Ryan supporting Franz Nicolay

March 7, 2015

On Tuesday 17 March I’ll be performing a collaborative piece with Neil Pennycook as part of Franz Nicolay’s European tour launch, in Edinburgh’s own Banshee Labyrinth. It’ll be an awesome party, we’ll be joining the amazing Hailey Beavis and Broken Stories, it’s seven bucks, I do hope to see you there.

Massive Nights Collective & Make-That-A-Take Records proudly present…


We are absolutely delighted to welcome Franz Nicolay back to Edinburgh and to be celebrating the release of his brand new European Tour exclusive Double A-Side 7″ single through MTAT Records.

Franz, formerly of The Hold Steady, World/Inferno Friendship Society, and many more, brings his dark full-throated vaudevillian multi-instrumental beat-poetry inspired punk rock storytelling back to the road in support of his new full-length “To Us, The Beautiful”. Out now through Xtra Mile Recordings and Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club, the record is another Nicolay tour de force and features performances from members of punk luminaries Against Me!, Leftover Crack and The Slackers.

We are thrilled to be hosting Franz in Edinburgh and couldn’t be more excited to be releasing his brand new 7″ record to accompany his tour.

Commiserate — March, 2015 — Ross Sutherland

February 26, 2015

You Like the Sports?

Ross Sutherland & Ryan Van Winkle


ross arcadeross arcadeROSS SAYS: Ryan and I had a brief conversation at Hidden Door festival, about how little we both knew about sport. Sport, as it happens, is our conversational weak-spot. We hate sport, in all it’s myriad forms. When sport comes up in conversation, we have absolutely nothing to say. We decided immediately that “sport” should be the subject of a collaborative poem. Sport was neutral territory- neither writer had the upper hand. Also, we could attempt to out-do each other with increasingly bombastic platitudes. That’s how it went, back and forth, with each of us piling on the enthusiasm for a thing we cared very little about! By the end I think we nearly convinced ourself.


You Like the Sports?

Hey Ryan, did you catch the sports

Are you a fan of the games that were on? Will be on?

The games series. What do you think will happen

in the today sports? What team clothes are you

sporting? What game is that? Who do you support?

Fair enough but who do you support again?

Ross, I follow the pride & the haemorrhoid. I follow

the thrust & pivot & the spectacular slam.

I wear the green and white and yellow paint.

I pant. I pant so hard when we get close.

The ones with azure sashes and lego eyes? The ones with the deer teleport motif?

The ones with majority control over four lucrative heavy oil projects?

The microscopic team discovered in certain vessels of beech and maple, causing blindness?

Etc we cd go on

All the mud, all the pretty horses, all the aimed elbows, all the fluids

pouring into the ring, soaking the fields, more spit than a thousand slide

trombones, look out the marching band, and look out the widow, look out

for the hurtle, the grief, the inexplicable urge to die on the fall.

Ryan, you will experience disappointment

when the team from my local sporting area

defeats the team from your local sporting area.

We will ride mountains all the way to the goal.

We are a basket, wrapped in a goal, hidden in a hole-in-one.

We have already painted a watercolour

of us, holding aloft the Victory Cup, and it is

incredibly realistic!!

We are the Kim Jong Il of sports, Ryan. Your pitch

is our green screen

Ross, your team is a monied polyp on the anus of sport.

Our boys play for the love – not the gold, nor the cup.

Our boys run for justice, truth, the fair handed shake

and if there is a god and if he sits with Jesus at his side

they’re both cheering for us on Monday night, rain or shine.

Yes, they have been playing excellently

this season. They’ve been clinking zepplins in the top end.

They’ve been malleting horses match-after-match.

They’ve done a very very good job indeed.

But compare their record to the attic bedroom

where I’ve been crying for the last four years

and you’ll see there’s little hope- little hope

of happiness for this clan of tanned fictitious characters.

No sex at crunch time, not this Sunday.

No, they’ve been chumps and bums, crutches

and chokers all ankle biters pockets full of posies.

Take the skirt off Carl and stick the landing!

They were headless chickens, it was a bloodbath,

it was fucking Roman, it was Wednesday all over again

it was the safest bet and so, so close

A bomb went off in Sport, Ryan. Your team just happened to be

shopping for perfume in the wrong part of the mega-mall.

But let’s not mistake it for luck, noble brother. There’s no such thing as luck.

