"To walk a fine instructed line between the ordinary and the sophisticated is no easy thing, but Liam Ryan is at ease in himself walking that line. He has a fresh eye for the muck and clabber of country life, for things in their standing and in their falling, and he has an eye, too, for the world of work, the miracles and letdowns that can attend the fulfillment of small duties. You could build a wall out of one of Ryan’s poems, or cross a field knowledgeably, or give a haircut — you can learn about love here, you can come to terms with death in these poems, and you can stand quietly, listening, as he holds conversations (and holds his own) with Lorca, Szymborska, Kavanagh and many more."
Renowned poet Theo Dorgan expresses his admiration for Liam Ryan's formidable new poetry collection What's Happening in the Shade, in the lines above. This is Liam's second poetry collection, following on from 2010's Touching Stones, published with Doghouse Books.
In a short interview with Liam, we discussed his love for poetry, his inspirations and where he got that memorable title from...
How do you begin to write a poem?
Often a phrase is the ‘way in’ and this can happen anytime, anywhere. Sometimes it happens when reading poetry; a memory is flared, an emoting is touched. Reading enhances the susceptibility to poetry.
And sometimes the phrase can be floating about in my head or a notebook for months, years before it can be suitably accommodated. It is the opposite to the builder building a house. The builder first gets the plan and specification and then gets the materials. The poet gets the materials first and then has to figure out the plan. Now I have figured out how poetry and architecture relate; the processes are opposite!
Do you have any writing rituals?
No ritual really but I love the dead quiet in the house at night when the others are gone to bed and the shy shoots of poems can peek little heads out without the noise of radio or chatter.
Who are your favourite poets?
CK Williams, Dennis O’Driscoll, Donald Platt, Philip Levine, John Montague, Seamus Heaney and the aforementioned Mr. Larkin. Oh, there are women there too: Ellen Bass, Kay Ryan and Elizabeth Bishop.
A few of Ryan's favorite poets: John Montague, Elizabeth Bishop and Philip Larkin
Where did you get the name of the collection from?
A homage to Philip Larkin!
What inspires you the most to write poetry?
Mostly feelings. Feelings of love, loss and appreciation.
What are you reading now?
I am tackling a tome of essays on poets and poetry by Helen Vendler.
What fiction/non fiction writers do you enjoy the most?
John McGahern was my favourite prose writer. James Joyce opened doors for me years ago. Colm Tóibín is one of the very best in writing today.
Enjoying the break! Sometimes I am almost afraid to write as I know it could unleash stuff that will demand time and work for it to mature . To me the concept of ‘writers block’ is nonsense! Not writing lets me more ‘living’ time to meet new people; have new experiences, be in the world and observe and if something germinates into poetry then well and good; if not then that is good too; the world will not be at a loss.