Poetry Please Dark Angels
Why publish a Dark Angels Poetry book, one that proposes to be the first in an ongoing series?
Why not? I might glibly retort but Dark Angels doesn’t ever do anything on a whim. Truth be told, it has a long-standing relationship with poetry. Anyone who’s taken part in a Dark Angels writing course, from a one day taster in London to five nights in a hillside finca in southern Spain, can testify to the fact that poetry is read, shared, written and recalled many, many times over.
My Dark Angels alliance began in November 2014 when I spent five snowy days at the Moniack Mhor writing retreat in the Scottish Highlands. I arrived a nervous wreck; I floated home. It was my first residential writing experience and hand-on-heart, I’d had no idea what to expect. A year later I flexed my wings further at the afore-mentioned finca, and after that, yet further again at Merton College, Oxford. By that stage I’d completed all three levels of Dark Angels courses but thankfully there was more to come, including an experimental course that considered the relationship between visual art and writing at one of Henri Matisse’s former homes in France. There followed an online course on Art and Writing, and two writing retreats at Hawkwood College, Stroud where yes, the format was warmly familiar but each time there was something challenging and new in the writing exercises.
Dark Angels invites writers to think about words, and on that first course in Moniack Mhor I wrote this in response to a ‘love/hate’ exercise with a first line prompt, What I love about words is…
That they start at the beginning
What I hate about the beginning
Is the fear of uncertainty
What I love about uncertainty
Is the endless possibility
What I hate about possibility
Is that nothing is certain
What I love about certain
Is the right word for the job
Dark Angels celebrates words and encourages writers to find the right words for the job whether it’s for an annual report or a novel; a press release or a poem. It’s fair to say I considered myself something of an interloper when I first joined the ranks. I hadn’t come from Academia or the Civil Service or the business world; I wasn’t a comms writer, a report writer, a brand strategist or a CEO. No, I came from my kitchen table where I wrote poetry, and in 2014 I was really only getting off the starting blocks. But somehow, that didn’t matter at Dark Angels. What mattered was making the most of the opportunity, leaning into the mantra: only connect, only persist; daring to come to the edge and fly.
Outside the courses, I’ve consolidated my relationship with members of the Dark Angels family via Zoom calls and social media where poetry is often the channel that delights and strengthens our union. So, when John (Simmons, one of three founder directors) suggested adding poetry to a select list of Dark Angels publications, I felt sure it would be well received. You see, the Dark Angels approach to business writing might invite you to consider your executive summary as a haiku or find a metaphor to best describe a merger. In essence, as in the making of a poem, the advice is: be concise, be authentic, speak from the heart, and yes, find the right words for the job.
The American poet, Mary Oliver described poetry as a life cherishing force, one requiring vision and faith. She claimed it could be, “fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” It turns out I’m always hungry for poetry, as are many of my Dark Angels friends, and their associates. I’m reminded also of Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh’s boast, “I dabbled in words and they became my life,” and I get it – me too Patrick!
And so, when John asked me to select eighteen or nineteen poems for this first Dark Angels poetry book it felt like I’d won a huge award. And when I was reflecting on that process for this article I pondered idly, my thoughts a little muddled, then this arrived:
Weather or Whether?
She was a day begging to be left alone;
the poems hung in the wordrobe
like clothes waiting to be selected
for a summer capsule collection.
Day pulled the duvet up tight to her ears
the blind was down but framed
in fluorescent white light and so,
the show went on behind them.
Pick me, shouted the cerise pink dress,
that once looked nice on her nipped-in waist
but Day ordered rain and listened as it dripped,
as it plinked off gutters like untuned piano keys.
No pick me, boomed a turbulence of LBDs—
And me, and me, others yelled from the verge,
so Day curled up her corners and lay soft-day-still,
she asked the poems to choose themselves.
Sometimes things just happen and sometimes we make things happen which is the Dark Angels way, and unsurprisingly, the John Simmons way. From what I’ve gathered, John needs only the faintest whiff of an idea for a good writing project and he’s off. Therefore, a Dark Angels book on poetry will come as no surprise to its alumni, but to writers not yet familiar with Dark Angels it will hopefully feel like a breath of fresh air.
To have my poems feature alongside poetry written by the exceptionally talented Tim Rich and John Simmons is an honour. To have them published by Paekakariki Press and printed so beautifully on its antique Heidelberg letterpress is a privilege. More poems out into the world is a good thing, “a life cherishing force”; so yes Dark Angels, more poetry please, why not!
Dark Angels: Three Contemporary Poets — Book One is available to buy from Paekakariki Press or on Amazon.