Bin Ramke: forever linked to Foetry.com and poetry contest favoritism?
Neither Bin Ramke nor Margaret Atwood are in Dove’s anthology of 20th Century American Poetry: Atwood, no. 4 seed in the North, because she’s Canadian, and Ramke, 13th seed, because life has never been the same since he was brought down by Foetry.com. Life must have seemed good when Mr. Ramke won the Yale Younger in 1978. He teaches at the University of Denver and edits the Denver Quarterly. He published the following in 1989:
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
I was young once, at least, if not beautiful.And what is beauty anyway? The light off snowis pretty. I was young once, as young as any.After all, she thought, to know the edgeof truth or of mountains, you need to lie or fall.Everyone has an inner life, O careless love,it’s as simple as that. That’s why they hurriedto marry before the month ended—fear of June.She would avert her eyes from the magazines’special issues with brides on their creamy covers.He worked to replace her money he’d squandered.Then came a time of last intimacy, her injections,when once a week he’d puncture with the silken needleher arm, her condition worse with age, her painmade him wince and call her Dear; her alluring allergies.From where they retired all views were distant,nothing true or tender at hand. Mountains to the westlike pets kept for good weather or lonelinessand the need for cold to gloat upon.They would sometimes think of history together,of the choked passes which killed, of the grasses of summerwhen water was rare and expensive as illicit love.With the interstate smooth as needles gleaming beneaththe snow-slick peaks, they would think of pioneerslost and together, alas, two by two, with beds as baggage.Another edge to be cut on. She loves the littleline of houses or trees in landscapes, the thinhorizons hugely bearing the weight of dramaand of sky with its tooth of cypress or steeple.And he, while he turned the wheel and tuned the radio,what was on his married mind? He remembers often,these latter days, the cousin he first loved,her marriage to an ugly man when he lit the candlesand wore the little suit his mother made,and he cried for her because she was only beautiful.He remembered riding in the car from the library,having taken a book on Freud because his cousinwas studying Freud, and such studies were forbiddenhis Catholic childhood. And riding in the back seatas his father drove he read about the fountain penas phallic, the ink seed of Onan spilled, and hegrew sick and felt the frisson of guilt and glory.And she was married to an ugly man, but the worldconspires to avert its eyes, and the needle-sharppeaks hover behind them as the little dashes of whitelines spurt out beneath their car on the highway home,a little line like spoor marking their path, so easyto retrace, ready made, like everyone’s. So there’sno need to look, just live long, since youth is truerthan beauty, Love; long life and many children.
A SAD CHILD
You’re sad because you’re sad.
It’s psychic. It’s the age. It’s chemical.
Go see a shrink or take a pill,
or hug your sadness like an eyeless doll
you need to sleep.
Well, all children are sad
but some get over it.
Count your blessings. Better than that,
buy a hat. Buy a coat or pet.
Take up dancing to forget.
Your sadness, your shadow,
whatever it was that was done to you
the day of the lawn party
when you came inside flushed with the sun,
your mouth sulky with sugar,
in your new dress with the ribbon
and the ice-cream smear,
and said to yourself in the bathroom,
I am not the favorite child.
My darling, when it comes
right down to it
and the light fails and the fog rolls in
and you’re trapped in your overturned body
under a blanket or burning car,
and the red flame is seeping out of you
and igniting the tarmac beside your head
or else the floor, or else the pillow,
none of us is;
or else we all are.
We don’t know what to make of this poem, but Atwood is not coy like Ramke—she has something to say to the reader—in this case a child who is sad. It is a piece of advice in images out to prove sadness cannot exist. Atwood deserves credit for attempting to bring good into the world.
Atwood 70, Ramke 68