A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Colin Dardis

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.

www.colindardispoet.co.uk

dardis.bandcamp.com

3 Poems for July 2022 from Colin Dardis : A Day in Death, All These Words, Erosion

A Book Review from Colin Dardis for the Corbenic Poetry Path: Collected Poems

2 Poems from Colin Dardis : U.O.I. & Panning Home

2 new poems from Colin Dardis :Whispering Torch & This Life in Bed

Poetry by Colin Dardis “So You Want to Earn Some Self-Respect”

Twitter: @purelypoetry

https://www.iambapoet.com/colin-dardis

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Dean Rhetoric

Bio: Dean Rhetoric is a working-class poet currently living in Manchester. His pamphlet, Cancer [+Pop Punk] is available now via Broken Sleep Books. His debut full-length collection, Foundry Songs, is due out February 2023.

Q1: When did you start writing and who influenced you the most now and currently?

Dean: I started writing short stories and song lyrics when I was about 13. I was mainly influenced by lyricists, especially Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz who wrote the songs for one of my favourite bands, Bad Religion. I loved J.D. Salinger as well, and Stephen King. The usual.

Now I mainly admire poets like Natalie Shapero, Ingrid M. Calderon-Collins, Wayne Holloway-Smith and countless others who are currently/have been on the Broken Sleep Books roster.

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Dean: I had to write an essay for my Religious Education class at school. I couldn’t remember what the theme of the essay was meant to be, so I just scribbled out some random story about dogs forming a cult and enslaving humans.

I got in a lot of trouble over it, but every time a teacher read out a few lines of it they’d burst out laughing. I was failing every class apart from English Lit, so I think it just all clicked.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?

Dean: That would probably be the friends and peers who are comfortable enough with me to give honest feedback on drafts and things like that. I think every poet should have at least one mate they can rely on to push them a little further and say ‘you can do better than this’.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your work? Have any travels influenced your work?

Dean:

I grew up in Hereford and lived there until I was about 25. My forthcoming full-length collection Foundry Songs has been hugely influenced by growing up there, and my 8 years there as a foundry worker.

I live in Manchester now and have always considered it home. I can’t really afford to travel. I’ve had one trip abroad my whole life. But I was fortunate enough to go to Edinburgh a few years back for the Fringe Festival to do a few gigs and they certainly inspired some poems.

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?

Dean: Probably my poetry pamphlet, Cancer [+Pop Punk], because it was such an experimental idea and I’m proud of the fact that all my royalties go to a charity that supports young widows. It was rewarding to see how others interpreted it.

In fact, Colin Dardis wrote a really insightful review of it for you, which meant a lot to me.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Dean: I’m not good at relaxing but if I want to let off steam or enjoy myself, I’ll either watch pro wrestling, take a long walk, watch a film, or write. I’m probably happiest when I’ve got nothing to do but write.

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza/lyric from your writing?

Dean: I feel like a right big head posting lines I’ve written that I think are good. There’s a poem in Foundry Songs called ‘Me and my Big Fuck-off Nose’ where I describe my septum as:

Swollen to the point of Agoraphobic sundial

I’ll cringe that I even answered this at all, but let’s go with that one as it’s the last poem I looked over when proof-reading.

Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or song that always come back to you as an inspiration?

Dean: I mostly listen to punk rock, Motown, film scores, and the usual cliché stuff that poets listen to. Joanna Newsom is great too. I return to Automatic for the People by REM a lot, and it plays a huge role in Cancer [+Pop Punk].

And yes, I’m aware that REM isn’t punk pop!

Q9: Do you haven recent or upcoming books, music, events, etc. that you would like to promote?

Dean:

As I said above, Cancer [+Pop Punk] is available now and can be purchased here. I don’t want to guilt trip anyone into buying it, but if you don’t purchase a copy, it basically means you hate charity.

Foundry Songs is my debut full length and its due out February 2023.  I worked very hard on it, and it would be great if people grabbed a copy.

