Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Colin Dardis A Question and Answer Session with the author of Dusk Chorus and left of soul

March 1 to April 21
Colin Dardis

"The Beauty Of Silence"

by Colin Dardis

A blank face cannot compare
to the emptiness of silence:
the comfort of the void,

without knowing,
without possession,
without demand for a voice;

mutated lips
spin like hooked worms,
waiting to bait words.

No muted notes or muffled strum;
the drumbeat clock is gone
inside a partial deafness.

Lose all means of verbosity;
keep distance
away from communication:

a lover’s tongue,
so visual in its desire.
a physical whisper.

Cut out your vocabulary;
blame your intelligence
for not knowing know to connect.

The proud recumbent riches
of the silver snake
upon Eve’s ear;

shed that godhead skin
into a shallow resting place

and enjoy the ________

The "Beauty of Silence" is protected under international copyright laws and cannot be published or posted online without the permission of the author.

Author Bio (from his webpage)

Born at the tail end of the seventies in Northern Ireland, Colin Dardis is the editor of FourXFour, an online journal focusing on poetry from the North of Ireland. He is also the founder of Purely Poetry, an open mike poetry night in Belfast, and a member of the Voica Versaperformance group.

Colin’s work has been previously published in numerous anthologies, journals and zines in Ireland, the UK and the USA. His poem 'Perhaps', won the EditRed.Com 2006 Writer’s Choice Award for Poetry. Notable appearances include the Belfast Book Festival, Sunflower Fest, and the Belly Laughs Comedy Festival.

Colin is a poet who displays hunger for understanding of himself and the world around him. His poetry and readings display an ever present sense of hope through times of love, sadness, death and joy, while sparkling with humour, honesty, modesty, and a touch of the absurd.

Colin Dardis

1.Who are some of the contemporary writers you admire? If you could hear reading by three famous dead poets, who would you prefer?

Paul Durcan is certainly one of my favourites. Billy Collins, Ciaran Carson, Wendy Cope, Moyra Donaldson… I read others beyond surnames ending in C and D, perhaps I naturally gravitate towards these.

To hear live, I would select Neruda (reading some of his love poems), Yevtushenko and outside of poetry, Kafka. You might need to coax him a bit though.

2. I have read lots of Indian and American short stories in addition to Irish and alcohol plays a much bigger part in the Irish stories. How should an outsider take this and what does it say about Irish culture?

Alcohol is simply a narrative device. It drives the plot on, loosens characters tongues and allows them to go outside of the norm. Perhaps it’s a little lazy of the writer to rely on this, but also it reflects part of rural life in Ireland, where a pub is often the common meeting place, and therefore where the action happen. Conor McPherson’s play ‘The Weir’ is a great example of this.

3. When did you start writing?

The first poems I remember writing were silly little rhymes in high school, around eleven or twelve. These were for my own amusement as well as raising a laugh from my mates. At that age, I had a deep crush on a girl in my class, as one inevitably does, and a lot of teenage-heartbreak-verse was written about her, mostly born out of my own shyness. The cliché is true: you say on the page what you can’t say in real life.
I suppose from there, I then progressed into something more serious, although still crude juvenilia, when I was fifteen, and I’ve been scribbling steadily even since.

4.   A while ago I read and posted on a long biography of Hart Crane, author of The Bridge; few read it, but many known of his life style as one of the first gay poets living out a life of rough trade and wealthy older benefactors. He lived a very chaotic life and died young from suicide by jumping off a cruise ship. His father invented Life Saver Candy and wanted Hart to go in the Candy business with him; if Hart had done this and died at 75, rich living in Ohio, fat, bald and married, would he still be even much thought about let alone read?  One of the most references poets is Arthur Rimbaud who likewise had a short and chaotic life. Does a poet need or naturally tend to a chaotic life?  Why so much seeming admiration for writers like Jack Kerouac and others who died way to young from alcohol abuse.  If Ezra Pound had not gone mad, would he still be a role model for the contemporary poet?  (I know this is long, please just respond to it as you will.)