I’d rather gamble my kids inheritance on a wheelbarrow of severed limbs

than admit the possibility of chance. Blood rains from the fingers of the Gods, Ryan.

We goal by divine right of the supreme architect of sport.

But have you seen the ratings, Ross? Ever since

that sportscaster bit her, ever since the ear

incident, ever since the racist old mole,

ever since the shaving, the fixing, the gifting,

the knee smash and grab the gold, ever since

the dogs went roaring at each other’s throats,

ever since the hormones, the transfusion, the alleged fire

the collusion, the paper bags for the ring

check your papers & push your chits

my boys are doing fine.

Ryan, your sports team keeps swapping out older players

and replacing them with younger players! Did you think I wouldn’t… notice?

That somehow the football players of Nottingham Forest could still be 25 years old,

despite the fact that the team was founded in 1865?

Clearly substitutions have been made! You charlatans!

You think that sports teams can’t die? All teams die in the end!

And we will take you with us, Ryan! Screaming into the abyss,

as insects feast upon the calve muscles of a thousand hoofed open-goals!

Let the fog of death rise from the stands!

Historians will tell you that the valiant are remembered, even loved. Hearts

must be in the game. Bodies must be flung, cities razed, wave

after wave of attack. And if you can stand, arms raised in a V

and feel the warmth of your country’s flag. You will be immortal.

Sounds like loser talk to me Ryan. A profound loss. A billion year losing streak.

Townships burning in the last light of a sick century. Death threats sung like hymns.

Thank God we are sportsmen, Ryan. Thank god we are blessed with the handshake

that says “good game”. We can pretend that none of this is real.



Ross Sutherland was born in Edinburgh in 1979. Sutherland currently works as a writer and tutor in Cambridgeshire. His last collection, Emergency Window, was published by Penned in the Margins in 2012. Ross also makes work for the stage, including Comedian Dies In The Middle Of Joke (2012) and Standby For Tape Back-Up (2014). Ross is also one of the hosts of Homework, a literary scratch night in East London.


Ross Sutherland & Ryan Van Winkle read ‘You Like the Sports?’

commissioned by SJ Fowler for the Auld Enemies Project, 2014


Inspired by  SJ Fowler‘s  ‘Camarade’ project which pairs poets to create new work, I’ve stolen the notion and begun to collaborate with friends and writers of interest. You can read about the project and see 2013’s poems here & 2014 poems here.


Colin Herd — Commiserate, Feb. 2015

January 29, 2015

It Feels As If

Colin Herd & Ryan Van Winkle


colinCOLIN SAYS: It was fun writing thickly (and less thickly) veiled love poems/letters to you Ryan! I love writing that strains impossibly trying not to say something that it is in fact saying, like when you get someone going round the houses to explain why their argument isn’t this thing but in fact this other thing and you can barely tell the difference between them other than this tiny semantic nuance, if even that. This exchange was kind of the opposite of that, where there is an enormous effort to couch what you are saying behind a whole sequence of smoke and mirrors. Speaking of which, when we were about to read this in the pub in Aberdeen, and I was making a brief introduction that these were based on the homoerotic love letters of King James VI, the poet nick-e melville piped up and said: “I thought you were going to say Kim Jong Il”…. that might be something to try next time. (And I hope there will be tons of next times.)


It Feels as If

Dear Ryan,

You ceilidh so woolly that I do not enquire after your heat and ask if you maintain the stay-at-home. Of you. Be in no doubt. In a tinge, a tinkle. A horsewhip.

Dear Colin

I must beg to differ. I blew that stallion off my back and now there are wrinkles around my eyes, even when there is no bright white sun. Perhaps I misunderstand your query.

Dear Ryan

When it is your will, perhaps I will be accustomed to your actuaries more intimately. Hearty then for myself, and flattering my falcons for wont that I will know from all the assertions of your benchmark the discretions and vindications I seek. The aqualung as always requires no epicure and the surname no sun.

Dear Colin

It is a flexible instrument us men have inherited. It is amazing how much punishment we can take, almost without protest. They say I cough blood only because I laugh too much. And yet, I am neither victim, nor survivor – I have not suffered and this will not cease with a foot in the mouth nor a mere finger in the pie. I am too tired to look for another hole in the ground. Play the piano for me, play the one about the rolling heather.

