Poet in Profile: Oran Ryan

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It’s a pleasure to welcome you all to the newly revived Poet in Profile section. I’m Ruairi Conneely, a staff journalist here at NewsFour and a jack-of-all-trades writer.

Before journalism, I worked in the world of small press publishing for an agency that specialised in poetry collections. I write poetry and short fiction and the curious among you can find me most months at the monthly Last Wednesday Open Mic where I frequently perform my work.

I’ve elected to start with an unusual choice for my debut Poet in Profile, a man more predominantly known as a novelist. Oran Ryan’s third novel One Inch Punch was published to much fanfare in October 2012 and was mentioned in the Seanad by Senator David Norris for its hands-on treatment of the topic of bullying. However, Oran is also an extensively published and experienced poet. His work has been published in periodicals like Can Can, Poetry Ireland, the Iota Poetry Quarterly, the International Library of Poetry Journal and Anarchist Angel, to name but a few. He has a collection forthcoming from Seven Towers entitled Portrait of An Atheist Monk At Prayer.

Oran trails behind him an interesting and complex personal biography. He was an ordained monk of the Capuchin Order for much of the 1980s before succumbing to his natural scepticism. He then entered into the study of philosophy, then psychology, psychoanalysis and the study of language.

“I started to read poetry at a very young age, because my father would read poems to us. He was a big fan of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and he would read to me and my sisters the entirety of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which was extraordinary. I would have been about six years old. Imagining what that poem describes was hallucinatory, overwhelming at that age. There was hardly a time after that when I wasn’t reading poetry.”

He started writing seriously and getting published in his teens and early twenties. “It was weird. I thought of myself predominantly as a religious person, not at all as an artist, but I always wrote some poetry. After religion, I focused on psychoanalysis and language and envisioned a career writing on these subjects; non-fiction, scholarly, academic texts.”

He doesn’t take linguistic cues from poetry itself but from everyday speech and use of language. “People hide as much as they display in their everyday words and often reveal their very deepest feelings unwittingly.”

He starts with a subject or image that has jumped out at him, and the style and voice, even the length of the poem, is determined from that starting point. “I’m not opposed to formalism. Sometimes I start with the most precise metre possible. But metre is a tool. Important to know but don’t let it rule your life.”

His forthcoming collection is called Portrait of An Atheist Monk at Prayer. The gathering of many years’ work – some previously published, some not –Oran had resisted the idea that he should do a collection for many years. “I didn’t feel it would really be complete. I felt I had more to learn. But recently I had the idea for a poem that became a series focusing on a character called Joe the Astronaut.

“Joe is a wounded hero for the new age we live in. He’s been to space, he’s seen infinity directly and it’s crushed his mind with its vastness. So now, returned to Earth, he writes about his experiences in the third person. He writes about his failures, his dreams, lost and former loves. He is the Atheist Monk of the title. He has seen but he cannot believe.”

Oran Ryan’s novels are available through Seven Towers at seventowers.ie. He blogs at oranryan.com

By Ruairi Conneely