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Wendy Allen: On life changes, menstruation, and poetry

Wendy Allen: On life changes, menstruation, and poetry

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Wendy Allen and I’m a poet.

In 2020 I was furloughed from my job as cabin crew and decided to use the time to do something new. I enrolled for a free creative writing course through the OU. I loved it. I then applied to university to do a MA in creative writing after taking redundancy from flying. I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship which helped towards my tuition fees. I finished my MA in 2022 and this year am supported by Arts Council England in writing my new poetry collection on Barbara Hepworth. In October I start my PhD in creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.

From being an air hostess to being a poetry writer, your life has done a 180 degree turn. How did you find the courage to make such a big change and what have you learnt about yourself in the process?

I had always loved my job as cabin crew, and had the pandemic not happened I would still be there. I’m fascinated by the Sliding Doors film. If I hadn’t been furloughed I wouldn’t have started writing but I wouldn’t have ever missed writing because I was happy flying. 

I spent 20 years working hard, getting up at very antisocial times, working at weekends, missing big events and I think this has made me resilient. I do struggle with the loneliness of it though. I love being with people and writing is quite isolating.

Wendy is styling the Casual mustard jumpsuit

How has your self-expression changed over the years? Has this impacted on your relationship with fashion?

I’m in my mid-forties and now on HRT so although my body has changed, my relationship with clothes remains the same.

I love nothing more than how clothes and make up make the occasion. They are markers of time and events. I think that is why they are such important signifiers in my work, from the Mac red lipstick, fish net pop socks, a striped woollen dress, the long tweed coat I wore all winter - they are a scene in themselves.

I think that is why I’m drawn to your clothes. When I saw your mustard jumpsuit at LFW last year I could see how it is not just an item of clothing, it is a moment, an act of defiance, a trip to a gallery, is art. That is how I view clothes.

Wendy is styling the Casual mustard jumpsuit
Your poetry often talks about topics that are not often covered in mainstream poetry, such as menstrual cups, items of clothing you like, and desire. Where do you get your inspiration from and and what do you hope your poetry brings to others?

I love to write about what we talk about with our closest friends. Being cabin crew, we talked about everything. I love the feeling that when you think you are alone in feeling something, you chat and find that someone else feels the same way. My debut pamphlet, Plastic Tubed Little Bird, is an intimate conversation about menstruation, masturbation and sex. 

I think a lot of my work is a love letter to the menstrual cup. I feel the sense of guilt that for years I didn’t use it, all the waste I created using towels and tampons. It has changed my life. It allowed me to understand my body, to see how we bleed. Now I’m on HRT I’m getting to know this new part of me. 

Wendy is styling the Casual mustard jumpsuit

It has changed my life. It allowed me to understand my body, to see how we bleed. Now I’m on HRT I’m getting to know this new part of me. 

I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of women.

Take my relationship with Dr Charley Barnes. We met on Twitter and wrote our collection, free bleeding (Broken Sleep Books, 2024) as a way of getting to know each other.

The book began as a conversation about our relationships with our differing menstrual cycles. After six weeks of meeting, we had finished the book. We’ve since gone on to edit an anthology of sex positive erotic poetry, co host a podcast, What We’ve Been Reading, and we’ve just launched an online journal, annie. Charley inspires me in everything I do.

I want to write of things women experience. There is still an imbalance in society.  I’m a huge fan of body hair, and it is still a shock for some if I raise my arms to show my hairy armpits. And I don’t understand this when it is not the same for men.

And why are sanitary bins labelled feminine waste? The word is horrible. Can’t it say sanitary towels and tampons. I just find the hiding of the menstruating part of our lives infuriating. We bleed for such a huge part of lives, and we’re supposed to say nothing. 

Wendy is styling the Casual mustard jumpsuit

What things would you like to see change about the position of women in society?

Say I am bleeding. Don’t hide the tampon or towel. Make menstruation a visible part of our life. 

How can people connect with you?

Twitter: @_WendyCaitlin

Instagram: @_wendy_caitlin_

Buy Wendy's latest book here.

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Wendy is styling the Mustard Jumpsuit:

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