Dear Ryan

I am conscious that these are early eunuchs. Perhaps our collision will always occupy only the earliest but in precedent perhaps more rather than less endeavour of our mutual prophecies is required. I want it to be known that in all mazes except of heaving hearts I am profoundly easily swayed and that only in one ratcheted nozzle do I dissuade myself, uncompromised. Make that one ratcheted novelette. It feels as if.

Dear Colin

The brains of my brothers are as empty as the underpants of a eunuch. I put my hands in but I always feel like I’m rummaging around for something that isn’t quite there. Did I tell you that I’ve seen the sea again. The sea was impersonal and didn’t care. Maybe it was a dream, I don’t know, everything happens so much. One feels as if, indeed.

Dear Ryan

Your agreement on such matters makes my bosom swell. I think there may have been a mnemonic but no matter now, attention shifts like sands. Are we listened to yet? And if not by the sea by some other force. I am afraid to tell anyone of my dessert.

Dear Colin

My ears are yours, should the postboy take them. Mine eyes as well, should I manage to find that runcible spoon. Last I remember, we were having a picnic. Youngberries, cherries, currants. And my confession – I am no picnic myself.

Dear Ryan

He has seized now an orange shroud and nudges his resin towards me. My tobacco remains deaf-mute but the walls can make something or other out. It’s churlish to avoid unreeling this particular cassette: on a purplish roster, he bade me thank his chasm! I swore, I’d never appear in any such anthology and, fizzling to consult, I can earnestly say that prevented him. But for how long?

Dear Colin

Your mementos will turn to dust, the picture postcards, your spanish braids shall untagle and what will you be left with? Your flaxen locks? Your silver coin eyes? We must hold true north and remain vulnerable to everything. Who is not temporal, flesh?

Dear Ryan

I regret that cruisy tone. But what meteorites are contained in even the simplest struck match?! Your reward for keeping my conscience is something I cannot sufficiently commend. Let me at least say this: indeed I do not think the tongue at all creditable either to mandrills or woodpeckers, and (though you will not believe me) I very often feel ashamed of it myself.

Good Colin

I cannot live any longer not knowing what will happen tomorrow. Pray tell, look into your tea leaves. I can toy with this eye-wrecking lace work no longer. Tell me the fate of Atlantis, tell me of Troy and the horse. What was it like inside the dark body – all those swords, those torsos next to torsos, those chosen men breathing quiet as they could?

Dear Ryan,

I have had it with my femur! What may seem to some an interactive irrelevancy is in fact to me an irritant. A flea-pit felony if you really want know. But I will pick myself up and narrow the scope. You’re asking about tomorrow? It’s surely dominated by the smallest of sunbathers quivering from the warmth of. You know what warmth and you know how irrepressible its draw. Those tiny bathers. A nappy banquet. It’s not too tragi-comic.

Dear Colin

It is impossible to stop wanting to repeat ourselves. And yet we make each word anew. As if no man had ever spoken it before. This is the hard part.

Dear Ryan,

Hard as in rocky? Solid? Iron-hearted? Impenetrable? Packed? So I understand. To avoid a debacle, embrace summings-up. Perhaps we should betray our fitter selfishisms and motley underpinnings, but can I speak from the heart? thus?, desires. I believe my words will no longer hold and as it stands: you hang a fish from a hook, it will untangle itself, depending on the brainpower of the fish. It’s a stroll in the park for me.

Dear Colin

Sometimes the vein runs so dry, I don’t have a word to say. If there was a line between my mind and your ear, I would trespass it. Perhaps, as always, the best answer is: ‘it depends’. Perhaps I will have a full dream tonight and there will be more to say in the morning.


Colin Herd was born in Stirling in 1985 and now lives in Edinburgh. He is a poet, fiction writer and critic. His first collection of poems “too ok” was published by BlazeVOX in 2011. A pamphlet, “like”, was published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press in 2011 and a second full-length collection ‘Glovebox’, was published by Knives Forks and Spoons Press in 2013. He has published over 60 reviews and articles on art and literature in publications including Aesthetica Magazine, 3:AM Magazine, PN:Review and The Independent. He has read and performed his work widely, including at Rich Mix Arts Centre, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Gay’s the Word Bookshop, Edinburgh University, Lancaster University and The Edinburgh International Book Festival. In 2014, ‘Glovebox’ was highly commended in the Forward Prizes.


