The Dogs of Humanity by Colin Dardis

I have something a bit different on this blog today for you, folks: an interview with local poet Colin Dardis about his new poetry collection, the Dogs of Humanity. Without any more preamble, let’s get into it!

Can you tell us a little about the themes of the collection? 

I’m not a massive fan of reducing a collection down to themes; for a poetry book, it’s almost an injustice, although it has to be done. I don’t read collections due to the themes mentioned; I read because I want to be subjected to strong, startling poetry. For example, I have no interest in beekeeping, but I absolutely adored Sean Borodale’s Bee Journal.

To be absolutely drawn on themes, the poems use dogs and other animals as a central motif to look at how people treat each other in an increasingly toxic world, touching on bullying, self-identity, chauvinism and mental health. But there’s also so much more. As Mary O’Donnell kindly said in her blurb, there is “an avoidance of zeitgeist poetry, what really sets the work apart tonally and in subject is its assumption of a counter-position at all times.” That counter-position could be the schism between the individual and society, between perceived norms and personal attitudes; but it’s equally a stance that allows any subject matter to be explored, as long as it is well written. That’s what poetry validates.

Why did you feel drawn to the themes? How did it all come together?

The poet, at the starting point, is drawn to every poem they write as they are compelled to write them. In some ways, your best poem is always your most recent poem, as that has been the one that allows the poetic muscle to continue flexing. Only with time and distance however does the poet realise which pieces will continue to speak to them, and for them. Therefore, almost all the poems in Dogs have been about for a while. Only the closing poem would have been written from scratch in the past year. Many predate poems that were in ‘the x of y’, my previous collection.

Fly on the Wall Press had a call out for chapbook submissions at the end of last year. I knew I had a number of poems mentioning dogs; a few years ago I had done a set at a reading exclusively of dog poems. The collection bloomed out of that, and Isabelle Kenyon at Fly on the Wall Press was immediately on board with the idea. She’s made the whole process very easy, and has been incredibly supportive and motivated in spreading the word about the book.  Continue reading

Soakings and Seizures: A Day in the Life

Oh, what a morning. Afternoon. Would some people call half-five evening? Probably.

Whatever. As far as me and my sleep disorder are concerned, it’s morning.

I woke up an hour ago in the middle of a thunderstorm. My dog stretched and toddled over to me, then keeled over in one of his seizures. I lifted and cradled him to my chest until it passed, tried calling my husband in the bed next to me.

Unresponsive. He’d, evidently, had a seizure too.

I watched him for a minute, figuring it would be a while before I could reach him. The rain was still hammering down.

I went downstairs, puppy still in hand, and got him settled in his downstairs bed with some food. Next was the super fun part. I had to go out in all of the rain to fetch the wheely bin, praying I’d find it in the alley.

Our last bin was stolen. The one before that was blown up by some kids with fireworks.

It has not been an easy month.

I went out, got soaked, but did retrieve the bin. A small win, but important.

Hands washed and feet wiped, I went back to check on Steve. He was vaguely aware of my presence. The seizure had passed and now he’s into the extreme fatigue of recovery. Another good thing.

It’s still ridiculously warm, despite all the rain. The heat makes it all worse: my health, Steve’s, and the dog’s.

On my way back downstairs again, I can see the cat has destroyed more wallpaper. Great. She’s set about stripping a whole section, no matter how many deterrents we try or alternatives we offer.

Steve and I are supposed to be getting ready to go to Slimming World but it’s clearly not going to happen. Another week missed. Another fee incurred. But maybe it’s for the best. We’re in between payments again and can’t really afford it right now.

I need to go out for milk but am already feeling the day weigh me down. I’ve felt ill for a month– no, wait. Backtrack. Clarify: I’ve felt ill all my life. This past month, maybe two, I’ve felt worse than usual.

This would have been another day for not leaving the house at all, but I must get that milk.

The funny part is, this is me taking a break. I’ve been ‘taking it easy’ for the past few days. Which means still dealing with all this, and housework – dishes, laundry, cooking – but not really writing or editing. I haven’t had the brainpower.

When people ask me how I am, I say I’m “getting there.” I don’t know what else to say. I love my work, when I can get to it, I love my husband and my pets. Our home is the loving, accepting atmosphere I’ve always craved. On the whole, I do not have a bad life.

A lot of the time, though, this life is made of days like these. I’m getting through them. This isn’t me complaining, really, about any of it. I do want people to understand, however.

I don’t live a conventional life and I’m fine with that, but sometimes I do want to open up a window and show people what it’s like.

This is it.