December 12, 2017
In October this year I facilitated a poetry translation workshop in Riga, Latvia, between four UK-based and four Latvian poets: Llyr Gwyn Lewis, Katherine Sowerby, William Letford, McGillivray, Inga Pizan-Dilba, Aivars Eipurs, Henriks Ellias Zegners, and Katrina Rudzite. You can see the results in this video, made by filmmaker Toms Harjo.
May 24, 2017
May 17, 2017
April 27, 2017
On not being asked by anyone
Dave Coates & Ryan Van Winkle
sunset breathing fire
dangerous toxin levels
in the atmosphere
oh snowflake, embrace
the 19th century, feel
how nice it was, how nice
and it must be nice
to accept god’s silence
to grab what is yours
right off the shelf
amber boxes of grain
land of pilgrim’s pride
sorry, this soup
tastes of corpses
you have not emerged
as a significant
Moloch, what do you say to the colours on the street
Will they sing their purple songs till their faces are blue
Do you want to make a bet, Moloch, did we win
are we winning, Moloch! Losers! Haters! Poison!
Greased coins slip from our fingers! Moloch! Them women
ain’t going quiet! It’s them Russians, them big bears, Moloch
you can wrestle. Moloch! Not weak! Not low energy!
Sad! It’s Sad!
Children wash up on sand. Chi-na children.
Syrian children. Are you scared of the beach, Moloch?
EU academics should
make preparations to leave,
we found three earth-like planets,
it is warm for february,
it is warm for mittens, for wooly hats,
for sheep in the meadows, for suckers.
My shoes need laces, they say
pull up your pants, wear a belt.
The world is elderly, the world has been elderly
since before you were born, my dear.
I hardly recognise you. That shirt, that colour
doesn’t suit you, I no longer trust your mustache.
This isn’t talking. This isn’t saying.
This is a fact. This is opinion.
Don’t call me sucker.
sorry, i’m trying to stay
professional here, i know
there are children watching
sorry, this is traditional
sorry all this has a
we are living. we aren’t doing much. we were all sitting around.
a pack of poets finishing the black wine, dipping bread
into squid ink. and, of course, somebody says Syria,
and of course someone has an opinion. you see, we’ve thought
about this. we are sensitive and international. we know the news
from all points of the compass. we are whalers. we are at sea
for months at a time.
we are in serbia but the serbs are not talking about war.
but the dane is describing sleeping churches.
but the spaniard is articulating an algorithm – saying capacity capacity capacity
but the romanian sees refugee children with new schoolbags
but the american stays quiet because she is stoned. she went
out to the bay and watched lights twinkle on ripples.
but the greek breaks and reminds us there are bodies
washing up on the shore and the young boys in service
have to pull them out, line them up, count them
every day there are more numbers
so someone says ‘what can we do?’ as if there was a hotline.
nobody says ‘we should write a poem’. nobody says
we should just go on living. somebody says we should finish
this bottle and then get some sleep. someone says we
should finish this bottle, have a shot of schnapps
and then see where the night takes us. because we
are alive and this is what the living do.
the clock doesn’t care
nor does the television
nor the talking heads
my life is a sofa, a love seat, a bed.
i read newsweek, i read time
counting up the names like mine
there are so many
i’m on a panel
i say some uncomfy things
i will not make friends
that is the best part – rowing the boat away
i will not make friends with you
The ruins proclaim
our building was beautiful.
There were oranges.
Fact explains nothing.
2 + 2 = who gives a shit
where’s my phone?
have you seen my phone?
i remember standing with her
until he got bored and walked away
i remember the clerk saying
I would prefer not to
i remember i was carrying
a box of cereal
the sky was red i had
a few minutes before work
i would prefer not to
February 3, 2017
Your Pocket in Paris
Kathrine Sowerby & Ryan Van Winkle
Your Pocket in Paris
Berlin, you say, I remember
Rome, I say, you remember
the crossroads and the smell
of song, the ancient footprints
of cooking meat. The last cigarette
and the rubble at the bottom
of vodka drunk from a great height
at the Spanish Stair. Everyone there
turning round and round and round…
I promise, they will greet us like we are
the sofa, the mask, the television – singing
is coca-cola. And your masterpiece is blue
electric blue, the colour of my dreams.
Is it waiting, like the ghost of lions
in the coliseum? Milan is goodbye
to the moon. The moon, you say,
with no money left in train stations.
What next? I remember trying
to run to the top of the escalator
to get us that far. It swung low
looked up at wheels and bells
last night. And it was like a city –
I wanted to follow you south. I wanted
what we once had the map to, to boil
pasta in the street every morning.
I wanted the keys. I swung high
licked honey from plastic, shouted
Relax! And missed. My eye was off.
I wanted to spill oil and watch it
seep into the feather white cloth.
Tranquillity comes at a price. I steal wine
and I wanted to collect faces and pin them
to your hand in the fountain
pulling up wet copper and shove
them into your damp pocket in Paris
where you looked like the sun
looked like an angel that shone on stone
and bones below. Stay still while I draw
the corners of the room, the thing
that made us itch until our skin bled
and stained the sheets. Where is the key?
The money? The colour that doesn’t last
and I am hungry.
