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Volume 34.1
Spring 2003

book review

This Wine
by William M. Ramsey


reviewed by Peggy Willis Lyles

This Wine by William M. Ramsey (Evanston, Ill.: Deep North Press, 2002). Book design by Lidia Rozmus; typography and layout by Charles Trumbull. 96 unnumbered pages, 4.5" x 8.25", perfectbound. Printed on fine wove paper with translucent flyleaves; two-color cover. ISBN 1-929116-08-X. Available for $15.00 postpaid in the United States from the author at 1217 Berkeley Ave., Florence, S.C. 29505-3008

Handsomely designed and produced, This Wine by William M. Ramsey offers a purposefully arranged sequence of eighty-four haiku and senryu presented one to a page. Most of the poems stand well alone, and many are of the quality one would expect to find in a good anthology or a selection of the poet’s best work. Read collectively and in order, as Ramsey intends for them to be, they are slivers of life that form a compelling narrative.

The book is divided into three parts. The first, “A Hand’s Warmth,” begins

no love
in the sea or stars
your hand’s warmth

and shares momentary glimpses of human intimacy shattered by the agony of an infant son’s death.

autumn rain
my still boy’s blue lips

my mouth
the pistol barrel’s mouth

In Section 2, “As I Eat Shrimp,” the poet looks outward, conveying his perceptions with uncompromising honesty.

the dead boy
on a Rwandan road
as i eat shrimp

fast food line
in front of me twenty
nameless buttocks

through a lens
the silent carnage
of amoebas

firing squad:
all at once
the separate slumps

The poems in the final division, “The Wheat Field,” draw upon the assimilated experiences of the earlier material and let us glimpse the poet’s recognition of his connection to human history and the cycles and things of the natural world. Healing is hard-won and incomplete, yet effectively suggested.

slave cemetery
i scrape the moss to find
no name

where’s joy?
rasps the cricket—
deep autumn night

harvest moon
my ashes
still wrapped in flesh

picking up a stone
to rub
its silence

William Ramsey's unique voice commands respect. This Wine focuses on difficult material and shows both the author and the haikai genre capable of treating it with unflinching authenticity.




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