Sunday, January 1, 2023



NilavroNill Shoovro

Talking With Poet



NILAVRONILL: Why do literature and poetry in particular interest you so much? Please give us some idea about your own perception of literature or poetry in general.


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN:  Literature, and poetry in particular, have always interested me because of the ability to express range through language and truly create almost anything or go off in any direction you wish.  The act of writing possesses a freedom in it that is hard to find almost anywhere else in daily life.  All art for that matter provides this lifeline and I am forever thankful for that. 


NILAVRONILL: How do you relate your own self existence with your literary life in one hand, and the time around you, in the other.


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN:  The time around me stays pretty consistent in an everyday sense, even if the world around me appears to be going off the deep end as it does now.  I keep things as simple as I can in my personal life to combat the crazy stresses of an off-kilter larger world. In terms of my own self existence within writing, I do many of the same rituals: listen to much of the same music and drink the same things when I write.  I find such consistency in the process allows me to explore more freely in the unpredictability of the work.  Therefore, by limiting mundane everyday concerns, it opens much up to a more creative headspace of ideas and flow where I can just get lost in the words and the mechanism without thinking about it too much.  It is a fluid artistic existence, grounded by a regimented surety outside the artistic spectrum.


NILAVRONILL: Do you believe creative souls flourish more in turmoil than in peace?


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN:  Related to the last question, I believe it most helpful to have a little cocoon or personal space of not so much peace, but a familiarity from with which to create.  Your own little space and time without intrusion is very important for me.  That said, the root of the writing or emotive bent underlining it most often comes from tapping back into that original formative turmoil that often propels one to create.  I know I’ve had my share and tapping back into all that, revisiting the wounds is vital.  Without that base, I’d imagine writing or other artistic mediums may come a little harder to someone.  I guess what I am saying is that you need to suffer in life to help later colour your art, but that I find it most helpful to create from a much different and solitary headspace when it comes time to put things down on the page.


NILAVRONILL: Do you think in this age of information and technology the dimensions of literature have been largely extended beyond our preconceived ideas about literature in general?


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN:  It is true to a degree that expanded information and technology have certainly extended our notions and ideas.  Being able to reach out and connect with or read/see the art of people from all over the world is the good side of technology.  But I feel the artist should also try to stay within their own headspace at times and not become inundated with a plethora of unhelpful information that can often come at you from all sides.  Technology and information have their place, but they are never the entire house.  They aren’t even foundational bricks, but more akin to windows or doors that provide access and opportunity more than anything else.


NILAVRONILL: Now, in this changing scenario we would like to know from your own life experiences as a poet, writer and a creative soul: How do you respond to this present time?


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN:  Personal life experiences are central for me, but I do try to keep a reasonable distance from the present time.  I taste the soup and capture the flavour, but I never jump face first into the boiling cauldron.  That’s not to say you can lose balance when sitting down and zoning out, I certainly have many times, but some limited grounding is always good to keep you from becoming unmoored and sailing away from your core Self for good.


NILAVRONILL: Do you believe that all writers are by and large the product of their nationality? And is this an incentive for or an obstacle against becoming a truly international writer?


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN:  Nationality certainly plays a part.  Your upbringing, society, larger culture all that.  I think it is pretty much impossible to escape such things, they will find a way to creep in even if you believe yourself fully conscious of them and trying to avoid such tropes.  I don’t try to avoid them and embrace that part of me.  But I do veer off in all sorts of ways in my writing and having that ability to travel and experiment through your work is of great importance.  I never think of it in terms of “international writing,” but just pushing both myself and things off into strange directions at times if I can, often without thinking of it.  I find that once something is forced, it falters or becomes formulaic.  I like more of the Dylan Freewheeling’ approach; don’t just let it come at you, but let it lead the dance for a few hours.  There is a little bit of surrender involved and I like that.


NILAVRONILL: Now, if we try to understand the tradition and modernism, do you think literature can play a pivotal role in it? If so, how? Again, how can an individual writer relate himself or herself to the tradition and to modernism?


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN: I never really liked the word “modernism,” because so much is rooted in the past and past experiences even if such attachments are not so readily noticeable.  Modernism for me simply means to push things along; being at once aware of the literary tradition and the personal need to expand yourself and by extension, the larger literary cannon over time if you can.  Again, a healthy mix of tradition and modern, but yes, those rather open-ended terms sit uneasily with me.  To be both of a rooted past and a striving future is an ultimate awareness of one’s own creative present.


NILAVRONILL: Do you think literary criticism has much to do with the development of a poet and the true understanding of his or her poetry?


