interview: Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Ryan Quinn Flanagan
Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his other half and many hungry bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Setu, Word Riot, In Between Hangovers, Literary Yard, Myna Birds, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.  His website is: http://ryanquinnflanagan.yolasite.com/

Nalini Priyadarshni is the author of Doppelganger in My House and co author of Lines Across Oceans.  Her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals, podcasts and international anthologies including Mad Swirl, Camel Saloon, Dukool etc.  Her poems and views on poetry and life have been featured on AIR (All India Radio) and FM radio. Nalini’s has been nominated for 2017 Top Female Writers by The Author’s Show.com for her book Doppelganger in My House. She lives in India with her husband and two feisty kids.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan interviewed by Nalini Priyadarshini



Nalini – Thank you so much, Ryan, for taking time to answer these questions. You are one of the most prolific and most widely published poets I know. What inspires you in life and literature? 

RQF- When I was younger there was definitely great literature you come across that you have not read and it truly does change your life. It is really just more of the small things in everyday life now.  I am a people watcher and get a lot from that. I learned early on that when you listen instead of speak you don’t miss the good stuff. Great music is inspiring, as I imagine it is for many people. I think music can capture you so emotively in a way that other art forms cannot.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that I only joined social media seven months ago, and that I have met many cool artists of all stripes doing their thing on a daily basis. That is inspiring for me – to see cool people creating and doing their thing. 


Nalini Priyadarshini
Nalini - Seven months!! Interesting. For me, facebook proved to be a turning point. One of the books I co authored, Lines Across Oceans, was written almost entirely on facebook with a friend I have never met and connected only over facebook. How do you think social media with its power to connect people we are unlikely to meet otherwise and their diverse opinions and world views affect any artist?

RQF- For me, social media opened everything up.  I have now connected with many talented people from all over the world, most of whom I will likely never meet in person.  But I am able to follow what they are working on as well as things going on in their lives, and they can do the same with me.  I have never co-authored a book almost entirely over Facebook such as you have, but social media does make such an endeavour possible.  It really opens up new areas for people to do some amazing DIY collabs, get the word out about local readings to a wider audience, and for fine artists certainly to get there worked viewed by more people than ever before which is great!

Nalini - When did you decide to be a writer? What do you prefer- poetry or prose? Why?  

RQF- There was never a point where I sat there and said “I’m going to be a writer now.” I guess I have just always written things and that trend continues. As you publish some of it, people call you a writer, but I don’t make enough money to survive on my writing so I don’t personally consider myself a writer. I also have a mental condition called Hypergraphia which is a compulsion to write things down. It I were not writing poems, there would be a lot more grocery lists laying around. So it is nice to find a venue for your work instead of just scrawling on the backs on envelopes or in the margins of newspapers.

I prefer to write poetry because it is hard for me to stay focussed on a single linear thought for too long, so poetry provides that little short burst or moment when you can capture something, and then quickly move on. Prose takes more time and patience so I do not really write it that much. I do have a collection of short stories that is presently in the editing phase, but the rest is predominantly poetry. I have also started working on a novel, but to stay with a thought that long will be quite the challenge for me.

Nalini - Your poetry is marked by its raw and honest appeal. While for some it is refreshing for others it is vulgar. How do you handle the extreme reactions it provokes?  

RQF- To be honest, most of the feedback I get now is positive. Most the negative reactions are so negative that the editors or whomever they may be just never write you back. So I guess that silence is all they have to say about that, but the reactions I actually receive tend to be quite reassuring. They are usually from other people writing when they can and grinding it out, so they seem to be a lot more understanding. As for some of the vulgarity of the work, there is this great James Joyce quote from when Ulysses was being banned and the publishers wouldn’t touch it, and Joyce said: “If Ulysses is not fit to read, then life isn’t fit to live.” Because there was nothing in his book that was not going on every day in the streets of Dublin. He just had the audacity to say it, and that is what shocked them. I always loved that. He was just trying to capture life as best he could, and it was not the vulgarity of his writing, but rather the vulgarity of life that caused offense.  