Kathrine says: “Writing collaboratively gives you a kind of freedom, a sense of ‘it’s not all down to me’ and ‘let’s go here now’ and ‘I can write whatever I want and it will sound different up against, threaded through, or wrapped around someone else’s words’. Which is a pleasure.”
Bio: Kathrine Sowerby’s chapbooks include Tired Blue Mountain (Red Ceilings Press) and Margaret and Sunflower (dancing girl press). Out very soon is her first collection That Bird Loved (Hesterglock Press) and her book of stories The Spit, the Sound and the Nest (Vagabond Voices). kathrinesowerby.com
January 9, 2017
My Self / My Soul
Alicia Sometimes & Ryan Van Winkle
My Self / My Soul
My self – limps into the afternoon sometimes
we are perched on the fringes
of the universe, in cramped caverns
of marginalia unable to rush ahead, or move
at opportunity. We lean in closer, mesmerized
by embers from the insatiable flame of doubt.
My soul – always a stranger
who comes to visit at inconvenient times
knocking at the door, saying surprise
surprise, do you have anything hot to eat?
Every time we want to collapse, we let our legs fold
holding heavy unyielding minds, hardbound confusions.
My self – an adult. Knows
how to read a book for information.
My soul – a child still looking
a new, secret, pleasure.
It is a short amount of time.
It is glacial.
It is a concrete, so solid now.
It is a shadow of my shadow.
Maybe we don’t need millions.
Maybe we need just a few
white paper flowers.
My self speaks –
Every time we feel tawny, like some purple word hoodlum,
some upshot with too many full stops. Those days we
believe we’ve defrauded all around us with our bankable bluster
and blunt phrases – our unfathomed blue lagoon of talk.
I believe our dusty roars can fill an egomaniacal sawpit.
I believe the stars are narcissist too. And that the trees
will know hubris. I spend hours tranquilized or annoyed,
can’t get past the beginning of a particular philosophy.
‘I think therefore I am’
and that’s about it.
My soul speaks –
Every time we put our breath into something
every time we blow a bubble or feel our hairs
billowing like a thousand balloons about to raise
up with all the lusty air. Those days when
we go up a few miles and can see
our place in the city, those days we get high
enough to see our place in it all.
Dear Self, gravity gives us mass
and keeps us grounded
it is weak. Lift your hand, you’ve won.
Dear Soul, speak up. It’s like you landed
on the moon and we’re down here waiting
for one good word, one small step.
June 29, 2016
In the run up to a visit to Canada to read in various events at Le 17e Festival de la poésie de Montréal, Peter Mackay, Ryan Van Winkle and JL Williams decided to write a collaborative poem that they could share at the festival. As it turned out, they didn’t have time to read the poem in Montreal so thought it would be nice to share it online… especially in light of recent political events. They hope it conveys some sense of the way language and poetry attempts to cross personal and linguistic barriers, challenge conventional meanings and encourage us to think about the world in new ways.
O Scotland My Canada
A cold wind blows from the north, snow this sunshine day
and a wolf howling in the air above the castle.
And a wolf cloud can break your heart. So, why not
just go back to sleep? The castle closed her eyes
years ago & no longer worries about the bubonic plague,
the hairless breasts of Putin. All this waxing
and waning. Throw-away newspapers scuffle
along old-town, new-town streets, leaving their print.
Throw away fire & kindling, throw rock
so it skims & leaps past the drowsy swans
swooning in the odd heat. Me, I like to keep my feet
moving below the surface, cold as can be, blue
as the wolf’s eyes and her tender paws
padding the spine of a frozen river
so cold the skin of the eye freezes, the heart’s
beat slows, the ears open to chimes and iron
I miss confident church bells, the persistent rise of 8 AM
And Wolf misses the proud trees which have been felled
sent down river, to the bay and shaped into boats
old trunks in new forms at aimed a new world
somewhere nova, somewhere neuve, somewhere ùr
where I first sang O Canada my Canada,
O Scotland my Scotland, O world without borders
whose places are beginnings for everyone,
whose forests are homes for all wolves,
whose stones speak all languages quietly, quietly
beneath the running of water.
JL Williams‘ books include Condition of Fire (Shearsman, 2011), Locust and Marlin (Shearsman, 2014), the triptych collection Our Real Red Selves (Vagabond Poets, 2015) and House of the Tragic Poet (If A Leaf Falls Press, 2016). She was selected for the 2015 Jerwood Opera Writing Programme, plays in the band Opul and is Programme Manager at the Scottish Poetry Library. http://www.
Pàdraig MacAoidh (Peter Mackay) is originally from the Isle of Lewis, but now lives in Edinburgh. He writes in Scottish Gaelic and English and has written one full collection of poems, Gu Leòr / Galore, published by Acair in 2105, and a pamphlet, From Another Island, published by Clutag Press in 2010. He is also a broadcaster and lecturer; he teaches at the University of St Andrews and is BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker 2015.
April 3, 2016
Take Out Now – April 2016
Tessa Berring & Ryan Van Winkle
Tessa says: This making of a poem was fun – the way my words came back from Ryan surrounded by or broken up by his words, how we began to develop themes and imagery, how kittens, clocks, and a body suddenly appeared when I least expected them…
Above all I enjoyed the intention to simply ‘write a poem’ together – no other motive or agenda beyond letting language emerge then pushing it to and fro to see what might happen.
Take Out Now