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Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About

Original publicity photo by Jessica Ryan (Comfy Photography)

In 2011, myself, Colm Keegan and Stephen James Smith had an idea. Let’s write something together. We were all involved in the Dublin spoken word and independent arts scene, with each of us running our own nights The Glór Sessions (Stephen), Nighthawks (Colm) and The Brownbread Mixtape (me). We had become friends, and all had huge admiration for one another’s poetry (as well as being fans of the nights that we respectively ran), so, in retrospect it feels like there was an inevitability that we would join forces in some way. This is my version of the journey we took to create that collaborative piece of writing, that would end up becoming our award-nominated spoken word play Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About.

We chatted at length about possible ways to work together on a show of some kind, and I remember those early conversations were just us considering something simpler like a spoken word event, with each of us performing our poems. Essentially a gig by us, for us. Gradually that evolved into a more sophisticated idea of creating a collaborative piece with intertwining poetic monologues, but we still weren’t even clear what that meant.

So, we started to sketch out some initial ideas about what we wanted to tackle in our writing together. We knew that we wanted there to be some kind of link between them, but equally being able to retain our own voices and identities in the piece. So we met for a cup of tea in the Irish Film Institute and hastily sketched out a map of ideas and thoughts on a piece of paper around themes and paths to follow, as well as pondering the structure of the piece. Gradually it started to take shape and we loosely decided that we would write about the big milestones in our life, and how they had shaped us, in three interlinking poems each.

The original brainstorm document for Three Men Talking

At some point soon afterwards, I think Stephen suggested we take a leap of faith and submit an application to the legendary Dublin Fringe Festival, in the hope that they would take an interest in our idea. While it seems strange to think it now, but the idea of a narrative-driven long-form spoken word poetry show was a relatively rare theatrical phenomenon on Irish stages at the time, so we felt we were proposing something fresh and interesting to the Fringe audience. And the Fringe festival happily agreed. The initial meeting between us and Roise Goan, Director of the Fringe Festival, was a great meeting of creative minds, and she would become one of our biggest supporters for this show well beyond the Fringe festival.

Original poster for Fringe Festival

With the imminent deadline of the Fringe festival a few months away, and our own broad outline in place, we each went our separate ways and started writing different long-form poems about big moments in our respective lives. Then, on a weekly basis, we would convene at one of our homes to read out what we had written. It was a moment to air ideas and challenge each other. I remember those moments very well and very fondly (except for the times Colm’s insanely big dog would accost me), where we really pushed each other to rewrite and rework ideas. So often, one of us would read out an unflinching poem that would cause the others to pause for breath, and realise there was a need to dig even deeper and go even further. Those were huge learning periods for me as a writer, and as a critical reader of someone else’s work. All of us striving to make something excellent together.

Over time the poetic monologues began to form into the script as we now know it, with a relatively solid three part structure to each of our respective pieces. It became clear that much of what we were talking about was the idea of being a man. And fathers were a central spine to all of our stories, both our own fathers, as well as myself & Colm’s experiences as fathers too. The title for the show, which seems almost frivolous for a play that went to such deep and emotional territory, was something I said on a whim in that first meeting over a cup of tea in the IFI. But now it almost felt like a perfect disarming title for what was ultimately very lyrical explorations of tough topics like death, love, masculinity, loss, happiness, home, new beginnings…

With the poetic monologues coming together well, we still felt the piece was slightly incomplete, and knew there needed to be a shared piece of writing that bookended the piece. We were struggling to find the right tone and words, so we headed off for one final writing session in my old family home in Waterford. After a meal and a few cans we hit upon the idea of a series of declarative statements about what it means to be a man (that ultimately became the intro and outro to the show). “A man is proud of putting up a shelf“, “A man is two bad mistakes away from having nothing“. And I have very distinct memories of us being fascinated by a pastel drawing my father had done (fittingly of three figures) that hung above the mantelpiece, which almost certainly inspired my line from that section “A ghost in the family home”. 

“The 3 of them on their way back” by Tony Ryan

So, at this stage, we had a final script of sorts and we had secured the upstairs of The International Bar for our venue. It was time to embark on the rehearsals. I think we still naively believed we would be able to direct ourselves, and still saw this as something more like a series of poems to be delivered on a mic, versus it being an actual theatrical production so to speak. I recall us having the entire script laid out on the floor in chunks and reshuffling the sections to make them work more effectively in tandem with one another. We definitely had a few different variations until we settled on the final version, which made complete sense and clicked for us all once we performed it aloud. Nevertheless, despite figuring out the structure, it was clear we needed a directorial independent voice to help us bring it to life for the stage. Enter the mighty Sarah Brennan. Sarah was an established actor and director of many years standing, with a rich family history in the Irish acting world. So, we were absolutely delighted to have her on board, and it seemed fitting to have a singular female vision for this text that was written by three men.

It turned out to be one of the best things to happen to the show. Sarah helped us steer clear of maudlin moments and coaxed terrific performances out of all three of us, with both Stephen and Colm never having formally acted onstage prior to this. And my experience was not too extensive in fairness, limited mostly to the Brownbread Mixtape sketches, and, as a kid, a Tom Stoppard show for the theatre company Red Kettle (bizarrely, directed by Sarah’s uncle Paul Brennan!).

Opening night at the Fringe by Paul Gaffney

My friend and longtime collaborator in The Brownbread Players sketch troupe, Eva Bartley, also jumped on board to help us put together our set. The play was littered with references to photographs and images, so we gathered up several photos of our families and snaps of ourselves from our youth. Eva then deftly wove them together into these simple hanging mobiles of images, that ended up becoming integral to the show.

  

I still recall the nerves of opening night, not knowing if we would fill the 70 seats upstairs in the International Bar, or if the audience would respond to our deeply personal and lyrical stories. We needn’t have worried, it was sold out (and remained sold out for the remainder of the run) with incredibly moving standing ovations almost every night. Our initial eagerness to get offstage during those ovations, gave way to the fact that this was a unique thing for us all, and we learned to enjoy those moments that the audience gave us. And the critics responded too, with a stunning 4 star review in the Irish Times, which bowled us over.

Early unused concept art for the show by Irish illustrator Philip Barrett

The show went on to receive a Fringe Award nomination for the Little Gem category, where the winner would receive a monetary prize to restage the show for a week in the legendary Bewley’s Cafe Theatre. It was such a huge buzz to get nominated for our show, and we even dared to dream for a moment, but in the end we didn’t take home the prize. But it didn’t matter, because we had achieved something really special already.

And then all of a sudden the show was done, but there were still loads of people asking us if we would be staging it again, as they hadn’t been able to catch it in the original sold out run. So, we started to explore if that was a possibility and how one would go about doing that. Remember, none of us really knew anything about the world of theatre in Ireland. We reached out to Roise Goan, Director of the Fringe Festival, for advice. As serendipity would have it, she was just about to get in touch with us about a cool new venture Fringe was doing with the legendary Project Arts Centre called Turnaround.

The idea behind Turnaround was to showcase 5 shows from all previous Fringe Festivals that they believed were deserving of another look, and were worthy of being staged on a professional stage. We were one of those shows! We were bowled over by the request and were happy to dive in headlong into the process. And so in April of 2012, with tremendous support teams, we ran the show for three more sold out nights in the Cube theatre space in the Project. It was a really special experience, and far from being over, Turnaround led us to the next part of the Three Men Talking adventure.

Turnaround season at Project by Jessica Ryan

On the back of both successful runs of the show, we were lucky enough to partner up with the brilliant producer Jen Coppinger, who helped us take the show on the road to even more audiences. What followed was almost a year of Irish shows around the country (sometimes with a post-show Q&A), including an emotional return to Garter Lane Theatre in my home town of Waterford. I had worked in that very theatre with both my father and mother, and many of the audience were writers, actors and friends who knew them (and me), so it was a unique moment I’ll treasure.

Tour poster 2012

The tour of the show even took us abroad to wonderful rooms (and more sold out shows) at the Centre Culturel d’Irlandais in Paris, the London Irish Centre in London, and the Arnolfini Centre in Bristol (where we had the first sparks of an idea for LINGO festival – but more on that at a later date). We even printed a limited edition run of the script to sell as merch on tour, and that sold out too!

Audiences responded deeply and strongly to it everywhere we went, with each of our specific stories often ringing a bell very pointedly with people. Because of the confessional nature of our stories, audience members were often keen afterwards to share their own tale of losing a loved one with me, or indeed their stories of family that echoed those of Colm or Stephen. The show really meant something to people and that was deeply gratifying.

I seem to recall we did one “last ever final never-performing-it-again” show a couple of times, but after a poetic journey of almost three years, the show had reached a natural conclusion. Our lives had changed quite a lot since the original writing of it, with relationships altered, new children in our lives, and much more besides – so it was time to move on to new creative projects.

It was an incredible journey all told (I didn’t even cover everything here, including an American theatre company asking to stage it Stateside), and it is not too much of an exaggeration to say it was one of the great artistic experiences of my life. But more significantly I formed two great friendships with Stephen and Colm, and we are all still good friends to this day. That is the most remarkable thing of all really. In a strange way, even through we were acquaintances before it started, we really didn’t know each other that well until we embarked upon the writing of the show. But we were honest and vulnerable, and in sharing those stories of our lives, we created a piece of art that brought us together for a period of time. And as a result we got the chance to share a slice of our lives together travelling & performing with the show.

We’ve talked about doing another show together. We even went so far as to do a writing session together, but nothing major came from that. Maybe we weren’t ready yet. Maybe in a few years when the show is ten years old, we could do a sequel… Three Men Still Talking.

The Sentence – a poem

I love words. It is the world I am most happy in. And poetry is my favourite written form.

Some years ago I was asked to perform some poetry at a spoken word night in Dublin and I decided to play with the very idea of writing itself, and the end result was this poem that toys with ideas of writing and language.

It was a poem I spent many hours crafting and rewriting. The end result is a poem I really love.

the sentence

I'm trapped inside this poem, sentenced to burn in here alone.
Which means that for the next 30 lines it’s my unwanted home.

High time then to plot my escape clause from this overheated verse shaped box,
starting by making a ladder from dangling participles and some missing socks;
glue it together with predicates deconstructed carefully in their prime,
then bind up each end with the finest scented romantic metred rhymes.
Then, step by step deconstruct it and hide it under my pillowy upper case,
then for a while bide my time, take a beat ... every sentence needs its space.

Then as the following few unfolding lines presently grow tense and taut,
the next phase of my escape plan begins out in the yard of discarded thoughts.
I assume a pseudonym and then flip the silent “P” around
like a spoonerism and use it to dig a tunnel down underground.
Then with one hand scatter colons carefully to cover up the hole,
with the other I dust pocketfuls of unusèd accents that I stole.

Then back inside the structure to set in motion this poet’s plans,
but first I kneel, dot my eyes and cross my tees with shaking hands.
So it begins like this, I divert attention by twisting palindromes inside out,
"Name no one man, Madam I'm adam"; I roar out loud and shout.
No you're not", says the onrushing guard, pushes me back up 'gainst the margin hard,
he grabs an @ symbol, calls for back up, the grammar police are now alarmed.

Seizing my moment, I carpet diem, pull the rug from under them all the way,
make haste, cast my ladder out, soon running across thoughts faster'n I can say
"See you later poem, I'm heading for the margin,
Where sweet letters bulge and new ideas barge in!
Scrambling letters in my wake now, dashing towards the hyphenated end-goal,
In I slide footers first through the peering freedom shaped escape hole.

Once free of the poem and outside those lines I'll assume the case to be,
that I’m in a position to begin a subjective textually liberated life that’s free.
And as memories of the sour sentence fade into a sweet footnoted tome,
I will rewrite all my cold first drafts, no longer trapped inside this poem.

[Kalle Ryan – 12 Jan 2010]

Portrayal of an Artist – Part 1 [Music Parody]

I’ve mentioned before that I ran a website called artlick.com with my friends Dave and Jenn. We were fascinated with this burgeoning place called the internet and the opportunities it presented to be creative. We had a keen interest in all artforms, especially writing and graphic design, but with very little experience of how to code, so we just jumped in and started building a site full of our own artistic creations, quirky installations and mad ideas (and we learned along the way). There were bucketloads of interesting projects and creations from the site that I’m hugely proud of, and I will post about them further in the coming year, but I’ll kick off with one of the most fun projects we ever embarked upon – Portrayal of an Artist.

Through my friend Ravi, we had acquired an early digital camera (it had a 3.5 inch floppy disk that you inserted into the side to capture the photos!) – and, for us, it was a great way to creatively play with such a futuristic gadget. One day on our lunch break we took a snap of me goofing around the server room in our workplace, and following a little bit of digital doodling later we had a suitably silly looking album cover.And so, our shared love for music and album cover art spawned an entire section of the site dedicated to this parody and satire of the music industry. The idea was ultimately to make fun of the many different styles of album cover art, and a broader sideswipe at self-important, stupid rockstars who put out an eclectic set of genres of music to reinvent themselves — with all the whims of moving labels; lack of quality control; wildly misjudged titles and lyrics.

Some of the photos are still really funny to me, and some are really beautiful and otherworldly. There are some particularly poignant photos in here of the old World Trade Centre too that proved to be a glorious backdrop to some of the albums. Dave did such a class job with some of these covers – some real gems that would look good on a shelf, and others that still make me laugh out loud. And as I look at them I often daydream about what the songs might actually sound like. I really should record them some day. There are also loads of fake album reviews to go with them, which I will also dig out and share at another time. But for now let me take you through some of the creative process that brought them to the world wide web. The back catalogue is absolutely vast, so I will post a chunk of them here today and share even more tomorrow!


Album: DATABANK
Singles: <ANTON> ; <PUNCHCARD>

The first album came about, as I said above, when we pottered around the servers at our office. The word DATABANK was emblazoned on the original databank itself, so we kept it and figured it would make a good album title. That then sparked the idea to create a couple of singles, which Dave used to hone his burgeoning Photoshop design skills.

I remember us spending huge amounts of time on coming up with the right titles for the songs, so they would fit well with the genre of the album (which we assumed was some kind of electronica). Also, there are little details on there that we added for our own amusement; we thought it would be funny that the album version of Anton was 34 minutes long, but the single was drastically edited in length. We extended the joke but reduced the running time even more preposterously for the Punchcard single.

 

Finally, the name of the record label was incredibly important (for this and subsequent albums) and I seem to recall Dave coming up with this one, saying that it felt right for an electronica record. Can’t argue with him. Even now.


Album: Footsteps in Chalkdust
Single: Walking home in the rain

The next album was a great marrying of old ideas with new ones. I had been playing with the idea of pretentious singer-songwriters and had written a sort of poem with ludicrously earnest titles a few years earlier (and pretentious sample lyrics) . My good friend Corrie Leane, a brilliant artist from Waterford, had designed some cover art for them during a poetry/painting collaboration we undertook a few years previously.

The record label (Thin Raft) was also a shared reference I had with Corrie, which came from a Jim Morrison lyric in The Doors song Texas Radio and The Big Beat– “I love the friends I have gathered together on this thin raft”. It was our shorthand for our friendship and artistic kinship. So it felt fitting given this new arty collaboration with a few close friends.


Album: Was?
Singles: Was! ; Memory III

The chronology of these albums (both real and imagined) is pretty fuzzy after all these years. We created these back in 1999 / 2000 I reckon, and this particular album was an attempt to create a singer songwriter album (hence the Thin Raft record label), where the singer had decided to go ultra pretentious and perform only on a piano. And all the titles had to have slightly avant garde sounding Steve Reich / Philip Glass sorta titles. This would be the type of album where critics would nod and agree that he began his more “experimental” phase, perhaps bridging into his next phase of electronica.

 

As a student and fan of the German language, I suspect I was playing with the word “was” which means “what” in German, and the past tense of the verb ‘to be’ in English. Which probably explains why the album title has a question mark and the single title has an exclamation mark. Or perhaps I wasn’t thinking of any of those things.


Album: Dr. Livingstone I Presume
Singles: Cane Toad Nightmares

This album was one that was sparked by an impromptu photoshoot on our lunch break (I know this because my fake watch from Chinatown says it was almost 1pm). I spotted a large potted plant outside a store on Broadway and thought it would be funny to appear from it as if I were an intrepid explorer. The phrase just jumped out at me from something I was reading at the time. I still love the way Dave layed out the title on the cover, with the old school “A-Team” style lettering.

 

We then thought there would be something inherently funny about having LOADS of singles of the Cane Toad Nightmares, given the propensity of cane toads to reproduce so much.

We also felt that the artwork had to have something of a psychedelic “Apocalypse Now” kind of feel to them. The harsh neon colours were a very deliberate choice as I recall.

Again, this was deemed to be a Purification Records release, so some kind of dancey, electronic vibe to it. I’m pretty sure the inspiration for that record label was Warp Records, as we were listening to a lot of Boards of Canada at the time.

I’m still not sure what on earth a Cane Toad Nightmare is. Maybe Dr. Livingstone will know when I see him.


So, that’s phase one of the Kalle Ryan albums. Oddball treasures for sure. For more dizzy album cover delights, read Part 2 of the musical odyssey here

The Brownbread Mixtape album – the early years

We record every single Brownbread Mixtape, and we have managed to capture some truly magical moments down the years from that room. Nowadays it is easier to share things digitally (even though we have yet to truly share even a fraction of our enormous library of recordings) but back in the day we decided to go relatively old school and create a limited run of CDs of some of those early performances that we could raffle off at our live shows. We enlisted help from New York filmmaker and graphic designer David Bagnall to create unique and supremely cool cover art, and then we pieced together some of our favourite artists from the first run of shows that gave a good snapshot of the music, spoken word and sketch comedy we were showcasing every month. Manyof these artists have gone on to greater things since, which is so briliant to see, but here they are in the cosy surroundings of the Parlour Bar upstairs in The Stag’s Head pub. The result is a moment in time, replete with all the ramblings and imperfections that come with a live performance, as well as the moments of utter magic that we were witness to. In recent years I decided to upload it to bandcamp so others could get a chance to hear the tracks too. There are even a few of my early poems and comedy sketches with The Brownbread Players on there, which have a certain charm to them too. Have a listen and let me know what you think – tell me about your favourite. Enjoy!

Alternative Irish National Anthem – My Blood is Boiling For Ireland!

One of the more bizarre things I can list amongst my artistic achievements is award winning songwriter. Here’s the short version of how that came to pass. Back in 2010, our leading newspaper The Irish Times put out a call to write an alternative Irish anthem. It was to be judged by members of the band The Duckworth Lewis Method, as well as Irish rugby international Frankie Sheahan, and then Arts editor Shane Hegarty (who has since gone on to write the superb Darkmouth novel series). I had written half of the song (the simple repeated verse) some years previously during a rowdy, boozy party in my apartment in Queens, New York. When this competition cropped up, I called upon my friend Enda Roche to help me record it. But let me work backwards through the song to capture some of the creative process.

Once in the studio we had the fun idea of adding a primitive Irish language call and response element. So I drew on the simplest phrases from my primary school days:

Conas atá tú? / Tá me go maith [How are you? / I’m well]

An bhfuil tú anseo / Tá me anseo [Are you here? / I am here]

You’ll notice in the second rendition of the chorus, I actually get the call and response wrong and ask in Irish “Cá bhfuil tú?” [Where are you?] and Enda’s brother Kevin, who was assisting on backing vocals, improvised a perplexed sounding response of “Níl fhios agam!” [I don’t know!]. When we listened back to it, it made us really chuckle, and somehow had echoes of a real Irish primary school classroom, so we left it in.

Given that the song could only be 90 seconds long I knew that brevity and sing-along-ability was the key, hence I kept it to an extremely simple structure especially the bombastic foulmouthed verses:

Oh my blood is boiling for Ireland
My blood is boiling for Ireland.
Ireland! Ireland!
Ireland fucking Ireland!
My blood is boiling for Ireland!

The swearing seemed fitting with the Irish vernacular, but knowing that the winning song would air on the national radio station Today FM (on the Ray D’Arcy show) we sensed it might be a good idea to bleep it in some way, so I cooked up the most Irish way to do that – the sound of a sheep baa-ing. It seems mad that we even considered this fact, expecting full well to not win the thing.

The opening Irish language countdown –“A haon, dó, trí, ceathar dhéag . . .” — was a reference to U2’s song Elevation which was out at the time (where Bono counts it in bizarrely as “Unos, dos, tres, catorce” [one two, three, fourteen]. So we thought we would give a nod to that, and have it almost as an Easter egg for U2 fans (of which I am a huge one).

When the Irish Times announced we were the winners I couldn’t quite believe it. I particularly loved Shane Hegarty’s description of it in the Irish Times as “somehow angry, fun and patriotic all at the same time” which described it far better than I ever could have and pretty much made my day. I recall them playing several of the runners up on Ray D’Arcy’s show and I seem to remember D’Arcy being kinda snotty and dismissive of my song, but it didnt matter really, his blood clearly wasn’t boiling for Ireland. I do remember Thomas Lewis from The Duckworth Lewis Method saying he liked it because it sounded like something you’d sing at 3 in the morning.

It has since gone on to be our signature tune at The Brownbread Mixtape and we close every show with it. We ask everyone to rise for the alternative Irish national anthem and it never fails to get a huge reaction. I still love performing it, partly due to the energy it brings to a room, and equally for how utterly ridiculous it is that it won an award.

One of the prizes for winning the competition was time in a Dublin recording studio, where I gathered many of my favourite performers from past Brownbread Mixtape shows to record a sort of gospel reworking of My Blood is Boiling for Ireland that has never seen the light of day. I will dig it out and post it at a later date (along with the other song we recorded that day which was a soul number I had written for the occasion). But for now, crank it up to catorce and shout it with me — COME ON IRELAND!

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Skanger Man – An Irish parody of a Werner Herzog film

At my monthly Brownbread Mixtape show I would regularly write radio style comedy sketches to be performed by myself and our resident sketch troupe The Brownbread Players (Gus McDonagh, Eva Bartley and Sean McDonagh). I have been a huge Werner Herzog fan for many moons and something tickled me about trying to do one of his earnest and odd documentary style pieces about inner city Dublin. Gus also did a great Dublin accent and so I wrote it specifically with him in mind for the part. It started to flow pretty quickly as I wrote it, but then something wasn’t fully clicking. Suddenly the Joycean elements popped in my head and it came together really sharpy then. The closing monologue lifted from The Dead by James Joyce really elevated the piece from pure silly parody to something slightly more profound, just like a proper Herzog piece. It was one of the most odd and surprisingly popular sketches we ever did. The original live version can be seen here.

Enda Roche who ran the monthly Brownbread Mixtape show with me was studying audio engineering at the time at Windmill Lane, and decided to do a studio version of it as a project one semester, and so the studio version above was born. The sparse twangy guitar lends a lovely feel to it (and echoes the Herzog film soundtrack to Grizzly Man very nicely), and the sound effects of the chipper give it a nice documentary feel.

The sketch subsequently got incorporated into my award nominated Fringe show The Definitive View with Sneachta Ni Mhurchu, and a slight rewrite made it slightly softer and more empathetic to the skanger character. It had never fully sat right with me that he was an object of pure ridicule of the piece, and in the new version I made him more a victim of the harsh Irish government and society. In that show we had an ethereal piano piece to accompany it, and I felt it lifted the piece even further into a poignant piece about the forgotten faces on our streets.

It is still a piece of writing I am very proud of and it really proved to me that even the most obscure reference points can prove to be hugely popular if framed in a comedic setting, as the audience doesn’t need to know who Herzog is in this case, but if they do, it adds an additional layer. Plus I love doing Werner Herzog impersonations. I think it’s my true artistic calling in life.

Modern Ireland – a short film

A few years ago my good friend, documentary filmmaker David Bagnall (Getting Out), was visiting from New York, so we met up with another friend and filmmaker, David O’Sullivan (Moore Street Masala), and headed out without a script, and decided to try and make a short film in a single day. There was such a freedom in just deciding to film and see where it landed us. We began with a simple prop (a suitcase) and a basic costume, and off we went. We shot it sequentially, so it revealed itself to us as a story throughout the day too. As we started to piece it together rapidly in the editing room, we found a silent movie of sorts that seemed to tell a tale about the Ireland we found ourselves in. So I dug out a piece of music I had recorded some time beforehand when I lived in New York (that was part of a different radio play / musical about a singer songwriter called Paschal Quigley). The song “Modern Ireland” seemed to fit nicely and the title was apt, so thats what it ended up being called. It’s a quirky short film with moments of real humour, and even slightly dark elements, but I have to say the finished product is something we were all really proud of. Let me know what you think.

 

Performance Poetry in Ireland – A Gentle Radio Documentary

Back in 2014, the poet Dave Lordan, was serving as guest editor for Penduline Press – a publication from Oregon in the United States. He commissioned a special audio broadcast from me to showcase some of the very best contemporary performance poets in Ireland. I had never really tried something like it before but I was really excited about trying to piece something that was representative of the many great voices in Ireland at the time, as well as making it an audio piece that was enjoyable to listen to, maybe even informative, and maintain a good energy and rhythm to it, so it actually flowed like a proper album. There was also something nice about taking the time to go back through the archives of the endless hours of audio from all of the many poets at the brownbread mixtape shows, and handpicking some of the standout moments. (I was even cheeky enough to put one of my own poems in there from the Fringe show “Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About”. More on that show and the unique creative process of writing a show collaboratively in this post.) The curation process was really hard and ended up being super subjective of course (but isn’t all curated content?) and I decided to not script my interludes, but instead to speak from the heart about how these poets and their work had connected with me. That conversational tone felt right for the piece and it flowed relatively well. Then once I found the haunting simple piano piece by Irish musician Elder Roche, it all seemed to click into place. The end result was something I am really proud of and I totally stand over today. I actually think it serves as a nice snapshot of the variety of spoken word in the country at that time. And it is a proper document now. Many of the poets have deservedly gone on to greater success as performers and published writers, which is so brilliant to see. They are listed below. Seek them out, they are all legends.


Here’s what Dave Lordan said about the documentary at the time:

“[the brownbread mixtape] is a very professionally run cabaret and it has featured many of the most engaging and entertaining live arts practitioners in the country. Kalle is an excellent host and curator, a fact proven by the popularity of the monthly event. Everybody wants a gig at The Brownbread Mixtape. [ … ] Kalle probably has the closest to an overview of performance poetry in Ireland and he was the obvious choice to make a showcase selection for Penduline.” – Dave Lordan, Guest Editor, Penduline

Here is a list of the poets in order of appearance:

1. Stephen James Smith – “The Gardener”
2. John Cummins – “Brink”
3. Abby Oliveira – “the television”
4. Karl Parkinson – “The Positivity Manifesto”
5. Raven – “High John”
6. Erin Fornoff – “Hymn to the Reckless”
7. Brian Conaghan – “Waiting for the penny to drop”
8. Colm Keegan – “Ireland Is”
9. Fergus Costello – “Extract from a letter to the fella that used to be married to my sister”
10. Kalle Ryan – Excerpt from “Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About”

Here is the original link to the publication in Penduline Press:

Penduline Irish Performance Poetry Showcase

The Subterranean Homesick Fresh Prince of Bel Air by Bob Dylan

For the past decade or so I curated and hosted a variety night of music, spoken word poetry and sketch comedy called The Brownbread Mixtape. It was always themed and we asked along some of the finest local or touring musicians and poets to perform on the theme of the night, and I would usually write some old school radio comedy sketches that myself and the resident sketch troupe would perform. We gathered a really great following of thoughtful, warm fans over the years and it took us on great adventures to several festivals around Ireland. There are also many amazing artistic moments that stemmed from those shows that I will share in future posts. But maybe to start I’ll share this fun snapshot of the rowdy and freewheeling sort of fun we would have. Back in 2013 at one of our monthly shows, we chose the theme of “Chillin’ like Bob Dylan”. As always we made an effort to write sketches and come up with fun interactive magic moments for the audience and, so, our very own Enda Roche appeared as a very passable young Bob Dylan and he delivered this unique Subterranean Homesick Blues style interpretation of the Will Smith classic. I was literally given the cue cards as he stepped to the mic, so it made the moment as spontaneous and electrifying for me as the audience. The video is a great snapshot of the energy of the night by the brilliant Dyehouse Films, and there is an air of mischief and magic about this moment that will forever stick with me.

Dig this man!

A new year, lots of new art to share and explore

 

On New Year’s Day for the past few years I have toyed with the idea of starting a blog or website dedicated to creativity in some way. So, this is the year I am finally doing it!

An early variation of this site I had in mind was to offer creative prompts daily and see what others came up with — essentially give away loads of great ideas that i simply don’t have time to get to, or perhaps even use the blog posts as a catalyst to finally tackle those ideas myself. I was particularly enamoured with the idea of interacting with other artists and creative souls and see where we might end up.

The idea then evolved, and I thought that might be too time intensive, or even worse, nobody would respond or interact, and the blog would become some static repository for unused ideas. So then, I thought about a blog dedicated to exploring my own creative work. Either looking at a current idea and how I am approaching it, or take a past creation (a story, photo, video etc) and break down the thinking behind it and how I arrived at a final outcome (a dive into the creative mind of sorts)

Then I arrived at the idea of sharing art that inspires me or has fired my own artistic impulses. A list of influences and inspirational sparks in my creative journey if you will.

And then I realised all of those things are of interest to me, and hopefully to a wider group of likeminded souls too. So, this website & blog will be a mixture of all of those things. While I would love to commit to a daily post, I think that may be a little tricky, but I hope to consistently post different strands of all of the above.

I crave structure so often, and it is a vital part of the creative process to my mind, so I will try to categorise the different posts clearly, so that each one is clearly marked. Hopefully that helps those of you who are only interested in the creative process for example, but less interested in cool music clips that have inspired me.

My loose thinking on this is to group them as follows:

#ARTCHIVE A personal piece of creative work from the past, coupled with some insights into the creative process that went into it

#CREATIONSTATION A new idea or artwork that I am currently working on, and an attempt to share some thinking on it, as well as get thoughts and responses to it

#LOVEBOMB Sharing work by other artists in an effort to spark imagination and conversation, and simply just to share cool stuff that speaks to my creative mind.

#SPARKINTHEDARK A creative blog would be nothing without an open-ended creative category! So, in this one I would like to keep it open-ended and playful with what I share – This is the wildcard category that gives me license to post !

Anyway, that’s about it for now. I hope you find some joy, inspiration and ideas in this site. Let me know what you think and please join in the conversation and I’d love it if you shared your own work, or things you’d like to hear more about

Here’s to a creative 2018!

Kalle