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Ryan has two events with Latvian poets in Scotland

May 24, 2018

When Latvia Met Scotland

On Wednesday 23 May, 7pm, I will be reading at the Scottish Poetry Library with Latvian poets Katrīna RudzīteHenriks ZēgnersInga Pizāne, and Eduards Eipurs, Scottish poets Katherine Sowerby and William Letford, and Welsh poet Llyr Gwyn Lewis. This event is produced in partnership with Latvian Literature platform, which is promoting recognition of Latvian literature and its distribution abroad, ensuring international cooperation among publishers, literary agents, writers and translators. Both Latvian Literature platform and SPL are members of Literature Across Frontiers (LAF).

International Simmer: Latvia meets Scotland

On Thursday 24 May, 7.30pm, I will be joined at the Edinburgh Food Studio by Latvian poets Katrīna RudzīteHenriks ZēgnersInga Pizāne, and Eduards Eipurs, Scottish poets Katherine Sowerby and William Letford, Welsh poet Llyr Gwyn Lewis, and Latvian chef Raivo Behmanis.

Our unique collaboration series between food & poetry uses flavour, scent, and colour in response to poems. In this edition we bring an international flavour and welcome a Latvian chef to our kitchen and four distinct Latvian voices and their Scottish / Welsh translators. 

This event has been generously supported by Latvian Literature which works internationally to support Latvian literature abroad.

 

Ryan facilitates a Poetry Translation Workshop in Riga

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.

Ryan in Riga for Translation Workshops

September 5, 2017

From Monday 11 to Sunday 17 September I’ll be in Riga, facilitating a poetry translation workshop with four UK poets and four Latvian poets.

I’ll also be doing a writing workshop in a local high-school, sharing workshop skills with a Latvian counterpart.

We’ll be performing at the NicePlace on 16 September at 18:00 as part of Riga’s Poetry Days Festival.

 

 

British participants are:

Latvian participants are:

The workshop is organized & supported by Latvia’s International Writers and Translators House, the Latvia Publishers Associatio, the Latvian Literature platform and is a part of the Literary Europe Live project.

Southern Crossings Tour Diary – Sunday, 23 August – Day 1

August 25, 2015

Changi Airport – Singapore: 18.04

It is a common thing, before a big trip, for people to ask – ‘are you excited for Australia?’

My response is always the same, ‘No. But I will be when I get there.’ I don’t tend to ‘look forward’ in that way, to dream of how good something or someplace will be. I don’t check the weather. I do not buy a Lonely Planet.

changi-airport

Managing Expectations @ Changi Airport

I’m sure I’m not the only one who manages expectations in this way. Surely there are people who won’t read reviews before seeing the film.

However, my friends David Stavanger & Annie Te Whiu (co-directors of this year’s Queensland Poetry Festival) suggested I write a blog, maybe telling people how excited I am to be part of the Scottish cohort heading to QPF this year.

Well, as I said, I don’t get excited before things but I’m 99% sure to be excitedly drinking with them after the gig. And, honestly, performance artist MacGillivray & my old friend William Letford have consistently delivered performances which live inside me. It is a semi-eclectic bill – the three of us – but one that speaks to the programmers’ attraction to poems which are crafted and can exist on the page but also to poets who know how to read and perform their work, who are willing to collaborate & experiment with music, noise, voice to create something unique for the live audience. Together, we’re going to try to do that.

18.23 – Poets are the new whalers

Being in this airport so far from both my Scottish & American homes reminds me of something Jane Hirshfield once quipped to me – ‘poets are the new whalers’ – she emailed as we kept almost being in the same city at the same time a few years back.

There’s not much money or fame in our line of work but man, she was right, some of us lucky ones get to criss-cross the globe. I’ve been to Lebanon & Iraq with Letford, seen David Stavanger in Edinburgh, St Andrews and Brisbane and after this jaunt MacGillivray is flying straight to LA for more gigs.

The worrying thought occurs that maybe we’re not the whalers but the whales. Or maybe the great poem is the whale, the impossible, illusive, destructive thing that we (as writers) chase along with audiences (as readers) – both of us Ahab. Manically, scanning the seas for that brilliant white one.

18.45 – I Never Really Left

I sat down with a Laksa soup and realized I still had my Edinburgh International Book Festival lanyard in my back pocket.

Laksa & Lanyard

Laksa & Lanyard

I think I’ll keep it with me as I go from the Melbourne Writers Festival to the Queensland Poetry Festival. It will remind me of the conversations had in Edinburgh with Mexican poets & writers, with critics, with Sami & Inuit poets, with author musicians like John Darnielle and almost certainly the threads will continue, a global conversation, a global village.