It’s a common mistaken belief, especially amongst young writers, than you must live a hard and crazy life in order to have something interesting to write about. I blame the popularity of Charles Bukowski amidst others for this perception, even though he repeatedly spoke out against it. Some of the most beautiful poetry is found in examining the everyday and the trivial. Bukowski can be a great writer at times, but he certainly isn’t a role model. Sometimes, you need to divorce the writer from the writing.
As for Hart, I would like to think that even if he had gone into the family business, that the muse would not have deserted him, and instead of relying on wealthy benefactors, perhaps he could have financed his own work. Who knows?

5. Tell us a bit about your non-academic, non-literary work experience please.

For five or six years, I was a manager working in a wing of BBC Audience Services. It was a reasonably good role, they supported me a lot, and I got some additional formal training while on the job. However, I became ill with depression, and my interest in that, along with most other things, petered away.
Since then, my ‘work’ mostly involves finding the other side of depression in which to come out of; I guess I must be putting in a sixty hour week, but no one’s paying me overtime… I do get the chance to write a lot though.

6. Belfast: does it get the literary respect it deserves?

Yes, in certain circles. Queen’s University has produced some great writers, and I admire the work of the Seamus Heaney Centre and the English Society. But I would like to see more focus and opportunities for people that are not coming from an academic background yet are creating work so of merit. That was the reason behind launching the Purely Poetry open mic nights and editing FourXFour poetry journal: to give people a platform.

7. Why have the Irish produced such a large number for their population number of great writers?

Every country has great writers. Ireland must just have a good PR agent.

8. (This may seem like a silly question but I pose it anyway) Do you believe in Fairies?-this quote from Declain Kiberd sort of explains why I am asking this:

" One 1916 veteran recalled, in old age, his youthful conviction that the rebellion would “put an end to the rule of the fairies in Ireland”. In this it was notably unsuccessful: during the 1920s, a young student named Samuel Beckett reported seeing a fairy-man in the New Square of Trinity College Dublin; and two decades later a Galway woman, when asked by an American anthropologist whether she really believed in the “little people”, replied with terse sophistication: “I do not, sir – but they’re there."

Interesting: I’ve read a few biographies on Beckett, and I can’t recall any mention of this. I wonder if this story is apocryphal. Personally, I don’t believe in faeries, leprechauns, nymphs or giants, but there are an undeniably part of Irish culture.

9. Do you think the very large amount of remains from Neolithic periods (the highest in the world) in Ireland has shaped in the literature and psyche of the country?

Recently, I was up at the Beaghmore stone circles in County Tyrone. One of the circles in unique in that it is filled with over 800 smaller stones, called ‘dragon’s teeth’. The mere presence of this naturally makes the enquiring mind wonder. As we no longer know for sure the purpose of these remains, it is left for us to admire their aesthetically features, as part of the natural landscape. Irish literature is as much centred in the field as it is the pub (see previous answer concerning alcohol).

10. When you write, do you picture somehow a potential audience or do you just write?

Rarely, unless I am trying to writing a performance piece that requires some reaction from the audience in which to make it work (particularly if I am attempting a rare ‘humorous’ piece). One shouldn’t really write with the audience in mind; it’s sufficient enough to concentrate on the sound to the ear, not the views of the hearer.

11.  Are you also a comedian? I ask because your webpage seems to indicate you have performed at comedy festivals. How has humour helped the Irish get through hard times?

Supplementary to the previous answer, I am certainly not any kind of comedian. When I host an event, I try to give funny links to pieces between the readers. A good emcee should react to what he and the audience has just heard. A bit of interaction and banter eases the audience, and just makes for a more relaxed, friendly environment, which is essential in an open-mic night with people who perhaps have never read in public before.
On the back of some of my emcee performances, I’ve been told I should do comedy, but my ego probably couldn’t bear the death that would await me on stage.

12. Does the character of the "stage Irishman" live on still in the heavy drinking, violent, on the dole, characters one finds in many contemporary Irish novels?  Rude question: is the performance poet a version of this?

