Dogs, as Jarvis Cocker once sang, are everywhere in this new collection by Northern Irish poet Colin Dardis. But these are no heart-warming tales of a new Lassie; rather they are toughened poems concerning snarling mutts and runts, mute dogs with stiletto teeth and those barking in a language of “Bark, Ruff, Arf, Au-Au, Bow-Wow, Yip” and mutts without the linguistics nor manners to devour mutton in a fashion less than savage on their “butchering lips.” But these are no wild, visceral howls at the moon; rather Dardis has taken a prevailing blackened air of isolation, mixed it many slithers of wry humour and crafted in tightly packed ruminations and poems of observation, a whole orchestra of barks, yelps and howls and with masterful, taut control conducted them with into legend.
And to prove he is a poetic Dr. Doolittle, in the second part of the book he opens up a menagerie as he adds to the mix elephants, blackbirds, sparrows, ducks and rabbits and puts them through the same rigorous poetic examinations as the dogs before them, to turn them into poems of equal gusto and skill.
All of which builds with great animalistic aplomb into the crescendo of the final line of the final poem in the collection, “The Humane Animal”: “We all are. We all are. We all are.” And you feel that no matter the plumage, or manky mutt coat worn, every animal here is Dardis himself, a deeply humane poet for these increasingly savage times.
In the opening line of “Unpublished,” one of the standout poems in this book, the poet asserts that “Life is a poor novelist,” a fantastic line that may well be true. What is, though, indisputably true is that Colin Dardis is a very fine poet and The Dogs of Humanity an equally fine collection.
About the reviewer
Matt Nunn is the author of five poetry collections, the latest of which is St.Judes College Reject (RedSox press). He works as a freelance writing tutor, writing coach, editor and writer and teaches Creative Writing at Solihull College and has performed his work on TV, radio and a million different venues, to audiences big and small, enthusiastic and indifferent, for over 25 years. He’s still amazed at how he gets away with it all.
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