'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, I would say since Tom Paulin's A State of Justice (1977): no dead weight, foot-perfect and engaging.' Michael Hofmann, Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year
Crisis Actor chronicles various failures and farewells. It is peopled by faded heroes and deferential devotees; a hanged donkey, a bloated rat; solitary bachelors and disillusioned youths - these are the watchers, not the players. The poems are awash with rueful self-accusation and laconic scepticism. 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 brightest 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 pub afternoons, cheering on and 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 towards grace and redemption.
'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
'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