I like the bland Euro-office context.
I like the bland Euro-office context.
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How I got this book is kind of fuzzy, but I think I was trying to follow up on what Omnidawn was all about. And, you know, some times its good to check what the older people are up to. Also, man, why should I justify what I’m reading? Anyway:
This was my first encounter with Ramke. His lines are often heavily enjambed and full of puns and wordplay, tumbling, turning in on themselves until you forget which way he is going. Often meditating on change, his poetics embody this concern. And while Bin employs a lot of word play, his tone is not irreverent; it is also, usually, not overly self serious. Especially considering his interest in entomology, if I were Ezra Pound(I’m not) I just might classify large swathes of this book as logopoeia. The middle sections, in their concerns with awareness and composition, seem largely devoid of anything close to definite imagery. Exmpl:
I don’t know where this conviction arose,
mine, that beauty is chiral, left or right
handed a spiral of aspiration engaged…
-”Performing Art” (44)
Oh, and as you can see here, his diction is usually slightly elevated.
Okay–that’s what kind of book it is. As for what I think of it:
The final sequence “Tendril,” “An Esthetic (Ars Poetica,” and “The Last Days of Godel” all encouraged multiple reads. “The last days…” strategically reigns in his often long, sinuous lines to devastating effect and injects quotes into the poem (another of Ramke’s compositional strategies) without ejecting the reader from the poem. The poem is also successful, I think, because its context is definite–a dying thinker. Here’s a quote with some mid-poem quote texture.
…A little life
was not enough, still he will not move
but feels a light
Further more, when his wife returned from his funeral,
a burglar had broken in and jewelry and other goods
had been stolen. I felt then
resentment against modern
times as well as American society –Gaisi Takeuti
Consider a hand on your back:
his best hand takes your right hand and
both feel the day descend piece by piece
I didn’t connect to a number of poems due to this lack of context–not because poems need context, but because some of the poems where he throws in the kitchen sink–epic, convoluted lines, a more organic structure, etymology, quotations–aren’t long enough to convincingly hold together all this STUFF. “Tendril” is, and it’s a great poem. Part of why “Tendril worked for me is because it’s about desire, this whiff of viscera helping ground the attention to consciousness and memory. Or that at least makes the investigation more interesting to me–I mean, how can you talk about consciousness and leave out the body, WTF? Exmpl:
parts draw the weak mind of the boy in the night
who has no other object to align, who leans
over the borrowed book in moonlight.
I used to live in a body. I now am that body,
not inhabitant. An intricate intrigue…imagine a people
wander the hillsides at whim, urge flocks
to wander with them, follow seasonal
impulses. The people are the landscape, as are
animals and plants and air and sidewalks.
The study of the tractrtix started with a problem
posed to Leibniz: What is the path of an object dragged
along a horizontal plane by a string of constant length
when the end of the string not joined to the object moves
along a straight line in the plane? –Famous Curves Index
Ramke’s poems build slowly. He favors broad, sweeping shifts–large block quotes, long asides into the nature of the sine wave. He’s not a rapid fire writer, not someone trying to kill you with a first line. A good number of his poems work extremely well–they just require patience.
Put this one on the book shelf between Pound’s Personae and John Sakkis’ Gary Gygax. Man, I need more R authors.
You spend a lot of time doing research for dim personal reasons and eventually lose the light of the original question. I wanted to study the Philippines’ early colonial era and WWII era Japanese Imperialism and died on the way, I guess. I couldn’t separate the information from my self and just had to give into it–so Pigafetta and Magellan’s boats and all those sad, starving imperial mother fuckers ended up in this book.
Or, said another way, just as Magellan’s’ circumnavigation of the world (w/Pigafetta) as chronicler was intended as a purely trading/commercial venture and was in large parts about starvation, imperial intervention (fire and bullets), and Magellan’s religious ecstasies, so…
The problem with incorporating history into poetry is that it’s either incredibly boring (W.S. Merwin’s Folding Cliffs. Man, my brother fell asleep listening to that) or verklempt (borrowed from David Kaufman: Susan Howe, Rosemarie Woldrop). Not that I don’t like Susan Howe and Woldrop (sometimes), it’s that their voices are impersonal to a degree I didn’t/wouldn’t want to imitate. Never mind Pound’s definition of an epic.
And while I was up to my eyes in history, me and Cheryl were joining our rafts together, making somethin like a boat (in DC, which is a mean city). Then she moved to Indiana. Everywhere I looked, discovery, power, bodies in pain, negotiation, sex, fear, absence, and endurance. DC, the Pacific, Cheryl, Pigafetta, my friends’ self-circumcision as performance art, atrocities, love, pruning rose shrubs at a neighborhood garden shop, collaged text, lyric bits, destroyed sestinas and pantoums–all the usual poetry stuff.
So the book is an experiment, of sorts. But still, there it is Pigafetta in the title, revealing that I’m a library troll and a history nerd. He’s an interesting guy–a sort of personal assistant to high level papal diplomats who chose to go on a excessively risky voyage. European courts to trying to transcribe the language of captive “Patagonian” giant on a ship halfway across the Pacific while the crew of this ship was starving to death. Getting caught up in Magellan’s religeous ecstascies and imperial blundering in the Phillipines, then messed up in the same confrontation with Filipino hero Lapu Lapu that was punctuated by Magellan’s death. And what’s interesting is that all of this is only lightly touched on in his journal, for various reasons…
Man, I wish I had wrote a book of kind of funny twee-lyric/surrealism. That stuff is great–eminently readable, way easier to convince people to read.
So that’s what we’re working with folks.
Obstacle 1: When people ask me what the book is about, not tripping over my own tongue. Maybe I should just say, “It’s called Pigafetta Is My Wife and it’s, you know, poems.”
We’ll see how it goes.