The Dark Dance

Gittings also authors an educational blog on alcohol sobriety in which she uses her own experiences and background in psychology to break down various topics of interest to the sober and sober-curious. Each chapter of The Dark Dance is tied to a related post on for readers to explore.

While reading, you can also listen to a Spotify playlist curated to match the tone and flow of the collection:

Full Reviews and Additional Praise:

“Grounded in the implacable physicality of the mind, The Dark Dance winds its way through the catacombs of alcohol and sexual addiction into the clear air of limitless living over sixty-five diverse verses. A progression of bones and body voids is woven into these works, licking, dripping, and slipping into the cracks between spasms of the past and the sober reflection of the present. While it gestures towards a personal spirituality, aimed at uniting the dual self through discipline and understanding, this is ultimately a story that lingers in the physical dimension – one that the frontal lobe tells its brainstem in the twilight. A must-read for anybody who has lifted a glass to life; their first, their last, or both.”

Keith David ParsonsBoard Member, DC Poetry Collective

The Dark Dance is a stunning portrait of the human experience of growth, shame, and personal liberation. Gittings writes with a hauntingly beautiful rhythm and sound that envelops your senses, leaving you rattled, ringing, and rising alongside her words. This book is a symphonic experience that feels both sacred and sacrilege, electric and chilling – its honest vulnerability speaks to the deepest parts of her readers. With the cadence of the morning, and the authenticity of an old friend, The Dark Dance connects to the darkness and light in us all.”

—Alyson Moore

The Dark Dance unsettles, not unlike Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, or Goya’s Los Caprichos, revealing the animus that torments until confronted and reconciled. The power of the personal muscles throughout Gittings’ verse in an organic palette that is sensual and raw. Emotions submit, moods indict through a collection that taunts and convulses, in images that both sear and sing.”

—Prosser Stirling, Member, DC Poetry Collective

The Dark Dance is a different and urgently needed poetic journal on the theme of alcohol. We live in praise of drunkenness, and have a long history of doing so. Ancient poets even extolled it, as from Apollinaire in “Vendémiaire” – “Hear my songs of universal drunkenness”. But alcoholism has its price. I can think of nothing that has ruined more lives of friends and family, nor can anyone else, really. It has turned me into a teetotaler, as the world around me vomits on the sidewalks or beats spouses and children. Poet Dana Gittings has masterfully crafted an emotional collection dealing with the highs and lows of abuse and addiction, exploring their complex effects on a woman’s sexuality and psyche in well-crafted poems – neither preaching nor condemning, but finding hope and resurrection after years of conflict. A most important offering by this young and gifted poet.”

Mark Fishbein, Chancellor, Poetry Academy of Poetry Global Network

The Dark Dance offers the reader a confessional exploration into the depths of self-discovery. Exquisite language and reoccurring imagery of light and dark, fire, the moon, death, and witchcraft lead the reader through Gittings’ poems as they plunder themes of addiction, intimacy, sexuality, and self-fragmentation and arrive at a greater understanding and integration of self and the human spirit. She exposes a vulnerability seen in the best writers allowing the reader to enter her poems, feast on their words, and perhaps examine – or, at least, reflect on – our own complex and restless wounds. The poems beautifully progress from pain, difficulty, and self-depreciation to self-discovery, acceptance, and even self-love… an honest celebration of humanity.”

—Elizabeth Black, Board Member, DC Poetry Collective

“In this collection, Gittings lays out, poem after poem, a vulnerability that sits with you long after you have closed the book. Sometimes baring unquenchable thirsts, sometimes bearing the weight of their truths, these poems punch you in the gut with their honesty. At times, they are dark. At times, they are difficult. Decidedly, they are raw and visceral and open. That openness propels the book forward, as the poems explore a rebirth from self-destruction. This rebirth grows into a new, fuller, stronger identity, one that has learned from the past, and can now connect to others, intimately and truly. The language of these poems paints vividly, telling their tales, singing their songs. You, too, will swarm “with every buzzing bee / into the valley of vice and men.” The lyrical energy pulses page after page, and whether you read one or two poems at a go, or absorb the whole book in a single sitting, you will, as one poem puts it, participate in the “creation of joy.” So please, as the music turns up, don’t refuse an invitation to this, The Dark Dance.”

