Thursday, January 4, 2024

Colin Dardis : with the lakes



I want to relax in corollaries of water
and concrew with the lakes

Sometimes, themes just creep up on you. With a previous book, The Dogs of Humanity, I never set out intentionally to write a collection using dogs as a central motif; one day (the last day of a submission deadline), I just realised that I had quite a few poems mentioning dogs, drew these together in the space of a few hours, and submitted a manuscript. Similarly with this new pamphlet: I didn’t intend to craft a volume of water-themed poems – in fact, I was working on three other ideas for manuscripts instead – but somehow, appropriately, the idea of water rose to the surface.

Yes, I have come to your shores
and been so assuming as to
tie my boat to your pier

So, why water? Well, it’s ubiquitous, it’s vital, and it’s unavoidable. The need for it defines our existence, and it shapes our lives. Living in Northern Ireland, we are part of an island, with the massive Lough Neagh right in the centre of the country. We are surround by water, and have a body of water at the heart of our nation. We’ve an average monthly rainfall of around 100 millilitres. In essence, we’re a wet place to live in. The sound of rain, its feel against the skin, the chill of it, and even the rare welcome refreshment of it, is manifest.

Don’t say that the rain is the angels’ tears
or that the wind is the sneeze of a butterfly

We also have a natural obsession with the weather. It is the go-to subject in small talk, a seemingly inexhaustible topic to explore and debate. The poem What We Talk About When We Talk About The Weather mocks this. Elsewhere, there is coastal imagery, the comforting and restorative force of nature, shipbuilding, shipwrecks, and even an Aztec goddess. The poems are culled from over ten years’ worth of writing, so it’s pleasing in a way that the pamphlet have organically formed out of a natural curiosity in my poetry.

The lighthouse blinks
in disbelief

When people read the poems, I want them to walk away feeling a little bit closer to nature: that’s not to say I wish to fill them with a pastoral romanticism; rather, to make them think about how varied nature is, and how consequential it is to humanity. I’m not sure if some of the pieces could be considered eco-poems, perhaps only in a slightly passive and indirect way, but I wouldn’t shrug off that label if anyone read them and wanted to apply it.

The important thing
is to keep breathing when the water comes

Although we have the constant theme of water connecting the poems, I’m also influenced by my history of depression and anxiety. I think it’s important to have conversation about one’s mental health, and to share those feeling, to help break any stigma or sense of embarrassment. I find the idea of water is calming: the escapism of nature, the placidity of a pond, how water sustains and refreshes. Bruce Lee famously said “be like water”: be fluid, be open to change, flow around obstacles and you shall find a way forward. It wasn’t a quote I was conscious of when writing any of the poems, but it applies retrospectively. I have been guilty of being rigid and closed minded, of black and white thinking, of destructive thought patterns. For me, poetry is a way to explore one’s thoughts and feelings, to try and make sense of the world, and one’ place in it. I am still learning to be like water; perhaps re-reading these poems and reminding myself of this need will help.





Colin Dardis is a neurodivergent writer, editor and sound artist from Northern Ireland. His most recent book is Apocrypha: Collected Early Poems (Cyberwit, 2022). His work, largely influenced by his experiences with depression and Asperger's, has been published widely throughout Ireland, the UK and USA. Previous collections include All This Light In Which To See The Dead: Pandemic Journals 2020-21 (Rancid Idols Productions, 2022), Endless Flower (Rancid Idols Productions, 2021), The Dogs of Humanity (Fly on the Wall Press, 2019), and the x of y (Eyewear, 2018). The latest release from his DARDIS sound project is Funerealism (Inner Demons Records, 2022).

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