Polluted Sex shortlisted for The Barbellion Prize 2022

White square with four book covers in center squared. The Barbellion Prize 2022 SHORTLIST in black text.  Covers clockwise: 
1. white rectangle, white material, needlework in white, white diamond. White text reads: Book of Hours: An Almanac for The Seasons of The Soul - by Letty McHugh (Self-published, with support from Disability Arts Online).
2. Orange & black rectangle, centred part human part android graphic/image. White & black text reads: Hybrid Humans: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Man and Machine - by Harry Parker (Profile Books/Wellcome Collection).
3. Black, white & yellow rectangle. Owl image with feathered background. Yellow text reads: Chouette - by Claire Osketsky (Ecco/HarperCollins).
4. Dark peach rectangle. Naked woman sitting rear view stars motif.  Pale blue text reads: Polluted Sex - by Lauren Foley (Influx Press).

The Barbellion Prize is a book prize dedicated to the furtherance of ill and disabled voices in writing. The prize is awarded annually to an author whose work has best represented the experience of chronic illness and/or disability.

The awarded work can be of any genre: in fiction, memoir, biography, poetry, or critical non-fiction from around the world – whether it is in English, in translation, traditionally published, or self-published.

The prize is named in tribute to English diarist W.N.P. Barbellion, who wrote eloquently on his life with multiple sclerosis (MS) before his death in 1919. …


Polluted Sex – OUT NOW!

Lauren Foley’s debut Polluted Sex (Influx Press) … an explicit, raw, and at times surreal portrait of girl and womanhood, discovered through sexual and bodily adventure and misadventure. … Religion, desire and sin are laid bare and made strange in Foley’s succulent language that drips from the page like an overripe fruit, sweet but spoiling at the same time.’

–Books Ireland

‘With her form-bending debut collection, Polluted Sex, Irish/Australian Lauren Foley joins a cohort of contemporary authors — including Cathy Sweeney, Claire-Louise Bennett, Eimear McBride — whose work seems dissatisfied with narrative conventions. What happens when we blow them open? … Polluted Sex alternately challenges, interests, confuses, humours, shocks, and engages its reader. What art ought to do.’
—Irish Independent

‘Like Kathy Acker after a glut of whiskeys, these stories are seductive, hilarious, rejuvenating and intimate.

Lauren Foley’s characters have barbarous tongues and know how to use them. Lacerating and sexy, the heat sears off (and through) the pages. A scorching portrait of the female psyche. Uncompromising and raw. A new voice in Irish fiction.’
—June Caldwell

‘Superb, subversive stories from Lauren Foley. Formally experimental—mini plays, time-stamped fragments, prose-as-prayer—work that’s political, comic and genuinely original.’
—Sinéad Gleeson

‘Lauren Foley is a gifted, fearless writer. These vivid, dynamic stories range from the visceral to the experimental with moments of intense, expressive lyricism.’
—Lia Mills

‘Short stories filled with darkness and moments of pure gold.’
—Cristín Leach

‘In this startling, disarming debut collection of stories, Lauren Foley dismantles our preconceived ideas of body autonomy, femininity, and sexual desire. Often challenging, and always gripping, Polluted Sex introduces us to characters we ordinarily think of as living on the fringes of society, repositioning them as central societal forces. Polluted Sex is an unflinching debut, by one of Ireland’s most compelling and emerging voices.’

—October Books

‘Why can’t all books be half this good? Almost every experiment is in service of re-sensitising the reader to the spoken & written word, and the world. It achieves a tactile intimacy on the page, that’s both casual & profound; one I never really knew I was missing. Just mint.’
—Tom Benn

On Bodies, Disability and Art: Polluted Sex 

I purposefully wrote Polluted Sex on bodies, particularly female and queer bodies; because we write with our bodies – unusual animals. I try to depict intimacies of the body in portraying bodies, bodily exposure, nakedness and bodily functions.

Because I am a cis woman with a uterus who menstruates, I wrote about menstruation a lot. My story Blue details an account of the first year of puberty, the onset of menstruation, irregular, immense bloodshed; burgeoning queer sexuality, all under a repressive societal system rooted in patriarchal control, and shame, too much shame; but the character is ultimately defiant. Good on her. I have endometriosis, bleeding from the uterus is a bodily function I have experienced excruciatingly, inordinately, and frequently. Literature often avoids and/or denies any occurrences of this bloodshed. Why are periods still censored in literature? There is no good reason why. In Polluted Sex, I put bodies on their own and/or with other bodies in intimate positions because physical interactions often tell us more about our animal selves than spoken or written words; than thought.

While writing Polluted Sex when people have asked me what I’m writing about I’ve said: “riding”. They usually laugh and say: “writing …?” I responded: “No, riding. It’s called Polluted Sex.” Then I get an embarrassed laugh, an “ah here”, or a “why not? good on you”. In Hiberno-English to ride means to have sexual intercourse. It’s funny to tell people you’re writing a sex book, and generally people don’t ask too many questions after that. So you can avoid the dreaded: when is it out? where can I buy it? is it finished yet? But, it is very important to me, having grown up in a society where sex was considered dirty, to chat casually about the ride whenever I can. …

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