Ramsey’s (Quitter, 2014) new collection of creative nonfiction and poetry takes on the topics of depression, addiction, and loss.
Structured in four parts, including nonfiction chapbooks and zines, uncollected autobiographical essays, poems, and interviews, this volume impresses with its fresh scrutiny of both inner and outer worlds. “Farthing Street,” for example, begins by describing weeds in a lawn, “tall and heading out to seed, the view from our front stoop full of henbit, broadleaf plantain and pepperweed.” The author’s keen eye then turns inward to recollect watershed moments: a birthday present of a hunting shotgun; a first episode of depression in high school; the difficult birth of his first daughter, Tennessee. The inventory of weeds—growing in a lawn so neglected that the city of Durham, North Carolina, places a notice on the mailbox—blossoms into a full-blown essay that meanders with purpose and insight through major topics, such as his partner’s miscarriage. The essay also offers an unflinching acknowledgement of how difficult early fatherhood is, especially for a person hailing from an abusive family and suffering bouts of debilitating depression, before the speaker strikes out to mow the grass while his daughter, now a toddler, waves at him through the window. Connecting current events and states of mind with potent memories gives the book a poetic resonance as well as solid structure within chapters and across the collection. The author is determined to describe the feeling of a depressive episode—“this understanding that gloom is coming”—as best he can for the sake of readers who might benefit and for his children, who might one day experience the “sinister or beautiful” fact of genetic inheritance. The inevitability of the next spell of depression is terrifying to read about yet necessary to share: “I am lightning connecting with a transformer on a pole; I am a race horse that just broke its leg.” To one of the interview questions, the author responds with a great understatement: “I am not a talker, but I can write.”
A set of brave works featuring first-rate prose.