Some Threads in My Head

— The visiting Mexican poet Monica de la Torre said that writing the poem is as important as the poem, that the act of writing is a learning process, that she doesn’t know what she wants to say when she starts and the act of writing is the act of discovery (paraphrasing from memory here, sorry Monica). It was a heartening idea to hear articulated in front of a crowd and I wonder, if I like the writers who have a process which is similar to mine,  who are not making an argument but are charting a journey to an argument? And is that fair to the writers who don’t write that way — who start with an argument and work towards it?

— Would intellectualsnob.com be a good website? Am I an intellectual snob? Or, as the writer & critic Stuart Kelly said, do I believe in an ‘elitism for all’? 

— Is performance poetry / slam poetry / spoken word a capitalist construct because it monitizes poetry via crowd pleasing activities? (as suggested in The Guardian comments section, here) Or, more generously, is it populist and speaking to ‘the people’?

— David Stavanger, Mr Ghostboy, who himself straddles the twin stallions of both page poetry & spoken word will have something to say about this, no doubt. It is reflected in his programming & of course in his work of which there is much I admire. I surprise myself by sincerely looking forward to that conversation. I suspect he will say what I know deep down — that good is good & bad is bad and labels, like flags, are stupid.

— I think to myself, ‘Language does more than order a cup of coffee. Language does more than ‘communicate’ on the most obvious level. Language does more than say, ‘2 dollars fifty cents, thank you’. The visiting Mexican poet, Gabriela Jauregui, said something along the lines that poetry / language diverts the ‘transactional’, and also that poetry can overcome the language of (what she called) ‘necrocapitalism’ in Mexico.

 — Jessie Kleeman pushed language far out in her hypnotic & moving Jura Unbound performance as part of Highlight Arts‘ ‘Head North, My Friend‘. At one point she asked, ‘what will we do without dogs when the ice melts? Build factories to turn them into food?’ Ouch.

— Highlight Arts‘ ‘Head North, My Friend‘ took place on the day President Obama gave permission for Shell to drill in the Arctic.

— This classic clip from Orson Welles’ The Third Man has been going around my head thanks to the visiting Mexican journalist Juan Villoro.

 

— Does making art require suffering, violence, blood? If you had the choice, would you want to be Switzerland or Italy? I was glad I got to ask that of John Darnielle &  Gavin Extence who both have suffered & seen suffering first hand.

 

 

18.55 – I Better Go Now

I think my flight is boarding and this airport is big. I’m also mildly curious about ‘how to become a Changhi Airport Millionaire’ – would that be a millionaire only in the confines of this airport. Like The Terminal but with Donald Trump as Tom Hanks?

I’ll be performing with William Letford & MacGillivary at The Toff in Town, Melbourne. Wednesday 26 August
We’ll be joining the Queensland Poetry Festival on Thursday the 27th. Check the listings here.
—-
With grateful acknowledgement to Creative Scotland for financial assistance.
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Ryan goes on tour in Australia

July 16, 2015

Really excited to be heading back to Australia this August to perform at both the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Queensland Poetry Festival. I’ll be touring with the fantastic performance artist and poet MacGillivray (The Last Wolf of Scotland) and the poetic dynamo that is William Letford (Bevel) Here’s the itinerary:

MELBOURNE — one night only
Wed 26th August Brave New Voices @ MWF, The Toff in Town. 6.30-8.30pm
Spoken word  / poetry salon, featuring Ryan Van Winkle, MacGillivray, William Letford plus David Stavanger, Richard Grantham and CR Avery (Canada).
BRISBANE — for Queensland Poetry Festival
Thurs 27th August The New Braves @ Satellite QPF, Studio 188 Ipswich. 7-9pm
Spoken word  / poetry salon featuring Ryan Van Winkle, MacGillivray, William Letford, plus Cameron Logan (local poet).
Sat 29th August The New Braves @ QPF, Judith Wright Main Theatre. 5-6pm
Spoken word  / poetry performance session featuring Ryan Van Winkle, MacGillivray, William Letford.
Sun 30th August Short Form Book Club @ QPF, Judith Wright Shopfront. 12-1pm
Ryan Van Winkle will be a panelist as four poets discuss a poem or short fiction work.
Sun 30th August Pleasure & Pain @ QPF, Judith Wright Main Theatre. 1.30-2.30pm
Performance and reading session. MacGillivray plus special guests.
If you’re in either Melbourne or Brisbane at the end of August, it would be amazing to see you there.

Ryan at the Writers Return Series at Summerhall

February 22, 2015

This Thursday 26 February I’ll be performing alongside Alan Bissett, Anne Donovan and the inimitable William Letford at Summerhall for the Writers Return series, organised by the British Council. We’ll all be telling stories from our time spent writing our way around the world, it’s free but ticketed, it’ll be great. Hope to see you there.

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’

lemonade

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

bananas

 

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?