Nalini- I like that, immensely. Have you ever been judged by those around you based on your writings? How does your family react to it? 

RQF- Some have called my work offensive.  Most in day-to-day life don’t even know that I write.  My older friends never really comment that much on most of my writing as they are not artistically inclined.  I was born in a small-minded cow town where you loved hockey or football or both.  There was no arts scene and certainly no time for art.  Really it was just a redneck town full of jocks and failed jocks.  Likewise, my family has never recognized or supported my writing.  I imagine they would not like it and consider it a waste of time.  But my wife supports me completely and having that support is so greatly appreciated.  

Nalini - Rejections are an indispensable part of any poet’s life. How do you deal with it? 

RQF- Quite well, I think. When I was starting out I didn’t heard back from any of my submissions most the time. No acceptance or rejection. And it happened so much over the years that I began to feel good about even the rejections in some strange way as though they had the decency to write me back and that is something. Acceptances are always better of course. And the total silence does not happen so much anymore. Either way I just move on, what else can you do? Life is much too short to worry about this stuff. 

Nalini - What is your worst fear? 

RQF- That reincarnation is real, and that I will come back without any of the knowledge I’ve gained and have to start all over again. As a completely new person who listens to Britney Spears and grows a man bun and thinks Kafka is a specialty coffee shop. That terrifies me. That you could come back like that and have no idea. Or perhaps come back as a garden slug or a urine puck or something. I really hope reincarnation is not real or doesn’t work like that. I have this Indian friend who told me you only go up with reincarnation as you reach toward a fully realized spiritual being, so that you can’t go backwards. That is a nice thought. I hope to he is right.

Nalini- Out of all your poems, those that smacked me on the head include “A thing for the Ladies” and “Persecution is a Team Sport.” They belong to the extremes of the spectrum. One sounds too up close and personal for comfort and other is too distant and impersonal yet empathetic. Tell us something about how you treat both personal and impersonal with equal gusto?  

RQF- “A Thing for the Ladies” is very personal and something that actually happened to me.  Conversely, “Persecution is a Team Sport” is completely impersonal and never happened to me.  But it has happened to others, and I’ve always had the ability to step outside myself rather easily and empathize with others or see things from a multitude of perspectives. I’ve written poems from the perspective of a plate or a table, and then turned around and wrote something deeply personal about my boyhood dog or mental illness. When people are in their late teens/early adulthood it is said they realize who they are and form a cohesive being or personality. I don’t think I ever did. And that is why I can jump so easily from one thing to the other. I never really formed a single coherent self. That has definitely hurt me in my daily existence, but is a definite benefit when writing I should think.  

Persecution is a Team Sport
The potato sack over his head
reeked of potatoes
and he wanted to complain
to the flight attendant
but he spoke no English
and was pretty sure there was
no flight attendant
on this flight.
      
There was nothing, in fact.
Just the noise of the plane engines
for many hours.

And when it landed
he was wheeled into some kind
of air hanger
surrounded by many angry men
in uniform
           
who wanted to know
what he didn’t
know

for months,

electrocuting
his testicles many times
as if he were a
light bulb

that wouldn’t
answer.

Nalini - How has writing poetry and having it published all over the world changed your life? 

RQF- Not that much, at all. I still get up each morning and do the same things I’ve always done. I eat and shower most days and try to grind out a living best I can just like everyone else. The writing has given me something that helps in a personal therapeutic sense, but day-to-day existence is the same. There’s a mortgage and bills and dishes to be put away and writing poetry will not change that.  
The one area where it seems to have made a difference is that I have met many other cool people doing their thing that I would not have otherwise. People that I have never met in person, but talk to on almost a daily basis. Social media has really opened up the world in that respect. Before I was on social media, I lived like a hermit crab with basically no idea of what was going on or what other people were doing. That has changed in a big way.