Colin Herd & Ryan Van Winkle read ‘I Feel As If’



Inspired by  SJ Fowler‘s  ‘Camarade’ project which pairs poets to create new work, I’ve stolen the notion and begun to collaborate with friends and writers of interest. You can read about the project and see 2013’s poems here & 2014 poems here.

Commiserate Three Way 2015

December 29, 2014

Matt Hetherington & David Stavanger — Commiserate, January 2015

It is a pleasure to be back this month with our first ever three-way collaboration between myself and two Australian poet friends – Matt Hetherington & David Stavanger. So below you will find four poems all based on source material we wrote together in the sweaty Brisbane summer. Taps off, y’all. 

Matt Hetherington by Nicholas Walton-Healey

Matt Hetherington by Nicholas Walton-Healey

The process: we sat around a table and in round-robin style created a very large poem. Each of us took the source material and re-worked it. Below are the results from the three of us.

Matt says: the best bit was the start…sitting around drinking beer, throwing lines out like sighs…the editing was more like real sighs…or sights of sides…i like mine best! You can quote me on that!


Fill Your Stump
by Matt Hetherington
w/ Ryan Van Winkle & David Stavanger


baby says something
she says the word ‘bovine’
she says you’re like a duck, you’ve got no tread
but winter is when you need the fur
skin is where we find get off
stumbling into the wild man


those men who file tax returns sleep with animals
and keep their umbrellas by the door
size determines technique
or the future
well, everybody has one
if they keep their teeth straight
it’s elegant


when you need to say sorry, feel lucky
you can scratch a way through your head
when your toe is sore you need to remember
keep an axe in the sound
when the song goes wrong
or short or ironed out or shirty
it’s a shit, innit?


grandma’s throat gave birth to a tree
so growl about it, make tea and read
don’t flatter yourself
don’t take their cake
don’t ask white to turn off-white
earth keeps you talking about the girls
and girls love girth more than neil loves you


my father is a festival
he knows how to hurt her
take him out to the dire lands where the popcorn is cheap
close all the windows, you can’t squeeze through
my sister asks if I am a truck
(no, I am not a truck)


why is this happening?
not really


David Stavanger

David Stavanger

slip inside, jackets by the door
by David Stavanger
w/ Matt Hetherington & Ryan Van Winkle


when the weather is yellow, tops
off when the weather is white, fill your
with sure white stains, turn


the power off. when the pants fit, e
lephants talk birds talk, watch the p
float innocent and flam e


like dreams your teeeeeeeeeeth fell
the school bracelet donated twice


and you yelled like broken night
breakthewrist, breakthethumb
touching how you never ran till you raced


three of us horses, one for every type
of home. we sent grandma
she said she’d kidnap itches
her cats had no claws, pussies
in spring but winter is when you need the fur


slip inside, jackets by the door


fluff the sound, play the take
needle fills the song
clouds heard the honey sky out
when heavy goes wrong the song
baby, axe the needle
keep me in you

the word bovine 
 slow and wet
to ease
 she says you’re like a duck
you’ve got no tread the season gone brown
the colour of dad’s wallet
 which only opens for sharks
those men who file tax returns sleep with animals


Size determines


Animals who sleep with women
can never go home


Bark for forgiveness. Grandma’s throat gave birth to a tree


growl about it and keep your umbrella
by the door and put rain in the can every time she says
sugar. dung. mother trucker.


piss taker who knows when to pull out the fruit.
the groceries in Paris always seem brighter she says
the trains always like me, fruit lasts longer on the tree


close all the windows, you can’t squeeze through
when your toe is sore you need to remember


there’s only so much rice you can put in a bowl


Grandma Goes Three Ways
by Ryan Van Winkle
w/ Matt Hetherington & David Stavanger


when the weather is yellow, tops off
when the weather is white, fill your stump
with sure white stains, turn the power off


when the pants fit, make elephants talk
when the birds talk, watch the planes
float innocent and flame


like a bracelet of teeth donated
to the school of dreams
you chased till they fell


and yelled like a broken night – break
the wrist, break the thumb touching
how you never ran till you raced,


three of us horses, one for every type
of home. we sent grandma
when she said she’d kidnap itches


her cats had no claws, pussies
bloom in spring but winter is when you need
the fur. slip inside, jackets by the door


close all the windows, you can’t squeeze through.
when your toe is sore you need to remember
there’s only so much rice you can put in a bowl


fluff fills the clouds, the honey, the needle
till the needle gets heavy
keep an axe in the sound


play the song you heard in the song
when the song goes wrong
take me to the sky, take me out baby says


the word bovine
slow and wet to ease
she says you’re like a duck


you’ve got no tread because
the season has gone brown,
the colour of dad’s wallet


which only opened for the sharks,
those men who file tax returns,
sleep with animals. Size determines


technique. Animals who sleep with women
can never go home. Bark for forgiveness.
Grandma’s throat gave birth to a tree –


growl about it and keep your umbrella
by the door and put rain in the can every time
she says fuck. oh, sugar. dung. mother trucker.


