En Bref with Ryan Van Winkle

Next up in En Bref is the multi-talented poet, live artist, podcaster, and critic, Ryan Van Winkle.


Who is your favourite novelist of all time?

The first name that comes to mind is Philip Roth, though if you said ‘author’ or ‘writer’ I’d probably pick Raymond Carver and, of course, I can think of dozens of writers whom I love, who I will go back to. However, the overall American story Roth has been telling his whole life is a quietly epic one. How he has come to tell this story, melding merciless biography with recurring characters, introspection, and research is an inspiring accomplishment. Like Bruce Springsteen, Roth is an artist who has built a considered body of work over a lifetime. At times, the work has failed to inspire me and I do get bored of the whole white, male beast in decline thing. But, at his more frequent best, his work stands as a unique chronicle of the 20th century America I came of age in.

What is your favourite sentence from any book ever?

“So it goes.” from Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Simple & effective. I met a guy who had this tattooed on his arm. Someday, I’ll steal his idea.

If you could require the leader of your country to read one book, what would it be?

The Kama Sutra – maybe it will help, right?

Who was your favourite literary character as a child?

The first character I can remember identifying with was Alexander from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I still have a little of that in me, the feeling that some days I’d be better off packing up for Australia.

What is your favourite poem?

For a long time I’ve loved the poem ‘Tooth’ by Michael Burkard for its blend of the surreal and conversational, for its brilliant enjambment and use of deep imagery. I learned a lot from that poem. I spoke about it at length on the Read Me Something You Love podcast.

What is next on your to read pile?

I’m really excited about reading William T. Vollman’s Riding Toward Everywhere – I’ve not read his stuff before but have heard a lot about it and have high hopes. I also bought a ton of poetry recently and am looking forward to Horses by Joy Harjo. I’ve long treasured her collection In Mad Love & War.

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 and The American Poetry Review. His debut collection was published by Salt in 2010. His second collection, The Good Dark, was published in May 2015 by Penned in the Margins.

The Good Dark


About Laura

Laura Keeling is Events and Communications Manager at Shakespeare and Company.