by Declan Ryan
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Pub Date 27 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 27 Mar 2024
The brilliant and bracing debut collection of poetry from Declan Ryan: a writer, critic, and fierce new literary voice.
Declan Ryan's Crisis Actor chronicles various kinds of failures and farewells. It is peopled by faded heroes and deferential devotees, a hanged donkey and a bloated rat, solitary bachelors and disillusioned youths—these are the watchers, not the players. The poems are awash in rueful self-accusation and laconic skepticism. There are touching elegies, reportage, and bruised, wary replayings. A blistering sequence about boxers and their fates weaves through the collection. The overwhelming sense is of life going on elsewhere, the halcyon days and brightness of years long past. This is the aftermath of being one who—in Matthew Arnold’s words—"has reached his utmost limits and finds . . . himself far less than he had imagined himself."
But there are still flashes of camaraderie, of stars aligning: lunchtimes in sunlit garden squares, languorous afternoons in pubs cheering for hard-won triumphs. These precious, precarious moments point to how we might reclaim potential, discover human connection in times of defeat or despair, and reach toward grace and redemption.
A Note From the Publisher
Named a Best Book of 2023 by The New Statesman and The Times Literary Supplement
"Who knew that writing with this degree of care and pain and tact was still possible? For my money it's the best first volume in decades . . . no dead weight, foot-perfect and engaging." —Michael Hofmann, The Times Literary Supplement
"Tough but tender, [Crisis Actor] takes boxing and boxers as its leitmotif, and develops the idea of contest to create a portrait of contemporary life which is haunted by images of violence, defeat, and complicated nostalgia. Ryan's voice may not be the loudest in the contemporary arena, but it carries an impressively long way." —Andrew Motion, The New Statesman
"If instead of writing of emperors, C. P. Cavafy had written about boxers, he might have sounded like this." —Michael Autrey, Booklist
"Ryan layers his finely crafted debut collection with precise, nostalgic, and striking poems that probe the past and present. His verse shines in sonically rich descriptions . . . These poems are full of humanity, rewarding insights, and affective phrases." —Publishers Weekly
“What a pleasure to read this book. Among the so many things that make Crisis Actor extraordinary is how each poem is formally skilled and shrewd and smart, while, at the same time, profoundly packed with emotion. The book is carefully structured: the placement of the brilliant ‘boxer/boxing poems’ in the book is perfect. The book is, for me, essentially, a book of love: love—love’s witness—is at its center. Ryan places himself among the great Irish poets and writers unafraid of sentiment and sensuousness, beauty and love, taking on history, ever-alive in the physical world, melding his traditions as his own, singular in power.” —Lawrence Joseph, author of A Certain Clarity: Selected Poems
"The poems in Declan Ryan’s Crisis Actor are deceptively straightforward—one makes one's way from word to word without feeling lost, but in each poem, sooner or later, one is surprised by a forgotten arm and laid flat. These are muscular poems, athletic poems, but the muscularity and athleticism are those of a dancer or, yes, a boxer, whose ordinary movements—the considered step forward, the quick repositioning of an arm—again and again erupt from the ordinary into beauty." —Shane McCrae, author of The Many Hundreds of the Scent
"Elegant and heartaching, these poems illuminate the sorrows of life with a bright flame, returning us to that miraculous human capacity for love and faith even in our darkest days." —Liz Berry, author of The Home Child
"Declan Ryan reveals himself a master of both the telling detail and of narrative suspense. Each exquisitely orchestrated vignette delivers a punch worthy of the heroes of the ring here commemorated." —Mark Ford, author of Enter, Fleeing
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 8 members
Hits hard and cuts deep. That is how I'd describe the work of Declan Ryan in his new collection. There is a gritty reality that belies a hidden beauty and sweetness. Like the boxers he writes about throughout this collection, Ryan leaves everything out on the matt here