Guest post by Angie Spencer, from review in Stroud New and Journal
Black Book café was packed on Friday May 9th for the launch of Jay Ramsay’s new collection of poetry, Monuments (published Waterloo Press in Hove) which lives up to it’s name. It is a truly monumental work. Comprising poetry written over the last 12 years it is a bold and devastating statement of the plight of humanity in the face of an increasingly de-humanizing society.
Many of the poems are political, for example ‘A Suicide Bomber Reaches the Light’, ‘Iraq Diary’ (2003), ‘Occupy’, ‘Whistleblower’, and ‘Shard’…written last year for the Greenpeace women), but unlike most political commentary that we hear today, they are stripped of all of the partisan machinery of politics that we have become so weary of. They are comments fresh from the soul, the heart – forcing us again and again to see what is really happening. They break through the numbness that has become our customary defence. They are full of psychological insight (as one might expect from a psychotherapist of Jay’s standing) – but here it is the psychology of human race he is working towards understanding.
More personal and intimate poems also find their way into this beautifully crafted collection (including Anamnesis – the remembering of soul (2005-6), written monthly during his residency at St James’ Church, Piccadilly during that period). These are reflective meditations that can be returned to again and again like a quiet chapel .
Jay begins the collection with an elegy for Ted Hughes (with whom he had correspondence before Hughes’ death, at 69, in 1998). Full of a grief at losing a mentor and (possibly) a poetic father figure, this somehow prepares us for the breadth and poetic stature of the rest of the collection.
Jay says ‘The book is about memory and what we need to remember. It is also an invitation to poets to face what is actually happening in the world and not just hide in personal expression, ‘language’, and narcissism. We are living in the Great Transparency, and poets are the truth-tellers of our time’.
The evening included brief contributions from close colleagues Gabriel Bradford Millar, Karen Eberhardt-Shelton, Kevan Manwaring, Jeff Cloves and Jehanne Mehta, as well as jazz guitar from Gilmore ‘n Jaz who came over from Swindon. Jay and Kevan are hosting a special celebration of Gloucestershire Writers 1914-2014 in ‘The Golden Room’ at the Sub Rooms on July 26th.
Monuments (published by Waterloo Press) is available from The Stroud Bookshop and from www.waterloopresshove.co.uk at £12, or £4.92 on Kindle (Amazon).
Waterloo Press also publishes Jeremy Reed, Victoria Field, Niall McDevitt, Sophia Wellbeloved and Maggie O’Sullivan among others. Simon Jenner, poet and publisher, founded the Press in 1998.
“Jay Ramsay is one of our most distinguished eloquent and passionate visionary poets, someone who knows that the highest role of poetry in a catastrophic time is to keep the flames of spirit burning steadily”
copyright Angie Spencer, May 2014.