University of Southern Indiana

Doug Ramspeck

Winner of the 2013 Michael Waters Poetry Prize 

Original Bodies explores the primitive mindset, the ancient brain that exists within us all. Most of us don’t believe that three crows in a black willow tree portend death or that we can read our lives in the entrails of a pickerel frog or in a hognose snakeskin found draped beside a river bank. But we do wish that we might gain some small control over our destinies. Residing half in the real world and half in the dream world, these poems accentuate the slipperiness we often feel between the corporeal and incorporeal, which is the source of both our fears and longings.


“With gorgeous lyricism and organic musicality, Doug Ramspeck’s Original Bodies offers poems as the call and response of birdsong, poems as a conjuring of auguries and omens, poems as translations of clouds and grackles and leaves speaking in tongues. This breathtaking collection is situated within a 'rhetoric of earth'—communing with the language of crows, the speech of rivers and thunder, of fields and rain and mud. Here, language is not so much a language but a feeling, and naming not so much a representation as it is a transformation of the ephemeral shape of longing into song. Here, like 'birds singing out of their bodies,' these poems sing their way out of their own bodies into something unnamable, ecstatic, and free.”

-Lee Ann Roripaugh


“A crow’s 'single black feather' assumes the resonance of 'prophecy and prayer' as Doug Ramspeck acknowledges the elemental—rain and mud—as world enough in which to perform “this privilege of naming,” what he calls 'a languaging.' Such simplicity belies the depths of perception that make these poems moving and memorable. If there is an old-fashioned quality to this work, it is that found in the work of James Wright and Mary Oliver, two other Ohio poets who touch us with their wise and eloquent longings.”

-Michael Waters


"Winner of the 2013 Michael Waters Poetry Prize, Doug Ramspeck’s Original Bodies locates the reader both in the language of nature as well as the voice of the natural world’s influence on us. Divided into four sections—River, Moon, Crow, and Tongue—the collection is prefaced by the poem 'Crow, Moon, Crow,' where Ramspeck ties together these images: 'For here is how I remember it: / a river is a moon is a crow is a tongue.' These images repeat through the entire collection, creating collective attention to them as symbols of the physical world. Through these symbols Ramspeck tethers our more primitive selves to our current versions, always reminding us that our bodies are imperfect vessels. Nature is neither pastoral nor ominous, but always visceral. Within this framework, Ramspeck invites us to layer the trappings of a more modernized world, with objects such as Degas Dancers, and abstract concepts, such as the 'arithmetic of grief,' music or song, and meditation with nature. The primitive, natural world collides into our seemingly cultured one, and in the apparent rift between the two the poems direct our attention to longings. The repeated river, moon, crow, and tongue guide us to an almost subliminal state. In 'Meditation and Form' Ramspeck gives us such a state: 'A moon rises / inside this skull / of sky.' Experience, in these poems, comes from blending nature and self."

-Renèe K. Nicholson, The Los Angeles Review, fall 2015


Read the first five poems...

Read Anthony Rintala's interview with Doug...

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