Dark Mountain Poetics: An Invitation to Contribute to Issue 10

 Poetry doesn’t exist to make the reader feel comfortable. It exists to make the reader come alive; to challenge; to bear witness; to invite conversation and contemplation; to unsettle, and to try to make sense of the world. In 2016, it feels to me as though poetry has a big job to do, but often finds itself out of work.

It’s not that poetry has a specific role to play in changing society or in fixing anything, but that it has an uncivilised way of speaking to the human bodymind, using language that tends to be scoffed at, or more often than not ignored by Western society. It’s no surprise that Auden’s timeworn lines about poetry making nothing happen are so readily hung out to dry by 21st century rationalists, who ‘don’t get poetry’. It’s no surprise that in a world of false gods – of money, progress, ‘success’ – we obsess about what poetry does or doesn’t do. Poetry is not utilitarian. It does not need to be functional or useful or to make money (and thank god for that). It exists and communicates on levels many of us are barely even aware of; it is indeed, ‘a way of happening, a mouth.’

Inspired as it is by an equality of logos and mythos, poetry challenges the kind of empirical knowledge valued by post-industrial capitalism. Poetry is expressive language. It confidently asserts that intuitive knowing, metaphorical and non-critical language, have the power to subvert, amongst other things, the hegemony of rationalism. Poetry, at least the kind I imagine making up a Dark Mountain poetics, has a deep resistance to any reductive system.

And yet poetry is also part of post-industrial capitalism, whether it likes it or not. It has to find a voice to communicate in spite of being sidelined and (willfully) misunderstood by a culture fixated on individualism and shopping. It needs to continue to stick its neck out and be heard, something which Dark Mountain has been committed to supporting since its first publication in 2010.

It’s been fascinating reading submissions and thinking about the kind of contemporary poetry Dark Mountain has published these past six years. There has been a good sprinkling of ecological and mythopoetic work, as well as one or two more overtly political pieces, and we’ve also published work by deceased poets, notably Robinson Jeffers. Much of the poetry has been submitted from English-speaking countries in the West, where physical hardship from social and economic collapse has only been deeply felt by some, not (yet) by all of us. In the UK, for example, the number of homeless people in our cities continues to rise, while the majority of us are still able to put a meal on the table and keep a roof over our heads. Few submissions have come from poets who have first-hand experience of life in the wake of collapse, or from those like Mourid Barghouti from Palestine, who deeply feels the hardship of inequality and oppression:

I have no problem

I look at myself:
I have no problem.
I look all right
and, to some girls,
my grey hair might even be attractive;
my eyeglasses are well made,
my body temperature is precisely thirty seven,
my shirt is ironed and my shoes do not hurt.
I have no problem.
My hands are not cuffed,
my tongue has not been silenced yet,
I have not, so far, been sentenced
and I have not been fired from my work;
I am allowed to visit my relatives in jail,
I’m allowed to visit some of their graves in some countries.
I have no problem.
I am not shocked that my friend
has grown a horn on his head.
I like his cleverness in hiding the obvious tail
under his clothes, I like his calm paws.
He might kill me, but I shall forgive him
for he is my friend;
he can hurt me every now and then.
I have no problem.
The smile of the TV anchor
does not make me ill any more
and I’ve got used to the Khaki stopping my colours
night and day.
That is why
I keep my identification papers on me, even at
the swimming pool.
I have no problem.
Yesterday, my dreams took the night train
and I did not know how to say goodbye to them.
I heard the train had crashed
in a barren valley
(only the driver survived).
I thanked God, and took it easy
for I have small nightmares
that I hope will develop into great dreams.
I have no problem.
I look at myself, from the day I was born till now.
In my despair I remember
that there is life after death;
there is life after death
and I have no problem.
But I ask:
Oh my God,
is there life before death?

Translated by Radwa Ashour

It’s interesting that notions of collapse – social, political, economic, ecological – are so much more discussed in mainstream media these days, but that a great many Western poets have shied away from responding. It reminds me of something American poet, Jorie Graham, once said in relation to poetry and cultural awareness: we may profess to knowing about a particular crisis, but we, in the Western world at least, are not feeling it.

This blogpost is an invitation to feel it, to respond in particular, to the myriad ways in which the 21st century consumer capitalist world is unraveling and being forced to change; an invitation to respond to the myths of progress and human supremacy; to what on earth it means to be human in a world where refugee children are washed up on beaches while others queue up for the latest smartphone. What does poetry have to say about these inequalities and fallacies? What role does poetry play in a world that is scrabbling blindly to hold on to business as usual, while all around the chaos of political and religious wars, resource depletion and climate change hold sway?

Dark Mountain: Issue 10 will be our first book themed entirely around poetry, and will include poems, essays on poetry, and poetry-related art, all of which will in some way speak to a Dark Mountain poetics. This book will be our second foray into themed publications (our first one was Dark Mountain: Issue 8 (Technê)) and we are very much looking forward to seeing it take shape. In addition to the book, we’re commissioning a CD of spoken word/performance poetry/soundings, to honour the importance of the oral tradition not only as the origin of contemporary written poetry, but also as vessel for the embodiment of language, human and nonhuman. What happens to poetry when it moves away from the printed page?

Please send us your essays, poems and art. We have devised new guidelines for submitting poetry, so please do read the following:

Please submit a maximum of TWO POEMS. Unfortunately, due to the high volume of submissions, anyone who submits more than two poems will have their work automatically discounted.

Deadline for submissions is May 31st 2016.

We’re really looking forward to seeing what you send us.


‘I Have No Problem’ is published in Midnight & Other Poems by Mourid Barghouti, Arc Publications, 2008. Reproduced with kind permission of Tony Ward, Arc Publications, Todmorden, Lancs.

  1. I have a couple of images that I have written poems with. I have submitted before, and hope this time, it will be a match. The poems and images don’t have to go together, however, should you prefer one over the other. Where are your submission guidelines?

    1. Hi Denise, sorry to only just get round to this – no email notification of comments and I haven’t been checking the site – apologies. Here is the link to subs details:
      Hope you’re able to submit something. All best, Em

    1. Hi Lynn, so sorry only just to have noticed this. Yes, we accept previously published poems. Still time to submit!
      All best, Em

  2. Dear Dark Mountain,
    I would like to submit a couple of poems on for Issues 10 before the May 31st deadline. Please let me know your submission guidelines. My friend and former student Margaret Miller, who has published with you, recommended your online magazine-journal.

    1. Hi Susan, sorry to respond so late – all my fault for not checking the site regularly enough! So here is the link to our subs details .
      Also, do you happen to be the Susan McCaslin who wrote ‘Facing the Environmental Crisis with Contemplative Attention’? If so, might you be up for submitting this (or an edited version of this) as well? I really like the essay, though it’s a little on the academic side for the usual DM essay. Any thoughts?
      All best wishes, Em

  3. Hi I would like to enter some images for issue 10. Am I too late. Is the deadline the same as the poetry?
    You,at be overwhelmed with images of course. If you let me know Ill send some tomorrow.

  4. Would you be interested in including some lumen prints of plants from rehabilitated mine land in NSW Australia?


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