Lilies & Cannonballs – My first published work

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. 

Broadcast audio recording of the award-nominated Fringe show “Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About”

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. 

Spoken Word Poetry – “the hole there in the floor”

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.

Three Men Talking About Things That They Kinda Know About – Limited Edition 10th Anniversary

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!

Barge Bards

Had so much fun doing a spoken word gig on a barge tonight at Grand Canal Dock. Beautiful vibe, lovely setting, great community of people. Shared the stage with the hugely talented Colm Keegan, Lisa O’Neill and Alain Servant. Thanks to Erin Fornoff for organizing this little private gig and for the invitation to perform. Food for the soul.

NFL Draft Night – Voiceover for Irish NFL Show

The fine folks over at The Irish NFL Show commissioned another voiceover from me for their NFL Draft Night show. Voiceovers are such a fun way to flex my creative and storytelling skills. I’m loving the opportunity to use inflection and intonation as a way of bringing emotion and energy through to the listener & viewer. The end result is a snappy, sharp little promo and I’m really happy with the end result.

Poetry Performance at Pepper Cannister Church

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.

Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About – Radio Play on Spotify

Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About – Radio Play on Spotify

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.

Sine Metu: Fear a little less, live a little more (poem)

Back in 2016 I was commissioned by the friendly folks at Jameson Whiskey to write a piece of  performance poetry centred around the latin phrase Sine Metu. Sine Metu is the Jameson Family motto and appears on all of their bottles. It means “Without Fear” and at the time, their advertising campaigns were using Sine Metu prominently, with the tagline “Fear a little less, live a little more”. So, my brief was to write a poem with that as my guiding light. Personally I love these kind of gigs, because you are hired with an implicit trust and appreciation of your craft & artform, and I often find that the slightly restrictive thematic guide rails force me to think more creatively about unlocking the poem. I also want to write an excellent poem that I can really stand over and not just phone it in. So I worked hard on the commisioned piece, and the end result was the poem above, which I was very proud of. The folks at Jameson clearly loved it too and the poem took me on an epic journey. I was asked to perform it live at the annual Pernod Ricard conference on an island off the coast of France, as well as a series of other high profile Jameson events back in Ireland over the following months. Then finally, it was captured for posterity at the old Bow Street Distillery a day before major renovations began. As I watch it back, it takes on fresh meaning in that setting. I love how poetry can do that sometimes. Now, this is not my absolute best performance of the poem (there’s even an obvious mistake, see if you can spot it) but that doesn’t matter, it’s still a decent rendition. And I’m so glad to have a document of this creative milestone. I still like the poem a lot. Hope you like it too.

Three Men Talking – Now available in the shop on this site!

This limited edition 10th anniversary publication of Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About is now available in the shop on this site. You can visit the SHOP menu above or click here to go directly to it. It contains new forewords by myself, Colm & Stephen, 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 legacy. Each book is a work of art in and of itself, with a cover printed on 270gsm paper (the colour is called Citrine), with unique imperfections and magical flourishes that make each book completely unique. I would be grateful if you let any fans of poetry or literature know. Now taking orders and we will ship them in time for Christmas.