Poet Interview #58: Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Who/what first inspired you to begin? Who are some your favorite writers and artists (past and/or contemporary)?
I started writing at the age of ten. No romantic epiphany sort of thing, I had to do it for a school competition. It was a very bad piece but the teachers liked that I could write an original work and recite it. They published it in the local paper and made me recite it many times. I guess their interest in it sparked mine more than anything else. I had no idea how or what to write, but you have to start somewhere. My family was not a scholastic family in any way. They were into sports so I did sports. But I also wanted to write in an environment that was not conducive to such endeavours. It was not until I was in my late teens and living on my own in a different city that I tried my hand at writing again. It was clumsy and fumbling. In my early-to-mid twenties I read everything I could get my hands on. I sat in bookstores and libraries all day when I could reading E.E. Cummings, Dostoevsky, Joyce, Thomas Mann, Robert Frost, all the classics. Then I found Bukowski. Those first books really changed my life. I had no idea you could write those things and so accessible and with such humour. I would walk home after close in the unforgiving Canadian winter with my head swimming and a strange warm feeling in my belly. I’m not one for hyperbole but it really was like being reborn in a way. And through Bukowski I came to Rimbaud and Fante who still remain among my favourites to this day. And Ferlinghetti and the beats were cool as well, particularly early Ginsberg stuff.
As I went along I came across other favourites such as Leonard Cohen, Al Purdy, Roald Dahl, Knut Hamsun etc. I have always enjoyed the works of the Romantics as well: Keats, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Blake most of all. His artwork is truly amazing! I also enjoy the stories of both Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe. The war poets were big for me as well: Auden and Sassoon etc. And Orwell and Huxley as they probably are for most everyone. If I had to pick a favourite poet no longer living other than Bukowski, it would be Richard Brautigan. His work is so humorous and enigmatic. In terms of contemporary writing, Ben John Smith is the best writer out there in my opinion. I also enjoy the work of Rich Wink, Wayne F. Burke, Adam Levon Brown, and Steven Storrie among others.
How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come?
I sit down and make time when I can, but I usually have little-to-no-idea what will come out. I just sit with a magnum or two of wine and some music in the background and get to it. By the time I am done I am a mess. I’ve fallen down the stairs on three different occasions and set myself on fire once. Then I pass out. In the morning I usually have no idea what I wrote the day before. It is only when you go back later to edit spelling and such and build manuscripts that you find out what you have or don’t have. This is surely not the most healthy or efficient way of doing things but it is the way I have always done it. I have a compulsion to write anyhow, I believe they called the condition Hypergraphia. I jot down notes on everything, most of which I never use.
When you look back over some of the successes you’ve had during the years since you began publishing your work, what are the real highlights that stand out in your mind? Which of your books are you most proud of?
Like most I’m sure, those few earliest acceptances were a highlight. There were so many rejections and most the time I would just never hear back either way which I guess is another form of rejection. It began happening so often that when I got a rejection back I actually felt better, as though it was almost like an acceptance; that they had been descent enough to write me back. And that first time you write something you know is killer, I mean you really know…there is no drug like it. I have done many drugs over the years and nothing comes close to that. That intoxication of chance, you know? And later when you hold your first book in your hands, crack the spine, smell it – I’ve always loved the smell of books, even the musty ones in used bookshops. But I’ve found that the novelty of such things has faded for me. I no longer get that high I once did from writing. I chase it and keep writing, but even when I think I’ve knocked one out of the park now, it is more of a relief than anything else. It reminds me of the Packers legendary football coach Vince Lombardi growing to fear failure so much that winning no longer held any joy for him and he just felt relieved for another week until the next game when the fear would begin all over again. That is how I feel now if I am honest. I write because I have to, and I write from a place of fear. This is not healthy but I can’t do anything else half descent so I just keep writing.
Your books are like your children and even if a parent has their favourite child (which they often do) they certainly won’t tell you. My favourites seem to change over time anyways so I can’t really answer that one. But there’s getting to be a lot of children. I might have to move to the desert and start my own commune.
What does poetry mean to you, and has your idea of what it represents changed over the course of time? Where do you see it going in the future?
Poetry doesn’t mean any specific thing to me outside of a free form of expression. I know others have many grandiose notions of poetry, notions I once shared when I was younger. Reading the Romantics and about their lives will really do that to you. And I know others who use writing as a form of therapy which I think is great if they can do it and it works. And for others, writing makes them happy. It is good to be happy when you can so I applaud those people. Poetry used to make me feel that way as well. The highs were like nothing I had experienced. But over time things have dulled for me. I believe much of the work is still good but I don’t get that unbridled euphoria anymore. I guess that is sad, but I just treat it as part of life.
Are you on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
I am not on Twitter but I recently joined Facebook about four months ago. I would have never done such a thing in the past, believing it a drain on my limited time (which social media can be for us all), but through social media I have been able to connect with some pretty talented people that I likely would not have met otherwise. Writers, painters, film makers, graphic artists etc. I am an introvert by nature and have traditionally been quite the hermit crab tucked away in my own shell, but I guess I’ve begun to open up a little bit with age. I think it usually works the other way, but then again I’ve never really been good at doing things the way I am supposed to.
Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?
I live in a small redneck town in Northern Canada so there is no artist group or community to speak of. Just hunters and fishermen. The only people I share my work with are on social media. The folks I’ve found that are working away in a similar vein in far different locales such as yourself. Writers, readers, editors, publishers…all sorts. A lot of good people doing their thing, which is great to see.
Right now I am re-reading both Leonard Cohen’s Flowers for Hitler and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. I just finished Paul Auster’s City of Glass and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, as well as DICKHEAD by Wayne F. Burke.
As 2017 begins rolling along, what are your expectations for the year ahead? Do you have any new books/projects in the works that you’re particularly excited about?
2017 is shaping up to be a busy year for me. I have a collection of poetry in the early editing stage with Leaf Garden Press and another collection with Interior Noise Press. There are also nine other collections of poetry in various stages of completion with both the publishers Horror Sleaze Trash and Marathon Books, as well as a flash fiction collaboration with the aforementioned Ben John Smith and Rich Wink under the HST banner. I’m also doing a featured artist reading in Dallas via Skype in late March or thereabouts put on by the good folks at Madswirl. And beginning to flesh out the bones of my first novel. There is also a collection of short stories in the editing phase but no specific publisher yet.
What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?
Just keep working away; building your paper army as it were. Try to be as brutally honest as you can but never forget to inject your work with humour. And find your own voice as you go along. Beyond that, I am hardly the one to ask about getting noticed. Just do the work, and if it is good, hopefully others will notice. If not, then it wasn’t meant to be. Writing should not be for notoriety or finances anyways. It should be selfish and enriching and yours.

Published by


Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, and books can be found. He is a Best of the Net and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Scott's poetry books include: Songs of a Dissident (Transcendent Zero Press, 2015), Chaos Songs (Weasel Press, 2016), Happy Hour Hallelujah (CTU Publishing, 2016), and Poison in Paradise (Alien Buddha Press, 2017). Scott is a member of The Southern Collective Experience; he also serves as an editor for Walking Is Still Honest Press, The Blue Mountain Review, The Peregrine Muse, and Novelmasters.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s