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…
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
The legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog was profiled a while back in the Guardian newspaper with a particular focus on his comedic sensibilities. Well worth a read for an insight into the mind of a quirky genius. The above video is also another classic Herzog interview with his typical acerbic wit mixed with his profound philosophical take on the world. His words on the role of the poet seem particularly striking and well chosen. Do stick around for the rest of the interview though where he tackles Wrestlemania and Anna Nicole Smith.
It’s my birthday today. Here is a haiku.
sometimes take a long time
to reach the shore
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.
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]
This is a poem I started writing when I lived in New York and was starting to forge a really keen interest in poetry, and specifically performance poetry. The poem was supposed to be a snapshot of the punters I saw in a bar in Manhattan called Tom & Jerry’s. But the original draft was a bit too angry and so it remained unfinished until I came back to Ireland, and after a night out in The Stag’s Head pub one night (which would later be the home of The Brownbread Mixtape), I dusted off the poem and finished the thing. It’s probably one of my poems that I am most happy with, as it captures a proper bit of the fire and melancholy I saw in those folks in the bars caught between their dreams and the drink. Some time after I had written it I was approached by Tom and Andy from the truly brilliant Storymap website, who asked me to perform it in The Stags Head so they could film it for inclusion on the site. I was only too happy to oblige and the end result is a lovely document of a poem and a place.
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: