Tag Archives: Before the Sky – Max Ryan

Rambling with Max Ryan (part II)

ALS: That last line really sends me Max… captures so beautifully the notion of ‘a birth and a death’ that you mention. By experiencing the show, the teens lives have altered, been forever changed… and with all change, something of our former selves is lost. Loss is another recurring image in many of your poems. Before we lose each other again contains some of my favourite lines in the collection: ‘I’d hear your name on a stranger’s tongue’ and ‘all our blood beats to the drum/ of a hunter who can never rest’, make the hair on my neck prickle. Loss is something we all experience, so I am interested in how it influences your writing.

MR: Thanks for pointing that out. It makes me realise another element of that last line… the man remembering is forever captured by the spell of another time and place, even imagination or the world it conjures implies some kind of loss…

Loss is at the heart of all poetry, methinks. Something Michael Dransfield says:

to be a poet what it means to lose the self to lose the self

I guess I don’t see this loss as necessarily a calamitous thing. Keats seemed to be pointing to something like that in his notion of Negative Capability: because the poet (not the person) has no fixed identity, is in a sense lost to the sureties of worldly existence, he/she is made open to the experience of ever-changing life. Also, the art of haiku in a sense necessitates this loss of self which is why it’s truly a humbling art.

But yeah, there’s a fairly strong theme of loss and an attendant sorrowful tone in Before the Sky. I remember being struck with that when I first saw the proofs and Judy Johnson, who edited the book, had placed two elegies at the start. Maybe I’m particularly drawn to the subject… I couldn’t say I’m an especially moribund person, there’d be few people alive who hadn’t been made aware of how precarious this existence is. There’s a beautiful section in the film What Happened to Kerouac? where Allen Ginsberg speaks about Kerouac’s death and (I can’t remember his exact words) explains how we mourn for existence because we know that this very place is it, it won’t come again.

Before we lose each other again is my first attempt at a villanelle. The title implies that the woman is one I’ve known before and am destined to meet (and lose) again and again. The form of the poem with its recurring lines and cyclical, incantatory cadences is ideal for such a theme. Without going into a discussion of transmigration of souls or somesuch, I think there’s often this recognition when we encounter certain special people that we somehow know them in an entirely uncanny way.

Kieran Ryan (on the Kid Sam album) says it nicely in the song Mirror Drawings:

I’ve been around once or twice now
Come around a few times more
but I can’t always recognise you
in all your different forms

streets of jogjakarta touches on something similar:

the rooftop thrums with rain
as she comes back to say goodbye
calling you to go or stay
like she once did in another time

Going back to the villanelle, the image of the hunter is of course a symbol for death or mortal fate, the thing we can never escape. So the very thing that pursues the lovers, the knowing that ‘one night the hunt will end’ instills a kind of desperate passion in their lovemaking. The ‘faceless hunter’ beats the drum and we can only dance to it:

and all our blood beats to the drum
of a hunter who can never rest

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Rambling with Max Ryan

Quite some time ago, I posted a long interview with award winning poet, Max Ryan. Max has just released his second collection, Before the Sky, so we decided to start rambling all over again…

ALS: Your latest release, Before the Sky, is brimming with musicality. In the collection we ride the bus home after seeing The Beatles, with the shell-shocked girls in the back (Journey of The Beatles Fans); we hear Keith Richards, choogling away on open G (Keef); and we sing for the cohort of the damned as the radio is turned off (Rimbaud Blows the Whistle). I have spoken to you before about your love of music, but I wanted to ask you specifically about how you came to writing Keef and Journey of The Beatles Fans.

MR: Whoo… I guess you mean poems with a musical or music theme.

The last time I saw the Stones, a woman actually prostrated when Mick introduced Keith. Keef started off as some kind of paeon to the man himself but it ends up being just as much about the narrator, some one who’s a contemporary of K and sees his life as moving in some kind of parallel to his. Of course our narrator’s life, like most lives, is a compromised one…he gives up rock and roll to run a lawn-mowing business, splits up with his wife in contrast to K who ‘got rid of Anita’. In the end though the last line describing K’s phenomenal riffing power (‘dead on time’) seems to bring the two together. Keith is, after all, mortal. Isn’t he?

