Light Wind Light Light

by Major Jackson

Disjunctive, probing, and frequently solemn, the poems in Bin Ramke’s book Light Wind Light Light aim to reckon with the speaker’s past and origins. The alternative is unacceptable given our social and political climate: “late in life / from within where / the hand manipulates / the dummy mouth / comes sly silence. / / Speak up like vapor / rising from the candle.” Ramke himself came of age during the social and political revolutions of the late 1960s, and he has said though he was only marginally politically engaged, he still came to understand intimately how suffering suffuses the smallest particles around us. In this book, Ramke marshals theorems and axioms and philosophic thought to get at questions of inheritance and identity, not as intellectual ballast but as a means to shape his materials into significant forms. He transitions his musings into near treatises on the exchange of matter and energy: “when I hear a policeman speak / from above and understand / the sound of rotors; the traffic / noise has its own grammar / syntactical energy dispensing / the wisdom of wind.” Ramke does more than renounce, which would be too easy for a poet of his caliber; he claims and looks for pathways of complexity that cast an X-ray on the architecture of intolerance.

This review originally appeared in American Poets, Spring-Summer 2018.