Must-read of the week: Fool’s Gold: Poetry and Postcards

Bestselling feminist poet Arch Hades’ second volume, Fool’s Gold: Poetry and Postcards, is well worthy of its top spot on Amazon, writes Timothy Arden.

By Timothy Arden

There is no question, here. Poet Arch Hades is a beautiful writer.

More than this, at 28, she is insanely young, and I would even go so far as saying, the ‘voice of her generation’.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at the evidence.

Her Instagram page, where she posts much of her writing, has more than a million followers – in fact, as far as I know, she is the most followed UK poet on social media.

Released in 2018, her debut collection, High Tide, received critical acclaim and became a bestseller.

Her newly-released second collection, Fool’s Gold: Poetry and Postcards, has followed suit, landing the top spot on Amazon virtually upon publication.

Reading her work, it’s not hard to see why.

If anything, this latest collection seems a step-up in accomplishment, showcasing a more confident, poised and mature poet.

The collection itself includes 53 poems, both lyrical and accessible, which somehow manage to combine tradition aspects of meter and rhyme with a contemporary feel.

The poems chart the slow, painful breakdown of a romantic relationship, from its heady early days of intoxication to its last toxic dregs. 

Many of her poems are about infatuation and yearning, a desperate clinging hope that — despite all evidence to the contrary — the relationship will flourish.

But as we move through the book, the poems become bitter and bereft in tone. We follow Hades as she realises her relationship is poison, that her love isn’t reciprocated, and that her partner borders on narcissistic.

As an example, take a line from one of the first poems, called ‘Anticipation’:


My beautiful maybe, my great perhaps

… and then comes another, ‘Gravity’, showcasing how her love has made her helpless:

Your gravity, it’s pulling me

Further from my sanity

To a blissful agony

Willingly, I will descend

We both know, without pretend

It’s too late for this to end

The line, ‘it’s too late for this to end’ feels like it is signalling drama to come, and indeed it does, as Hades dives deeper and deeper into the unhealthy relationship.

Her eloquent, classicist writing agonisingly details  just how awful this bad romance is making her feel. In ‘Symmetry’, for instance, she writes…

It’s always me who’s reaching out

Lifting you up, expelling doubt

How I love you, you don’t love me

This love is far from symmetry…

Another poem, ‘Three months later’, captures the lovers’ dissonance and contrast.

Your heart, the wave beat of a troubled sea

The first whisper of our tragedy

I believe it is this honesty and rawness that makes Fool’s Gold (such a good choice of title) so compelling. The reader is with Hades on every page as she tries to make sense of her relationship, just like we were watching some gripping soap storyline, though one written by a true wordsmith.

We are there with her when her hope gives way to the inevitable suffering.

In this way, the collection is very intimate, and it’s not hard to see why her biggest audience, Generation Y women (that’s young people aged between 18 and 25) adore it so much.

Poet Arch Hades, author of Fool’s Gold

Importantly, though, the collection seems to have another role — in helping women understand just what a toxic relationship looks like.

In her later poems, Hades explores how her lover, disgustingly, makes up falsehoods about her and denies her love.

In her writing she exposes the damaging myth of ‘unconditional love’ – showing how giving your heart to someone who will trample on it leads neither to true love nor contentment.

Also, if love is used to absolve people of responsibility for their actions, or excuses them from addressing disrespectful behaviour, has it not actually become a weapon? 

Thankfully, there is light at the end of the tunnel as Hades also charts the healing process, once the cause of her misery has been broken from. The message here is clear: it is always better to be on your own than in a relationship that is toxic.

Some of her most powerful poems are about the realisation of this truth. For instance, she writes that her partner is ‘addicted to attention’. He says that he loves her, but ‘hides her away’.

The epigraph by Roman philosopher Seneca at the beginning of the book, too, distils this: “All cruelty springs from weakness”.

The poem ‘Leash’, I believe, is one of her most vivid and resonant poems.

Only when I’m close to leaving

You say the things I want to hear…

And, also, I must highlight her ‘resolution’ poem, ‘Irrelevant now’.

Sometimes I think I might miss you

Sometimes I doubt why I left

Then I remember the bad things  

You did and how awful they felt

In a way, it is quite sad that these poems are so relatable. Does love always have to come with such heartache?

But the fact of the matter is, it does, especially when concerning young love. 

I think this is what makes Hades such a striking writer. Her poems are primal; they touch a deep and common core within us all.

In this way. she is doing what writers do best: using words and language to make sense of what has happened to her, while helping others do the same. 

Finally, it is well worth saying that this book doesn’t stop with poems. The second section comprises 18 lyrical postcards that capture locations and moments during the author’s travels around the world. It is a singular, signature motif that we also found in her first collection.

Although this may seem a strange concept, my main thought while digesting them was that they seem quite fitting for the social media age, where every aspect of one’s life is shared.

Essentially, these postcards provide images from the poet’s travels, and a further opportunity to delve into her writing.

One of my favourites is a photo of Sado Island, in Japan.

Accompanying it, she has written: “I’ve wandered into an old sake brewery on Sado Island, but what caught my attention was a small swallows nest nestled in the roof spires above a lighting fixture. Three tiny chicks call it home. I am content.”

Her descriptions in this section – mostly prose, sometimes poetry – is meditative and pithy, with every word judiciously selected to convey a scene and mood. Just like with her poetry, in fact, which displays a rare knack for refining situations to their essence.

I wonder if, in future publications, Hades may explore this kind of writing more. Whatever route she choose to take, you can rest assured it will be thoughtful, thought-provoking, and more than worth your time.

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.

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