Very occasionally, one discovers a writer whose work they instantaneously connect with. This happened to me, when I first read the poems of prolific Canadian talent — Ryan Quinn Flanagan.
Flanagan is an artist that doesn’t like to speak about himself, which is refreshing in an era of raging narcissism and shameless self-promotion.
Until recently, it was difficult to find any biographical information about the man behind the words.
And although Flanagan’s new website now offers a small window privy to this knowledge — it’s still fairly sparse.
After discovering his poetry on Horror Sleaze Trash — run by Melbourne poet and film-maker Ben John Smith, I emailed Ryan to see if I could interview him for The Huffington Post Blog and thankfully he obliged.
I discovered your work on ‘Horror Sleaze Trash’ in late 2016 and was struck by the rawness and vulgarity of your poetry. Have you always written as honestly and unselfconsciously?
I don’t know if I always have, but I have always endeavoured to. It just seems more natural for me to write from what I know as openly and honestly as I can, then to sprinkle in some artistic licence to make things pop. Honesty is important for me in my work but so is humour and odd perceptions or turns of phrase which may deviate from straight matter-of-fact narrative. I feel a healthy mix of things keeps the work from going stale. You don’t just people the landscape, but you colour it with your own neuroses as well.
In terms of the rawness and vulgarity of the work, our world appears to be cold, hard, and vulgar and wanting to express that as clearly as I can, the tone of the work often becomes a reflection of what I see around me every day.
Do you write prose as well as poetry? If so, what genres interest you and why?
There is some prose among the poetry, but the majority of what I write is poetry. I have written a collection of short stories that is in the editing phase at present. I would like to write a novel, but it is hard for me to keep a single linear train of thought for long. This is why poetry has proven the best medium for me; I can work loose and fast and be onto the next thing. Writing a novel, or a longer piece, takes a considerable amount of time and discipline that poetry does not.
I don’t really write or read any specific genres. My writing is a little all over the place and I guess that reflects my tastes to a degree. There is straight narrative, elements of the surreal, dada, imagism, etc. Like pouring everything you can find into a punch bowl and seeing what you come out with.
Your poem A Thing for the Ladies disgusted me, shocked me and intrigued me. Very few writers would be brave enough to write something so unbelievably personal — particularly about their parents. Does your family read your writing? And if so, what is their reaction to you and the topics you cover?
Things we experience are always personal and often brutal and I try to have my work reflect that. There is very little sugar-coating involved. Like many of the things I write “A Thing for the Ladies” is a true story. The fact that it is about my parents makes no difference to me. It is what happened and I felt the need to express it. I do not know if my family has ever read my writing. They have never supported my writing and we have been estranged from one another for quite some time. I’m guessing they would not approve of some of the subject matter I cover, as many of my friends would not as well. I use real names and places and tell what happened. I don’t expect my friends or family to understand. I do not write for them. Besides, it is like anything I’d imagine: if your mother begins to like your stuff then you are doing something wrong. I do not concern myself with what people will think of my writing. In truth, it is a little easier for me to be brutally honest in my work because most my family is broken apart and estranged from one another. My parents are divorced, siblings don’t talk to siblings; I even have an uncle who has lived on the street since he was 19 years old. All this detachment has provided much subject matter as well as a certain distance with which I can work from.
I do have my other half and she is very supportive of my writing. She comes from a similar family dynamic so she understands where I’m coming from. She doesn’t read the stuff but she is supportive of the mechanism and I have total appreciation for that.
You’ve released 26 books and three collaborations. That’s a lot of writing! What do you believe is your best work thus far and why?
I know it is a cliché answer, but your latest work probably feels like your best work when you are creating it. You are engrossed in it and that is where your passion is directed at the moment. With distance however, you have favourites. Kind of how parents will tell you they love all their children equally, but they favour some more than others and often have a favourite child. Good luck getting them to ever admit this, but it is true. I have some works that I tend to favour more than others, but sometimes it changes so it is never constant for me. The truth is I don’t really go back and read my own work when it is finished. I am always onto something else.
I read an interview with you where you stated that you don’t consider yourself to be ‘a writer’. How can a person who is multi-published say that?
I think of a writer as someone who does not have a “day-job” and can make a living off their writing. Published or not, I am unable to do this and therefore do not consider myself a writer. It would be nice to survive off my writing, but that is not the reality of things and I don’t get hooked on the fantasy. I do what I have to do to get by and write when I can. Everyone has their mindless jobs they do to get by and I am no different. But the writing is something separate altogether.
You have a new collection out — published by Interior Noise Press. Is the book thematic? And will you be doing any performance poetry or online promotion to coincide?
The new poetry collection out with Interior Noise Press is a 320 page monster titled The Blue of Every Flame. It is not thematic in general, but there are many recurring elements throughout the work. The first 30 or so pages are from an earlier chapbook released by Interior Noise Press titled Bloodletting in the 21st Century, and the rest of the collection is new material.
I will be doing a featured artist reading at The City Tavern in Dallas via Skype in the spring to promote the book’s release. The reading is being put on by the good folks at Madswirl.
In terms of online promotion to coincide with the release, there has been announcements on sites such as Horror Sleaze Trash and Bold Monkey as well as notifications on Facebook and at the Interior Noise Press site itself.
What projects will you be working on in 2017? And where can people find out more about you and your work?
I have a new poetry collection titled Tigers in the Tallgrass, Panthers in the Streets with Leaf Garden Press that is in the editing phase at present. There is also another collection of poetry with Interior Noise Press titled Skin Music which is also in the editing process. As well as a flash-fiction collaboration called The Last Days of the Worm and about nine other collections of poetry in various stages of post-production with both the publishers Horror Sleaze Trash and Marathon Books. So it looks to be a busy year ahead!
Flanagan’s work has been published in an abundance of online and print publications including — The New York Quarterly, Windsor Review, Vallum, The Antigonish Review, CV2, Horror Sleaze Trash, Evergreen Review, Your One Phone Call and In Between Hangovers.
I urge you to connect with him on Facebook, check out his website and consider familiarising yourself with his myriad of writings. Please find all his links below.