Bestselling feminist poet Arch Hades’ second volume, Fool’s Gold: Poetry and Postcards, has taken the top spot on Amazon, and it’s no wonder. If you haven’t yet discovered her elegant and poignant verse then you really should do, writes Simon Taylor.
By Simon Taylor
If you’re not already one of British poet Arch Hades’ one million (yes, one million) followers on Instagram then, to introduce her, she is an acclaimed writer whose largely relationship-themed poems have proved a huge hit with Generation Y.
While her work is clearly contemporary in voice, it is classical in its composition, harking back to the writings of the 19th century’s Romantic poets.
Hades first emerged on the literary scene in 2018 with the publication of her debut collection, High Tide, which received critical acclaim and proved her first bestseller.
Now, three years on, comes her sophomore work, Fool’s Gold: Poetry and Postcards, and while her legions of fans have already devoured it, securing the author a second Amazon bestseller, this confident, more mature offering will only propel the UK’s most-followed poet further into the social stratosphere.
Presented are 53 lyrical and accessible poems which chronicle the poet’s last serious relationship, and its breakdown.
Things start off like with every new relationship, packed with infatuation, yearning, and hope for what may be. As an example, take some lines from one of the first poems in the collection, ‘Delicate’.
My heavy heart strains in my chest
And speeds up when I’m pondering
Of you, of us, this power’s enough
To be my own undoing
She also writes,
My love for you will never tire,
Nor will it fade, decrease, expire
At this stage, we see an earnest expression of the writer’s wish to devote her life to her partner. If there is a red flag waving its warning sign, it is that the partner may not be reciprocating that affection.
As we continue through the poems, though, it becomes clear that Hades has entered into a relationship with somebody who isn’t just poor at communicating his love; he is a classic narcissist enamoured with only person: himself.
In the poem ‘Unconditional’, she goes deeper into the pain this causes, with a raw honesty that strikes to the heart.
You push me far away, then wonder where I went
You do not treat me kindly, but kindness you expect?
With each successive entry, we learn more about just what kind of man Hades has to contend with, just as she is processing the evidence for herself.
In this way, the book is deeply intimate and it’s not exactly difficult to see why her writing has struck such a chord with younger women especially.
But this is not misery lit or a ‘tell-all’. Hades is far cleverer than that, and she treats her readers with the same sense of intellectual respect.
There is clearly an instructional element to the poems, documenting her own heartache to help others to understand the face of a toxic relationship so they can get out with their hearts and minds intact.
In her later poems, Hades explores how her lover conjures up untruths about her and denies her love, playing harmful mind games that amuse no-one but himself.
One of the key themes tackled in the writing is exposing the myth of unconditional love. Young women are all-too-often led to believe that they should ‘stand by their man’ a la Dolly Parton, irrespective of their own feelings, but in this regard her poems blast that outdated, misguided and fictional notion right out of the water, and good riddance.
In no uncertain terms, Hades shows how giving your heart to someone who will only trample on it does not a fulfilled, lasting relationship make.
Far better, she is saying, to break away from such a damaging situation than endure. Everyone deserves to be in a rewarding, not debilitating, relationship and if you can’t have that right now then don’t be afraid to stand alone until you do find someone who will treat you with the respect you deserve.
Those poems that put the toxic relationship fully on display, like a criminal in stocks, are perhaps the most powerful of the collection.
I would also single out ‘Fair-weather Love’, which is a winning combination of vulnerability with the determination to fight back.
How dare I have my own opinions?
How dare I voice my inner thoughts?
Your intolerant, fair-weather love
Will eat away at us and rot
By this point, the reader is rooting for Hades. Call that good-for-nothing out for what he is (and isn’t); scream that pent-up pain so the world can hear, and shame him.
If you are fortunate to already have found the love of your life, one who will give back all they receive with interest, then congratulations. Hold on to it.
If, however, like Hades, you find yourself competing with your lover’s ego for his attention then consider these poems a rallying cry to stand up, get out and not look back.
While the verse takes us on an emotional journey, the second half of the collection takes the reader on a more literal voyage.
It comprises 18 postcards that capture locations and moments during the author’s travels around the globe. Sometimes these are told in prose, sometimes in verse, but in either case they provide extra depth to her writing and worldview
One of my personal favourites is a postcard from Shimana, Japan.
Accompanying it, Arch writes: “I am sipping a lemon tea, overlooking Adachi gardens. A large koi carp close-by is gently nibbling away at some algae covering a submerged rock. It’s mainly white, with asymmetrical black and orange patches. The sun is high and time feels suspended here.”.
I wonder if, in further publications, Hades may explore this kind of writing more as she brings the spirit of the place out in a way no normal travel writer could hope to do.
For now, though, her moving, intelligent and memorably expressive treatment of the dark side of relationships makes for essential reading.
Fool’s Gold: Poetry and Postcards Volume Two by Arch Hades is out now on Amazon in paperback and eBook formats, priced £8.99 and £3.50 respectively. For more information, visit www.archhades.com or follow her on Instagram.