Graeme Ryan

Graeme was born in 1959, St. Anne’s on Sea, Lancs.
He studied English Literature at Leeds University and trained to teach English and Drama at St Martin’s College, Lancaster.
He taught in Cornwall and then became Head of Drama at Heathfield School, Taunton.

Author of eight full-length plays for young people, including Heartland, The Name of the Beast, Hope Street, Brave New World and Tracks of the Free. He has been fortunate enough to be able to direct and stage them all at The Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre, Taunton.

“Since giving up school teaching I have recently returned to poetry, which was a passion in my teens and early twenties and went underground. Now it feels a spring has bubbled up and I am really enjoying the challenge and unique excitement of making poems, rather than plays, come alive as they open their doors in the imagination – voices and worlds always present under this one, more real.”


(Some examples of Graeme’s poetry appear below)

Party at Pigeon Ogo
(A sea-cave in Cornwall)

The spray that plunges
and sashays
at the base of each rock

scatters Bollinger and amethyst
with a whump of bass
adds a dash of chartreuse

in fistfuls of mist
turning to rainbows the nebuchadnezzars
and sizzling melchizedeks

from the sea’s capacious cellars
proclaiming Vyaj sallow!
to the black-back gulls

that cork the waves
in bladder-wrack submerge-upsurge –
cables of spume a-sprawl

in a power-surge of sun
blowing brilliant tunnels of curves
so the waves glow glass-green –

each crest a barmitzvah of light
a jeweller’s tray, a wedding
shekhinha –

today the sun
picks up the tab
and knows much more

than any of us
so head straight to the bar
most fitting guest               Yvaj Salow!    ‘Have a good journey!’ in Cornish 

Graeme Ryan                         


The Homeless Man Thinks of Ancient Egypt 

I pray to the sun on these temple walls,
the shifting angles and blaze of it,
the way it melts the pavement ice
mid-morning near the cash-point.
I imagine them as merchants, astronomers and viziers
sitting at the window of the coffee-shop opposite
then they become slaves and slave-owners,
baboons manoeuvring the flow and current
of glinting windscreens,
tax-collectors with the snapping heads of crocodiles
that cancel me with an eye-blink;
asps and hawks and chattering ibis.

I am sore beggar and heretic
but Horus shares the sun’s strength with everyone
and for moments He lets me stop time
freezing the figures in KFC and BetFred the Bonus-King,
jamming the screens inside Lloyds Bank
while Ra makes a gong-bath out of the street-roar.
The gas-workers toil in their jack-hammer clatter
on the banks of the traffic-river.
One squeezes the life out of a cigarette,
the vapour of his breath in a shaft of sun
like the frost of my breath in the aching air – we are brothers
under this midday moon I take for divination and augury.

The sun’s transit takes the blaze
behind high roofs; there is a trapezium of light
I shuffle to at the corner, it forecloses.

Someone has bought me a coffee, her glance contains a smile.
I open the lid and take a careful sip. A packet of crisps too.
The moneylenders have not quite taken over the temple.

Anubis looks out through the eyes of a jackal-headed dog
that walks up to me, just out of reach. It sniffs.
Weigher of souls, tomb-guardian, am I fit for Paradise? 

Graeme Ryan
(Winner of Teignmouth Open Poetry Competition 2018)


Poetic Champions Compose
 
The dipper I saw that afternoon by the Exe
              threaded a high necklace of song above the river’s onrush.
 
Dived in and walked upstream, shaking its wings clear of the water,
              sang once more, blink of silver in its eyelid.
 
Now the first blackbird flirting sotto voce with Spring
              makes radio-contact out of holly and ivy
 
the song-thrush fashions small ivory statues
              in triplets that echo in Withypool churchyard
 
and from burnt-out bracken in a hailstorm
              the wren is a tight bobbin of song, a spinning jenny.
 
Snow banks deep over the sunless combes and high roads,
              a buzzard plucks each mew out of the gut-taut air
 
raven and carrion crow with their dark sprach
              press down hard on the black keys – snow-fever chatter
 
of fieldfares and redwing in the fields of ice. One morning
              wind swings west till a chiffchaff, then another,
 
hangs its abacus of notes along the Haddeo and Horner.
              On Preyway Meads the planetary calls of golden plover
 
meet the first larks high up drizzling honey from the gods  –
             jitterbug of Dartford
warblers on North Hill, stone-tap of stonechat.
 
From branches in back gardens a willow warbler lets
              slip a yellow lace scarf of sound that drifts across the Punchbowl
 
as blackbirds delve deeper into their arias, their coloratura,
              poetic champions composing variations that time cannot catch.
 
One dawn on the whim of a trade wind a cuckoo at Three Combes Foot
              arrives, distilling spring and summer into its beech theatre:
 
two notes, older than the barrows, older than Caratacus Stone –
              cuckoo the ventriloquist popping coconut-heat in the gorse
 
conjurer with his cackle as cumulus sail their time-pieces across
               the blue and tree-pipits all morning parachute their song
 
above Barle valley woods with their dynasties of lichen.
              Pied flycatcher, redstart and wood warbler make vocal the light on water
 
Chetsford clings to its whinchats, Tom’s Hill its flicking-tail wheatear.
               Nightjar, the goatsucker with his moth-frequencies, churrs hidden
 
above Ley Hill, tuning the moon’s radio-set along a branch at nightfall.
              Silent August rounds robins up to light the first braziers
 
of autumn, the dipper sewing silver again by the river.
              If any of these were to vanish what song would die in our throats too?           

 @GR  Imbolc 2019