piss taker who knows when to pull out the stops.
the groceries in paris always seem brighter, she says,
the trains always like me, fruit lasts longer on the tree


Three of Us Horses
by Matt Hetherington
w/ Ryan Van Winkle & David Stavanger


take me to the sky
because the season has gone
brown like a wallet


when the weather is yellow
turn the power off
when the birds talk, watch the planes


slip inside, jackets by the door
so soon so late so go
one for every type of home


too many farmers not enough grass
and the way to the well is worn thin
then play the song you heard in the song


couldn’t break it even like a bracelet of death
like thumbs touching
like how you never ran ’till you raced


you know you’ll leave it
hanging in the currents
there’s only so much rice you can put in a bowl


Matt Hetherington has performed and published his poems for over 20 years throughout Australia, Europe, and America, including in the anthologies The Best Australian Poetry [2007, UQP], and The Best Australian Poems [2004, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, Black Inc.] His fourth collection of poetry [and first collection of haiku] For Instance, will be published in January 2015 by Mulla Mulla Press, and he is also on the board of the Australian Haiku Society. Some current inspirations are: Miles Davis’ ‘electric period, his 7 year-old daughter Jess, and plain old sunshine.

David Stavanger won the 2013 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Award. He is also Green Room nominated spoken weird cabaret artist Ghostboy, known for his live shows with Richard Grantham (Deep Blue) and the band Golden Virtues, as well as having established the thriving QLD poetry slam scene. The Special (UQP) – his first full-length collection of poetry – has recently been released and is now in reprint.


Commiserate is a monthly experiment in poetic collaboration.

Inspired by  SJ Fowler‘s  ‘Camarade’ project which pairs poets to create new work, I’ve stolen the notion and begun to collaborate with friends and writers of interest. You can read about the project and see 2013’s poems here and 2014’s poems here

Commiserate Dec – 2014 – William Letford

November 29, 2014

Fuckin’ Coconuts — December 2014

William Letford & Ryan Van Winkle

Ryan Van Winkle & William Letford

Ryan Van Winkle & William Letford

William says: The idea for this collaboration began when I was on an island off the east coast of India. I was drinking a lot of coconuts, and listening to the thud as they fell beside my hut in the middle of the night. A loud thud. I began to get paranoid. I’d look up at palm trees swaying as I walked beneath. I sent Ryan two words, ‘Fuckin Coconuts,’ and he took it from there. Strange how things get started. I’m back on that same island right now. Had a near miss yesterday. Still looking up at the palm trees. Fuckin coconuts.

Fuckin’ Coconuts

how did the monkey get here?

He came to Glasgow

and left the water

for the organ grinder


even the monkey

wants money

but settles for scratching

moist temporal flesh

and gets stuck in


how else did he get here?


last night I went to sleep

and woke up in a tree

beside the fuckin’ monkey

we were in the tree

and down below us

was a family sittin’

in their conservatory drinkin’


so I leant close to ask

the monkey what he

thought about the family

sittin’ in their conservatory

drinkin’ lemonade

the monkey told me

he thought about



then the monkey

asked me

what i thought

when i looked at the family

sittin’ in their conservatory

drinkin’ lemonade

I said I wished I didn’t

walk in my sleep

I said I wished I wasn’t

a sleepwalker


how else did the monkey arrive?



as the leaves

on a tree


how else did he get here?


I was minding my own business

just having a whiskey because

the bar was neon and there was the snow

and the monkey wants another mojito

but the lady says they’re out of mint. The season

and all the rest. Well, I don’t like to get involved

but that monkey wasn’t talking right to a lady

so I says he should watch his mouth.

Man-alive, his breath smelt like peanut butter

and those claws dug right into my shoulders.


