The Official Bio

Ryan Van Winkle is a poet, live artist, podcaster and critic living in Edinburgh. His poems have appeared in New Writing Scotland, The Prairie Schooner, The American Poetry Review, AGNI and The Australian Book Review. His first collection of poetry, Tomorrow, We Will Live Here, won the 2009 Crashaw Prize. His second collection is due out in 2015 from Penned in the Margins. He was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson fellowship in 2012 and was listed as one of Canongate’s ‘Future Forty’ in 2013.

He is also the host and co-producer of the arts podcast The Multi-Coloured Culture Laser and the poetry podcast for the Scottish Poetry Library.


My View

In under two minutes of meeting Ryan I knew I wanted him to write something for a show I was organising that involved stars. “Can you write something on the Theory of Everything?” I asked. Not only did he do this promptly, but deliciously. We had been talking about his performance, Red, Like Our Room Used to Feel, that was touring Australia at the time. I loved that he was delivering his poems – and the experience of his poems – to audiences of one. The Guardian had written, “An intimate, emotional experience guaranteed to win over even the most poetry-phobic”. Anyone who is brave and creative enough to share their work in such a cosy surround had won me over. The trailer with candles and open fire tipped me also. Van Winkle has that kind of voice you believe instantly, the kind of poems you want to curl up with and the kind of sentence you would tear out and stick on your wall.


His View

I became interested in words…

Maybe when I was 5 or 6 years old and my mother decided to teach me some Spanish. I remember repeating the phrase loco en la cabeza: maybe because of the interesting new sounds; maybe because I liked the ability to say something I would never say in English – ‘I am crazy in the head’. Or perhaps I became interested in words because my grandfather always enjoyed the dictionary and would read it like a novel. He’d share his marvel at all manner of obscure or sesquipedalian words. I, however, didn’t quite agree with him. I couldn’t see the point of using words nobody would understand. I always thought that words were tools for communication and not toys to play with. I don’t enjoy puns and I don’t even like playing Scrabble because I don’t see the point of making up words just for the sake of it.

The first time I knew I was hooked on poetry…

Was when a teacher at university gave me a cassette of an Etheridge Knight reading. Knight was a poet who started writing in prison and I became obsessed with his voice, his cadence, and the bitter humour inherent in much of his work such as his classic ‘Feeling Fucked Up’. Everyone should listen to it. Looking back, I can see why I was given this tape – like a lot of young men, most of my poetry reading was Bukowski-heavy and I think my teacher got sick of me imitating his coarse and drunken style without any of his substance or experience. The Knight cassette exposed me to an equally honest and clear voice, but with more lyricism and less cruelty. It was a seminal moment for my appreciation of poetry and gave me confidence that there were voices out there that I could love, that the poetry world wasn’t as bleak and banal as the good Bukowski pompously believed.

To me, poetry means…

Feeling over narrative; emotional truth over literal fact.

Other poets I adore are…

Too many to name. Always: Hayden Carruth, Garcia Lorca, Mary Ruefle, Vicki Feaver, John Glenday, Kei Miller, Michael Burkard, C. D. Wright, Bob Hicok and more more more.

I love the sounds of…

Rain falling on a tent, a party in the distance, a cork popping, hand claps, waves foundering, and cities falling asleep.

If I could tell you one thing…

I would tell you not to listen to me.

Alicia Sometimes is an Australian writer, poet, musician, co-host of 3RRR’s Aural Text and a past editor and long-standing contributor of Going Down Swinging.

Photo by Ericka Duffy