Journey Of The Beatles Fans came from an idea I had for yonks for a poem about seeing the Beatles all those years ago. Tried many times to get it down but it always seemed to trail off into a ragged vision of us teenyboppers riding home on the bus to and from Newcastle. Last year I was reading Geoff Page’s marvellous 80 Great Poems where he was discussing TS Eliot’s Journey Of The Magi. Most of you will remember it’s a dramatic monologue by a Magus (one of three) describing his trip to witness the nativity. The mood is weary and defeated as the three travel through hostile arid lands:

With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly

The seminal event is brushed over in a few lines with the Magi

…not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

Anyway, it all fell together: I got the idea that the actual journey to the concert and the effect it had on those pubescent pilgrims was the heart of the matter. Basically, I planted my poem in Eliot’s even using the same metres and his litany-like depiction the journey. The mood in my wee saga is definitely up-beat on the way down to the show:

With us with our ears pressed to scratchy radios, ringing out
It won’t be long yeah yeah yeah

After the climax:

And JOHNPAULGEORGEANDRINGO ran on, not a moment too soon
Bestowing Grace; it was (you could say) the only word for it.

the mood shifts to something similar to that experienced by Eliot’s Magi of a sense of something gained but also lost, a birth and a death.

It would be hard to equal Eliot’s powerful final line:

I should be glad of another death.

But the Beatles fans, or at least one of them, can celebrate the journey because, although there’s still the sense of dislocation and not being able to fit in, the imagination relives the unconditional joy of knowing that something way beyond anything he’s seen before is about to happen:

I was still on that bus, heading for the show.

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Riverbend Poetry Series II – Max Ryan

It’s only a week away until the second event in the Rivernbend Poetry Series is here, so if you haven’t got your tickets, check the details below and make sure you snap one up. This is a poetry line up that is bound to light up the deck – Vanessa Page, David Stavanger, Julie Beveridge & from just across the border, award winning poet, Max Ryan.

Max Ryan’s collaborative CD with musician Cleis Pearce has received several music industry awards. He has twice won the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival Poetry Prize and been short-listed for the Newcastle Poetry Prize. His  first book Rainswayed Night won the 2005 Anne Elder Award. His latest collection Before the Sky won the Picaro Press Poetry Prize.

His words sift deep into life and are full of power and insight.
                                                                                      – Judith Beveridge

Here’s a recent poem from Max:

 

krishna

leaps out from behind a tin awning everywhere I look baba I no find you

he says stealing me a sweet from a vendor’s barrow here baba all thing

shine together as I follow his stop-start shuffle down kolkata alleyways

out to chaplin square where a wedding band oomphas round the corner

and a stray dancer twirls on dusty sandals and laughs into the hazy air

laughs till a beggar takes my arm whispering long life too much money

in three week many thanks ten rupee holding me by the arm hissing his

mad mantra all the way down to chor bazaar closed now except for the

lights of a chai stall where a man with a trolley for legs rolls out from

under a table and points to where krishna sits against a wall come come

krishna calls this ground my home baba this my mother krishna one day

shining in saffron robes saddhu beard and trident next day rough-shaven

a tilted fez hawaiian beach shirt and trousers krishna face swollen blue

from one more police bashing come come baba you want charas very

cheap come come very best I find you krishna leading me through smoke

of evening coal fires along to mirza ghalib street where two young

ecstatics sit cross-legged on a blanket wailing to the dim city sky willing

their bodies away from this world of men made of straw bismillah they

sing may the lord deliver us tonight bismillah take us into his final sweet

flame do not trust this krishna a washed-up sailor tells me through the

mist of his steaming chai do not trust this man

 

Full details of the event are:

Tuesday April 19
 
Queensland Poetry Festival, QLD Writers Centre & Riverbend Books are proud to present the second event in the Riverbend Poetry Series for 2011. The April event features one of Brisbane’s finest new voices, Vanessa Page, reading from her debut collection, Memory Bone, the wildly wonderful, David Stavanger (And the Ringmaster Said), lover of all things rock’n’roll, Julie Beveridge (Home is Where the Heartache is) and Max Ryan, who’s latest collection Before the Sky won the inaugural Picaro Poetry Prize. 
 
Date: Tuesday 19 April
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10 available through Riverbend Books and include sushi and complimentary wine. To purchase tickets, call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at http://www.riverbendbooks.com.au/Events/2491/Riverbend+Poetry+Series

Get your tickets this week!

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