Dennis Joseph Ryan is a former university English professor having worked at universities in Japan and the United States, and at a high school in Freeport, Bahamas when he first began teaching in 1976. He speaks Japanese, and sometimes Japanese words and Chinese characters enter into his poems. He began publishing poems while in graduate school in the mid-1970's, and most of those poems appeared in The Alfred Review and the journal Poem. He is married to Kim Jung Sook of Puel Ri, South Korea, and is the father of two sons Devin and Shawn. He took a hiatus from writing poems at about the time of his marriage in Seoul, South Korea in December of 1981, and returned to writing poems in the late 1990's and has not stopped writing them since that time. He and his wife live in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he worked as an English lecturer in the English Department at North Carolina State University.
Lately, his poems have appeared in the last three issues (45,46,47) of Talisman: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry and Poetics edited by Edward Foster. He has acknowledged as influences Shakespeare's sonnets and the work of American poets Wallace Stevens, John Ashbery, George Oppen and William Bronk, the latter two poets whom he knew, William Bronk serving as a poetry mentor in letters exchanged between the two poets from 1979 until Bronk's death in 1999. Dennis Ryan's poems often focus on the reader, addressing the reader directly in the poems, on apostrophe, on trying to explain the poems of other poets, and one of his favorite poetic devices is soliloquy because in soliloquy the speaker allows him or herself the freedom to speak the truth since no one else is there to hear it. He has written some 75 soliloquy on a number of subjects, perhaps as many as 30 soliloquys on Shakespeare's Hamlet, the speakers of these soliloquys being Hamlet, Ophelia, Horatio and other members of the Danish court. Almost all of these soliloquys from Hamlet are spoken in dialog between the characters, especially those involving Hamlet and Ophelia, and concern subjects that have gone unspoken about in the play itself. Recently, he has written soliloquys featuring the poets Wallace Stevens and John Ashbery as the speakers.
He prefers writing the occasional poem about a particular experience, but sometimes writes groups of poems in a series, such as the group poems " Ten Poem Installation..." , " Five Poems: Love and Intimacy in America 2005" and " Empathy and Abstraction... " In sum, he sees his poems being in continuous dialog with each other, and that such dialogs, between poems and persons, is the most meaningful way to live to gain a better understanding and appreciation of life. He also writes poems in pairs, for example paired poems after watching films such as the Japanese film " Blue" and the French film " La Vie Reves de Anges" . Most of his poems are psychological in nature, involve relation and relationships, and he is particularly interested in " the psychology of art" and relationships between art/arts (e.g. painting, sculpture, music) life and poetry, most specifically the act of writing poems. He believes that poems, their meanings, only exist when the reader is thinking about them, reciting them, acting on what they say. The importance of poetry and the other arts is that people experience them, think about them, act on them. Certain art works, paintings, sculptures, music, poems leave residues, become a part of memory, and this is the true power and importance of the arts. The art work itself, the poem, the painting, the sculpture, etc., is the vehicle utilized to achieve this goal as " Art in the end" , he says, " is personal statement that connects me to you, and, hopefully, facilitates dialog between us."