The power of poetry comes partly from its ability to explode a language when it no longer feels adequate enough to explain the extraordinary times we live in. This month on The Line Break, Ryan talks to the Singapore-born poet, editor and translator – Alvin Pang – about multiculturalism and poetry as a force of resistance: against public expectations, political oppression and cultural efficiencies, as well as our own longings, ambivalences, lost hopes, fears and anxieties. Alvin recites a few of his extraordinary poems, and Ryan sets two more poetry sparks for you all to try out: writing family, and lashing out against bullies, bosses, and dictators.
Listeners to The Line Break can also join the The Line Break group on CAMPUS, the Poetry School’s free online community for poets.
The Poetry School welcomes you to this new poetry podcast, our very first!
For our pilot outing of The Line Break, host Ryan Van Winkle re-visits his 2013 interview with TS Eliot-prize winner, Philip Gross, ranging across making up names for colours, comparing the similarities of poetry and making scones, and asking what happens in the thought vortex of ‘What if, what then?’
I was hugely pleased and honoured to chair a conversation with a unique and committed artist and writer, Alasdair Gray. You can hear the whole conversation on the Edinburgh International Book Festival website, or if you’d prefer, you can take a two-dimensional vision at us in action on the wonderful artist Grace Wilson’s website. What a pleasure to be so colourful. There will soon be an edited version of that conversation, keep your eyes peeled.
In case you’ve missed them in the past few weeks, here’s the most recent editions of the Culture Laser podcast for you listening pleasure. Brew up a steamy cuppa tea, put your feet up and enjoy!
Paper Trails with Mandy Haggith
I got rid of my printer a few weeks ago because I’d stopped using it. So is everyone reducing the amount of paper they use? Considering the sheer volume of my literary output, I obviously have a very special relationship with paper, and so I was fascinated to sit down to talk with activist and writer Mandy Haggith, author of Paper Trails: From Trees to Trash – the True Cost of Paper, a book about where all the paper we use comes from. She shares a number of alarming statistics- including the fact that catalogue retailer Argos used to be responsible for 1 per cent of the UK’s total consumption of paper. We also feature the track ‘Ghosts’ from Hiva Oa.
During a recent trip to Sofia, Bulgaria for Literature Across Frontiers, I put out a call for interesting people to meet and was put in touch with the Bulgarian writer Elena Alexieva. Although initially described to me as a crime writer, I soon discovered she was much more than that. I also caught up with poet and translator Ivan Hristov while he was in Sofia and we feature one of his songs, Rado Fair Rado.
Art can change lives, change societies and start revolutions. So we find out on this week’s episode featuring broadcaster and writer Richard Holloway, chairman of Sistema Scotland, a charity set up in the belief that children can gain huge social benefits by playing in a symphony orchestra. Richard also discusses his work with LGBT Youth Scotland and some of the reasons why he stepped down as Bishop of Edinburgh. We also feature a poem from Jacob Sam-La Rose (@jsamlarose) about young people describing their own lives in a poetic way. And we squeeze in the fantastic track ‘I Believe’ from Edinburgh based singer Lake Montgomery.
One of the nicest things about hosting, performing and touring with the Golden Hour is that I occasionally get to collaborate with great musicians. So, on this podcast I share with you one of my favourites – Jed Milroy and I performing Bluegrass. In the podcast I explain a bit about where the poem comes from but here are some more interesting facts.
* I recorded the vocal part sitting in Jed Milroy’s loo.
* I never lived with anyone named Tuna. The name is an oblique reference to the horrendous Johnny Depp film, Blow. At some point the overweight character named Tuna wanders into the ocean as a solemn Johnny Depp says, “Nobody knows where Tuna went” or something like that. At the time, we found it very funny and it managed to sneak into the poem.
* The poem wouldn’t have been written if I didn’t live with an amazing bunch of people in a huge house in Ithaca during the Summer of 2001. This experiment in communal living was revolutionary but not in the naive way we all expected. Hammocks and skinny-dipping in waterfalls, table football, music and artistic endeavours were all around us. Living closely with a dozen artists and activists changed my life and, in a way, has guided me to this day. We made some mistakes, and we were young enough to believe we could change the world in some way. Then 9/11 happened, the house broke up and the world really did change. This is what we looked like:
* The poem wouldn’t have been written if Jed Milroy, Jack Richold, Andy McKay, and Ian Stoddart didn’t play magnificent bluegrass music every week for a while at The Jazz Bar on Chambers Street. Hearing songs like Wagon Wheel and Loudon Wainwright’s Swimming Song brought me back to America and returned me to the friends I lived with. Thank you Greenman Bluegrass Boys!
Anyway, that’s all a lot of preamble. Here’s the blurb from the SPL site. Let us know how you enjoy the podcast.
Emily Ballou & Bluegrass
“I felt a Funeral, in my Brain…”
Ryan catches up with American/Australian poet Emily Ballou just before her event at the SPL. They discuss what it’s like to be a poet abroad, the influences on her work and her recent collection, The Darwin Poems. We’re also treated to ‘Bluegrass’, a poem by Ryan, with musical accompaniment by Jed Milroy.
As part of the Reel Iraq Festival I had a chance to talk to the Iraqi Poet Sinan Antoon. Sinan has two books out and I found his collection, Bagdahd Blues, is hauntingly beautiful. There are some incredibly rendered, short poems in there all written clean and clear.Check it out. You can also find Sinan’s work in the latest issue of The Edinburgh Review as translated by Andrew Philip. I’m really happy that the Reel Iraq Festival branched out into the literary world this year and that I had a chance to be so active in so much of it. Let’s hope these important festivals keep growing in Edinburgh.
Here’s the blurb from the SPL:
Reader in Residence Ryan Van Winkle and Iraqi poet and novelist Sinan Antoon found a break during the Golden Hour to chat about his work, about labels and about which poems he carries with him. Also featuring hip hop track ‘Sunshine’ from Mammoth.
Our podcasts are about to become a bit more frequent. Be here every Friday, or better yet, subscribe!
Featuring an interview with poet Kona Macphee, who discusses her Poem of the Week project and reads a Halloween themed poem from her first book, Tails. Her new collection Perfect Blue, is out in February from Bloodaxe. We’ve also got a scary treat from Kim Tebble, who performs his “The Raven, the Knight and the Queen of the Birds”.
If you’d like to send us your favourite scary poem and why you like it, or just say hello to Ryan and Colin, please drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org
Join me, Reader in Residence, as I discuss Blake’s ‘The Sick Rose’ with sculptor Michael Bowdidge; poet Robert Alan Jamieson reflects on his recent collection of poems Nort Atlantik Drift and shares an audio excerpt from his DVD of the same name and Edinburgh-based band Saint Jude’s Infirmary air their views on poetry, music and Scotland and play us the track ‘Tacoma Radar’ from the new album, This Has Been The Death Of Us, featuring Iain Rankin and new artwork from Jack Vettriano.
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Check out my new SPL podcast! Featuring Edinburgh poet and musician JL Williams from Laertes, Why Are You Crying? Canadian spoken word artist Myra Davies with a new track from the Berlin-based Moabit Label. You can listen or download the podcast for FREE here, and take a visit to the poetry library website.