James Tate picked this first volume for the annual National Poetry Series, and it shares with him an absurdist sensibility expressed in angular diction and skewed syntax. But Ramsdell's taut and bloodless poems play with space (on the page) and perspective in a manner far more stringent than Tate's jauntier verse. She erases words mid-poem, drops letters in words and subjects in sentences, and ends poems in medias res—her relentless abstraction is relieved by things in and of themselves: a shoe, a sock, a shirt. —The random accretions— and surrealism of ordinary objects lead, in —Service of Pointing,— to word piles and splicings, —as in a film,— though clearly not a Hollywood movie. Ramsdell's avant-garde aesthetic, to which she clings with great integrity, discovers grace in bricks and mere gravity; she's always on the verge of something, and at a given moment her forms finds themselves, but nothing comes close to resolution or statement. A tourist —unable to offer direction— is an apt trope for these austere, cryptic poems, which most resemble the later Beckett in their singularity of non-vision.
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