Red, Like Our Room Used to Feel
Inspirational one-on-one poetry experience with Ryan Van Winkle
This article is from 2012.
Poetry readings have often suffered from small audiences. Ryan Van Winkle has worked that to his advantage: the size of the audience for Red, Like Our Room Used To Feel is precisely one. And that’s why it works.
There is nothing scary or awkward about this show. It’s charming, it’s inspirational and, in fact, I suspect it might be a landmark production for poetry in performance.
Ryan greets you at Summerhall and takes you to a little room painted red and hung with lights, dripping in trinkets that represent carefully collected moments. Settling down together with a cup of tea or glass of port, you choose one of four envelopes. They contain poems, which Ryan reads as you soak up the surroundings for just 20 minutes.
The poetry seems to touch every cluttered corner, infusing the objects with meaning but still leaving enough room for your own unique memories and associations to resonate. Music plays from a stereo exactly like one I had when I was fourteen. There’s an old Nikon FM2, bottles of port, piles of candles and a dark-coloured dress slung from a coathanger, while on the walls there’s a pinboard smothered in photographs, shopping lists and foreign currency, and a framed quotation from Raymond Carver.
Ryan has clearly thought hard about poetry and performance. The genius of this piece is that is makes you feel not as if you’re listening to someone read some poems, but as if poetry is happening to you, right now. In this space, poetry really feels, as it should, personal and universal at the same time – the language of being alive.
As Ryan read to me about rain and childhood, I was cocooned in an intimate human bubble. If you are at all interested in literature, memory, performance or joy, you must see this show.
Summerhall, 0845 874 3001, until 24 Aug, times vary throughout the day, £5.