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  • Writer's pictureBelle Kenyon

The People Who Shaped My Writing: Colin Dardis

Colin Dardis is a poet, editor, arts facilitator and sound artist based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His latest collection,The Dogs of Humanitywas released in Aug '19 from Fly on the Wall Poetry.

Having had a speech impediment when younger, attending speech therapy classes throughout primary school, Colin's initial interest in language and words grew out of these formative experiences. His personal history of depression and mental illness is also an ongoing influence on his work, which has led to a number of charity readings and work in this field.

​Colin co-runs Poetry NI, a multimedia platform for poetry, alongside his wife, Geraldine O'Kane. His work has been published widely throughout Ireland, the UK and the US. 

Isabelle: Do you feel your work has been inspired by your influences in any way?

Colin: I would say Samuel Beckett has been a huge influence on my work, although certainly more my prose than my poetry. I had a play performed a few years ago that was very much influenced by Knapp’s Last Tape, and there are other prose pieces and a novella that hasn’t seen the light of day yet which bear his mark. What I enjoy with Beckett is the stripping away of conventional narrative techniques: dialogue, linear action, definable characters, location, etc. He takes the basic notions of plot and story and says ‘the human condition is the story’, and that’s all that’s required.

That’s what interests me in my writing: to discard all the window dressing and get down to the crucial question of what it means to be alive.

I think sometimes it can be difficult to be conscious of just how much you are influenced and how this affects your writing. Another reader could look at some of my poetry and say, oh yes, this is clearly inspired by Durcan or Hughes or Heaney, etc. Some poets you actively seek to emulate in a sense, others filter into your subconscious and creep out in places.

Isabelle: To what extent do writers inspire your own stories/poetry?

Colin: Historically, the vast majority of my writing would be based on my own experiences and viewpoints. Poetry has always been a way for me to make sense of the world and coping with the craziness and nonsense it throws up on you. As I get older however, and my mental health improves, I am starting to look outside of myself more and more for inspiration and stories. It might be from a news item, or an interesting feature you’ve heard on the radio. It’s rare I would get to the end of a book and feel, I must write a poem about this! Right now, I’m reading and listening to a lot of work concerning Black Lives Matters and racial issues. I would like to write about this, but at the moment, I don’t feel qualified to do so – or perhaps as a privileged white middle-aged man, even have the right to do so. I need to listen: to take in other people’s stories and philosophies, and learn. Perhaps the writing will come later; I certainly have some initial ideas, but increasing one’s awareness of such important societal issues is more important.

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