There is something special about poetry. Words are blunt instruments – perhaps more so in English than in some other languages – and in general we tend to wield them pretty haphazardly, without an enormous amount of thought or care. Poetry is a kind of foil to this – to bluntness and to literalism – every word turned over in the mind like a pebble in the pocket, each phrase picked with precision, deliberation, love. It points us towards that which we cannot articulate, towards the tension between the twin realities of our shared humanity and our essential aloneness. A really good poem reaches – with language – towards silence, gives us a little push.
For these reasons I think poetry can, as a form, bring something very particular to this moment where the stories of our times no longer fit our reality: reading a poem makes this little pause in our usual pattern of functioning, where we just might – just for a moment – break through our habitual cultural tendencies to rationalise, distract, diminish. I don’t want to risk redundancy or reductionism by over-introducing the following poems, so I’ll restrict myself to saying that I’ve picked these three from amongst the extensive DM back-catalogue because, both singly and together, they speak to me of becoming and uncertainty and the hope that not all change has to be bad change, even here at teetering edge of the world. I hope they speak to you too. CC
No satellites here. Even the old telegraph pole up the hill
is swathed in ivy, hops, waving bindweed,
footed by rhododendron gnawing into its wires.
At night we are pitch black, cut off from
the information highway. Dark matter has gravitational effects:
light, too, draws everything to it like these moths
and ginny spinners banging against my window.
From space, we’re a scattering of light across the cold
Northern Hemisphere –we see only stars, collisions
a thousand thousand years old, a history of accidents,
who did what to whom, and in what circumstances,
how best to father and mother an Olympic hurdler, or a king.
But I have no time for celebrities, feel only the enveloping dark,
briar rose petals scattered across disappearing hills,
one rook calling to another in the aspens.
– Christine Bousfield
(from Issue 1)
The Moth Trap
I never knew their marks
were just darker shades
that older mothwings
fade like pages
left opened to the light
how in aging
they unknow themselves,
shed this powder
grow soft into
all that residue
of you, windblown
through some flickering
where all that’s left is flight –
– Roseanne Watt
(from Issue 11)
After many days silence
I feel worthy of words again.
I set the pencil tip on the page edge
as if stepping into a field without buildings,
and start walking.
Beyond the margins, north and east,
forests are burning. The ash covers our cars
with its ghostly dispatch, an escaped alphabet
It is always with silence
that the quiet world falls, and between the quiet
and the silence there runs a long dry river.
We are only now making out its banks,
which are coming closer. The kneeling there
will be like eating dust.
And still in the ground, the faint earthquakes
of oil trains running back and forth, empty and full.
To the south the refineries blaze, oil tankers
stacked in the harbour. They seem unstoppable,
as though their schedules are set
in something harder than madness.
Overhead the sun tolls red,
the light strange, more martian
than earthen, an alien bell
over an ash-fed ocean.
Who would guess the day would come
when even the sun would call for rebellion.
I hold the pen loosely, like a bow,
and begin to run.
– Rob Lewis
(from Issue 15)
Campion Moth (from The Moth Project) by Sarah Gillespie
For the last two years I have worked exclusively on this project to engrave and write about common British moths in order to draw attention to their catastrophic decline. The moths came out of the night with all their powdery fragility and found me. Mezzotint, delicate and difficult as it is, seemed the perfect medium with which to honour them. Because you are working in mirror and from dark to light and without line, there are, in the long hours of making, many when it is not at all clear whether you – the artist – are ‘drawing forth’, or whether the moth – subject – is revealing herself. (from Issue 19)
Christine Bousfield returned to writing poetry in her forties when she became a lecturer in literature and psychoanalysis. She has always been interested in the connections between poetry and music and founded a poetry jazz quartet, Nightdiver. ‘White Out’ was first published in Pennine Platform, Winter 2009.
Roseanne Watt is a poet and filmmaker from Shetland. She is a third-year PhD student at the University of Stirling, where she makes film-poems and film-portraits concerned with memory, loss and islands. Roseanne is poetry editor for The Island Review. haegri.tumblr.com.
Rob Lewis is a poet, activist, house painter and musician, whose writings have been published in Dark Mountain, Cascadia Weekly, Manzanita, The Atlanta Review, Southern Review and other publications.
You can find more Dark Mountain poetry online in our Dark Verse section
Dark Mountain: Issue 10 – Uncivilised Poetics (PDF)
The Autumn 2016 edition is a special issue that explores the importance of poetry and the poetic.Read more