—David Siller, Member, DC Poetry Collective & First Tuesdays of Queens

The Dark Dance, Dana Gittings’ debut collection of poems, shines forth with brutal honesty and incisive perception into her former relationship with alcohol and sex, the rocky journey of becoming sober, the sweetness of regaining her life and artistic vocation, and the budding of new love and self-love. The poet’s use of sound is especially delightful, and each piece reads aloud like a spoken word song. Some works are especially playful, like ‘read up ^’, with its arresting concrete imagery, and ‘The Terms of the Trade,’ which harkens back to a witches’ spell chant. Perhaps the poem that best sums up the whole book is the six-liner ‘Flesh Magic’: “Watch out. / The bull bucks. / The girl fucks. / A perfect vessel. / A mighty mess. / Metamorphosis.” Some of my favorites were ‘What It Feels Like’, ‘Pink Cloud’, ‘Subjects’, and ‘God’s Lever’, which in that sequence chronicle the poet’s journey of struggle, redemption, and new growth. You won’t want to miss this keen and gripping collection.”

—Ryland Shengzhi Li

“Most, if not all of us have at one time or another danced to the 80-proof tune. Some leave the floor while the night is young, their cuts and bruises superficial. Others get stuck in the downward groove, hypnotized by the black light, going deeper and deeper into the one-way vortex. And then there are a rare few who find the strength to fight, to swim up, to come back. Dana Gittings’ The Dark Dance gives us a view into one such journey through the haze of addiction. A masterfully crafted poetry collection, written by a talented woman with a unique gift and a strong voice, it brings to the surface one’s deepest feelings and fears, taking the reader through the slippery slope of abuse and the long road to recovery. Not a book to browse through quickly, The Dark Dance offers plenty of material for self-reflection and contemplation. It is a highly recommended read for anyone interested in modern confessional poetry.”

—Vadim Kagan, Board Member, DC Poetry Collective

The Dark Dance employs a mix of experimental and traditional poetic forms, balancing heaviness with lightness to make a story about alcohol abuse, recovery, and the restoration of the self accessible and comforting, even when the content is challenging and uncomfortable. It does rather feel like a dance, made to look simple and effortless. But if you pay attention, you can see the technical aspect. To read this book is like looking through a stack of photos from someone’s life. The narrative is there, but it’s not explicit. Part of the fun is the random pictures that seem to be included just for the sake of the image. Without tricks or deliberate shocks, each “song” or section is like a campfire story. You feel like you’re being told something in confidence by someone you sort of know. You watch the fire, the story shifts in and out of focus, the speaker drifts from the point… but you’re left with a coherent impression, a feeling. A mutual understanding between the speaker and the reader. I liked it – I liked being with it.”

—Hannah Warner, Member, DC Writers’ Salon

“Dana’s work uses beautifully metaphorical and powerfully poetic language to explore the deeply visceral and potentially redemptive effects of our existential choices.”

—Martin L Parker, Board Member, DC Poetry Collective and owner of Parquillian Design

The Dark Dance grapples with the extremes of human experience, taking the reader on a journey from the depths of alcohol abuse and sexual indulgence to the transcendent heights of recovery, romance, and reconnection. It is sexy and profane, dirty and spiritual. Just like a dance, a strong sense of musicality and rhythm powers the collection as Gittings plays with language and form. I particularly enjoyed the witchy incantation in ‘The Terms of the Trade’: (“Read my words, and live—unhinged!“) and the imagery in the prose poem ‘a wild and fleeting romance with death’: (“you ignited / split like uranium with the trauma of rejection“). With electric energy throughout, this debut collection is not to be missed!”

—Rebecca Wener, poet living in Denver, CO

“This is a book to bring you to tears, deeply personal and hypnotic in its rhythm. These poems are so vivid, so evocative and immersive; I felt my nerve endings being exposed as I read, felt a hollowness in the pit of my stomach, and had to pause more than a few times for deep breaths to absorb the impact of the words. This collection gets to the heart of why we write and read poetry – to feel and explore deeply, and to share that exploration with others. These poems feel like an honor and a privilege to read, and I’m grateful to have read them.”

—Emma Prillaman

“Dana is an influential writer, and her writing carried me away with powerfully expressed highs and lows. As an empath, I felt the raw emotions worded so skillfully that I could practically see the shame and sadness. Yet, I also felt strength, hope, and light. Anyone who has had issues with substance abuse can identify with the emotions expressed here. Reading this book had a cathartic effect on me.”

—Diane Hight

Cover photograph by Dana Gittings. The mural depicted appears on the side of the Casa de la Pólvora (Gunpowder House) located in the Valparaíso Cultural Park – an architectural complex built on the site of the former public prison in Valparaíso, Chile. Artist unknown. Image used with permission of the Valparaíso Cultural Park.

Ready to dance The Dark Dance?