Nalini - The world we live in today is very different from the world our parents lived. It has shrunk definitely and has brought together likeminded individuals but at the same time there is a lot of intolerance and hatred too. Maybe we humans are not yet ready to deal with our diversity and differences. Please comment.   

RQF- I think a lot of the intolerance comes from people not being able to deal with their own lives, so they deflect such negative feelings out at the world instead as a form of defense mechanism.  Jimi Hendrix said something to the effect that he didn’t think people would be fighting wars in the streets or wherever if they were at peace with themselves, but the internal war shot all the negativity out into the world.  It was really just people’s own insecurities with themselves.  I thought that was quite wise and perceptive and agree with such sentiments greatly.

Nalini - If you could, what advice would you give to your younger self? 

RQF- Don’t sweat the things you cannot control. The things that seem so important really aren’t. And lose any dumb strutting peacock ego you may have. Be humble. The world will go on with or without you in it. Just relax as best you can, and try to be a good person. So, little else really matters in the end.    

Nalini - Is there any writing routine or ritual that you follow?  

RQF- There is, but it has switched. I used to stay up all night with some wine or beer and write. Then I would make dinner at about 4 am. I keep to a more normal schedule these days. I write during the day and go to bed at a reasonable hour so that I can function the next day. I still always write to music and with wine or beer or something to loosen things up. I have a separate office workspace that is closed off and never used for anything else when I am not writing.  

Nalini - Where can people find out more about you and your work? 

RQF- I post a lot of the published poems up on my Facebook page if people wish to get a pretty good cross-section of the stuff and there is plenty online. I also post any interviews or blogs and such. I have a personal website: http://ryanquinnflanagan.yolasite.com/ which has some poems, all my books for sale, photos, interviews and contact information etc.

You can also go to lulu.com or some of the individual publisher’s websites, as well as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and some of the usual haunts.

A Thing for the Ladies
My father had a thing for the ladies.

The barely legal Asian
schoolgirl ladies
on the computer.

And when he went Saturday grocery shopping
with my mother
each weekend
I tried to find his ladies
but didn’t know the
password.

One Saturday
as I was sitting alone at the computer
I reached under the lip
of the swivel chair
and felt something dried
and crusty
flake off into my
hand.

There was also a half-dried
sort of mystery goo,
much like petroleum
jelly.

I lifted it too my nose
smelled it
it was briny.

I knew right away
and began to gag.

And then it hit me:
the realization that I was created
from the same primordial sex goo
pasted to my hand
from the underside of the
chair.

I was horrible to know that.

To know that parts of me
were likely smeared all over the couch cushions
of half the city
in Eastern Standard
Time.

I was the shot of love juice
that missed the upholstery,
nothing more.

It was all too much.
It was all too much.

Quick drying to my hand
like some fast acting
bonding agent.

And then I thought of my parents
out grocery shopping.

Of those hands fondling all the produce,
running slippery through the bean display
feeling tomatoes for ripeness
money –
and who knows what else –
switching hands.

Even at that early age
I thought of it:
the whole system of spew
and smear:
I thought of doorbells
paper routes
steering wheels
bread knives
playing cards
parking meters
sink faucets
door knobs
light switches
turnstiles
cash registers
receipts
art class scissors
handshakes
most of all…

And I thought of all the other hands
in all the other countries
on all the other continents:
gripping touching rubbing
fondling…
TOO MUCH! TOO MUCH!
I ran to the refrigerator
grabbed an egg from the carton
and squashed it into the mess
on the underside of
the chair.

(An egg and sperm
according to grade six
health class)

Trying to create
some genetic freak.
Some winged birdman
to fly away from all
of this.

Thank you so much, Ryan, for taking time to answer these questions and sharing your poems. 

1 comment :

  1. I enjoyed hearing your very candid answers to Nalini's well constructed questions. I think true poets are able to share these kinds of details because we are genuine and unpretentious. And that is always refreshing. Will visit your website to learn more.

    ReplyDelete

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