Of Becoming and Uncertainty

This month the Dark Mountain editorial team are delving into the archive, unearthing some of the gems in our 20 book collections to showcase online. For our final post in the series, poetry editor Cate Chapman choses a trio of dark verses from anthologies spanning the years between the project's first book in summer 2010 and to our 'fire' issue in spring 2018. With artwork by Sarah Gillespie.
is a freelance book and poetry editor, and an occasional scribbler of poems. Her work has been included in several Dark Mountain issues and other print publications including Letters to the Earth: Writing to a Planet in Crisis (William Collins, 2019). She lives by the glorious sea in Devon.

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

 

White Out

 

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

of dust,

 

that older mothwings 

fade like pages

 

left opened to the light 

 

how in aging

they unknow themselves,

shed this powder

 

of identity,

grow soft into 

 

vanishings –

 

imagine it:

all that residue

 

of you, windblown

through some flickering

wooded night,

 

each mark

each word

lifted,

 

where all that’s left is flight –

 

–  Roseanne Watt 

(from Issue 11)

 

 

Getting Started

 

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 

spelling loss. 

 

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)

 

 

IMAGE
Campion Moth (from The Moth Project) by Sarah Gillespie
Mezzotint engraving
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)

 

The poets

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

 

Comments
  1. Dear friends,
    Indeed, as you said at the beginning of this article, there is something special about poetry. As we say in my country, following a poet like Blas de Otero, poetry is a weapon with a future.
    Each of the poems you reproduce calls to the depths and encourages us to see the world in a different way.
    Thank you, encouragement and a big hug,
    Xabier

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