Reluctant poet laureate publishes new work based on lockdown life in western Ireland


WHEN Rye Aker arrived in Ireland at the end of 2019, his task was simple.

He was to record Galway’s adventure in the European Capital of Culture in poetry, so that it could be part of a book about the year; paired with another that another poet was writing about the common capital of Rijeka in Croatia.

Aker, 54, had backpacked Ireland as a linguistics student and had amassed a love for Irish expression, humor, melancholy and culture.

It seemed like the ideal commission to him.

A chance to have an existence where he would survive on the product of his labor alone, avoiding the luxury for a simple life of living and writing and making new friends.

“The prospect got me excited. But like the best documentary projects, it snowballed towards something else, ”he explains.

“I came here and made new friends, but the start of 2020 was beset by incredible natural disasters. Storms that hit the west coast; waves that knocked over cars; floods that made farmers cry; and a virus that closed the land.

“The main reason I came here was sadly shattered by Covid-19, but that hasn’t stopped me from describing this beautiful place with words and common expression.

“I have accumulated maybe five thousand expressions of friends and searches and I hope to use a lot of them in my work.

“My agent Dirk de Vries told me that the project being suspended, I had the possibility of returning home.

I had planned to move on to another project in Luxembourg, but that too was on hold.

“So I decided to stay and save a country in crisis, chaos and foreclosure. “

Rye Aker captures the essence of life locked out in Galway this year in his new book

Aker stayed and became a familiar figure in Galway, taking the opportunity to surreptitiously witness events and listen to capture new expressions, nuances, traditions.

He attended the solemn novena in Galway Cathedral too much last year, attending three services a day for nine days, not knowing that he only needed to attend each one daily.

He clearly fell in love with Galway and Galway with him, although he makes an effort to point out that his role as sort of award-winning local poet for the time is unofficial.

“I know the many great poets of the West of Ireland. I’m not like them, I’m different and I hope I don’t step on my toes, so I keep a low profile and avoid going out, “he said.

However, what emerged from his stay is one of the finest contemporary observational poems seen in this country in some time.

The modest Aker has been featured in the New York Times, CNN and the BBC with work that has covered the social, the humorous, the tragic, all observing Irish life as only a foreigner can see.

His poems such as A Penance of Sundays, The Last Avocado in Recess, The Man With The Clock have all hit the mark, as has his poem dedicated to Vicky Phelan titled Vicky In The Flat, which has been viewed over a million. of times on Twitter.

Other poems include When Fungie Fecked Off; The Horse Who Sat On The Dead Man, The Extra Hour In Bed and All Togged Out, commissioned by AIB for its The Toughest GAA campaign.

A generous volume, his first book was titled Fifty Akers – A Penance of Sundays; this new, A Hundred Akers – To Be Among, is the second of two collections each containing fifty moving poems.

“In my first Galway poetry book called A Penance of Sundays, I remembered a year I saw a piece of Galway enter Covid, and then I was able to compare the two,” did he declare.

“In this collection, To Be Among, my poems are my total immersion in a confined Ireland, experiencing the ups and downs with the rest of the population, sharing difficult times, funny times and strange times with a very close people. . to my heart. “

Rye Aker passed lockdown in Galway

He added: “None of this has been the way I expected it to be, but I have to say it has been the best year of my life.

“I left my cell phone in Holland.

“I check Twitter posts every week or so in my splendid semi-isolation. I’ve been interviewed for some newspapers and radio but I keep to myself and my little collection of great friends who taxi me here and there, and help me deliver books to stores.

“I meet people on the street and they greet me and praise the poems and I am very grateful for that, because it means that the poems are related, but I have no interest in being the luvvies,” he said. he declares.

Aker’s work was commissioned by AIB for its The Toughest GAA campaign; his poem All Togged Out donated on condition that all costs go to the charity.

“I have offered my services for free to many charities and I stand ready to do what I can to use my words to help people who are helping someone else right now,” he admits. .

“Life is short, my friends.

“If my words can bring a laugh or a moment of reflection, I’m happy to do so. If I can fundraise or showcase the work of these people, I will be helpful.

“For now, I hope people enjoy my work.

“The west of Ireland has given me wonderful expressions and I hope they will live on in my work,” he said.

Hundred Akers – To Be Among, The Galway Collection Vol 2, by Rye Aker is available online here atnd also from Kenny’s Bookstore, Galway.

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