I don’t often feel like a mouse, I don’t often

pass out thinking of owls and the full moon.

When I woke up the monkey was gone

the barmaid, applying a towel still sticky with beer

said ‘how did that monkey get here?


An old man lifted an eyebrow like

he was lifting a heavy wooden chest.

Stories folded on his forehead. Flecks

of regret cracked the corners of his

lips. A smile spread like a beer

stain on a tattered armchair and this

is what he whispered,


Monkey see monkey do

brass monkeys cheeky monkeys

the monkey fuckin’ stole

ma shoe. Monkey shoulder

monkey rum the monkey

licks its fuckin’ bum

monkey wrench monkey’s uncle

the monkey on ma back

monkey business monkey suit

couldn’t give one

couldn’t throw one

chances are you’ll fuckin’ know one


how else did the monkey come?


we don’t know

how our actions

may appear to others

one man’s underground wank

is another man’s nightmare


how else did the monkey get here?


Now, I hear he’s getting divorced

sold the holiday home in the keys

and the Porsche, of course – sold

all those beautiful trees


they say he spends all day inside

with a colour tv on mute

listening to the air conditioner hummm

wearing a tie like he was going

up the tower again


how else did you get here?


i built my life around monkey


you know the one about the tortoise

and the alligator, the one about

the pea on the chair, well

the sea moves forwards

the coast moves back

inspired, in trouble

all the people, their houses

doctors, lawyers, executives

babies, daughters, fathers


how else did the monkey get here?


it was some kind of nature

not the dark

which filled his eyes

his ears filled

with the words of charlie

darwin: from so simple

a beginning





Homo habilis


there’s a monkey in everyone of us

a red-arsed baboon in some


how did the monkey get here?


it came from the sea

it came from space

from somewhere in the twinkling dark

it came from Centaurus A

it came from void

i am the fuckin’ monkey

i am australopithecine’s ape like urge

and culture

is killing my hormonal surge

tear down the buildings

plant the trees

empty the ginger bottles

stop shaving

let your underwear fall to the floor


run, run




feel the sun

listen to the leaves

and there’s a monkey

in everyone of us

the monkey is life


how did the monkey get here?


The monkey is in a wet green field

not a tree on any horizon


The monkey is in the desert

watching a snake die


on a cactus, a horse

running off, a cow


shrinking into her ribs

a sheep licking sand.


The monkey lives

with no oasis.


Where did you leave your monkey?


On the fire escape, Halloween

everyone agreed, it was the best

costume and they drank monkey

and talked monkey until monkey

just about had enough


How did the monkey get escape?


Monkey wakes in a haze

of new bougainvillea

every door is locked

the air is tepid as tea

somewhere a drum

and all his hairs quiver


Fuckin’ Coconuts live at Summerhall, Edinburgh 


William Letford has received a New Writer’s Award from the Scottish Book Trust and an Edwin Morgan Travel Bursary. His first collection Bevel (Caracanet) was published in 2012. A chapbook of his poems, translated into Slovakian, was published by Vertigo in October 2014.


Commiserate is a monthly experiment in poetic collaboration.

Inspired by  SJ Fowler‘s  ‘Camarade’ project which pairs poets to create new work, I’ve stolen the notion and begun to collaborate with friends and writers of interest. You can read about the project and see 2013’s poems here.

Rachel McCrum – Commiserate, Nov 2014

October 27, 2014

What I Might Say, When I May Say It

Rachel McCrum & Ryan Van Winkle


Says Rachel: How a poem sounds is important to me; my way back to writing had been via a lot of readings in Edinburgh, and for me, every phrase or line has to sound just right before it goes to paper. When I started to write this with Ryan, I could hear his voice, his damn distinctive reading voice with all those big honeyed cadences playing in my head, and I found myself wanting to resist it. Clip it back. I was worried whose voice was speaking, whose story being told, what sense was (not) being made.Rachel McCrum

Turned out that I don’t think that matters. Turned out to be more fun playing with it, seeing which lines could give a little, tease a bit, and which ones wanted to stand firm. Where it took itself. What it’s about – we both have an idea, and maybe we will talk about that someday. I think it’s the same idea. To me, that it started to get written just after the Referendum had failed (can we say failed?) and how people dealt with their grief from the result, is significant. But, also, just for the writing of it – thanks for the dance.




