Dark Angels Note 67

Dearest Friends,

Welcome back to our weekly Dark Angels Note.

This week Therese Kieran is in the hot seat.


1. Tell us about something you’re working on right now. 

I’m currently curating a small exhibition of poetry and prose for Body Politics, a project conceived by Jo Egan, playwright and Artistic Director of MACHA productions. At the heart of the project are two plays, Sweeties and No Motive (written by Jo) that explore hard-hitting issues such as paedophilia, and how women have been impacted. I played a small editorial role as many contributors were taking their first tentative steps into a creative arena alongside several published writers. Not everyone wanted to write or perform in the workshops. Anticipating this reticence, Jo recorded the early workshops when many personal experiences were discussed. It’s from these recordings that I created a visual image and text montage to capture everyone’s contributions. The exhibition will run alongside performances of both plays in September at The Brian Friel Theatre in Belfast.


2. Can you recommend something for us to read?

I’ve recently become interested in hybrid forms of writing that also aim for an interesting aesthetic. The core element might be poetry or a collection of essays bridged with experimental forms to create a strong narrative through-line. It’s hard to describe but deliciously easy to get lost in.

Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie, Scotland’s newly appointed Makar. The two longest essays feature archaeological digs in Quinhagak, Alaska and the Orkney island of Westray. Both are fascinating. Others are archaeological digs of the heart. Jamie writes lyrically about factual discoveries and conversationally about poignant rites of passage, often in a lowkey register that I find searingly honest and utterly trustworthy. She tells it like it is. I cannot wait to see what she does as Makar.

Obit poetry by Victoria Chang. The majority of these poems are written in the style of an obituary. Chang’s ingenious format draws attention to the impact of loss on different levels. Interspersed between the obituary poems, a series of tanka reference her children. A long prose poem occupies one section of the book that is sometimes hard to follow and oftentimes like a stream of consciousness, but for me, effectively captures the busyness of an over-thinker’s mind.

I’d also recommend Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa and Aether, an out-of-body-lyric by Catherine Graham both of which are stunning. And for pure joy and apparent effortless word-craft, Billy Collin’s latest collection, Whale Day has greatly amused and soothed me this year.


 3. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever read or received? 

“Suppress the part of you that matters most and you might just suppress the miracle.”
Joan and Kate Newmann, Summer Palace Press.

“Only persist.”
Guess who? The inimitable JS that’s who!

“You can’t design from a vacuum.”
From one of my university lecturers. Similarly, you can’t write if you don’t read.


4. Share one thing you do when you get stuck.

Make, footer, fiddle. During one lockdown last year I spent a whole weekend transforming an iPhone box into a mini Frida Kahlo museum, complete with mini Frida in repose. As I got lost in painting, sticking and footering my husband never uttered a single word, not as much as a what, why, who’s it for, which pleased me no end. I think working with your hands is a great way to detangle muddled thoughts and feeling stuck.


5. What’s your desert island book and why? 

Stoner by John Williams. I re-read it earlier this year because I longed to reconnect with the novel’s protagonist. The only son of a farmer, William Stoner grabs the chance to study Agriculture at university but graduates with a degree in English Literature. It’s beautifully written in simple but detailed prose that immerses the reader in his world. Nothing comes easily to William Stoner but his stoicism and resilience reflect a quiet acceptance that life wasn’t all that bad, and hadn’t he done better than even he might have imagined. I love this book for its humanity; for drawing attention to human flaws and vulnerability. I love it for the wonderfully drawn Stoner and other characters in his life; for its historical context; for its locations but mostly for being quietly brilliant in revealing raw emotion with such subtle deftness. I would find it a strangely comforting read if I was stranded on a desert island.

Fabulous recommendations. Footering is a much-underrated enterprise. Thank you Therese!


Dark Angels Online Advanced Course

Good news! Jamie Jauncey and Richard Pelletier are reprising their wondrously pan-continental Advanced Online Writing Course this Autumn. Join them for a guided journey into language and storytelling. Enjoy a mix of live online sessions, fast-paced writing exercises with time built-in to work on a personal piece of writing.

Two-hour sessions, twice a week, for one month.
Dates: each Monday and Thursday, November 8 – December 2
Time: UK 5.30 – 7.30 PM; US E Coast 12.30 – 2.30 PM; US W Coast 9.30 – 11.30 AM
Fee: £795 / E895 / $1095

October Starter Day 

On 20th October at London’s October Gallery, John and Neil plan to host an in-person day of writing. This course is designed as a first step into the world of Dark Angels. But if you’ve worked with us before and just need a day of face-to-face wordy creativity, we’re happy to give returning angels a 25% discount. We also have one 50% discount spot for a scholar – that’s someone new to writing or can’t afford the full fee. Spread the word.

Timings: 09:30 – 16:30
Fee: £475

Interested in either of these courses or a scholarship place? Contact Susanne.


Dark Angels Gatherings

We restarted our Tuesday night gatherings this week – lovely. Same time as before (7.00-8.00pm in the UK), but with a new Zoom link. If you fancy an hour of connection and reflection in the company of other Dark Angels, you’d be very welcome; bring a friend too.

On 21st September the gathering heads out on another virtual excursion to the Spongleheim Gallery where we’ll do lots of creative things in response to the latest art show. It’s free. No artistic skills are needed. Use the weekly gathering Zoom link to join at 7.00pm UK time. If you’ve been thinking about joining the gatherings but never quite managed it, this is the one to make your debut, promise!

Be well, keep reading, keep writing and know that we’re always here..

From everyone at Dark Angels

Also published on Medium.