Robert Pinsky Says Words with his Voice on the SPL Podcast

March 11, 2013

Big news! This week on the Scottish Poetry Library podcast, former Poet Laureate of the United States Robert Pinsky discusses poems, poetry readers, jazz and his curious family history, he talks about his enthusiasm for his Favorite Poem Project – “For me a poem is a work of art that’s so intimate and so internal that its medium is any reader’s voice,” he talks about all sorts of stuff in a voice that could announce this summer’s blockbusters. In a wide ranging interview, he speaks about his formative years – “I grew up among very verbal, eloquent, skillful joke tellers and complainers and arguers and liars” – and the way he tries to capture music in language. He also reads a number of his poems and talks about his passion for poetry. “I never defended poetry. I don’t believe in commercials for poetry. It is so fundamental, so large, so central… It’s an insult to poetry to advocate for it or defend it.”

This is a pretty special conversation that I enjoyed the heck out of, and I hope you do too! Click the little triangle for some of the best words you’ll hear today.

Ken Arkind and Jon Sands Hit the SPL Podcast

November 7, 2012

We caught up with incredible poets slash art facilitators slash awesome humans Ken Arkind and Jon Sands during their recent tour of the UK and Ireland, and got a funny, yet, in-depth chat about their views on the nature of performance poetry and the importance of promoting art in underprivileged areas, PLUS some of their own excellent work. We had a total blast with these guys, can’t wait to catch up with them again, and I thoroughly recommend you look up more of their work on the YouTube.

Ken is a National Poetry Slam Champion, and full time touring artist (who I first met in Melbourne) and who has performed across the US, been published in numerous anthologies. Jon is a full-time teaching & performing artist. His first full collection of poems, The New Clean, was released in 2011 from Write Bloody Publishing. He is currently the Director of Poetry Education at the Positive Health Project.

If you want to hear some uplifting work and remind yourself why we do this stuff in the first place, listen in.

Have you heard?

March 28, 2012

Podcast is the Word

I have been woefully inadaquate in hyping the Scottish Poetry Library on my website. This is a shame because of the sheer breadth and scope of talent on display in these conversations and readings. We’ve got poets from New Zealand, Malta, America, the Scottish Isles and Britain. We talk nationalism with Donny O’Rourke, Occupy Wall Street with Matthew Zapreder, cynicism with Matthew Dickman, politics and small communities with Gabrielle Calvocoressi and life with Sarah Broom. I’ve learned something new with every interview and they provide food for thought and poems to inspire, sometimes advice. Thanks to all who sat patiently through my questions — I enjoyed every chat and hope you, dear listener, will too. Dip in and tell us what you think. Click on a name to hear the podcast and don’t forget to subscribe – for free – via Itunes or RSS. Ryan

Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Portrait of the poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi
Gabrielle Calvocoressi reads from and discusses poems from her collections The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart and Apocalyptic Swing.

Joseph Lease

Photograph of the poet Joseph Lease
San Francisco’s Joseph Lease talks about the Beats, the Renaissance, and his own poetry.

Literature Across Frontiers: Ian Stephen

Photograph of the poet Ian Stephen
We catch up with poet Ian Stephen from the Isle of Lewis.

Literature Across Frontiers: Adrian Grima

Portrait of the poet Adrian Grima
We chat with Maltese poet Adrian Grima.

Young Dawkins

We catch up with Young Dawkins, winner of the 2011 Scottish Slam Championship.

Alastair Cook and Ken Cockburn

The Road North poem in landscape
Collaborative projects involving poetry with other art forms provides the focus of this week’s episode.

Talking with Donny O’Rourke

Donny O'Rourke
Poet, musician, editor and broadcaster Donny O’Rourke talks about Scottish poetry, Scottish identity and Scottish nationalism with Ryan Van Winkle.

Ian Wedde

Ian Wedde
We chat with the New Zealand Poet Laureate Ian Wedde.

Holiday Season 2011: Syria, Lebanon and Scotland at Reel Festivals

Keeping it Reel
Highlights from a series of events centred around writers and artists from Lebanon, Syria and Scotland.

Colin Herd

Colin Hind
We chew the cud with poet, editor and critic Colin Herd.
Matthew Zapruder
We talk to poet and translator Matthew Zapruder.

Sarah Broom

Tigers at Awhitu
We catch up with poet Sarah Broom in Auckland to talk about her collection Tigers at Awhitu.

Durs Grünbein, Tom Petsinis & Krikri at StAnza

Our Ryan in Residence gets down to brass tacks with Durs Grünbein, Tom Petsinis and poetry troupe Krikri at StAnza 2011.

Matthew Dickman

Matthew Dickman
In a special episode from Flagstaff, Arizona, Ryan has a good old jaw with poet Matthew Dickman.

