In Haunt

Poetry pulsing with Gothic imagination, feminist fables, mythology and The Uncanny – that’s just a flavour of the work within Rosie Garland’s latest collection What Girls Do in The Dark published by Nine Arches Press (available here) with an online launch on Thursday 12 November.

What Girls Do In The Dark

Poet and novelist Rosie is no stranger to delving into the darker side after all. Her most recent novel The Night Brother (2017) explores the history and mystery of 19th century Manchester, whilst previous poetry includes the collection As in Judy (Flapjack Press 2017) and pamphlet Everything Must Go (Holland Park Press 2012). Throughout her work, both long and short-form, inspiring and beguiling creatures appear – with the reader joining them on a journey through themes such as identity, queerness and resilience.

What Girls Do in The Dark is Rosie’s highly-anticipated second collection, also taking the reader on a trip through time, place and even the people we are. Verse comes alive in its encounter with astrology and astronomy, magic and mythology – opening up alternative ways to explore the body and the self. Out of the darkness emerges a dazzling energy and crucially, hope – that even in the face of hardship, we all hold the potential of creating our own astonishing paths. Meet wonderful, illuminating and awesome women, and jump in…

Rosie’s work is frequently woven with historical as well as personal depths; her settings often vivid, her characters distinct and memorable. This collection holds those aspects very much at its heart. It also builds on Rosie’s already inspiring array of other creative explorations, including her ongoing work as Writer In Residence at Manchester’s historic John Rylands Library, a range of short stories… not to mention her cabaret performances as Rosie Lugosi the Vampire Queen and singing with The March Violets!

Here at Haunt Manchester, we spoke to Rosie to find out more about What Girls Do in The Dark

By Rachel SaundersHello Rosie! Congratulations on the collection! The title itself is so compelling, what inspired it?

"‘What Girls Do In the Dark’ is the title of one of the poems, about a shapeshifting sister. Originally, the collection was saddled with a different title – some hi-falutin’ piece of nonsense I dreamed up. Jane Commane (founder of and inspiration behind Nine Arches Press) suggested ‘What Girls Do In the Dark’. It’s so much better than the original, and was right there in the contents list! A reminder of how an editor can see things the writer can’t."

Your poetry within is described ‘rooted in the realm of gothic imagination, mythology and The Uncanny’. Why explore these potentially dark depths through poetry… and have may a reader gain from coming with you?

"Ah, the Gothic! However much it’s been disparaged (and don’t get me started on that topic…), the Gothic endures. Never quite in fashion, never quite fitting, and existing on the fringes. Perhaps that explains its allure and its terror. All of us have cobwebbed dungeons in the psyche. They are frightening places, and we are sold the lie that if we paint our world pastel shades everything will be all right.

"We ignore personal demons at our psychological peril. Far wiser, in my humble opinion, is to explore the haunted castle and face those fearsome ghosts. With that in mind and with lantern held aloft in trembling fingers, discover what girls do in the dark. Here be tygres."

What Girls Do In The Dark adds to your existing poetry titles, as well as a range of novels. How would you say your relationship with poetry is different to that of novel writing? And does this poetry differ in approach from your previous work? 

"With each new collection, novel, or short fiction I strive to push myself to develop as a writer. Last thing I want to do is idle in the same place, creatively speaking.

"Increasingly, how I label my writing is more flexible. I’m less concerned with rigid demarcation lines between one form and another. Which I guess is hardly surprising, as it reflects my flexible relationship with sexuality and gender, for example.

"I write long things and short things. Sure, in a Long Thing like a novel there is space and time to explore multiple lives in detail. A poem or flash fiction may be a snapshot. Then again, I’ve created flash fictions that encompass a life, and ‘Vixen’ (my second novel) takes place over the course of a few months. Yes, make a rule and watch it bend immediately…"

Can you tell us a bit more about the writing process? When did you start on the collection?

"I write because I have a lot of questions. Not to nail down unshakeable answers, but to explore ideas, opening up possibilities rather than closing them down. I want to give the reader space for their own thoughts. Dammit, I want to have space for my own thoughts.

"Some of the poems took a long time to make it to the page, some arrived almost fully-formed. It happens occasionally! I’ve learnt not to tinker the life out of those rare creatures. Other pieces were drafted and redrafted, with and without an editor, which is fun and excitement of its own kind. I welcome both. I’m not arrogant: I don’t think my work is ‘perfect’ (whatever that means). I’m open to feedback – in fact I seek it out as it helps me grow and develop."

During the writing, what was the most rewarding thing – and were there any challenges/surprises along the way?

"In What Girls Do in The Dark I explore that which falls between and outside. To choose one example: in ‘Trans-Neptunian objects’, heavenly bodies “break the law of what is and isn’t planet.” This collection contains hybrid creatures that break the law of what is and isn’t ‘poem’. Yes, as a queer writer it’s only fitting that some of these pieces are darn queer in terms of how they work on a page.

"It underlines one of the many (many) reasons I loved editing the collection with wondrous Nine Arches Press editor Jane Commane. At no point did she look at one of my submitted pieces and say ‘this isn’t a poem’. How marvellous to find such a creative home.

"Themes in the collection include finding light in darkness; the difficulty of optimism, looking up and out, especially in hard times. Sure, you might say times are always hard, but right now? Yeah. It’s tough, but I strive to keep going. Poetry is vital, never more so than now. In the words of the amazing Audre Lorde, ‘Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity for our existence.’

"So! Come and discover what girls do in the dark!

"You can also attend the online launch on Thursday 12th November, as 7.30pm GMT – open all over the world… and buy the book from the lovely people at Nine Arches Press."

To find out more about Rosie Garland, visit her website:

By Emily Oldfield

Image 2 by Rachel Saunders 




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