 

zagged

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

monkeysaymonkeydo

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

 

 

Ramapithecus

Australopithecus

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

 

climb

 

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

http://youtu.be/clX4wL6G2MM 

 

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.

Ross Sutherland’s documentary: Auld Enemies

August 1, 2014

Auld Enemies was a very special project. Our friend Ross Sutherland has documented the entire experience, and you can watch the 35 minute documentary right here, or head to SJ Fowler’s YouTube channel for all the individual collaborations. Many thanks to everyone involved, please enjoy.

The Enemies project: Auld Enemies was a transnational poetry collaboration where six poets worked in rolling paired to produce original works for readings across the breadth of Scotland and where in each event also featured numerous pairs of writers from the region, who also presented brand new poetry collaborations. Beginning on July 9th and finishing on July 27th, the project visited Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Lerwick and Kirkwall, before a wrapping up in London. Auld Enemies was a groundbreaking exploration of contemporary Scottish poetics through the potential of collaboration. Supported by Creative Scotland

During the tour, Ross Sutherland documented the project in this extraordinary documentary.

Commiserate October – William Letford

October 31, 2013

Commiserate is a monthly experiment in poetic collaboration.

October, 2013: William Letford – The Beat is Your Foot

Ryan Van Winkle & William Letford

Ryan Van Winkle & William Letford

 

Says Ryan: I was very glad when SJ Fowler asked if I’d collaborate with my old friend William Letford for his epic CamaradeFest at the Rich Mix in London. The poem started with a text message Letford got during Reel Festivals’ UK tour and evolved with the help of some brilliant of curve balls. Comma cow cow yiki!

 

The Beat is Your Foot

I am reading your book
it’s pretty dark
where I am right now

sitting with another
life on fire
another job well done

Then

Yesterday, I lay down
on the tarmac
of a Tesco car park

and bench pressed
a shopping trolley
The kids knew

Some of the elderly did too
I’m happy for the rest

to believe I was drunk
or crazy  coma cow cow yiki

Now

people are going home
green purple salmon
our lantern, the soft moon

paved over rivers
something is going on
something is scratching

There are gaps of grief
coma cow cow yiki yiki ay
and art to shinplaster over

these cracks are contagious
coma cow cow yiki
and all the wolves

howl to get in
and weren’t we
roaring lions

No

You were the wolf
I was the lion
I still am, coma cow cow yiki

mice whisper and see
I was getting
your dark book yesterday

i was sober enough
two stories high
everything made sense

the trolly, the size
of my house, width
of my mothers arms

Now

I’m using my hands
tracing emotions in the air
sadness is an arc

you must not push – slide
happiness is a single point
and my heart beats

Yes

chiki down chiki dee down
down down gi doom bong    bong
gi doom bong gi dibby dibby

coma cow cow yiki yiki ay
chiki down chiki dee down

down down gi doom bong    bong
gi doom bong gi dibby dibby
It’s like my hands

are where magic is
and the beat is your foot
in my spoiled, toothless mouth.

Says William: Ryan was in Australia and I was in the North East of Scotland. I’m glad technology has moved forward otherwise our collaboration would’ve involved quills and month long journeys over land and sea and the death of some postmen, and the death of some sailors, and us growing older with painful dental problems. As it was i threw words in his direction which instantly found him and whenever they came back they were better than before.

We duet-ted the poem in London and I loved hearing it out loud. Smiled all the way through it. Even though we have the internet I suspect we’re growing older anyway. My teeth feel okay though.

William Letford has received a New Writer’s Award from the Scottish Book Trust and an Edwin Morgan Travel Bursary from the Arts Trust of Scotland. His first collection, Bevel, was published by Carcanet Press in 2012. He has received rave reviews for his work which combines experimental structure with cadences and accents of ordinary speech to produce “moments of transcendental insight” (The Guardian).

Reel Iraq: Golden Hour at the EIBF

August 2, 2013

On Monday 19 August the Reel Iraq team of Scottish and Iraqi poets and artists are part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s Unbound series. We’re showing off some of the best work from both countries, plus some of our collaborations and translations. It’s going to be a really special night, hope to see you there.

Reel Iraq: The Golden Hour

Monday 19 August, 9-11pm (FREE)

Revel in a special evening of contemporary Iraqi culture, to mark ten years since the invasion of Iraq, with poetry, theatre and music. Featuring acclaimed Iraqi poets Sabreen Kadhim (coming direct from Baghdad) and Ghareeb Iskander, accompanied by new translations from renowned Scotland-based poets Krystelle Bamford, John Glenday, Jen Hadfield and William Letford; compelling theatre from Dina Moussawi and Iraqi Choobi dance music. This event is supported in part by Creative Scotland and LIFT Festival.

What: Reel Iraq: The Golden Hour

Where: The Guardian Spiegeltent, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh

When: Monday 19 August, 9-11pm

How Much: FREE.

 

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