Q1: When did you start writing and whom influenced you the most now and currently?
Colin: I’ve been writing poems steadily since I was about 11 or so. I started off writing silly little rhymes to amuse my friends, which soon morphed into dreadful pre-teen love poems about girls. I don’t think I really had any influences back then – I certainly didn’t even read any extra poetry outside of what we were taught in school; I just seemed to have a knack for me, and I have found a good way to express my inner teen angst.
Moving into the present, I am conscious of being over-influenced; I won’t want my writing to replicate any pre-existing author, or to have that ‘one’ voice. I feel a writer should be capable of different voices and styles. Saying that, and I hold the right as a writer to contradict myself freely, Samuel Beckett was a revelation. I’ve written a fair bit of what could be considered ‘Beckettian’ prose, but very little of it has been submitted for publication. I have to ask myself, it this really me, or just me filtered through the prism of a writer I admire?
Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Colin: I came out of a long period of depression and poor mental health in mid-2010, feeling that a to time had been wasted to the illness. Before then, I had submitted very little, and hadn’t made much effort to develop myself as a published writer. I had just been doing open mics and some festival appearances in and around Belfast. I self-published a short collection, and started sending stuff out, and thankfully, I got a decent success rate with my scattergun approach to submissions. I guess that was a pivotal moment, but I question what is the difference between ‘someone who writes’ and ‘a writer’? Is it just money, the difference between an amateur and a professional? I see a lot of Twitter that say “aspiring poet”. There is no aspiration: if you’re writing, you’re already being it.
Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?
Colin: Some teachers and lecturers were kind enough to give me some early feedback and see some speck of promise in my juvenilia. When I was at university, Kathleen McCracken was particularly very supportive. Isabelle Kenyon who runs Fly on the Wall Press and published my collection, The Dogs of Humanity, has been a pleasure to work with and gave me a big lift. Any editor that’s ever published me, anyone that’s given me a gig, anyone that’s applauded at a reading of mine, it’s all helped over the years.
Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work?
Colin: I grew up in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, but have lived the majority of my life now here in Belfast. I would say that locality and environment has not been an overt influence, but other who read my work might disagree. Ultimately, my work is determined by my thought patterns, by my beliefs and ideologies, by direct experience. I tend to write about my life, about trying to understand this human condition, and what it means to be life and to survive. Perhaps that condition would be the same anywhere; I can’t say as I have only lived here.
Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?
Colin: Excellent question; where do we place meaning, and what do we what to get out of it? I think my most recent collection, All This Light In Which To See The Dead: Pandemic Journals 2020-21 has been my most personal, my most direct work. I felt I didn’t need to hide anything, to overly wrap emotions up in metaphor and imagery. Joe Hammond, in this book A Short History of Falling, writes about using metaphor to describe his illness, and that he found that you end up focusing on creating a pretty, eloquent image, instead of actually saying how you feel. I would like to think I avoided that trap with this book. It being a prose collection, creative non-fiction for lack of a better term, it was mostly a new way of writing and expression I hadn’t tapped into before, and I feel good about the results.
Q6: What are your favourite activities to relax?
Colin: Reading is always good. I recently purchased some noise cancelling headphones, as I get distracted by background noise due to my Asperger’s. So when I slip those on and open up a book, nothing between me and the page, that feels great. I also like puzzle games: Scrabble, Wordle, backgammon. There’s a bit of an intellectual demand required with these tasks, so I don’t feel too guilty wasting my time doing them, but I do know I could be doing a lot more work; there is always the feeling you aren’t doing enough, no matter what has already been accomplished.
Q7: What is a favourite line/ stanza/lyric from your writing?
Colin: Sometimes, your favourite piece is the one you’ve written most recently; that’s the one you are experiencing and living through. Although there’s a line from my juvenilia that for some reason, has popped back into my head in the last few days: “He had to give up his one reason to live to get on with the rest of his life”. I would probably watch a movie with that as the tagline.
Q8:What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?
Colin: Since 2019-20, I’ve been listening to more ambient work, noise, drone, sound collage, experimental pieces, and creating my own soundscapes in these fields. It’s a different kind of inspiration, not to pick up the pen and write, but to explore sound outside traditional sound structures, to purposely abandon tone, rhythm, melody, etc. Saying that, and again I am going to contradict myself, I’ve also really gotten into the albums of Rollins Band, through reading the books of Henry Rollins. There’s a track, Shine, off the 1994 ‘Weight’ album with a lyric that’ all over the Internet as an inspirational quote: “No such thing as spare time, no such thing as free time, no such thing as down time, all you got is life time. Go!” That’s got me moving and motivated on some otherwise lazy days.
Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, etc that you would like to promote?
Colin: As mentioned above, the latest collection, here’s the blurb:
Written at the height of the worldwide pandemic, All This Light In Which To See The Dead is part journal, part memoir, part essay collection. As much a diary of thoughts and reflections as day-to-day events, the collection sees the author trying to make sense of ‘the new normal’, experiencing the isolation of lockdown through the prism of depression and Asperger’s. Faced with so many dying from coronavirus, and the fear of death everywhere, the author is forced to confront this own relationship with death, as well as the passing of his father four years previous. Mixed in with reaction to the developing news and daily death counts, Dardis reflects on childhood reminiscences, family, mortality and the apparent joys of middle age.
There’s also Apocrypha: Collected Early Poems which should be coming out later this year. At current time of writing, I’ve just approved the final proofs for it. This collects poems published in various journals, zines, projects and websites from 2006-2014.