To suggest the performance poet is like this would be to suggest a very narrow, and slightly disrespectful, view of performance poetry. It is about bringing the poem to life, beyond mere recitation. It can incorporate elements of theatre, music hall, and comedy, yet the vital thing, that some performers forget, is the quality of the poet first and foremost. I’ve seen people get up onstage that know the character of the ‘stage Irishman’ very well, but unfortunately don’t know their poetry.

13. As the editor of a poetry journal, FourXFour, what qualities do you look for in the works you publish, or do you just know it when you see it?

Obviously as sole editor, it is a personal choice. I don’t favour one style of poetry over any other, say narrative verse or love poems. I am a stickler for punctuation however; it is a small joy to receive a fully, properly punctuated poem from one of the writers.
As submission is by invite only, I will be familiar with the writing of who the journal features anyway, whether I’ve heard it live, or read their work online, in a writing group, been shown personally, etc. Usually, I’ve ask for people to submit between 8-10 poems, of which I simple choose the four I like the most. How do I decide that? Well, when a poem works well, the choice is evident: it is evocative, one I can find empathy with, and leaves me admiring the application of language used.
Sometimes, I’ll ask for a particular poem that I’ve heard that I want to feature, but I try to work with each poet as much as I can to make sure the four best pieces get included.

14. Do you think poets have a social role to play in contemporary Ireland or are they pure artists writing for themselves and a few peers?   One of the characters in Savage Detective by Roberto Bolano, set in Mexico city and centering on poets, says that the main reason poets read at work shops is to meet the way disproportional number of women who to come to them; is this just stupid?

I’m only a writer: I wouldn’t claim to be political driven, or even a social-activist. Some poets are, and that’s fine. The art form allows for a variety of types. Not every painter/sculptor/musician plays a social role, so why is the same question constantly asked of poets? I haven’t even heard Aristophanes’s ‘The Frogs’ yet, although it is on my bookcase…
As for workshops; well, with any workshop, whether pottery or poetry, there’s going to be an element that attend more for the social element of it than for artistic pursuits. If the person taking the workshop is any good, hopefully their reasons will be changed by the end of the course.

15.  My brother and I will be making our first trip to Ireland in May, with one day in Belfast. What should we see, where should we eat? do we drive up or take the train?

If you’re coming up from Dublin, I would take the train. You see a good bit more of the coast and countryside that way, and it’s just more comfortable that the bus.
For arts, I would be amiss not to recommend the Crescent Arts Centre (especially if you are there on the first Friday night of the month, to attend the Purely Poetry open mic night, £4 and BYO!). Bookfinders Café just up the road, near Queen’s University, is a popular spot for bibliophiles. The John Hewitt Bar, The MAC, a great and expansive second-hand bookshop on North Street which I can’t remember the name of now but you can’t miss it, Belfast City Hall, all worthy spots to visit. Foodwise, try Café Uno on Lombard Street. Cheap, plentiful and tasty.

16.   Tell us a bit about what happens at the open mic poetry event you founded, Purely Poetry, please or better still tell us a lot.

The poetry night has been going since Autumn 2011. A friend and I had arranged a poetry slam for the Belfast Book Festival earlier in the year, which thankfully was a great success, and from that, a regular night was born.
I use to host another open mic night called Make Yourself Heard, in an art gallery located in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast. As I had some experience arranging such events, and was keen to do more, I became the host by default really.
On the night, we ask anyone interested in reading to sign up and put their name in the hat, from which I pick names at random and ask folk to take the mic. I open up, and do a few poems to warm the crowd, as I know it’s always daunting to be the first one onstage. In order to ensure everyone gets a chance to read and that we don’t run out of time, there’s a rough limit of about seven minutes on the mic; but if the crowd is loving your work, I’ll happily flaunt that rule.
We aim for a laidback, open and friendly ambience, and always welcome ‘new blood’, first time readers. Thankfully, the majority of people seem to come back after their first tryout, and it’s great to see people blossom and track their progress.
We take a ten minute break halfway through, much for the smokers as anyone else, and usually the second half is a bit rowdier, due to the night being BYO! I just hope people appreciate the chance to showcase their work, or just share if the mutual love of the art, and that a good night is had by all.

