I’ve been reading a lot of Henry Rollins lately. You might know him best as a singer, but he’s written over twenty-five books (not sure of the exact count), and I’ve read nine of them in the past two months. Rollins manages to tap into something primal and universal; I’ve no doubt that what he tells you on the page is true, and that he isn’t afraid to tell you either. With so many writers, you’re not sure if they are overdramatising or dressing up their thoughts in some mistaken belief that this is how “art” should be. It’s a character they inhabit, a conceit wittily reconstructed on the page. Rollins just lays it down, tells you how it is, observes and analyses.
His early work is driven by so much anger: at humanity, at society, at his best friend’s killer, at men, at himself. It’s amazing to read his development and how he has moved from a position of rage to one of progressive social and political commentator. I’m not sure if this is due to maturity as a person, or from maturity as a writer. Perhaps the two go hand-in-hand. One approach to writing is to get down to the ugly truths, the honesty that you tell no one else, that you don’t even like to admit to yourself. To find vulnerability and expose it openly. It’s up to you how much judgement you scorn upon yourself as you do this. Not to suggest that it’s all sadomasochism and self-flagellation: it’s about finding a true perception, unfiltered through the temptations of language as dressage, but still utilising language as our most effective and direct tool of communication.
But don’t worry about what the reader will think of you as a person; just get the truth out onto the page. The reader’s default position is not to care: you can only make them care by how you say something, not what you are saying. I don’t care what you say to me; but if you say it in a way that is engaging, evocative, open enough for me to find affinity with, and therefore empathise, you will have won me over. Politicians know this: election rallies are the modern pinnacle of oration, not because of well-crafted arguments and turns of phrase, but in their ability to enthral and stir up the electorate. Imagine writing something that gets thousands of people shouting and cheering, standing by your every word. Most of us have never written anything like that, maybe never will. But perhaps somewhere in a quiet room, alone, one person has read your words and for a moment, everything was in resonance. Although we write for ourselves, we still have to imagine and hope this happens. The more you read, the more resonance you will find. The more you write, the closer you get to ringing true.
Text (478 words) – extract from All This Light In Which To See The Dead: Pandemic Journals 2020-21 (Rancid Idols Productions, 2022)
Colin Dardis is a neurodivergent poet, editor and sound artist from Northern Ireland. His work, largely influenced by his experiences with depression and Asperger’s, has been published widely throughout Ireland, the UK and USA. His books include All This Light In Which To See The Dead: Pandemic Journals 2020-21 (Rancid Idols Productions, 2022), Endless Flower (Rancid Idols Productions, 2021) and The Dogs of Humanity (Fly on the Wall Press, 2019, shortlisted for Best Poetry Pamphlet, Saboteur Awards 2020). A new collection, Apocrypha: Collected Early Poems, will be published in 2022 by Cyberwit.
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