critics who ignore or minimize surrealism itself in their studies of women who took part in it. Each of these one-sided and erroneous views reinforces the other, and both prop up the insidious fiction that surrealism is yet another “Men Only” movement." Penelope Rosemont, Surrealist Women (Surrealist Revolution) University of Texas Press.

Some of them have been reduced to shadows of the more famous men. Take Lise Deharme: "In recent years, historians such as Marie-Claire Barnet, Mary Ann Caws, Renée Riese Hubert, Andréa Oberhuber, and Penelope Rosemont, have begun to un-do the "reducing" of Deharme to "a failed love story." These scholars have set out to establish a more dynamic conception of Deharme's reputation."

I searched 'women surrealists' and found a list on Wiki. This is where you fall down a fantastic rabbit hole. Don't follow me, you might never get out! I'll make a list of women whose poetry I can make a link to and then a further list of Surrealist writers.


Aase Berg (born 1967) is a Swedish poet and critic, among the founding members of the Stockholm Surrealist Group in 1986. EIGHT POEMS

Joyce Mansour (1928-1986) was an Egyptian-French poet. She first encountered Surrealism in Cairo, but moved to Paris in 1953. FIVE POEMS

Olga Orozco (1920-1999) was an Argentine poet of the Surrealistic 'Tercera Vanguardia' generation. THREE POEMS

Alejandra Pizarnik (1936-1972) was an Argentine poet heavily influenced by Surrealism. SIX POEMS 

Gisèle Prassinos (1920-2015) was a French writer of Greek heritage, associated with Surrealism since her first publication at the age of 14. ONE POEM

Penelope Rosemont (born 1942) is an American writer, painter, photographer, collagist and cofounder of the Chicago Surrealist Group. Her edited anthology Surrealist Women demonstrated the breadth of women's contribution to surrealism. MY TRIP TO RUSSIA  also editor of Surrealist Women: An International Anthology (Surrealist Revolution Series)

Blanca Varela (1926-2009) was a Peruvian poet. Octavio Paz characterized her poetry as in the "spiritual lineage" of surrealism. THREE POEMS

Unica Zürn (1916-1970) was a German writer and artist. She wrote anagram poetry, exhibited automatic drawing and collaborated with Hans Bellmer as his photographic model. Nine Anagrammatic Poems

Dorothea Tanning (1910–2012) was an American painter, sculptor, printmaker, writer, and poet, whose early work was influenced by Surrealism. She became part of the circle of Surrealists in New York in the 1940s, and was married to fellow Surrealist Max Ernst for 30 years. FIVE POEMS

Leonora Carrington (1917–2011) was a British-born Mexican Surrealist painter. She met the Surrealist Max Ernst in 1937, and had a painful and complicated relationship with him. Much of her work is autobiographical. ONE POEM


Lise Deharme (1898-1980) was a French writer associated with the Surrealist movement. WIKI PAGE

Valentine Penrose (1898-1978) was a French surrealist poet, author and collagist.

Guia Risari (born 1971) is an Italian writer, novelist, essayist, translator.

Ginka Steinwachs (born 1942) is a German scholar and writer. Her doctoral thesis on André Breton was published as Mythologie des Surrealismus.

Haifa Zangana (born 1950) is an Iraqi writer active in surrealist activity in London.

Penelope Rosemont asks in Surrealist Women (Surrealist Revolution)  University of Texas Press,


"Neither silly nor simple, these questions are vital for anyone who wants to know the truth about surrealism. Critics who attempt to define the movement in aesthetic or literary terms, as a “style” or a “school,” overlook the crucial fact that surrealism is above all “a community of ethical views,” as Toyen put it in a statement included in this collection."

"Many are the writers who at some point in the course of their careers have expressed themselves in a surrealist voice—"

All the women included here have been co-thinkers and co-dreamers in surrealisms revolutionary project. More precisely, for the purposes of this collection, I define a surrealist as one who

(1) considers herself/himself a surrealist and/or

(2) is recognized as surrealist by surrealists and accepts being so designated, and

(3) takes part in surrealist activity by:

(a) producing work recognized by surrealists as a contribution to surrealism;
(b) collaborating on surrealist penodicals;
(c) participating in surrealist exhibitions;
(d) publishing under the movement’s “Surrealist Editions” imprint;
(e) cosiging surrealist tracts;
(f) taking part in Surrealist Group meetings, games, demonstrations, or other activities; and/or
(g) otherwise publicly identifying herself/himself with the aims, principles, and activity of the Surrealist Movement.


