Welcome to the Origins series, everyone. I was missing my interview series, Center Stage, and had this idea to do a much shorter, chat-style conversation about specific Vocal pieces. The idea is that the creator chooses one of their works on the platform (or I can choose one if the creator can't decide), and we get a chance to dig into the meaning behind it as well as the writing process in a casual, relaxed format.
I'd like to give a special thanks to both Dean and Gina C. for helping me brainstorm titles, ideas and logistics for this new venture. Their help and friendship have been invaluable.
I sincerely hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes glimpse of Dean F. Hardy's poem, Honours Student. I highly recommend reading the piece before diving in to our discussion.
D: Just heating up some coffee :)
Maybe I should read this once before your first question, haha.
H: LOL, I just read it again now.
D: Let's see how we do.
H: Only one way to find out. I just got a cup of coffee too :)
D: I was tempted to open wine, but I'm trying to behave this week.
H: So, thank you for once again agreeing to these ideas I come up with :) I'd like to start by asking you:
Why did you choose this piece to discuss?
D: Good question.
H: It's fantastic, by the way.
D: I thought for something like this, I wanted the piece to be something I really liked and also something that was more than just skin deep. It's a very personal poem, as most are, but this gets down to my bones more than others.
H: I can appreciate that. So many of your works (which I love pretty much all of) are very gritty, raw and sincere, but this one definitely felt very personal.
D: Yeah, it is. It's really centered around a time of significance for me. 20 years old. Time of massive change in everyone's life.
H: Yes, such a time for figuring out what you're all about...the good and the bad.
D: I've wanted and tried to write about that time on multiple occasions but always through fiction. I never attempted poetry with it.
The fiction attempts, to this day haven't worked. Yet 🙃
H: Sometimes poetry allows for a release in ways that stories don't.
D: Absolutely. Really the beginning of that process. Or at least it was for me. Just leaving University and in a state of total confusion and disarray and disconnection with so much around me.
H: Higher education can often challenge so much of what we knew beforehand, or thought we knew.
(LOL, I think we used up two questions I had just in those answers.)
D: Of course, haha. Sorry.
H: No, don't be! I love it :)
D: And I think it's because poetry allows us to get more than just skin deep almost immediately. There's no playing around. At least not how I do poetry.
H: Yes! You can just get to the meat of things straight away (no foreplay...hahaha).
D: Yeah. I've mentioned my disillusionment with my degree in my piece on Post Office. I felt utterly let down by my degree and what it was supposed to stand for. I was angry leaving University.
(This is a perfect way to put it, yes 😂)
H: What a time in your life! So how did you end up digging the holes? (If you're saving that for your short story or would rather not say, I won't include this question.) But I'm curious as all hell.
D: No, course not. There's no major reveal, haha. This answer may be a tad long.
H: I've got my coffee :) Hit me with it.
D: So the boring and obvious answer is, I needed a job and money. But of course, there's always a lot more to a story.
I had made the decision half way through my final year that becoming a teacher was something I couldn't and didn't want to pursue anymore.
Reasons for that are many and I won't bore you with them all. But if I was to summarise them, I felt I didn't deserve the responsibility of teaching kids and helping them find themselves, when I had no idea who I was myself.
I had a few random and typical jobs throughout college. Barman and KFC and Call Centres. Shit like that. I hated all of them. They couldn't be sustained full time when I graduated.
So, unknowing as to what the fuck I was going to do, and extremely pissed off feeling I wasted 3 long years for nothing but paper, I decided I'd enter some hard labour. One because I knew plenty lads in that line of work and could get me in. The other because I had some very strong romantic and political notions that REAL work was blue collar, hard grinding work. And to be honest after the soft dullness of college for them years, I was craving something punishing and physical.
2014 was basically the middle of Ireland's government riding the population like a dying mule in regards to paying off the bankers' debt that caused the great recession in '08.
And one of the big schemes the government came up with to create new taxes to bleed us all, was to tax our water usage. And to do that, every house needed to be installed with water meters.
