Susan Blackwell Ramsey (author); A MIND LIKE THIS; University of Nebraska Press (Nonfiction: Poetry) 17.95 ISBN: 9780803243385
Byline: Daniel Coffey
Too often, when contemporary poets employ humor, they do so at the expense of their art. The potential for sublimity and poetic revelation in language seems to be diminished by its inclusion. The poems end up feeling cheapened or even sophomoric. There are a few poets who have managed to circumvent this trap, and the latest, and one of the most successful, is Susan Blackwell Ramsey. One of the first poems in the book, "Tell Me If You've Heard This One," is a wonderfully hilarious poem that takes on the concept of the joke itself, and how it is interpreted by the human mind, as its subject matter.
Overt examples of humor aside, Ramsey's first book, A Mind Like This, brims with delight at life and language. As the title indicates, the mind is one of the chief concerns of most of the poems in the book -- how it perceives its surroundings and, more importantly, how it perceives itself. One is reminded of recent work by Ron Padgett, in that the poet's mind is constantly under scrutiny in these poems.
The book is divided into three parts, the first of which shares its title. Ramsey uses juxtapositions, sometimes jarring, to make these poems resonate. Emerson and Andrew Wyeth take their place in lines directly above and below references to the poet's partner; Kalamazoo becomes anthropomorphized; and, in perhaps the most poignant and funny poem in the first part, the poet gets...