If you are interested in participating
in the activities of
the Surrealist Movement,
please write us at Black Swan Press
c/o Charles H. Kerr Company
1740 West Greenleaf Av
Chicago, Il 60626

For orders phone 773-465-7774

Let us know, in as much detail as possible:

1) your views regarding contemporary revolutionary thought and action;
2) your orientation toward surrealism and its project here and now; and
3) what contribution(s) you believe you can make to surrealist revolution today.

The God Baby

My new chapbook, The God Babyis a collaboration with artist Jill Carter and includes stunning prints: website HERE

Limited copies are available to buy in the UK

Sheehan’s is a unique voice, a hallucinogenic mix of colour-clashing syntax and formal innovation. Every time you think you know what to expect, Sheehan’s poetry charabanc swerves onto a track you never knew existed, leaving you breathless and exhilarated. Supported by Carter’s anarchic illustrations, these poems surprise and amaze by turns, ambushing the reader with tenderness, humour and political rage. A truly unmissable ride. - Jacqueline Saphra (latest book, All My Mad Mothers, Nine Arches Press)

"I was instantly hooked – the surreal yet grounded storylines, the sentences crackling with nervous electricity, the subtle interweaving of the political with the personal, and the innovative yet tempered and often lyrical use of language." Ian Seed: Stride Magazine

"Sheehan has a way of putting things that sound logically impossible but are metaphysically very real. An impressive, funny, and entertaining surrealism one can believe in." Robert Vas Dias

"The artwork and the poetry blend perfectly to present a very special, damaged account of parenthood, and childhood – in lots of ways the two are intertwined. Hilda uses her fantastic surreal style to bring humour and surprise to the poetry, but it is never far from feeling very real and painful. This pamphlet carries greater weight than many collections I have read this year and I recommend everyone read Hilda’s poetry, she is truly unique and wonderful, making the world a better place through her askew poetry!" Stephen Daniels,

Jill Carter is a multi-media artist based in the UK. Her diverse performative practice explores narratives of identity, creating dark, quirky and engaging off artworks and collections.  She enjoys drawing, printing and transforming findings and offerings into stitched and bound talismanic objects. Passionate about journaling, her one off books are badly behaved and full of curious observations and musings.  

The God Baby
A god came out of a woman
and took over her house.

‘I am a god!’ he screamed
from his baby mouth

and in no language.

This god was massive: 25lb in her arms!
And her opening, from out he came

was a secret cave where light beamed
through at certain times

of the day – and out
had come this god

looking nothing like his father.

March 2017: Surrealism (1)

I like to turn to the surrealists for inspiration.  The poems I write may not always eventually be surreal, but reading the surrealists and using surreal techniques can lead the way towards writing something true and fresh.

“The word ``surrealism'' having thereupon become descriptive of the generalizable undertaking to which we had devoted ourselves, I thought it indispensable, in 1924, to define this word once and for all: SURREALISM, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which it is intended to express, verbally, in writing, or by other means, the real process of thought. Thought's dictation, in the absence of all control exercised by the reason and outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupations.” Andre Breton.

Some favourites of mine below and suggested reading: 

The Box of Books 1


Where to start in a box of books

on the floor, is where 
the gin of your lips exactly
as pillows are, as curtains are
when missing: this is Maximus 
Poems IV, V, VI

we are nowhere, there is no I

if two on the floor, with gin on your lips was
enough, we’d be three?
For Gin
Back in the box of books I remember
mystery, the full-clothed

offer, the daily tea of grace
drink, has made us, brave:
I count such shapes this evening in the universe.

paradise alley (some country roads 
have trees growing and the road 
turns in such a way it is special  
for a few feet
from A NOTE ON THE ABOVE by Charles Olson


Some country roads can't cry for the dead they make
I saw a badger
never did I see one alive and this country road
turns out dead things a fox,
a small baby
rabbit of fur and no eyes left

slow down the country road and get out

a badger is hiding from you a rabbit
will show itself and the fox
is the perfect shape of a fox stands still
runs to the wood of cars
and brick to be demonised for scratching
a baby, a baby, a baby

there are no women running
away from foxes

One Daughter
and Each the Father
of Him-Her-Self

unless they're born in Texas.


A (       ) thing in the forest -

all the women, all the women
of Texas flock towards it

they think a (         ) thing is just what they need

they believe men are filling them up
in fear and isolation without
such necessary mountings

we are here, we are here, they cry
through a word so (        ) they dare not spell it
or it go (        )

the women of Texas are not only from Texas

the (       ) thing in the forest
is a church
it plays music in its graveyard
it plays music in their (          ) as they arrive
like priests
to be visited by sin/s

the (      ) thing pulls back
it shows them the soft dead
it shows them men

cannot fill their graveyard (          )

or forgive them for
everyday confrontations
such as cross my path.


You haven't asked about the dress I'm wearing?
Why would you ... you
have other thoughts in your car diving

towards the end of the world.