And just to promote some other people, I’ve recently been reading Obligate Carnivore by Stuart McPherson, Salt & Metal by Sallyanne Rock, and The Whimsy of Dank Ju-Ju by Sascha Aurora Akhtar. They’re all fantastic collections that I highly recommend.

Review: Cancer [+Pop Punk by Dean Rhetoric (review by Colin Dardis)

Twitter: @dean_rhetoric

3 Poems for July 2022 from Colin Dardis : A Day in Death, All These Words, Erosion

A Day In Death

He types good morning into the group chat. No one responds. It is 09.07am and the whole of Tuesday lies ahead like a valley without a horizon.

All he can see out the window is a TV aerial and clouds. A bird arcs in and out frame for a second, full winged oscillation. Occasionally, a bird might perch on the aerial, a gull looking bored between scavenges. He realised the window is more of a mirror. The glass is freckled with mould.

The water pipes sound like a helicopter inside a food blender. Their wild rapid beatings take over one corner of the room. He imagines strings, coming out of his brain, attached to the corner, crude childhood phone lines, tins on string, all noise having a direct feed into his conscious. A passing aeroplane adds in an extra atonal melody, rips out a portion of the sky and stuffed the resulting wind into his thoughts. It’s impossible to switch off the world.

A ten-minute break passes like a breath. His ears barely decompressed from the skull before the headset goes back on. The microphone wraps round his cheek, as ominous as a dentist’s scraper.

All the pain is congealing around his neck and left shoulder. There is no position that offers relief. Permutations of posture and pillows do nothing. He knows he will have to get through it, will have to dismiss the discomfort and just continue, a bird singing in a rainstorm, a snowman refusing to melt. Despite his grandiose imaginings, there is nothing poetic here. This doesn’t deserve to be written about, he feels, as a piece of unseen grit claws into his eyelid. Who truly is comfortable and awake

Lick your finger and tease the world out from your eyes. Everything you see is a mote that blurs reality if you refuse to accept what reality is. There is a wound in the clouds for the light to pass. The clouds will not suffocate. If you are breathing, you have an excuse to live.

His head jolts to the direction of the window. A gull right outside, sounding like a sick cat. Two weeks ago, he saw a rat run cross the road. The neighbours are being careless with their trash. Allow vermin to feed and soon they will take over. A mouse can squeeze itself through a hole smaller than a penny. Imagine all the holes we are leaving behind us. He hasn’t been out of the house in eleven days, not counting the trip down the back alley to collect the wheelie bin. Empty bins standing amongst full nappies, broken toys, rotting food. What a treat, what a walk. The soles of his feet putrefy with every step. He’s scared what he might be bringing back insides. Padlock the doors with disinfectant. Wash the back step. Warm water and dirt only equal bad smells.

All These Words

All those words
that didn’t resonate,
that didn’t hit the audience
full in the face 
and leave them dazed, 
where do they go to? 

Floating around 
the top of the room, 
unheard, 
an unwanted ether.

You can’t scoop them back up
and save them for next time, 
they’re wasted energy,
lost potential. 

You can only send out 
new words and hope 
for a more efficient airstrike
on your next go, 
a higher kill rate.

Erosion

We used simple methods to divide
people back in school: Boy, girl.
Who's good at football, who's stuck in goal.

Who’s good at spelling, bad at sums.
Who saw Neighbours last night.
Who completed their homework.

Who’s got the same brand of shoes.
Who wears their skirt above their knees.
Who’s right-handed, who’s left.

These were my classes.
Then the questions started:
the hair on display for changing-room eyes,

who's got their period, growth spurts,
who snogged who, who wouldn't be snogged
in a million-billion-gazillion years!

For you must realise this:
back then, a kiss was just a kiss
and not a prelude to sex.

But we soon lost our uniforms,
asked to clothe our own identities,
learnt that dirty word individual.

We knew nothing outside of class
and so were forced to redefine
what our lessons were.

Now my school desk sits on a cliff edge.
It started off in the middle of a field
and I'm getting wet from the ocean spray.



Bio: Colin Dardis is a neurodivergent poet, editor and sound artist from Northern Ireland. His latest collection is All This Light To See The Dead: Pandemic Journals 2020-21 (Rancid Idols Productions, 2022).

