Interview, Mass Text

MASS TEXT: An Interview With Dan Darrah

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When I saw that PERMANENT SLEEP PRESS put out a poetry collection entitled What Else We Could Be Doing by an author named Dan Darrah,  I was eager to read the new title. I became a big fan of the press about a year ago after getting a copy of NEGATIVE SPACE by Chris Colohan (The Swarm, Left for Dead, Cursed, Burning Love, Sect, etc.). Simply put, PERMANENT SLEEP puts out engaging and energetic work by observant, honest, and affective artists and writers.

After reading the impressive collection, I was so  inspired that I wanted to conduct an interview with the poet, whose work now has a permanent place on my treasured bookshelf.

 

 

What is your name, where are you from, and how old are you?

My name is Dan Darrah, I’m from Whitby, Ontario, about 45 minutes east of Toronto. I just turned 23.

 

How did you first get into writing (poetry)?

After I picked up playing guitar as a kid, it sort of shook up how I’d understood the written word. I’d read pretty vociferously growing up, and once music was really palpably in the mix for me, I started seeing what I’d read more in a more lyrical, rhythmic sense. I saw a real overlap between songs and books. I don’t think I really connected the dots that there was a distinct genre in writing for this until high school when I was put in touch with Robert Frost, and those classes were where I probably wrote my first actual poems. But I didn’t start writing poetry seriously until last year – and between you, me, and your readers, I’m still trying to figure out what clicked. Something just did, and now I’m running with it. I think I wanted to write really badly, I think there was a lot in me that I wanted to articulate, but I didn’t have the patience or chops for stories, and so I opted for short, scribbled little free-verse pieces that let me experiment (I did a zine of these that I’d really like to complete stamp out of existence). After that, I was thinking, “oh, I guess this is classifiable as poetry.”

 

 

Who/what are your major influences and inspirations (both literary and non-literary)?

I will say – and I’m a little embarrassed to – that I don’t read tons of poetry. I think I gravitate more to short stories. Regardless, when I think about influences, I think about works or people that provoke something in me to write, not necessarily shape my poetry or change it in a calculable way, and to this end I can credit Carver, Vonnegut, Cheever, Chekhov, Joyce, Alice Munro, Yeats, Plath, Auden, T.S. Eliot, to name a few.

Non-literary is another story altogether, but equally as important. I’ve found myself enormously inspired by the people around me, particularly my friends who’ve committed themselves to art despite how taxed they are from the breadth of shit that people my age are tasked with; i.e., school, multiple jobs, unpaid internships, alienation, generational anxiety over the future. Making art in these conditions can be real thankless work. Having young friends who can laugh this off and just create things really propels me forward. They remind me that art needs to be made. I’m inspired by this resolve.

I’m also inspired by love, and the art of Henri Matisse and Ed Hopper, and the music of the Shirelles, Elliot Smith, and One Last Wish.


Do you consider yourself a poet/artist? Why or why not?

 It’s funny that you ask this because I’ve been wondering about it for a while. I’m not a creative writing student, I study history and politics, and this has always been a point of confusion or questioning of legitimacy for me, even if it’s naïve to think that my undergrad has to completely represent my interests. But I think lately I’ve generated the confidence to say that I’m a poet. I used to really load it up – to wonder what it meant. But maybe it’s not so loaded. Let’s use this interview now to say that yeah, I consider myself a poet, because I like to think that what I write is poetry and not some bastardized version of it.

 

 

I saw that you’re a guitarist for Mil-spec? How do punk/hardcore and poetry relate to each other? What do you see as the main similarities and differences? How does punk/hardcore influence your work (writing and otherwise)?

I’ve always been interested in teasing out this connection, though I’m not sure there’re any answers particularly straightforward or even terribly romantic. I think hardcore has enabled me to approach things I’ve wanted to do with a degree of legitimacy and support from that community. My peers have a way of telling one another that they can do whatever the fuck they want. I don’t know if that’s true of other communities; I think in some circles my writing would’ve been met with some confusion. But inside hardcore it was met with open arms. People bought my zines and book without really asking “why poetry?” So I think it enables me to have some confidence.

Mil*Spec in particular offers something important to my creative life, namely that my bandmates are enormously talented and inspiring in their own pursuits and that motivates me in a cyclical way. Andrew, Codey, and Jacob are multi-talented artists, the latter who has more (and very high-quality) zines under his belt than anyone else that I know, and the former two constantly blow me away with their design skills and vision. LaForge is our resident wordsmith, an editor at a daily newspaper in Toronto, and freshly gives me critiques and ideas on my own work. He’s a worldly dude whose knowledge of reading stretches well beyond anybody his age. It’s also worth noting that if it exists, LaForge understands it, and can explain it to you if you ask. So those relationships are really impactful and important to my work.

 

Is this your first collection of poetry? What other written work have you had published? Do you have any other books?

I’d consider this my first real collection, though I’ve published two zines prior, You Cannot Build Me Heaven and Bouquets are Still Bouquets When the Flowers are Wilting, which, as mentioned, I’d love to permanently stamp out of existence. I’m looking to do a small zine later this year, and hopefully publish some short stories in the near future.

 

Where do you see poetry (mainly independent, DIY poetry) headed in the future? Who are some authors you’ve been reading? Who are some favorite poets of yours?

Again, I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t read much DIY poetry, though I’d certainly like to. I read other authors published by Permanent Sleep – two of the most recent releases (other than my book) are excellent: Please Stop the Rain by Erik Adrian Santiago, and Tiny Alms by Matthew Wallenstein. I’d also like to plug the editor of What Else We Could Be Doing, Caroline White, who’s an enormously talented poet and musician currently residing in North Carolina as she works on her MFA in creative writing. Other authors I’m reading now are Frank O’Hara, Franzen, Delillo, Auden, and Chekhov.

 

A final question: what advice do you have for the poets and artists both of today and of the future?

I’d say, if you’ve got the compulsion to write, don’t let anybody talk you out of it. Spending your energy on writing can feel pointless and thankless sometimes so the absolute last thing you need is people deterring you because they don’t understand. If you’ve got the itch, scratch it. Find affective art, learn from it, immerse yourself in it, keep pushing forward and trying to improve your work, and strengthen your resolve if you hit a wall. It’s worthy of your effort, because the simple, baseline truth is that art makes being alive much more enjoyable. If you’ve got the drive to do it, that’s a beautiful thing you might consider capitalizing on.

 

 

 

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