So I was hired by a contractor to be one of the "grave" diggers.
H: Ah wow, a serious personal crisis of sorts going on!
D: It was just the beginning of it all, haha. I became so conflicted as well. I was sympathetic to a lot of socialist ideals and policies back then. I still am, to a degree. But I was more so as a young man. And there I was literally a cog in the machine of the government, fucking us over. We had to work while being protested at. Stuff was thrown at us. Probably deservedly so. It was madness.
H: That sounds like madness. So many lines to be drawn morally and crossed when push comes to shove in life.
D: Yeah. There weren't too many options for me at this time. The Irish economy was grossly unstable. And again, I just wanted to batter myself. Find myself. Do something physical to occupy my mind or more so to empty my mind. So I dug holes 5 days a week with big bear men. And numbed myself on weekends.
H: So how did it make you feel to write this and revisit all that you were feeling at that time? Cathartic? Sad? Reflective?
D: Hmmm. Oddly, it makes me happy. I guess there's a nostalgic sadness there as well. As grueling as it was, it was also full of camaraderie and intimacy with men I respected. I don't have that now.
H: That's wonderful about the happy part :)
D: There was a such a strong sense of ecstasy when the day ended in that work. The exhaustion and sense of relief was so intense, we'd virtually be holding each other up, laughing and limping back to the trucks.
You can't teach things like that. You can't appreciate the kind of soul destroying daily life so many people have, and so many men have, just to make ends meet. And it's an unpopular opinion these days, you can't compliment blue collar men for the work they do. It's not fashionable. And of course, that bullshit comes from those who have never worked a day in their lives.
H: No, you're right. You can't teach that kind of exhaustion. It binds people together in ways that reach down to the soul. When you spend so much time together just barely making it through the day or experience or whatever the case may be, you become connected. Loved this answer.
If you're good with it, let's transition and talk about some stylistic choices you made with the piece. Did you write this in one sitting?
D: Yeah, I wrote it in one sitting. I was in the bath, haha. Wrote it in one of my notebooks.
H: I love when something just flows out like that, but I don't know how you keep everything from getting wet, lol!
H: So, why did you choose to make some of the words bold this time?
D: Just to add emphasis. It's a nice element when publishing an online piece. Can play with things like that. I like how it comes off.
H: So true. Although I wish Vocal had a larger variety of fonts and editing capabilities (hint hint).
At what point did you decide on the title?
D: The title came after the piece. That's usually the case for me.
H: I can appreciate that and love how we're all different in making that choice or how it comes to us.
It varies for me. Sometimes it comes first, sometimes I play with the title and image during the middle of the process when I feel it's not flowing, and sometimes at the end when it hasn't come to me yet.
And just to sneak a fun one in :) Would you rather always be an hour early or be constantly twenty minutes late?
D: Twenty minutes early. Except to my funeral.
H: That's hilarious! One of the alternate questions (which I found a list online btw) was this...what kind of question is that?? hahahaha:
Would you rather only be able to have sex in a room full of bugs or no sex at all ever?
D: Haha, grim. I'll take the bugs.
H: Same, lol! Well, I think we've come to the last question. Thank you again for indulging :)
Is there something you hope readers take away from reading this one?
D: Honestly, the piece was so personal, I couldn't care what anyone took from it. Sorry everyone, haha.
It was a piece I dedicated in my mind to the men from that time in my life. They had no idea how much I appreciated them and their spirit at a time I felt mine had left my body. And they helped restore it.
H: No need to apologize. It's your piece. And I love your dedication. People don't (or can't) always appreciate and recognize significant things like that. Often too focused on their own journey. What an excellent way to finish this–on your terms.
That's a wrap, folks!
P.S. I'd like to thank Dean for his patience as it took us about 3 tries to get this down. We had some scheduling issues and then a major storm popped up during our chat which forced us to extend the last few questions to another time. Why does it always storm when I try to do these things?? LOL.
If you'd like to read more amazing works by Dean, please visit his profile:
If you'd like to read his interview with me, please check out the following link!
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme