I was really taken with Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb” at Joe Biden’s inauguration today. Poise and power from such an essential, young voice.
A few weeks ago, my friend Gary Dunne, who curates an incredible artistic slate for the London Irish Centre asked me to contribute a poem to their online season. Gary and the staff of the LIC do incredible work for the Irish community in London and they have been very good to me down the years – they hosted the London premiere of Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About, and I have also showcased sketches with The Brownbread Players there too. It’s always a warm, giving audience that finds a connection through a shared tribe in a generous welcoming environment. So I was honoured to be asked, and frankly, I was happy to have a creative project to focus on in the rare moments I had to myself during this uncertain time.
The theme was HOPE which really spoke to me, and the image of a paper cup delicately dancing on a wave is one that has been with me for decades, but never found a proper home in a piece of writing. As soon as I sat down to write the poem I knew that this was where it had been drifting towards all along. It came together relatively quickly (thank goodness because time is a rare commodity these days) and it allowed me to marry it to a piece of music I wrote many moons ago that had also never found a creative home (unsurprisingly, the music was also written around the same time the image of the cup first washed into my brain). I also knew that the focus should be on the words but have a strong simple visual to guide it, so I went down to the sea by my home to film the waves but they just weren’t right. I resigned myself to using what I had and then serendipitously my friend Jim posted a short video that day on Facebook of the Irish Sea, that connects this island of Ireland to the UK, and I simply knew that it was the perfect accompaniment. Jim graciously allowed me to use it, and I lent my rudimentary video editing skills to piece it together. The end result feels ever so slightly imperfect but absolutely right, and I am immensely proud of it.
I hope it resonates with all of you, and I would be grateful if you shared it onwards with anyone in need of a message of hope right now.
Delighted to announce that I have written a new poem in response to these remarkable times we find ourselves in (and created an accompanying little film to go with it). It will debut later this week as part of the London Irish Centre’s new curated series entitled SOLAS. Stand by…
Many moons ago, when I was gigging more frequently and reciting poems and performing sketches, I was lucky enough to be part of a regular night called the Monthly General Meeting, which was a showcase for the most inventive and willdy wonderful creative minds in Ireland. On one of the particular shows, I was on the bill with soon-to-be global musical phenomenon Hozier, as well as Arthur Mathews, the co-writer of Father Ted (possibly the greatest sitcom ever). I recall the gig itself was in the unusual and interesting surroundings of a newly refurbished Georgian building in Merrion Square (it has since become an office building of some sort) For a while Shane (Diet of Worms) and Nial (delorentos) who ran the night, produced a terrific series of podcasts entitled The Weekly General Meeting focused on creativity, and I featured on the debut episode. Take a listen to the episode and I urge you to listen to the entire back catalogue, every one of them a snapshot of a golden age in Irish creativity, amiably hosted and curated by two great artists.
A new day, a new year, a new decade begins.
Grateful for a remarkable year with it’s share of ups and downs, but always an amazing journey, where I have done things I have never dreamed possible, and met people who have shaped my life immeasurably.
Thanks to you all for every moment shared. Let’s see what this new year holds for us all. I will begin it with open arms, open ears, and an open heart.
Every beginning is a promise…
Farewell 2019. Here is a beautiful poem I came across again recently that says everything more eloquently than I can.
At the end of the year
The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline’s longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.
As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.
The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.
Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.
The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.
The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.
Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.
We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.
Many years ago I received the wonderful book The Haiku Year as a gift. It is a collection of non-traditional haikus from 7 friends (including Michael Stipe of REM) all of whom decided to write a haiku every day for a year. It is a beautiful and sometimes surprising collection of short poems that I return to often. I was really taken with it at the time and embarked on the same challenge. I recently stumbled across my efforts in my own haiku year notebooks, where I found these little short poems, many of which still hold up quite well. There’s a bit of silliness in there, and also some slightly more serious, melancholy ones, and even an unfinished imperfection to others – but overall I still feel that they manage to capture something quite nicely in their terse short few lines. Little poetic windows to a specific time and place.
was surpassed only by my
My life had finally
Reached the point
That it could be condensed into a haiku
with only enough money for chips and cans
we head off to Coney Island for the day
wide eyed and Irish
Just before I assumed the worst
I consumed the best
steak I’d ever had
I dreamt about
the night before
My cheeks redden
At the thought
Of what I just implied
Try to open your mind
The same way you expect
Me to open mine
we poured the night
into our pockets
a treasure this great
does not deserve
to be kept a secret
the conversation credits
to run out
but all of this
is nothing without everything
that came before
Rutger Hauer is a cool dude and, as an actor, is probably most well known for his role as the replicant Batty in the sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner. I was recently reading an old interview he gave to the AV Club (the wonderful pop-culture and media magazine operated by The Onion) and spoke about some of his iconic roles. In the course of the conversation he discussed his most famous cinematic performance as the android Batty and how he was seeking to imbue him with the essence of being human. As a poetry fan, I was particularly taken with Ridley Scott’s response to that very question.
“One of the first things Ridley [Scott] said when we finally started to talk about what he was looking for from me as an actor, he said, “I want everything and more, because that’s what makes a human.” So the first thing he says is poetry—that’s not strange, because it’s sort of in the character. He has a few moments where he recites poetry, and I love the fact that he has no clue what it means, but it comes out of him. So I said, “Can I do a sense of poetry, and maybe a sense of beauty, and can I have a soul, or sense of humor, or be a seven-year-old?” [Read the entire interview with the Dutch master here]
And no finer example of that poetry can be found in Rutger Hauer’s lyrical final scene in Blade Runner. It really does stand out as the most human and poetic moment in the film. All the more remarkable when the legendary line “…tears in rain…” was apparently improvised by Rutger Hauer himself on set. So, we tip our hat to you Mr. Hauer. A fine, poetic human/replicant. Take a moment and marvel again at his subtle performance and the dazzling imagery of the words. “I’ve seen things…”
Over the years I recorded my father, Tony Ryan, reading a host of different poems and written passages of mine. I still have hours of footage that I intend to create a longform piece with, but here was a quick assembly of one such recording I made, using some timelapse footage I shot from the roof of Google Dublin, set to a soundtrack I recorded on my laptop. The result is an atmospheric, moody, and ultimately cool little short film. The central subject matter is the figure of the Urban Future Cowboy, which is a leitmotif I have used in several other works and will dedicate a longer post to in the future. Let me know what you think of this little teaser.