What I Might Say, When I May Say It


It is always tempting to imagine
what my father felt when I landed
in his arms or what I might say
when a friend dies


how I might arrange myself
or how I might be stoic
with thick strength
or how I might howl myself


– and you, rigid –
or how my voice might crack
in all the right places
and never squeak or snot


how I might bask in thoughts of syrup
some slow elastic sweetness
never too hot or too cold
but just right, just right.




And it is tempting to break
when they say ‘crack –
it will let the light in’.
That old drone, one hopes


will smooth our ire
to a healthy varnish.
One hopes we might
remember the mountains


and how they looked so far
until we rolled on them. How
nanna was a Moore girl
and she gave good wood


out amongst the birch. Tempting
to trace old lines over
before we remember how
our landscapes were always


different, that my folks came
from salt. But still we hold
our forks the exact same way, that
we may recall, when the time comes,


the same rough supple shapes
of their hands. All we might
be able to say when time
creaks closed and we must speak.



About Rachel

Rachel landed in Edinburgh in the spring of 2010, via Manchester, Belfast, New Zealand, Oxford and a small seaside town in Northern Ireland. She wholly blames the Forest Cafe for the joy she is currently living with writing, performing, collaborating and organising poetry events in Scotland. It cost her a PhD but that hadn’t been a good idea anyway. Her first pamphlet ‘The Glassblower Dances‘ won the 2013 Callum Macdonald Award, as a result of which she spent two weeks as the Michael Marks Poet in Residence at the Harvard Centre for Hellenic Studies in Nafplion, Greece. In spring 2014, she spent two weeks in South Africa as one of the Scottish Poetry Library’s Commonwealth Poets United. With poet Jenny Lindsay, she runs Rally & Broad, a regular cabaret of poetry, music and lyrical delight in Edinburgh, Glasgow and other places.


Commiserate is a monthly experiment in poetic collaboration.

Inspired by  SJ Fowler‘s  ‘Camarade’ project which pairs poets to create new work, I’ve stolen the notion and begun to collaborate with friends and writers of interest. You can read about the project and see 2013’s poems here.

Commiserate October: nick-e melville

September 30, 2014

October 2014 — nick-e melville — complaintnick-e melville

nick-e says: This poem started as a conversation about complaint letters. As a found poet, I am very interested in subverting bureaucratic language in various ways: the replies to Ryan’s complaints provided the source material for my contribution to our collaboration. I focused on, and extracted lines which demonstrated, the banal, the inane and the ridiculous; not unlike Ryan’s initial complaints…

Ryan says: I like to complain. I was probably complaining about something when we got the idea to do this poem. I knew nick-e does work with found and officious texts and I hoped he’d find something worthwhile in the letters I’d sent out to cinemas, airlines, and phone companies over the years. Maybe I hadn’t wasted my time writing and grumbling down the phone.




Not long now

until you’re off

on your travels

It is your responsibility to check with the airline

that any onward flights you have confirmed

are operating as booked

This is an automatic notification email that cannot accept in-coming mail


For a long time

this is a how I thought

a person should be

phone melting

in the crook

of her shoulder

tea boiling and manager

manager I want to speak

manager manager let me finish

manager manager you’re not listening


Document prepared for customer

Status Confirmed (x8 potentially)




You have yet to purchase a Multiflex pass.

It may not be too late!

paper or E?

Names correct & spelt back phonetically

Travelling on US passport


from a country belonging

BA 1440 O 26NOV 2 LHREDI HK1 1145 1310 26NOV E BA/NOSYNC


if I had a sunday

i would get on the phone

i would set my teeth right

i learned words like automaton

pusillanimous – i could have loved

could have whisked eggs

and fluffed pancakes, i could

have made the bed, or even

called a taxi, why not where

did we want to go. but that person

was not a person i could be. not

with my father’s tie in the closet

my mother’s cord still wet in my mouth.

for a long time

i couldn’t pick a fight

with my own wife

but i could heat up a phone

crack a rotten egg down the line.


