Dark Hollow Dark (2019)
130 x 200mm
‘I am lost I will not be found
I am lost I will not be found
I am her messenger of fire
her messenger of vire’
Dark Hollow Dark is a sequel to, or emanation from, the author’s previous work The Look Away, taking as its inception two points of haemorrhage in the original text, the lines ‘its dark motion like a chant’, and ‘thoughts come to me that are not my own’.
Dark Hollow Dark is ‘a chant in seven parts’ and its voice, or voices, describe a form of extreme mental and bodily disorientation where the boundaries of the self and the other elide, where identity ebbs and flows between the clingingly obdurate and that which dissolves and disappears. The text itself draws on many sources, including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and in particular a footnoted gloss on the original Cotton Nero manuscript referring to a word that is ‘rewritten, over stain, in another hand … in darker ink over another letter’.
‘and when the last leaf forsook the tree the dark
and whenne the laste leof forsook þe tree þe darc
an wanne þe laste lyeaf fursoke þe trei þe derk
an wahan þe laste leave forsoke þe trewe þe durk
an wehn þe last live forsok þe trouȝgh þe deork
an hwon þe laste life forsok þe truwe þe deorc
an wonne þe laste life forsok þe true þe deorc’
These words become a refrain throughout the book, reflecting on the nature of individual volition and the sense that the story of our lives can be overwritten by unknown - and possibly supernatural - agencies. Indeed, Dark Hollow Dark is a haunting and haunted text, with its evocations (and invocations) of numinous entities residing in and beneath the earth, in the sky and stars, and ‘the seven worlds’. Many passages of the poem are hermetically addressed to persons unknown, including someone only referenced as ‘dweller’, and an unnamed goddess who is variously described as ‘the goddess of the silver bow’, ‘the goddess of silver’, ‘the goddess of fire’ and ‘the fire goddess’.
The palimpsestic nature of early texts such as MS. Cotton Nero are explored in a series of over thirty original artworks that accompany the text of Dark Hollow Dark. These artworks are themselves texts - largely drawn from The Look Away - each written and overwritten to create a dense mesh of symbols that hover on the threshold of meaning.
‘Yes, there is a whole meaning. But to get that, you will need to step into the space – and move through the conduit that opens. Dark Hollow Dark is an examination of presence. What is it that we ‘dwell’ in? What is the body? Whose words are these? What are the layers of knowing? And if we grapple with the things beyond words, what form would the answer come back at us in? And who would be speaking it?’ (Andy Hopkins)