Published by: The Word Works
Release Date: 2023
Buy the Book: The Word Works, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound
These lyrical-narrative poems explore the ties that bind us, in families and in pairs. The book opens by naming its first direction: "So this is how we grew afraid." The past is seen through the eyes of two brothers who manage, through love for each other, to survive their family's violence and confusion. With devastating insight, Ramspeck explores the powerful and fraught bond between fathers and sons. Another thread of poems limns the beautiful and abiding love of the speaker's marriage, providing contrast to the turbulent relationships of childhood. The reader ultimately rises with the speaker through the painful past to embrace a faith in love itself, our only real survival.
“The reader comes of age a hundred times in Doug Ramspeck’s poignant new book of poems. Mythic and elegiac, Ramspeck 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—both the book and its title poem are 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
“Blur offers us a rich, if dreamy landscape invested with persona, rendered nearly sentient. The moon is a preacher, the quarry has eyes, skies and rivers and vultures speak, and folks speak back, a conversation by turns hushed and electric, always allegorical. Indeed, this book 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, which is 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
“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, 2022 Tenth Gate Judge, author of Took House
So this is how we grew afraid.
The moon wore its bright hat.
The sun was a great wheel
of fire. Children played jump rope
in the streets, and everywhere
was the autobiographical,
the belief in the singular life
we knew as ours, the skin
pierced by hours then years.
At night when we lay close,
we whispered in the language
of relinquishment, prayed to all
the things we coveted. If this
was the dream, we could not
disavow it. If this was the torch,
we could not dare to light it.