RMSYL #51: The Predicament of Or with Amaan Hyder

Amaan 1Welcome to a new season of RMSYL! You might notice that we have a slightly different format: two readers, three poems, and even more POETRY LOVE than ever before. 

We’re kicking off the new season with Amaan Hyder, author of a recent collection of poetry At Hajj (Penned In The Margins) who reads to me a poem from a collection he loves by the writer and visual artist Shani Mootoo. I then read and we talk about a poem I love by Kaveh Akbar, and we finish with Amaan’s poem The Clot

Links to the poems read and discussed in this episode: Shani Mootoo’s A RECOGNITION / Kaveh Akbar’s DO YOU SPEAK PERSIAN? /Amaan Hyder’s THE CLOT.

Some reviews for Amaan’s new collection At Hajj can be found here, and here

If you’ve enjoyed the episode, please (pretty please) could you leave us a nice review on iTunes,  Also, in the next year, I’m trying to raise funds for the S.H.E College Fund initiative in Kenya by learning 52 poems in 52 weeks. Here’s my 52 Poems in 52 Weeks Donations Page. If you’re feeling some poetry-love after our reading and discussion, a donation, no matter how small (or large) would be greatly appreciated. 

[Theme music for the podcast is from Vladimir Martynov’s The Beatitudes played by the wonderful coversart on YouTube]


RMSYL 50: Tooth by Michael Burkard (read by Ryan Van Winkle)

“”What the hell the tooth is doing there, I don’t know, but I love it.” Ryan Van Winkle

  Ryan Van Winkle is currently Poet in Residence at Edinburgh City Libraries following a similar stint as the Scottish Poetry Library’s first-ever Reader in Residence. This is how I first discovered him as the host of the SPL’s weekly poetry podcast which he curates with charismatic aplomb. His second collection, The Good Dark, won the Saltire Society’s 2015 Poetry Book of the Year award. His poems have appeared in New Writing Scotland, The American Poetry Review, AGNI, Poetry New Zealand and The Oxford Poets series.  DISCUSSED: Unfolding Poems; Illogical Teeth; The Lost Son; Coming Open To Closed Poems; She is Fucking/Human (Divergent Synapses Firing); The Misery That Is Going To Pass

Ryan: http://ryanvanwinkle.com/
Buy Michael Burkard’s Unsleeping (includes Tooth)
Buy Ryan’s The Good Dark
SPL podcast: http://scottishpoetrylibrary.podomatic.com/

RMSYL 49: In the Waiting Room by Elizabeth Bishop (read by Alexander MacLeod)

In the last few days, two events have played themselves out. To be more precise: an almost infinite number of events have occured if you’re willing to squish down to the atomic and subatomic (which I am). Yesterday, for example, a posse of geo-neutrino particles, 1,800 miles below the earth’s surface, instead of just passing through the gooey core of molten metal with zero interaction (as anti-matter is wont to do), Continue reading


RMSYL 48: Winter Wood and Intellectual Gathering by Kenneth White (read by Sarah Salway)

You don’t need another self-help book (apart from this one, perhaps?). It’s good to know though that you, me, Sarah Salway and David Foster Wallace still buy them.  Continue reading


RMSYL 47: You know how to spell Elijah by Dave Eggers (Read by Nikesh Shukla)

Whilst preparing this podcast for your tympanic membranes, I’ve found myself again and again drawn to YouTube  in order to get an eyeful of pants. And because these pants are American, I of course mean trousers.   Continue reading


RMSYL 46: The Plain Sense of Things by Wallace Stevens (read by Josh Cohen)

“Try and imagine what this great pond, quite unglamorous and muddy, this dirty-watered pond looks like when you don’t impose yourself, your whole history, or the history of a culture on it; when you just let yourself see it.”  Josh Cohen

  Josh Cohen is a psychoanalyst in private practice, and Professor of Modern Literary Theory at Goldsmiths University of London. He is the author of Interrupting Auschwitz (2003), How to Read Freud (2005), and The Private Life: Why We Remain in the Dark (2013) .   DISCUSSED: Definite indefinite plain-ness; slipping on fallen leaves (inside and out); the mind stripped down to its essence; the end of the imagination; the  rescuing As If; counting Cohen’s innards;  the fierce desire of speaking; staying true to what-is; the emotional pressure to find the words; father to a sister of a thought; the necessity of fantastic failed efforts; the illusion of fullness; deprivation as a first condition; carrying the minor house within; getting to grips with our unsurpassables; rat-vision; the reassuring loopiness of the self; hopefully in the dark. LINKS:

Read ‘The Plain Sense of Things’ online.
Buy The Private Life: Why We Remain In The Dark.
Read the tiny Lydia Davis story ‘What She Knew” mentioned in our discussion.

RMSYL 45: Story Water by Rumi (read by Edward Espe Brown)

Here’s a jug of story water to put into your morning kettle. When I was living in Milan in the early 90s, with all the potential and fear that being a young adult entails, the floorboards of our flat would often chant to me: Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō, Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō, Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō. It was quite relentless. Mornings, evenings, a constant reverberating drone of confounding vocalisations. I would put my ear to the floor and feel it (also something in me) shiver. Continue reading


RMSYL 44: Love III by George Herbert (read by Rachel Kelly)

Rachel Kelly reading George Herbert

“Something I find really moving is the timelessness of our struggles. Herbert probably wouldn’t have been diagnosed with a depressive illness, but we now know that he had terrible battles and internal struggles. To me this poem describes that perfectly. There’s something very powerful about holding hands across the centuries. Rachel Kelly


Rachel Kelly is a journalist and writer with a long standing interest in mental health. She worked at The Times for ten years as a reporter, feature writer and columnist, and then went on to create an acclaimed educational poetry app and accompanying anthology with Allie Esiri. Her most recent book ‘Black Rainbow’ (2014) describes how poetry helped her overcome depression.


Rachel’s website: http://www.rachelkelly.co.uk/
Black Rainbow: http://amzn.to/1n1tQMg

RMSYL 43: The Strange Hours Travelers Keep by August Kleinzahler (read by Niall O’Sullivan)

NiallOSullivan1Imagine a small tribe living on the edge of the savannah. A tribe with it’s requisite, antler festooned Poet-Philosopher-Shaman doing her shape shifting, neologising, bewilderment making best to entertain us. What he or she presents to the tribe on a daily basis is fruit of a kind of psycho-poetic labour. Maybe couched in a technically tricky and arcane form like a sestina, or terza rima, stuffed to the gills with near and slant rhymes, the individual quest is synthesized for collective consumption. So important is this work for those who gather to listen or read that the creator of these poems is rewarded with the highest accolades. For her cooking pot: the tastiest morsels from the hunt. For her feet: incredibly warm and cosy winter slippers made from aardwolf pelts. Fast-forward a million years, and we (the tribe) still need and thankfully have such people amongst us, such as Niall O’Sullivan, and his Mundane Comedy project (which alas, is no more, but all the work remains online). For me the Mundane Comedy was a 1o pm thing. Each night, just before going to bed, Niall’s daily posting about fatherhood, Herne Hill, fair trade houmous, Star Wars, monarchism, the London riots, or whatever he thought needed to be processed that day for himself and us would pop into my inbox, and suddenly I’d be made a few stanzas more savvy about the world and my place in it. [Read the poem before listening to the podcast + some more info about Poetry Unplugged which Niall hosts each Tuesday at the The Poetry Café in London]


RMSYL 42: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (read by Alom Shaha)

My parents were probably not hip enough to read me Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. You can’t really get more hip, as a writer of children’s books (and “A Boy Named Sue”), than have Johnny Cash introduce you thus: “Sometimes he wears a beard and shaves his head. Sometimes he shaves his beard and wears his head. And sometimes he’s lonesome….” Alom Shaha is also hip. Richard Dawkins with extra heart is how I’d introduce him, and I’m sticking with that after our reading together. I’m also buying my three-year-old niece and one-year-old nephew a copy of his Young Atheist’s Handbook for Chrismukkah, so that they won’t be able to level the non-hip slur in 30 year’s time against me on whatever new fandanglement replaces blogs and websites. [Intro tune: Latché Swing]