His work, largely influenced by his experiences with depression and Asperger's, has been published widely throughout Ireland, the UK and USA, and shortlisted for the Erbacce Prize, Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing, and Over The Edge New Writer of the Year Award, amongst others. Previous collections include Endless Flower (Rancid Idols Productions, 2021) The Dogs of Humanity (Fly on the Wall Press, 2019, shortlisted for Best Poetry Pamphlet, Saboteur Awards 2020), the x of y (Eyewear, 2018), Post-Truth Blues (Locofo Chaps, 2017) and Dōji: A Blunder (Lapwing, 2013). His latest album, a long-form ambient piece, is Back To Work (1tracktape, 2021).

Website: www.colindardispoet.co.uk
Twitter: @purelypoetry
Latest collection: All This Light In Which To See The Dead, out now via Rancid Idols Productions
Latest album: Dead Leaves, New Seeds, out now on all good streaming platforms


2 Poems from Colin Dardis : U.O.I. & Panning Home

U.O.I.

you owe i
me
what I gave
you chewed in return
and burnt the deeds
now you owe i me
got rid of the id
shoved under the dustbin lid
and showed the world
your property
you claimed me
now you owe i me
you see

you saw the world
in an oyster pearl
and i as rudimentary
grain of sand
compressed in your hand
and then your thoughts formed me
but i was clean, you dirty
yet you saw fit to polish me
astonish me
with fragmented philosophy
given out over cups of tea
now you owe i me

I thought that thought was free
but you laid penalties
for me to suffer
I the caller, you the bluffer
until realism just got tougher
and tougher to be
I exhaust eventually
now you owe i me

after you hurled my conscience
into a new world of appearance
there i swirled through acceptance
then unfurled with reluctance
gave new definitions to the face of bravery
now, oh yes now, you will owe i me.

so I tip toe around the settee
I creep across the sofa
just to settle in your dust
and collapse your casanova
I steal your dead skin cells
and collect your errant hairs
count your toe nail clippings
and bag your exhaled air
wipe the sweat off your leathers
catalogue your dreams
take rapture in each nightmare
enjoyment in each scream

and if my identity
was crushed by your fair hand
I’ll adopt another entity
start being a different man

so since my fragile ego
lies shattered, corpsed and dead
I think I would rather like
being someone else instead

I will take each precious specimen
and use my spite for glue
if I cannot be me, I think you’ll see
that I can be just like you

Panning Home

Our land is close, the end is near
as the world turns, unstoppable.
The horses loose, buck up and rear
and won't return to their stable.

As the world turns, unstoppable,
where day and night forever jeer
and won't return to their stable
with skyline fogged, the stars unclear.

Where day and night forever jeer
as mists of time become fable,
with skyline fogged, the stars unclear,
each soul fading, quite unable.

As mists of times become fable,
the horses loose, buck up and rear;
each soul fading, quite unable,
our land is close, the end is near.


Bio: Colin Dardis is a neurodivergent poet, editor and sound artist from Northern Ireland. His latest collection is All This Light To See The Dead: Pandemic Journals 2020-21 (Rancid Idols Productions, 2022).

His work, largely influenced by his experiences with depression and Asperger's, has been published widely throughout Ireland, the UK and USA, and shortlisted for the Erbacce Prize, Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing, and Over The Edge New Writer of the Year Award, amongst others. Previous collections include Endless Flower (Rancid Idols Productions, 2021) The Dogs of Humanity (Fly on the Wall Press, 2019, shortlisted for Best Poetry Pamphlet, Saboteur Awards 2020), the x of y (Eyewear, 2018), Post-Truth Blues (Locofo Chaps, 2017) and Dōji: A Blunder (Lapwing, 2013). His latest album, a long-form ambient piece, is Back To Work (1tracktape, 2021).