your recent travel experience with US

Your comments matter to US

For this reason

I have thoroughly reviewed your case

Your concerns have been sent

to the appropriate leadership teams

We are working hard to earn

your continued patronage

I’m sorry you found the kiosk

difficult to understand

and navigate

Given the issues that our industry continues

to face in these volatile economic times

Thank you for giving us

this opportunity to address


I have carefully reviewed

everything in you


my entire body one throbbing nose relating

to the Guarantee Obligations sniffing

twitching when i try to sleep, worrying an obligation

of a downstream affiliate – the stream

is rapid, an obligation of other parties

where there is only the sense

of her perfume, an hour or less, in respect

of the Underlying Obligation of the Underlying Obligor

that is Not Subordinated. in the end, he proposed

direct obligations of the Reference Entity


I am angry because a woman told me

your computers are ‘never wrong’

I am familiar with technology

I am 36 years old, not 86

I am not daunted by flashing screens


The origins of simple, everyday things

is in the longing

for something faster, easier

the longing is building a fire

that rain or floods won’t quell

the lonesome is shifting around

with his hands in his pockets


Your kiosks

are not intuitive

take longer to use

are more unpleasant

than a standard human

interaction at a desk

It is insulting to imply

I was somehow dazzled

by your new-fangled machines

as if I had stepped out of a time-machine

straight from the Victoria age


i mean to say we always want better

than what we have, who wouldn’t

take a little bit extra, a little bit more


I am most offended

that I should be concerned

for your industry

in these ‘volatile economic times’

In these ‘volatile economic times’

people are losing their homes, their jobs

the costs of things like higher education ever increasing

and the gap between rich and poor ever expanding

The idea that I should pity you

rather than be furious

at your theft

is outrageous


i should talk with my grandmother again

about the things in my pockets

a pink handkerchief, some oil

instead, i am on hold awaiting

the dull excuse of management

while the dead stay still and silent


Your company is suffering

due to gross malfeasance

I thank you for your time.

nick-e melville is an experimental poet and artist working in found, visual and conceptual poetics. he has had several publications in various media over the last four years, including: ALERT STATE IS HEIGHTENED (sadpress 2014); me (p.ow. series, 2014) junk mail (if p then q, 2014) and selections and dissections (otoliths, 2010). DOLE (Interview Room 11, Nov 2013) was his first solo exhibition: a conceptual examination of the detritus left behind by Social Security. He teaches creative writing for OLL at Edinburgh, among other places, and was Writer (not) in Residence at HMP Edinburgh, 2010-2011. Currently, he is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing/English Literature at the University of Glasgow, working on a project called The Imperative Commands.

complaint live at Rich Mix, London


Commiserate is a monthly experiment in poetic collaboration.

Inspired by  SJ Fowler  ‘Camarade’ project which pairs poets together to create new work, I’ve stolen the notion and begun to collaborate with friends and writers of interest. You can read about the project and see 2013’s poems here.


Tides Connect Everywhere in the Melbourne Planetarium

April 14, 2014

Really delighted that ‘Tides Connect Everywhere‘, the latest audiovisual collaborative piece between myself and Dan Gorman, will be hosted in the Melbourne Planetarium this month, as part of the exhibition Elemental.

Tides Connect Everywhere is a site specific audiovisual installation commissioned by the Melbourne Planetarium, Australia in January 2014 on occasion of the exhibition ELEMENTAL, science in the dark. The video will be screened in April 2014 in the dome of the planetarium.

Tides Connect Everywhere is to be considered the second chapter of a collaboration with poet Ryan van Winkle and experimental sound researcher- collector and activist Dan Gorman which started In early 2012 with the realization of the music video No Ideas but in things and released on Invisible Agent. Tides Connect Everywhere represents a reflection on the hypothetical presence of a single, all-encompassing, coherent theoretical framework of physics that fully explains and links together all physical aspects of the uni- verse. For this commission I worked with an arch structure of continuously growing geometrical elements taken from my euromeptiness archive of symbols. Very Important is the timing within the transition choices that are meant to be resemble human breathing, therefor not necessarily synched with the track changes.

Ryan is Captured on Film at Hidden Door Camarade

April 5, 2014

If you missed fantastic performances at this week’s Hidden Door Festival, here is video evidence of my involvement. The entire Camarade event is available on SJ Fowler’s YouTube channel. Check it out.

Ryan Chairs Superational

March 31, 2014

I’ll be chairing a really exciting event for Superational, an excellent forum for artists to organise cross-genre collaborations, promote and distribute their work. The event is part of the Hidden Door Festival, and will preview some of the work Superational will be doing.

What: Superational Preview

Where: The Vaults, Market Street, Edinburgh

When: 6-7pm, Thursday 3 April

How Much: FREE, book tickets here.