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Dead [Women] Poets Society Blog

Caroline Bird 'resurrects' Anna Wickham

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

The Golden Age

A woman whose name escapes me

was my ultimate role model growing up.

What was her name? You know. You know

who I’m talking about. Whatsherface, with the hair.

Always wore a cravat. Spat olive pits

into a miniscule silver snuff box. You know.

Her catchphrase was “If it ain’t broke

I’m not interested.” You know who I mean.

Bombshell. Sang that famous song.

‘Forkful of Nothing’ with the Withering Brothers.

Paris. Lots of stuff to do with Paris. Starred

in that sexy movie with Sandra Bee Deloyne,

really controversial at the time, they played

cross-dressing gravediggers who both end up

pregnant by rival dictators. You know the one.

Coined the phrase ‘Nope.’

She was married to that gorgeous guy

who chopped his head off accidentally

whilst fixing a ceiling fan. Her father

burnt to death after throwing a Molotov cocktail

at a trampoline. Come on. She built the world’s most

impossible hedge maze, all her gardeners

disappeared. Had a tiny dog called Handbag,

kept her house keys in his stomach. In 1916

she met Lenin in a coffee shop in Zurich

and came up with the entire plan for Red October.

You must remember her. She invented

the candy necklace. Liked to pose for photos

with an almost imperceptible trickle of blood

dripping from her right lobe like an earring.

It was political. No? Only wore one sock?

Ran for sheriff in Roswell, New Mexico?

Called Picasso a cunt? Spend time in jail

for illegal importation of sealskin?

Her vagina died like a tooth, turned completely black

like a rose dipped in tar? Set up twenty-three

orphanages in Senegal called the…

‘Whatshername Foundation’ – goddammit!

She threw an entire hayrick at Hitler during a rally.

To this day no one knows how she managed to a)

arrive at the rally with a hayrick and b) single-handedly

throw it from two hundred yards away.

She travelled solo by tandem bike. Only ate stale bread.

Went mad in a secluded condo in Toleto,

snorted a suitcase of benzocaine through

the snapped-off trunk of a porcelain elephant.

You must know who I’m talking about!

Joined a punk nunnery called ‘The Sisters of

Ulterior Motive’. Wrote a book about

the psychic healing properties of peanut butter.

Caught herpes from a mountain lion.

Had an illicit thirty-year love affair with the novelist

and antique dildo enthusiast Greta Turner-Blake.

Played scrabble with Trotsky during his exile.

First woman to play the hurdy-gurdy on national television.

First woman to say ‘fuck’ in a zoo.

Looked great in a straw hat.

Ushered in the dawn of a new era.

I’ve got a postcard with her face on it

somewhere in this drawer.

This poem was written as a commission for Dead [Women] Poets as part of 2020 tour, in response to the dead woman poet Anna Wickham. It is also published in Caroline's most recent book of poems, The Air Year (2020), with Carcanet press. You can hear Caroline read the poem and resurrect Anna Wickham as part of our February 2020 event in Norwich, in our podcast recorded by @patrickwiddess of the Poetry Non Stop Podcast.


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