 

Review: Cancer [+Pop Punk by Dean Rhetoric (review by Colin Dardis)

Cancer[ + Pop Punk by Dean Rhetoric Reviewed by Colin Dardis

Given the ubiquity of cancer in our lives – we all know someone who is being treated for it, survived it, died from it, or indeed we may be dealing with it ourselves – it is natural that poetry should attempt to make sense of it. Of course, it is often not the disease itself that we need to try and understand, but the impact of it on our lives.

The tone in this, the debut pamphlet from working class poet Dean Rhetoric, is all at once challenging, unaccepting, disbelieving and mocking, running a gamut from “Define inoperable”, to “Meet the lump in combat” to a quickfire list of contemptuous comparisons of ‘fighting’ cancer to various styles of wrestling. Rhetoric’ poems encapsulate the sheer helplessness that cancer put us through; that whatever we do or say in our offers of help, it is not enough, was never enough to keep someone alive. As the title Cancer [+Pop Punk] suggests, dripping down through all of this is a litany of cultural references and quotes from various pop punk bands, plus a healthy dose of REM. (this reviewer will leave it to others to debate if the mentioned bands are indeed pop punk, given the preciousness of some gatekeepers in the punk community; this is a literary review, not music journalism.)

The music being the formative connection between the author and the deceased in question, Rhetoric weaves the narrative of loss and vulnerability through allusions to Green Day, Weezer, Dillinger Four, etc. Such is the lasting impact of their songs, that it takes over the form of the work. There is not so much a lyricism in the writing here, as a song-like structure, the poems presented visually on the page between musical staves. This presentation bleeds over, threatens to take over the poems, morphing lines into sing-along chorus with plenty of fa fa fa, la-la, doo doo, di da chanting. This is a defence mechanism: if we can express our distress and despair as quasi-nursery rhymes, perhaps the truth will not hurt as much.

Fruits and vegetables
seeds and antioxidants

[her stomach line tore though, fa, fa, fa!]

The smell of shampoo makes
her cry uncontrollably

[the cancer took her hair away, fa, fa fa!]

Similar to the Internet myth that Emily Dickinson wrote all her poems to fit the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas”, Rhetoric pushes the reader into singing along with his work. Those of a musical slant will be tempted to reread the page and attempt a tune of their own. Yet despite all this music, all this setting of song and lyric, there is much left unsaid. The unease of not knowing the perfect words; “specific words you need to avoid | to not talk about the cancer”; the ever-presence of someone’s absence: “It’s getting loud outside and your silence has everywhere to be.” Pop punk fills these silences, but music can only achieve so much. Rhetoric realises their shortcoming, listening favourite songs that are “always accusing me of changing the subject”. Parallel to all of this, the trials of cancer continue without words.

        under neon lights where halos
        hang their laurels
        onto IV drips
        as mothers scream
        and swallow truths
        as hard to chew as hospice food
       and stumble out of swaying rooms
       no medicine improves
       and if these walls could talk
       they wouldn’t.

 We find out in the closing sequence that takes a trip through REM’s Automatic for the People that sixteen years have passed between the initial acquaintance and the death of the friend. The reader is never quite sure to the extent of the pair having been romantically involved or not, merely because the author appears unsure as well. This is not to stray into the realm of the unreliable narrator; rather the work is also a study in the uncertainty and tenderness of teenage relationships. There is already much fragility at play: the consensual removal of clothes, and then later, a kiss unrealised; the admission that “you hated me towards the end”. What seemed possible in 1998 is repeatedly cut off by the brutal reality of 2014’s treatment and subsequent funeral. It is only then that we find out that the death of an ex-partner of nine years is “not a good enough excuse to leave work”, the poem hitting us with the simple facts: no window dressing, no persiflage, just like news of a diagnosis.

All author royalties from the sale of the collection go to WAY (Widowed and Young) for the bereavement support of others, so you can be assured that with your purchase that you are supporting a worthy cause. The quality of the poems, Rhetoric finding an original and engaging way to approach and navigate anguish, is a bonus worthy of applause.

Cancer [+Pop Punk] is available from Broken Sleep Books, pp42, ISBN 978-1-915079-87-9
https://www.brokensleepbooks.com/product-page/dean-rhetoric-cancer-pop-punk