Black Tupelo Country
$13.95 paper, 104 pages
Winner of the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, selected by Leslie
Finalist, ForeWord Magazine
Book of the Year Award
Best Books 2008
Black Tupelo Country
is a book of cinematic lushness
razored with ache. These poems dwell in the dark, mutable seam
between the natural and interior worlds. "Covenant," the book’s
first poem, is exactly that, a contract with the reader to
follow the writer into that indeterminate place between earth
and self: "because a woman’s body is a prophet,/ she sleeps
shivering by her husband in July" and dreams of a massasauga
snake that will slip in and out of the rest of the book in many
guises. When she rises she sees "our covenant," our contract
with our own mortality, figured as a "bitch" alternately licking
her pup and snarling. Here then is where we begin: stepping in
on a world at once familiar and mythical, particulate, real,
deeply snarled in the flora and fauna of language itself: "In
mating season, these nouns/ can’t tell themselves from verbs"
("Horse, Meadow, Horse").
Leslie Adrienne Miller
Deeply felt as a prayer, poems in Black Tupelo Country
are meditations crafted by an emotionally complex mind exploring "the
way a landscape enters the body." Rivers and lakes sepulcher memory that
fuels these dense and haunting poems. Description of tickseed, purple of
coneflowers, bluestem, corydalis, wild buttercup, larkspur, pennywort,
featherfoil, wild columbine, checkerberry, fireweed create psalms that are
declarations of love for the earth.
However, wicked humor is also woven
into the collection in poems about commerce that depict Socrates engaging
the Greeter at Wal-Mart in a Dialogue, Adam and Eve selling sub sandwiches
in a mall and Odysseus buying a Cinnabon franchise when he retires.
Ultimately, this shimmering collection of poems gives wings to the spirit,
teaching it not only to rise, but to stay centered and stand still in order
to hear the individual cry in the midst of the din.
Doug Ramspeck coordinates the Writing Center at The Ohio State University
at Lima, where he also teaches English. Since he began writing poems in
2004, his work has appeared in over two hundred publications, including
Passages North, West Branch, and Hayden’s Ferry. A graduate of
Kenyon College and the University of California at Irvine, he lives in Lima
with his wife Beth Sutton-Ramspeck and their daughter, Lee. Black Tupelo
Country is his first book.