I Chose To Listen – Free E-Book

October 13, 2011

I Chose to Listen

I Chose to Listen – New Translations from Reel Festivals 2011 FREE DOWNLOAD

One of the most spectacular things I’ve had a chance to do recently was to work with a cohort of fantastic poets from Lebanon, Scotland and Syria on new translations of each others work. Some of you, I hope, were able to come to our readings in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Beirut. However, if you weren’t, these new translations should give you a taste of contemporary poetry from the region. You’ll also find brand-new work in both English and Arabic from our  friends Tom Pow, William Letford, and Emily Ballou. I also have a few poems inside there. I encourage you to check out this free book.

This free to download e-book (published in association with Forest Publications) features brand new English and Arabic poetry translations from collaboration and performance with the Reel Festivals poets.

From Syria, Golan Haji and Rasha Omran, from Lebanon, Yehya Jaber  and Mazen Maarouf and from Scotland, Tom Pow, Emily Ballou, William Letford and Ryan Van Winkle, along with beautiful Arabic Calligraphy by Everitte Barbee.

We are immensely thankful to Creative Scotland for making this book and all these outcomes possible through the Vital Sparks funding, to the British Council for their sponsorship and ongoing support and to the Scottish Poetry Library, Literature Across Frontiers and all Reel Festivals supporters. Some of these poems, artwork and an exclusive essay by Tom Pow originally appeared in ANON Magazine 8.

As the poet Andrew Philip said: ‘it fairly makes a difference when you know the poetry makes a difference’. We couldn’t agree more and hope you do too.

And that’s not all!

There’s new music from DJ Dolphin Boy and Shooglenifty which you can find here. (Below is a sample)

DJ Dolphin Boy – Ghazi by Reel Festivals


And new films from Roxana Vilk including this one with the mercurial Yehya Jaber:


The Confession a short film by Roxana Vilk from Roxana Vilk on Vimeo.


There’s lots more on the Reel Festivals website including writing from Bill Drummond, more films, live footage etc — make sure to check it out!

Degna Stone Podcast

October 9, 2011

One Fine Degna

Degna Stone is an amazing poet whom I was very lucky to meet randomly at Luchars train station after the StAnza Festival in St. Andrews. You’ll feel lucky too. She’s making a lot of noise in Newcastle, has won a Northern Promise Award, and has been working with BBC’s ‘The Verb‘ as part of a new voices project. She is definitely one to hear. So, tune in friends — it is a pleasure to introduce you to Degna Stone.


itunes pic

Ryan chats with the wonderful Degna Stone at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. They discuss feminism, rejecting poetry, rediscovering poetry, the relationship between a poet and her poetry, performance and developing as a writer. We also get the chance to hear a number of Degna’s poems. Presented by Ryan Van Winkle. Produced by Colin Fraser. Music by Ewen Maclean. Email: Twitter: @anonpoetry

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Anna Crowe on the Podcast!

September 28, 2011

itunes picCrowe for your lucky ears!

Not only is Anna Crowe’s poetry intriguing, informed and captivatingly beautiful, but she’s also a fascinating and candid interview. If you are a fan of Anna’s — you’ll already want to hear this. However, if you just want to hear some new and wonderful poems — this is the podcast for your lucky ears.


Ryan chats with translator and poet Anna Crowe about her award winning pamphlet ‘Figure in Landscape’. Anna reads from the collection, discusses the need for distance in writing about place, the influence of art in poetry (especially Catalan artist Andreu Maimó) and the process of self-translation. Presented by Ryan Van Winkle. Produced by Colin Fraser. Music by Ewen Maclean. Mail: Twitter: @anonpoetry

Reel Festivals’ Golan Haji

June 12, 2011

Golan Haji on the Podcast


One of the highlights of the Reel Festivals trip to Lebanon was getting to work and learn from Golan Haji. Golan, who lives in Syria, is a sensitive translator; a subtle, brave and unique poet. I interviewed him while we were in Beirut as we didn’t know if his visa for the UK would come through in time. At the time of the interview we were both keenly aware of the protests taking place in Syria. With this in mind — I hope you give a listen to this thoughtful voice. You can find more poetry, music, videos and blogs on the Reel Festivals site.

Ryan x

Listen Here:


Syrian poet Golan Haji joins Ryan in Beirut as part of the cultural collaboration festival of poetry, film and music Reel Festivals. They take some time out to chat about about poetry, translation, borders and politics.

Presented by Ryan Van Winkle. Incidental music by Ewen Maclean. Produced by Colin Fraser of Anon Poetry Magazine and@anonpoetry.



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About Golan Haji

Golan HajiGolan Haji is a Syrian poet, with a postgraduate degree in pathology. He has published a number of books includingCalled in Darkness (2004), which won the ‘Al-Maghut’ prize in poetry, and Someone Sees You as a Monster (2008). His next collection, My Cold Faraway Home, will be published in Autumn 2011.  He has also translated various works into Arabic including the Scottish classic – Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He lives in Damascus.



And Check Out

Andrew Philip’s blog from our poetry reading at the SPL. I’m grateful he summed up such a powerful reading in such a elegant way.