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN: Constructive criticism from trusted people is very helpful.  Writing in particular is a very solitary process which can easily become myopic without fresh outside perspectives at certain times.  People come at things differently and the variety of perspective can definitely be advantageous.  Literary criticism is a far different beast.  I personally do not put much stock in literary criticism as a thing and think it can be quite harmful to personal artistic tendencies and willingness if followed or adhered to too closely.  Remember, critics couldn’t stand Led Zeppelin; that should tell you all you ever need to know about critics.  This is not to say I or anyone else is Led Zeppelin or not, but simply to note that a critic will always be a critic, often becoming myopic in their own stead.


NILAVRONILL: Do you think society as a whole is the key factor in shaping you up as a poet, or your poetry altogether?


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN:  Society does shape a lot of my writing.  I watch/listen/smell/touch/experience what is around me and try to capture much of that in the best way I can.  Sometimes, it is in a much more literal approach to the subject, but often I use it as a diving board to touch on and then leap off of and relate to something else in a strange artful way.  There is something at my core that loves to jump around and experiment, so where I start off is often not where I end up in the slightest and that may be what I enjoy most about the process.  Not knowing where anything ends up, the multitude of things you can do with the language to make things dance, even if it is an ugly dance.


NILAVRONILL: Do you think people in general actually bother about literature? Do you think this consumerist world is turning the average man away from serious literature?


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN:  Most people out in the everyday world could not care less about literature or art more generally.  In America, less than 1% ever pick up a book after high school; that is a depressing fact.  And hardcore bikers thought they were the only 1%ers.  Seems there are a lot of them.  I try to avoid notions of “serious literature,” I know what you mean roughly though and I think there is a great disconnect for most people with not only writing, but art more generally.  Music seems to bridge that gap best of all the arts, but you can see the ills of mass consumer culture on that medium.


NILAVRONILL: We would like to know the factors and the peoples who have influenced you immensely in the growing phase of your literary life.


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN:  Mrs. Ballard, my grade five teacher was a big one for me.  When I switched schools, we stayed in touch and she spurred me on.  My uncle Larry ran away from home when he was nineteen and lived on the street his whole life.  People in town called him “The Reader” because he spent most his time reading the books in the public library.  He is dead now, but they have a commemorative bench dedicated to him out front the library and some of his ashes are scattered there.  His stubbornness and love of art and willingness to sacrifice have always meant a lot to me.  My grade ten English teacher, Mr. Scanlon, helped peak my interest in writing and poetry more specifically by introducing me to the work of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Auden, William Golding, Northrop Frye etc.  And then stumbling upon many writers themselves: Kafka, Fante, Frank O’Hara, Philip Larkin, E.E. Cummings, Frost, Carver, Al Purdy and so many more.  I remember exactly where I was sitting and how it smelled when I first found Bukowski.  Joyce as well.  These moments are fundamental to me as an artist a human being.  That is what great art does! Music and fine art also play a huge role.


NILAVRONILL: How would you evaluate your contemporaries and what are your aspirations for or expectation from the younger generation?


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN:  At present, the small press seems in a good place.  There are plenty of really talented people out there doing their thing.  And so many wonderful visual artists as well, many that I have had the pleasure of working with.  And also many dedicated publishers helping push everything along, so the small press seems to be in a good place right now.  This has not always been so. It will be interesting to see how the younger generation comes out.  There is a menacing small-mindedness and prevalent censorship (and self-censorship) that is beginning to filter into all elements of individual and greater societal life.  Everything politicised and persecuted which is never a good thing for either the creation of art or for human beings themselves.  This mob mentality is truly antithetical to everything I want as an individual: to strive and question and create and thrive.  There is a lot out there now that appears to have the natural impulse to strangle and constrict.  I would not want to be a young person coming up now.  The pressures and indoctrination seem much further along than when I was coming up. 


NILAVRONILL: Humanity has suffered immensely in the past, and is still suffering around the world. We all know it well. But are you hopeful about our future?


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN:  I am not hopeful for our immediate future certainly.  And even beyond that, the whole world seems to have gone completely off the rails which will simply add to untold suffering and the deaths of those often most vulnerable.  Humanity is stubborn and has a tendency to find a way in the end, but at present, I see very little hope (or even the impulse in people towards wanting hope or understanding).  All I see is horrible suffering, corruption, chaos and lies.


NILAVRONILL: What role can literature in general play to bring a better day for every human being?


RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN: I don’t think literature can play much of a role globally in bringing about better times for humanity.  Most the world has no interest in such things.  Many people are struggling each day just to survive and not to find the right word.  That said, literature and art more generally can play a huge role on a personal level to improve your life.  I know my life is personally enriched by great paintings and foundational music and writing.  Without these things in my life, I would feel less of a human being.  Art connects the soul through Time.  This is how you live among the shadows and the light and never once succumb to either.  How you kick and wail and scream and laugh and become realized.

RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN is a Canadian-born author who lives in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work has been published both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, Our Poetry Archive, Setu, The New York Quarterly, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Dumpster Fire Press, Red Fez and the Oklahoma Review.  He enjoys listening to the blues and cruising down the TransCanada in his big blacked out truck.


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