Helena Nelson founded HappenStance Press in 2005 and remains its sole editor. She also writes poetry.The author is pictured in monochrome sitting at a cafe table, pen in hand and a manuscript in front of her. She is looking at the photographer with a mischievous smile. She has short hair and glasses and is wearing a smartish jacket.

Her own published work began with a pamphlet, Mr and Mrs Philpott on Holiday at Aucherawe & Other Poems, Kettillonia Press, 2001. Her first book, Starlight on Water, followed in 2003 from Rialto Press and was an Aldeburgh/Jerwood First Collection Prize winner. Her most recent collection, Pearlscomes back to the Philpotts. Full circle.

She writes both serious and light verse. Unsuitable Poems (2005),The Unread Squirrel (2009) and Down With Poetry! (2016) represent her humorous and satirical side, as well as the more recent collection of WrapperRhymes (Branded, 2019). She has performed widely, often provoking mirth.

A former teacher in further education, she sometimes works as an Arvon tutor. She also publishes pamphlets (mainly first collections), and occasional book-length volumes, including first collections for D.A. Prince, Stephen Payne, Fiona Moore and Charlotte Gann, although this activity is now winding down.

She reviews for a range of magazines as well as posting an irregular blog entry on the HappenStance website about poetry publishing, among other topics.

An associated activity is sphinxreview.co.uk, a site dedicated to promoting and reviewing poetry pamphlet publishing. Here the idea of the OPOI is flourishing: short reviews of poetry pamphlets focussing on only One Point Of Interest (the OPOI).

In 2016, she published the HappenStance best seller: How (Not) to Get Your Poetry Published, a book that collects the insights and useful ideas she has gathered over the last fourteen years in poetry publishing. Down With Poetry! (published in the same year) is in many ways a light verse companion to How (Not) to...

Photocredit: Gerry Cambridge


  • Pearls, The Complete Mr & Mrs Philpott Poems, HappenStance 2022.
  • Plot and Counterplot, Shoestring Press, 2010
  • Starlight on Water, Rialto Press, (2003)
  • Mr and Mrs Philpott on Holiday at Auchterawe & Other Poems, Kettillonia Press pamphlet (2001)

Light Verse:


How (Not) to Get Your Poetry Published, HappenStance (2016) 



Reading for Poets and Players

Helena Nelson, Scottish Book Trust bio.

Interview with Tim Love, Litrefs blog, 2010.

Interview with Dr Fulminare (Sidekick Books) 

Online interview, Poetry School, June 2015

Online interview, Scottish Books, April 2015

Online interview with Helena Nelson at Dundee University, 2015

Interview with Maitreyabandu at launch of two new pamphlets 2015