Brian Holton Podcast

June 9, 2011

Brian Holton on Yang Lian


Interviewing the Chinese poet Yang Lian’s thoughtful translator — Brian Holton — was a fantastic experience for me. Translating, I feel, is an art equal to the creation of a poem and – also – it is act that requires more faith, more worry, and more risk if you ‘get it wrong’. Holton’s translations are sensitive, imaginitve and creatively solve the problems inherent in working between two very different languages and styles. His ability to capture Yang Lian’s voice is illustrated here in this podcast. It was an absoloute pleasure to sit with Brian and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.

— Ryan


We chat with the illuminating Brian Holton at the StAnza poetry festival in St Andrews. He gives us the chance to hear some of his superb translations into English and Scots of the Chinese poet Yang Lian and he discusses translation, ideas of exile and the evolution of modern Chinese poetry with Reader in Residence Ryan Van Winkle. Produced by Colin Fraser of Anon Poetry Magazine Music by Ewen Maclean. Mail:



There is a Method, Man

June 6, 2011

David Briggs on the Podcast

men © flickr user erix under a creative commons license


David Briggs visits the SPL Podcast on the first stop on his Virtual Book Tour for ‘The Method Men”. David is a great guy and poet and was kind enough to read at the Golden Hour when we were in Bristol a while back. If you want to hear something new, something good —

Have a Listen:

“Ryan chats to Bristol based poet David Briggs about selling his blood, new age travellers, owning his own bar and the intricacies of assembling a poetry collection. Featuring readings from David’s book The Method Men, published by Salt.”

Presented by Ryan Van Winkle. Incidental music by Ewen Maclean. Produced by Colin Fraser of Anon Poetry Magazine and @anonpoetry.



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About David Briggs

David Briggs was born in 1972, and grew up in the New Forest. He received an Eric Gregory Award in 2002, and has placed poems in magazines (print and online), including Poetry Life, Poetry Wales, Agenda Broadsheets, Limelight, The Guardian and Notes From the Underground. His work has also featured as a Showcase in Magma, in the anthology Reactions 5, edited by Clare Pollard, and on BBC Radio Bristol. He gained a commendation in the 2007 National Poetry Competition, and four poems were selected for the Bloodaxe anthology Identity Parade, edited by Roddy Lumsden. In the hours between sitting down to write, he is Head of English at the Grammar School in Bristol.

We recommend…

The Method Men
by David Briggs 

Salt Publishing, 2010

The Method Men explores, in a sometimes disarmingly personal way, what Larkin referred to as ‘a style our lives bring with them’ — what we are, and how that came to be.

Identity Parade (Bloodaxe Books) Identity Parade
edited by Roddy Lumsden 

Bloodaxe Books, 2010

New British and Irish poetry at a time of great vibrancy and variety.

Find out more…

Related links…


Emily Dickinson on the SPL Podcast

March 16, 2011

An Emily Dickinson Tour

Emily Dickinson

Practically everyone knows of Emily Dickinson and many have an opinion about what makes her so fascinating — is it her that intrigues us or or is it her work? I’m particularly proud of this podcast mostly thanks to the articulate and interesting Dickinson experts and fans I got to speak with and who, I hope, will inspire you to look at Dickinson again. Also, there are some lovely readings by our friend Emily Ballou who, allegedly, is something of a Dickinson fanatic. Enjoy the show!

We visit Amherst, Massachusetts, home of Emily Dickinson, where Ryan talks with Dickinson experts Tevis Kimble, curator of special collections at the Jones Library, Emily Dickinson House director Jane Wald as well as the charming poet and tour guide Henk Rossouw.

Presented by Ryan Van Winkle. Produced by Colin Fraser of Anon Poetry Magazine. Twitter: @byleaveswelive & @anonpoetry. Mail:

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Listen now…

Or download as MP3.

First published Sunday 16 January, 2011

About Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson “Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was a poet with an exceptional ability to distill ‘amazing sense’ from ‘ordinary meanings.’ Her poetry is now considered among the finest in the English language.

Yet much about this fascinating figure’s life and work is misunderstood. Often caricatured in popular culture as a white-clad recluse who poured out morbid verse in the sanctuary of her bedroom, Emily Dickinson was a serious artist whose intellectual curiosity and emotional intensity are revealed in concise and compelling poems that capture a range of human experiences.”

Text: ©

About Jane Wald

Emily Dickinson Museum Jane Wald is the Director of the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Mass. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College, studied historical archaeology at the College of William and Mary and received a graduate degree in American history from Princeton University. Prior to her tenure at the Emily Dickinson Museum, Wald served as assistant director of development and marketing at Old Sturbridge Village and director of The Evergreens, under the Martha Dickinson Bianchi Trust. Upon the merger of the Homestead and The Evergreens in 2003, she became the museum’s associate director.

About Tevis Kimball

Tevis Kimball Tevis Kimball is the curator of special collections at Jones Library, Amherst, where she is also acting Director.

About Henk Rossouw

Henk Rossouw Henk lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, U.S.A., where he’s studying towards his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Massachusetts. Currently, he works as an adviser to undergraduate students.

Related links…

We are delighted to have Emily Ballou read Emily Dickinson’s poems on this podcast. You can listen to Emily Ballou’s podcast in our archive.