Doug Ramspeck's award-winning 9th book takes the fierce attachments and the violence of boyhood and transforms them to tenderness and a transcendent vision.
Gritty poems of boyhood alternate with explorations of the "other," worlds where mother and sister orbit so differently, and later a marriage built of tenderness, not rage. Harsh honesty charges these poems--both with pure electricity and with the mission to find escape from violence, to find how to bear chaos and grief. The brothers' ordinary roughhousing is shadowed by the violence of their family life, but something pure does survive and flourish, until "we slept / at night with the breaths of the marriage around us."
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A kind of tension pervades these poems, balanced by an under-the-surface, learned tenderness. In Blur, place is one of the memorable characters. The poems actively slip into the mystery and rhythm of boy-ness, giving us the children's roughhousing as much as the snow and riverbank. Time moves on to longing and dreams. "Decades became a bolt / on a door-sometimes latched, sometimes open." Ramspeck is sonically skilled at opening a reader to "the austerity and the gentleness of holding still."-Lauren Camp, 2021 Tenth Gate Prize judge and author of Took House
Blur is lean, and confident, and devastating. Even as he reflects on a childhood shadowed by the threat of family violence, the poet repeatedly takes our breath away with such visions as "the lone hearse of a cloud / amid an interrogation of light." And, while "Primitive Prayers" reminds us that "Nothing is more present / than memory," nearly every poem's remembering is layered with haunting images from nature-"the funerary snow" or "something hardening into flung stone"-which lend a different key and depth than mere details could ever supply. How not to eagerly read on? How not "to study the way fireflies / keep changing their minds / about existence"?-Ellen Doré Watson, author of pray me stay eager
The reader comes of age a hundred times in Ramspeck's poignant new book. Mythic and elegiac, he intertwines images from the natural world with familial and fraternal memories, with a haunting lyricism that hallows both past and present. "What we can't see is everywhere," he reminds us: always precise, always moving, these poems are "epistles of moonlight" from one of America's most gifted and prolific poets.-Mark Wagenaar, author of Southern Tongues Leave Us Shining
Blur insists upon a startling intimacy between humans and nature, upon the permeability of any barrier we think distinguishes us from the earth. Hours pierce the skin; snow kisses it; prayers are owl sounds in the woods. This book tells the story of perception, mutable and urgent, of folks hoping to find in the fields, the mud, the coyote's call a language they can interpret and wield against confusion and grief. Or perhaps they merely try to locate in the violent, implacable, beautiful world that surrounds them a set of myths they can live by. Reading these poems, I'm enlisted in the search and never sorry.-Melissa Crowe, author of Dear Terror, Dear Splendor