March 14, 2012
Praise for Tomorrow, We Will Live Here II: No Colon Needed
Turns out, if you write a book of poems, you can keep getting reviews for years. So, while my first collection was published by Salt in November, 2010 — people are still talking about it in 2012. Those people include — Poetry New Zealand who published an encouraging and short review (along with the revelation that my book costs $31.99 in NZ. Pssst, New Zealand, give me a call, I know a dude who can get it to you cheap.) Here’s what the poet and critic Siobhan Harvey said:
‘Poems in the book unite tender evocations of relationships with literary and academic notions of displacement. Always, there’s a ‘searching’ — for love, belonging, understanding — embedded in Van Winkle’s work which challenges the reader’s expectations….Tomorrow, We Will Live Here is a rich symbol of contemporary UK poetry.’
Those of you whom have already bought the book you are probably stroking your goatee, thinking, ‘Indeed, quite right.’ For those of you who haven’t gotten a copy yet. Mail me for a signed copy or visit the Salt shop. They’ll sort you out. Perhaps you need more convincing. Well, in this generous review from Scots Whay Hae my work is compared to Bruce Springsteen, Grant Wood, Robert Altman, Peter Bogdanovich, Lewis Grassic Gibbons, and Ted Hughes. Here’s my favourite bit of the review, but you can read the whole thing here.
‘this collection is an evocative, sensual, and at times cinematic journey through place and past.’
Then there was a couple of ultra flattering mentions in the latest issue of the Edinburgh Review. First, the respected poet and critic, Miriam Gamble, penned an excellent review which dug fully into the collection as few others have. I was surprised to find the collection held up (in Gamble’s eyes) under the scrutiny and, in fact, she articulated certain truths about the work that I’d never been able to. She does this with a generous eye for detail and a thoughtfulness which I found humbling. I very much want to quote the whole thing, but that would be ridiculous. Here’s some choice blurbs:
This is not a book for the faint-hearted. But neither ought it to be. Heaney has said there are two types of poem: one gives you the rosy glow of recognition, the other disorientates, annuls your set coordinates.Van Winkle’s poetry wears the garb of the former, but belongs in the latter category. He is not formally or stylistically experimental – while the poems are rarely in fixed forms, neither are they ‘avant-garde’ in the sense of being materially fragmented. They are, however, subversive, in that they tread where others fear to, and force the reader to admit complicity. It is not that the work inhabits ‘unfamiliar’ territory. Rather, it wallows in the dark and disregarded areas with which we strive to keep a silent truce.
I liked that this review has a warning, of sorts, in the beginning and Gamble returns to this notion throughout the review. Most forefully in the conclusion which made me feel more brave and courageous than I have any right to feel. In this section Gamble discusses my very short poem ‘The Day He Went to War’ which reads as follows:
The Day He Went to War
was bright, white and clean; an advertisement
for fresh laundry, lady things, or whatever.
we watched him from joe’s garage, our music clanging;
hub caps and tin cans thrown against cement.
we watched his mother watch the car
that took him, saw her wave at nothing,
then, we took it from the top:
one, two, a – one two three four
Here, Gamble breaks down the poem in a way that makes me blush. I’m proud the review examined the poem this way.
‘The Day He Went to War’, which manages,in eight lines, to capture an entire zeitgeist in relation to conflict. It does so,furthermore, with a touch that is dangerously light, resonant beyond mere poignancy, and profoundly, disturbingly accurate in its depiction of the place of war in contemporary society (no village gathering sending the boys offhere; no torrent, but an endless, invisible trickle). This poem – it cannotbe stated enough – is a huge risk: it breaks all the rules of engagement; itwholesale revises what a war poem can and ought to be in cultures where conflict is an industry, not an event. As with the rest of the poems, you may not like what it has to say. But that’s its greatest recommendation: we don’t live in an age when poetry should warm your heart.
Lastly, there was a positive review in the ER by Willy Maley on an anthology I was in — The Year of Open Doors (Cargo). My poem opens the short-fiction collection. I was proud to have it there at the time, as it welcomes readers into an excellent collection of new Scottish writing including many old friends and c0-workers. Here’s what Maley said of my work. I particularly like the Tom Leonard reference:
The opening piece by Ryan Van Winkle is no ripping yarn but a tripping verse. Those who concur with Tom Leonard’s barb about prose limping while poets leap will be pleased to hear that this is one of the strongest entrants: ‘Door, I have knocked, pushed/ licked and, for a year, stroked/your veins smooth as varnish’. This poem, with its wink at John Donne’sbesieged beseeching in Holy Sonnet XIV – ‘Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you/ As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend’ – is theperfect welcome mat for the reader in the wake of Glass’s chatty intro. And the stories – poetic prejudices aside – don’t disappoint.
So, thanks to Maley, Gamble, Scots Whay Hae!, and Harvey for such positive encouragement. They say releasing a collection of poems is like dropping a rose petal into the grand canyon. While this may mostly ring true, it is heartening to know that some people have seen it fall. Thanks to all who took the time to review my work. You can purchase Tomorrow, We Will Live Here from Salt. You can find more reviews and links to the complete articles (where available) on the Reviews Page.