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About this poet

Bin Ramke was born in Port Neches, Texas, in 1947. He began writing poetry while an undergraduate at Louisiana State University, where he read the work of the Modernist poets, particularly Wallace Stevens, and took a poetry workshop with Stanley Plumly. After receiving his BA, he went on to earn an MA from the University of New Orleans and a PhD in English literature from Ohio University.

In 1978, the poet Richard Hugo selected Ramke’s first poetry collection, The Difference Between Night and Day (Yale University Press, 1978), for publication in the Yale Younger Poets Series. Ramke’s other poetry collections include Massacre of the Innocents (University of Iowa Press, 1995) and Wake (University of Iowa Press, 1998), both of which won the Iowa Poetry Prize.

In Poets & Writers Magazine, Craig Morgan Teicher describes Ramke as “a poet whose work has gotten progressively stranger and stronger. Ramke has emerged as one of the avant-garde’s treasured half-secrets.” While Ramke’s early collections are relatively autobiographical and influenced by the Texas and Louisiana landscapes, his more recent books tend to approach the same themes through the integration of fragmented quotations, history, and science.

Ramke taught at Columbus College in Georgia for several years, and he edited the University of Georgia Press’s Contemporary Poetry Series from 1984 to 2005. He holds the Lawrence C. Phipps Humanities Chair at the University of Denver, where he teaches creative writing and edits Denver Quarterly. He lives with his wife, Linda, and their son in Denver.


Selected Bibliography

Missing the Moon (Omnidawn, 2014)
Aerial (Omnidawn, 2012)
Theory of Mind: New & Selected Poems (Omnidawn, 2009)
Matter: Poems (University of Iowa Press, 2004)
Airs, Waters, Places: Poems (University of Iowa Press, 2001)
Wake (University of Iowa Press, 1999)
Massacre of the Innocents (University of Iowa Press, 1995)
The Erotic Light of Gardens (Wesleyan University Press, 1989)
The Language Student (Louisiana State University Press, 1986)
White Monkeys: Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1981)
The Difference Between Night and Day (Yale University Press, 1978)

Beneath Is Better (A Theory of Understanding)

wings of angels rustle in Latin
says Zbigniew Herbert

I recall so little (amo amas
amat
) the little so broken I
sauntered soundless
down paths in the park

I heard a policeman speak
in fragments from above

from a helicopter I understood
little

less than Latin

rotors and engines and roaring traffic
a soup of grammars and syntax

Angel is an ancient word for
Entropy which word was invented
in 1868 by Clausius

I mean the turning inward
downward
demanded by police

Energy is another word another
world at night a bird

probably mockingbird

keeps awake
the weary

means nothing by it
“Means”
“Nothing”

entropia, turning inward
an older word

than the French for Cajun
acadienne but

perspective was invented by Vitruvius
then was not needed until
the invention of the railroad in 1789
by William Jessup who
invented the wheel
or a flanged version of it
to hang onto an iron rail

I learned from a book there are
trees beneath earth

Geoxylic suffrutices
forests sunk

trunks underground
and the merest wisp
of leaves left visible

within earth beneath fire
beneath breath of man or cosmos
immortal wooden wilderness.

From Light Wind Light Light (Omnidawn, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Bin Ramke. Used with the permission of Omnidawn Publishing.

From Light Wind Light Light (Omnidawn, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Bin Ramke. Used with the permission of Omnidawn Publishing.

Bin Ramke

Bin Ramke is the author of Massacre of the Innocents (University of Iowa Press, 1995) and Wake (University of Iowa Press, 1998), both of which won the Iowa Poetry Prize.

by this poet

poem

What does it matter—material as in
paper, scissors, rock? Matter of fact,
res facti, not matter of law; res judicata;
mater, wood, in the woods, mother; a
child draws a box, triangle, chimney,
door of paper. A poem a product
suitable for interior use

poem

as in purpose; the purple of the hillside
enrolled me in its misery, mysterious mist
emanating.

             When it was over the day
descended in the form of a star, ours,
which is to say the dark returned

which is to say a measure of darkness inter
posed

poem

We wrote of the facefulls of wind
which would gnaw

the space
which wind fills readily again

space is not place but
is the possibility:

a twig in the sand then
crayon on rough paper

later with blue school ink
through a Parker medium nib