Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyThe world fleshed forth in oil paint, from Giotto to Joseph Albers, is meticulously essayed in the mixed-genre ekphraseis of Swensen's sixth full-length collection since 1984. Though the medieval and early Renaissance tableaux she focuses on are almost entirely composed in the restricted vocabulary of Christian iconography, Swensen regards them with a worldly eye, using her role as "translator" of the works--from religious past to secular present, from image to text--to explore an ethics of human immanence. Addressing herself to one in a countless string of mid-millenium representations of "the Flight into Egypt," for instance, Swensen finds "that the holy family enters not a heavenly but a very worldly world, a world just like ours except that it's not and that it can't be reached." As with the gulf between the visual and the verbal dimensions, what the mind posits as an inviolable border ("it can't be reached"), the body is ever violating--translating, trying--in practice. In a literally unguarded moment, the intangible yields to an insatiably human craving for contact: "She touched the painting/ as soon as the guard// turned his back." This illicit gesture discloses the very essence of Swensen's project, her daring try at a communion of flesh and canvas, word and image, art and life. FYI: Try was one of three works awarded the Iowa Poetry Prize in 1998, along with Bin Ramke's Wake ($10.95 136p ISBN 0-87745-658-5) and Kathleen Peirce's The Oval Hour ($10.95 96p ISBN 0-87745-664-X).
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Donald Revell'Courage is always original.' True to Wittgenstein's transparent imperative, the poetry of Bin Ramke has been an uncontainable source of originary valor, of vocable heart. In Wake, Bin Ramke's courage invents a virtue with every word, awaking spirit to the summoning flesh of death and birth. We can, we really can, trust these poems with our lives.
Ann LauterbachWithin the circuits of a dark eloquence, Bim Ramke has found a way to locate a self within the bonds of history and in so doing has broken those bonds in a new 'conspiracy of dazzle.' If knowledge is form -- and it is -- here is a poetry that everywhere shows us what it knows and leads us into a stunned gratitude.
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