Fatima-Ayan Malika Hirsi hasn’t always considered herself a poet.
She’s long been writing, of course. Her first limericks came in fourth grade — one about bumble bees and the other, aliens. She still has the original papers they’re scrawled on tucked inside a treasure box full of childhood memories.
These days her work deals mostly with being a woman, more specifically, of her experiences as a “brown woman.” She also teaches poetry and serves as program coordinator for The Writer’s Garret.
But, the 29-year-old Deep Ellum resident has only, in recent years, labeled herself a poet.
Beginning in 2014, at the convincing of a friend, she found a spot on a Bishop Arts sidewalk to craft poems on demand with her 1960s typewriter.
The typed prose helped open her up to the community and it also didn’t hurt to have extra cash to pay the bills, she said.
CELEBRATING WOMEN IN THE LITERARY COMMUNITY
However, the title she’s most proud of is being the “Dark Moon person.”
Through her event series, Dark Moon Poetry & Arts, she’s helping other women find their voice in the literary world. Well, art world really.
Musicians, poets, writers, visual artists — all are welcome to the monthly event no matter what their experience level.
Hirsi was inspired to start the series to fill a void she had noticed in the Dallas poetry community.
“You have all these little pockets of poetry and what wasn’t in any of those pockets was something that was only women or nonbinary and something that united artists across disciplines,” Hirsi said.
“I mean it’s uncensored in that you should be comfortable to be what you are and express what you feel inside no matter how dark it is to others.”
FATIMA-AYAN MALIKA HIRSI
She doesn’t share her own work. To her, Dark Moon is about giving other women a platform.
She derived the name from a common response she’s received that her poetry is “really dark.” For her, the words are real and she doesn’t want others apologizing for conveying their truths, either.
“When I say Dark Moon is an uncensored show, I don’t just mean the four-letter words,” Hirsi said. “I mean it’s uncensored in that you should be comfortable to be what you are and express what you feel inside, no matter how dark it is to others.”
The inaugural event, last January, included five artists in Hirsi’s living room. Since then, more than 40 artists have shared their work through Dark Moon and the series has found an official home at Deep Vellum Books.
“Fatima has created something truly extraordinary and I applaud her for that.” said Anne Hollander, co-founder of Deep Vellum Books.
Hollander said the Deep Ellum bookstore has given the Dallas literary community a non-isolating space to gather outside of living rooms. It now hosts about 20-25 events a month, including many poetry readings, but she sees Dark Moon as a unique offering.
“There’s something in the quality of the show that comes very naturally. It’s a very different group of people who come together to create,” she said.
MARKING A YEAR OF DARK MOON
On Sunday, for Dark Moon’s one-year anniversary, Deep Vellum’s 800-square-foot retail space swelled with people — sitting in chairs and lining the walls of the bookstore.
The audience clapped, snapped, and some gave an occasional “mhmm,” in solidarity as the female performers bared their feelings about being a woman, growing up as a Mexican woman in the U.S., or fear-inducing tarantulas.
Many expressed their praise for Hirsi and the event series for giving them the opportunity to share their work.
“I’ve been so moved to hear female voices. … I want to hear those voices. The kind of knowing that is deeply interior in women,” said White Rock Zine Machine creator Lisa Huffaker before diving into poems she wrote to celebrate what she called the “Dark Moon space.”
Courtney Marie read poems relaying her recent reflections from pieces of paper she dropped to the floor like flower petals.
“These are for you,” she said of the inscribed papers. “If there’s a line that feels right to you, you can find it afterward.”
Hirsi said she’s seen artists, who gave their first public performance at Dark Moon, blossom throughout the year and get more involved in the literary community.
“I see Dark Moon being an essential part of the community — a necessary part of the community.”
“It feeds my soul to see people happy and connecting and sharing,” she said.
In a dream world, she’d like to have a team of people working for Dark Moon Poetry & Arts and coordinate workshops and more events including film screenings each month.
As she applies to graduate programs for poetry, the next chapter of Hirsi’s life might take her out of Dallas, but she doesn’t see that as an end to Dark Moon. If that time comes, she just needs to find someone who shares her passion for honoring local female talents.
Hollander said she’ll make sure of that.
“I see Dark Moon being an essential part of the community — a necessary part of the community,” Hollander said.
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