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by Bin Ramke
Omnidawn, $17.95 (paper)
The ethereally adrift, eclectic, and often scientifically oriented intellect driving Bin Ramke’s poems has produced book after book of stunning, strange, and original verse. In his eleventh collection, Ramke’s characteristic associative and digressive use of the single word as a nexus for investigation—one whose gravitational force pulls in, then projects outward, whatever passes through its purview (“Old French espace meant time, // but shape was a word for sex / the organ—original. Ordinal, // or ordinary, // this secretly separate sifting / of a self particulate, drifting”)—is countered by a direct disclosure of grief: “When my brother died I felt / a new fear. This selfish response was a strange / reciprocal. I felt him as absence.” Whether reworking the sayings of archaic theologians, mining oddities discovered in the OED, or stitching quotations, observations, aphorisms, and anecdotes into miraculously coherent works, at their core, these poems make out of thought a kind of music—various, charmed, and as perspicaciously inventive as it is crowded with the stuff of a life spent in active attention and deference to literature’s potent largesse: “What was thought to be Thought turns out to be Thing; // so speaking among ourselves we rarely listen. / In the corner one hums, unhurried. // There are those who can hum anything / to anyone, and to make love this way is to make / with the mouth an apocalypse of purpose.” Ramke’s Aerial is literally awesome.
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in your carpeted office you lay my life down / and say open up to that small room in my sternum.
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