17. Do you prefer e-reading or traditional books?

Traditional books all the way, although I admit e-books are better for the environment. I’m a bit of a Luddite, technology doesn’t really interest me. There’s something satisfying about picking up a book and getting into the first fifty or hundred pages in one sitting, seeing your progress. Plus if you want to skim backwards and reference something that has been previously mentioned, or just want to look up something at random, a proper book is more accessible for me.

18. If you were to be given the option of living anywhere besides Ireland where would you live?

Edinburgh. I’m no traveller, and I have little wanderlust. I prefer people to places, although Edinburgh feels just about the right size for me, similar to Belfast. As I’ve said elsewhere before, it’s large enough to avoid people within, but small enough to bump into folk and make new friends.

19. Have you attended creative writing workshops and if you have share your experiences a bit please.

Yes, I’ve just recently finished doing some volunteer work with Open Arts, assisting in a few classes, and hope to be doing more. In anything, there are a rich source of inspiration for the writer. For anyone thinking of attending, I would give the same advice that I give to all poets: read first, read and digest other works, familiarise yourself with the genre. Then write. These poems will mostly be terrible. You can throw them out if you wish. Next, read a whole lot more. Write alongside your reading. Be prepared to create bad art in order to get to the good stuff. A workshop will then be of benefit to you.

20. Flash Fiction-how driven is the popularity of this form by social media like Twitter and its word limits? Do you see twitter as somehow leading to playwrights keeping conversations shorter than in years past?

I think in conversations rather than in pictures, so I’ll all for lengthy, deep and meaning discussions. Which is hard to achieve in 140 characters. (Even that short answer alone was 148 characters.)

21. How important in shaping the literature of Ireland is its proximity to the sea?

That would depend where you put the lighthouse.

22.  When you are outside of Ireland, besides friends and family, what do you miss the most?  What are you glad to be away from?

I just miss the comforts of home: your own bed, being able to go down to your own bookshelf or CD rack and have the choice of your own selection, having the full range of your wardrobe to dress yourself from. Travel limits you in the way.

The sectarian divide depresses me, although it is improving in parts. Perhaps we feel it more up here in Northern Ireland.

23. Quick Pick Questions
a. John Synge or Beckett
b. dogs or cats
I’m allergic to both, but dogs over cats.
c.  best city to inspire a writer-London or Dublin
I’ve never lived in either, so I’m really unqualified to answer….
d.  favourite meal to eat out: breakfast, lunch or dinner?
Not breakfast, I need breakfast right away usually in the mornings. An early dinner.
e. RTE or BBC
Unfortunately, I can’t get RTE where I live, but I watch very little TV anyway. So I’ll say BBC.
f. Yeats or Whitman
g.  Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC-great for a quick break or American corruption?
Eat/drink local where you can.
h. night or day

34. OK, let us close out on this note: what is your reaction these lines from a famous Irish poet?

I was born to the stink of whiskey and failure
And the scattered corpse of the real.
This is my childhood and country:
The cynical knowing smile
Plastered onto ignorance
Ideals untarnished and deadly
Because never translated to action
And everywhere
The sick glorification of failure.
Our white marble statues were draped in purple
The bars of the prison were born in our eyes
And if reality ever existed
It was a rotten tooth
That couldn't be removed.

Michael O'Loughlin

*puts editor hat on* Needs a bit more punctuation, and I would drop the ‘Because’ in line seven. Otherwise, it’s pretty well crafted, with some good imagery. But it lacks hope. There is always hope, even in despair. That’s what my work tries to convey. Hope is the central theme, the great life-giver. Where there is hope, there can be a home.


I offer my great thanks to Colin Dardis for taking the time to provide us with such interesting and insightful answers. I hope to catch up with him again during Irish Short Story Month IV, set to start March 1, 2014.

You can learn more about Colin Dardis, buy his books, and read a few more of his marvelous poems on his very well done webpage

Mel u

1 comment:

@parridhlantern said...

Enjoyed this Q&A and with a poet.
PS. This is for Irish Short Story Month
Later than I was planning.