I’ve written before about my experiences on Sept 11th 2001 here. I always like to mark the day itself by sharing something. This poem was written soon after the event, and I was in the city some time later when I filmed the clips of the remembrance imagery. I recorded the poem simply on a microphone at home and then pieced it all together on some video editing software. The end result is what you see above, which acts as some kind of lyrical document to make sense of it all. I hope you enjoy it.
Back in the early 2000s I lived in New York City and it was a brilliantly rich time of creativity for me. In addition to working on the now defunct arty website artlick.com, and being in a band, I was beginning to explore poetry and spoken word in a deeper way. I had always written poetry, some of it quite traditional, but some of it quite odd and experimental. This writing was purely written for my own amusement and creative impulses. Not once did I think it would find a published home, but that changed in 2004 when I befriended the writer Dan Connor, who was setting up a new literary journal called “Lilies & Cannonballs Review” (LCR). The name always reminded me of the rock band Guns n’ Roses, but it actually takes its name from a phrase by the Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro – “Take a lily and a cannonball, mix them together, there you have my soul”. I was impressed by such an exciting vision for the journal, a place where the ridiculous and the sublime could co-exist. On Dan’s insistence, I submitted three slightly odd pieces to him as editor, and to my utter delight, they were selected for publication. It was my first time being published, and I would not have predicted that these would have been the ones that made it onto ink and paper. What’s more, my pieces were the closing selections in the debut issue of the journal (LCR Vol. 1 No. 1). In my mind I was the headline act. He was saving the best for last. Or perhaps mine were buried at the back for the more adventurous reader. Nevertheless, they were chosen and I was buoyant. One of the more offbeat pieces I wrote is reproduced from the journal below, and it doesn’t scream “publish me” but Dan had a wicked sense of humour, and was very supportive, so what do I know?
The rush of being published lasted for a while and gave me real hope that I could perhaps even make a career out of writing. In the end I did, albeit in a very different way in Corporate Internal Communications. Nevertheless, a fire was lit and I continued to submit pieces to the journal (which was published twice a year). And during that time I was rejected, which did sting, but it was also a good learning curve in the world of getting your work published.
It wasn’t until three issues later (LCR Vol 2. No. 2) that I was able to get my next piece published. It would turn out to be my last publication in the journal. This time it was a quirky play/movie about two characters called Freddie & Jam-Jam, which was a prequel of sorts to my piece published in New Planet Cabaret some years later. I can see that my writing had gotten more focused and more precise by this time, but there is still the same quirky humour and mischievous spirit to it.
I was so taken with the journal and the platform it gave to different voices, that I offered my services as a reader of incoming submissions. I soon joined the editorial reading group and I continued to do it for several years until I left New York. Being a reader was a terrific (and sometimes boring) experience, with real insights into what it takes to get published, and more eye-openingly, the standard of submissions that a journal receives. Ranging from full-blown masterpieces to embarrassing half-thoughts posing as literature. I loved it and it forced me to consider work that existed outside my relatively narrow reading habits & norms, as well as sharpening my critical eye for what good looked like. It was another layer in my creative journey that I look back on with great fondness. In particular I loved seeing it come together in the final stages of editing. There was real care and thought put into selecting the writing, and indeed the artwork that also graced its pages. In fact, my own father Tony Ryan had a couple of his etchings and monoprints published in LCR Vol. 2 No. 1, which was a special moment for him, and point of pride for me
Alas, the journal is no longer being published. It too was a casualty of time and money in an increasingly difficult creative landscape. But it will always have a special place in my heart as a writer. If it wasn’t for the encouragement of Lilies & Cannonballs, I may not have persisted. For that I will always be grateful.
As we enter September, it is time once again for the wonderful Dublin Fringe Festival to kick into gear. With that in mind, I wanted to resurface an audio recording we did last year to mark the 10th anniversary of our award nominated Fringe show “Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About“. (You can read more about the process of developing and staging the show here). For all the wonderful success that we experienced with the original staging and touring of the show, we never adequately captured it at the time. So, for the 10th anniversary we did a studio audio recording of a performance, and then hired the talented composer Gareth Quinn-Redmond to compose a soundtrack/score for the piece. The end result is a beautiful piece of art that elevates the original beyond our wildest dreams. It didn’t get much love at the time of release, but I stand over it being as good as anything I have ever created. Please listen and share with others. It really deserves to be heard. Spotify link above. Soundcloud link below.
If you’re interested you can pick up a copy of the limited edition 10th anniversary script here on this website. This special print run includes new forewords by all three authors, several never-before-seen photos, as well as new contemporary essays by Director Sarah Brennan, and Gemma Tipton (The Irish Times) that reflect on its impact and enduring Irish theatrical legacy.
