Author details

Helena Nelson


I am a poet, critic and founder editor of HappenStance Press. My first collection, Starlight on Water, was joint winner of the Jerwood Aldeburgh Prize. My second, Plot and Counter-Plot, was published by Shoestring Press in 2010. I review widely, write a popular weekly blog on the HappenStance website, and occasionally tutor for the Arvon Foundation. I’m an experienced reader/performer with (some say) charm, character and charisma. 

About writer's work

I enjoy light verse, as well as the heavier variety. I like surprise. I don’t usually write to commission: I wait until a poem arrives, but after that I beat it into shape remorselessly. 

As an editor, I am hands-on. I like seeing a poet develop, grow in confidence and finally soar. To me being a good reader of poetry is as difficult and important as writing well: that’s why I continue to review widely and operate an open submissions policy for HappenStance. 

I believe poets, like most other people, need a sense of humour. As a result I write what I call ‘anti-poetry’ (by definition: ‘poems that make it harder for other poets to write poems’) and I cherish irony (though not all the time). For the last decade and I half I have been working on a series of poems about a couple called ‘Mr and Mrs Philpott’. Eventually I hope they’ll have a book of their own.

In supporting other writers, through workshops or mentoring, I’m interested in: the way writers develop confidence in their own individual ‘voice’; in shaping the connection between meaning, mode and form; in developing skill as a public reader/performer; in planning towards publication; in the joy of reading and writing; in the pros and cons of social networking for writers.

Websites featuring the author

Happenstance Press | Blog | Sphinx Review | Linked In |Youtube | Scottish Poetry Library | Soundcloud | Irregular Features | Interview with Author | Facebook | Poet on Poetry

Current events and projects

I am available to do readings of my own work; talks on the challenge of small-press publishing; workshops on review writing; and after-dinner speaking. I can also bring groups of HappenStance poets to talk about their work and read from it.

Other work

As editor of HappenStance Press I write a widely-followed weekly blog, often on the theme of poetry publishing. I also publish an annual prose ‘chapter’ about HappenStance: the ‘backstory’ to the various publications, together with what I’ve learned. I co-ordinate and run, which features interviews and articles about pamphlet publishers. It’s important to me to de-mystify the publishing process and encourage more people to take on similar roles. I review widely and am a periodic essayist, as well as doing some part-time work for the Scottish Qualifications Authority as a senior qualifications verifier.


Local authority where they are based


Local authorities where they can work

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles), Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow, Highland, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Orkney, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, Shetland, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian

Age groups

5-8, 9-12, Teens, Adults

LL funded


BRAW network


Author type

Poet, Writer