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Shortlisted for Best Pamphlet - Saboteur Awards 2020

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42 pages

Dogs, cats, birds and ‘farmyard activity’ of the social kind all feature in Colin Dardis’s grace-filled poems. These anti-dramas aren’t sentimental billets doux for the furry animal brigade though, and the poet creates skilfully-forged lyrics that address the human condition and its failures. Our giants are now born, he writes, from laziness and prosperity, without legend . . . This may be the nub of it, the impossibility of participating in the legendary, and although compassion may be powerful, it isn’t quite enough. One reading of the work is to view it as a contemporary expression of Yeats’s ‘I must lie down where all the ladders start, in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart’. For Dardis this may mean reaching for the sun by straddling a fallen oak-tree, still a giant in death: any possibility of transcendence he offers comes only through acceptance of the discards and the diminished. The beauty of this poetry lies in its focus on what is animal, on the neglected mutt barking in a lonely garden, whose solitude mirrors our own. Only a humane animal, the poet implies, is worth our attention. With subject-matter this fresh, and 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. The result is original writing. No poetic braggadocio here: just great poetry.

- Mary O’Donnell

Wry, melancholy, and wise, Colin Dardis's The Dogs of Humanity confirms his status as one of Ireland's most original contemporary voices. These are poems that circle, pack-like, around the truths of our humanity - our violence, our anxieties, and above all, our potential for love. In a world where 'the smell of the sty is high', these poems make us feel true 'empathy with the blood.'

Jess Traynor

In The Dogs of Humanity we see a poet who is equally comfortable to reside in places of light and shadow. Dardis shows us that he has the ability to take the world we create in moments of the everyday and spin it on a new axis. Here, canine traits are used as a lens to explore the best and worst of human experience. The reader who enters this zoo of poems will find that the animal seen most often will be themselves.

- Mel McMahon – Author of Beneath Our Feet


The first poem, an apparently simple account of a dog found dead at the bottom of a well, sets the scene with its evocation of a past, “before you moved in”, and the elemental images of well, garden, thirst, death. The use of the adjective “tatterdemalion” to describe the dog is great. The implication is that as we humans, unlike dogs presumably, knowing in advance of our death, should be aware of and wait for “true thirst”.

The voice in these poems is insightful, urgent but compassionate making the collection an enjoyable but unsettling read, with its call for perception, for engagement with the realities of the human condition and the lost souls of the early twentieth first century. It is also an invigorating read, a reassurance that there is still poetry which, while conscious of its past, engages in a lively and productive way with the culture and environment of the present.

Michael Farry

    'The Dogs of Humanity' by Colin Dardis