For several years I was referred to as a performance poet, or sometimes as a spoken word artist. In essence, I wrote lyrical things and told them animatedly into a microphone. I picked up a love for this artform when I lived in New York, and later honed and nurtured it in Ireland. The community of performance poets in Ireland was (and likely still is) very small, so we became a close knit community. Some of us even banded together to establish and run Ireland’s first ever spoken word festival, LINGO.
My poetic other life had many other highlights including writing and touring a spoken word pla around Europe, wild performances at Electric Picnic festival, participating in an Irish poetry showcase at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in NYC, and sharing a stage in front of 500 people with the legendary Saul Williams.
I wanted to share one of the few recordings of my work filmed by Storymap (a cool project that sought to put pins on a map of Dublin with a video story/performance associated with that place) in my spiritual home The Stag’s Head pub. A place where I hosted and ran the brownbread mixtape show for nearly a decade. I have such fond memories of eclectic, electric nights in there. Anyway, without further ado, here is my poem “The hole there in the floor, which, fittingly, was written partially in New York and in Dublin.
The swell of the sea. Ducking under the waves. Crashing like forceful thunder. The water enveloping me like a buzzing blanket. Coming up for air in the frothy white foam. Sunlight glinting across the saltwater. Feeling brand new. This is the life.
I spent a week in San Francisco with work. I love this city. The gentle hum of life. Tall buildings and wide streets. Lights blinking in the fog above the skyline. Trams dinging along. People shuffling. Every corner is a poem.
For anyone new to my website, I just wanted to holler about the recent publication of our award-nominated spoken word play, Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About. A decade ago we staged this show at the Dublin Fringe and subsequently toured it around Europe to huge critical acclaim. It was one of the most fulfilling and important artistic experiences of my life, and you can read more about the genesis and creation of the show here.
As for the book itself, we put incredible thought and care into creating something that was a unique work of art in-and-of-itself, with a cover produced on a letterpress printing press, on high quality handmade paper, which gives it a really unique look and feel. Inside the pages we have lots of gold too, with new forewords from myself and the other authors, archival photos, and essays from our Director, Sarah Brennan, as well as Irish Times journalist Gemma Tipton.
This unique 10th anniversary limited edition book is for sale right now directly from this website, so please consider supporting independent artists by picking up a copy today!
My good friend Stephen James Smith kicked off his UK & Ireland tour last night in the Pepper Cannister church here in Dublin, and he was gracious enough to give me a support slot. We had a quick chat before I performed my Sine Metu poem, followed by my final piece from Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About. It was a gorgeous evening of music and poetry, with a really special vibe. If you can catch the show on its current tour I highly recommend it.
Around the time my first son was born I wanted to write something to mark his arrival. I was doing a lot of festival gigs at the time and I found that humorous poems always garnered a better reaction in those large crowd settings. So, I played around with the idea of something silly and funny, that was masquerading as a parent imparting knowledge. In addition, I wanted to amplify that realisation every kid has that their parents don’t necessarily know what they’re talking about.So I took that to the extreme and built out a list of ludicrous “facts” that made me laugh. I then started whittling them down to my favourites and I ended up with seven that worked best. My mind immediately jumped to traditional parenting ideas of old like the 7 deadly sins, and I had a perfect title – 7 deadly facts. This made me smile, knowing that there was also a bit of wordplay with the term “deadly”, a Dublin slang term for great or cool. And thus, the poem below clicked into place and was finished. It’s never been shared in print before, because it undoubtedly works better as a performance piece, but it still makes me smile. I hope it does the same for you.
7 Deadly Facts
When I was a kid
the Internet was in black & white
it ran on diesel
and had to be wound up every night
before you went to bed
When I was a kid
the island of Ireland
was made of completely detachable parts
and had an engine on it just north of Donegal
and for three weeks every summer
the country would chug down to somewhere
off the coast of France
on its holidays
When I was a kid
in Waterford it was actually made of crystal which made plumbing particularly disgusting FACT
When I was a kid
if you won the World Cup in soccer you got to keep the other country for 4 years until the next World Cup thus coining the term "Getting a Brazilian" FACT
When I was a kid
we used to dress up as tax inspectors at Halloween and fleece our stupid neighbours FACT
When I was a kid
the most popular television programme
was an Irish language slapstick show
Na Trí Stooges
starring Larry, Curly
agus Modh Coinníollach FACT
When I was a kid
the most popular drink in Ireland was a million pints of whiskey deep fried with a short documentary about Phil Lynott projected through the middle of it on the rocks FACT
Last year, to mark the 10th anniversary of our award-nominated play Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About, we released a limited edition letterpress printed book, as well as a sumptuous, soundscaped radio play version. We are incredibly proud of the final piece and it is now available for free. Please have a listen on Spotify and add us to your playlists.