Looking into the Dark

There’s a question I’m often asked about my art and poetry; why am I so interested  in dark subject matter when I could be writing and making images about ‘happy stuff’?

I’m not sure if I choose my themes or they choose me.  Inevitably my work reflects my life, my view of the world.  From early childhood I’ve experienced pain and trauma growing up within a dysfunctional family where I never felt safe and also at the hands of an uncaring medical establishment that treats disabled people as expendable.  Although I’ve been lucky enough to have love, friendship and joy in my life, it’s always been within the context of a threatening world.  I’ve spent most of my life in ‘survival mode’.

It’s important to me that my creative work tries to expose the truth as I see it.  I want to confront my reality head on, with all its flaws and sores.  I don’t want to retreat into a rose tinted bubble and pretend life is perfect which is what the State would prefer us to do.  It’s much easier to control a population that doesn’t ask difficult questions.  Of course, it’s also essential to maintain a positive attitude and a sense of humour.  To see into the dark we also need some light.  Before you descend into the subterranean depths of your pain make sure you have a torch.


Original Photograph by the author


An attraction to the dark side of life may be a tendency among creative people. There certainly seems to be a link between poetry and pain. There’s a higher rate of depression, addiction and even suicide amongst poets.  Flick through any poetry book and you will find more poems about loss and pain than happiness.  Personally, I find cheerful ditties about love and rainbows rather tedious.  Misery is far more fascinating!  Perhaps truly happy people (if they actually exist in the real world) do not feel the need to agonise over choosing the right words in the right order on a piece of paper.  They’re probably too busy doing whatever it is that normal, happy people are supposed to do, making money, having sex and playing football or whatever (no disrespect to rich, sexy footballers intended!)

One of the reasons I write poetry and make art is the hope that sharing my experiences may help others in similar situations. It’s comforting to know you are not the only one with difficult thoughts and feelings. We can all learn from one another, we can all gain strength from one another. We don’t have to be alone. That is the beauty and power of art.