I picked up some of the Faber New Poets pamphlets at the book fair, and Declan Ryan’s is one of them. Ryan is Irish, serves as a poetry editor for the UK journal Ambit, and he’s written some interesting poems to boot. Here’s one (“Rope-a-dope,” courtesy of the Poetry Foundation). It’s not in the pamphlet, but it would fit (imho).
Like “Ethiopia Shall Stretch Forth Her Hands” (which is in the pamphlet), this poem features boxing. Where in “Rope-a-dope” it’s Muhammad Ali punching out an opponent on screen, in “Ethiopia” world heavy-weight champion Joe Louis defeats Primo Carnera and becomes, in some way, a saint, a potential savior figure.
These poems would be fun to read in combo with Matejka’s The Big Smoke, a collection of poems about the life and boxing career of Jack Johnson, in part because the poems share a theme, in part because the ‘seven rules’ Louis sticks to are directly connected to Johnson’s behavior in and out of the ring.
Another favorite poem in Faber New Poets 12 (Declan Ryan) is “The Exaltation of Saint John Coltrane.” Apparently, there are people who actually consider Coltrane a saint, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with the effectiveness of the poem. When I first read it, I had no idea, and I don’t think it matters much, because the poem is (to me) much more about the musician’s individual devotion to inspiration, to his art.
When he is not writing about public figures, Ryan’s poems have their own particular voice, and a tone of quiet wondering, like in “When We Were Kings,” which you can listen to here (link to Soundcloud). If you want to get a taste of Declan Ryan’s style and craft, this pamphlet is a good appetizer. Hopefully there will be more before long.