As we begin the New Year, many of us find ourselves taking stock of where we’re at in life and where we want to be. If you’re one of those deep thinkers, Wes Ramsey’s book of poetry Into the Black is for you.
With his latest poetry collection, writer-actor Wes Ramsey dives headfirst into exploring many of the human experiences and emotions, from the highs of passion and hope to the depths of anger and despair.
The book’s presentation is elegant with its sleek black cover, glossy pages, and color photography to accompany the poems, some of which include photographs of Wes himself. The poetry spans sixteen years of Wes’s life. Each poem is dated so it gives you the feeling that you are getting an intimate look inside the creative and sometimes conflicted mind of an artist who’s on a journey to find meaning in a sometimes crazy world.While the book as a whole is threaded together by an overarching theme about life’s struggles and the beauty within those struggles, there is a breadth of variety within the pages.
Some of Into the Black’s poetry will certainly inspire you. The opening poem “First the Breath” is one of my favorites. It speaks of night terrors – whether metaphorically, literally, or both – and how one’s heroic self can rise up inside of the terrors to grow stronger than the darkness.
“Know your heart
Even after all reason delivers
The breaking sounds of not again & why”
Other poems, such as “The Life Journey,” speak frankly to the reader about life philosophy:
“In the beginning, there is the dream
Only at the end is there destiny
When all things have come to pass
When life has decidedly chosen for you how you will be remembered”
Often though, you must really pay attention to find the subtlety within the words. For example, there are poems that dance in decadence, such as 2007’s “Le Parfum” in which the alcohol flows and there’s the attention of a female “back in the den, surrounded deep by pools of sin.”
Flash forward three years later to 2010’s poem “We Sang,” and at first glance, it feels like yet another poem of voracious celebration until you notice the difference. The words contained inside “Le Parfum” (sweet, alive, relaxed, and a woman with crystal on her lips and eyes on fire) have been replaced with darker choices (vile, depraved, and people singing songs of victory with premature indifference). The party Wes writes about in “We Sang” isn’t so light and breezy. No, this is a poem about growing up, waking up, looking back, and facing a more adult reality, sealing that idea with the final lines:
“It will all keep on happening…
With or without dear me.”
And that’s the real treat in most of these poems. Very few of them are about one single thing. And as is the case with most well-written poetry, some of the meaning is up for interpretation anyway. You may relate completely differently than I did to the aforementioned “Le Parfum” and “We Sang.”
One thing isn’t up for interpretation though – this is clear: With Into the Black, Wes doesn’t shy away from showing the vulnerability of the human experience. With his poems, he paints a picture of a life lived passionately but not without struggles.
One of the standout poems is “I Am Tired.” It speaks to the sadness of someone who tries and tries again, only to find himself weighed down by too many years that have dished out too many disappointments: “Not as young to bounce back as quick.”
I think so many of us are tired – if not on a continuous basis, then frequently. Thus, “I Am Tired” is a poem for the weary soul, and it’s a gift to all the tired souls out there who feel disappointed and alone. This poem reminds you that you aren’t. It feels like something that was written – and can be read – as one slowly sinks to the bottom of the ocean.I also found a lot of enjoyment in reading the feverishly angry poem “Forget.” Almost every line begins with either “Forget [this]” or “Fuck [that],” leading the reader down the dark rabbit hole of a volatile relationship on its last legs. I think there’s something delicious about reading a “fuck off/this/you” piece when you’re in a healthy state of mind, and there’s something comforting about reading that same kind of piece when you are in a bad place. So no matter what your state of mind when reading “Forget,” it’s the kind of poem that you can grab onto and enjoy the ride.
Wes’s other poems touch on many different emotions.
In “I Can Be Still” you will fall into his restless desire:
I’m going over myself for you
Fanning out my feathers to stretch and preen—to catch your eye— to believe
In “Sin Me,” the opening lines will pull you into the romance:
Sin me sweetly sin me softly
Come morning sip your favorite coffee
In the “The Minds of Madness are Marching” you will feel the weight of words that highlight how hard it can be to have a healthy existence in a mad world:
“Now… march with me
To the cortex of the brain
The same part that makes you human
Can also make you insane”
But no matter what the poem’s main topic is, the book as a whole always circles back around to the burning questions so many of us have: Why are we here? What is our purpose?
The poem “Legacy” asks precisely that: What kind of legacy will we leave behind after we are gone? Are we destined to be “unnamed” until someone sorts through the “old hard drives found in an attic” and discovers the story behind the person we really were, the life we really lived? Will another person make that determination for us after we are gone? Maybe that will be the reality for many of us… or maybe it won’t.
Because with the publication of Into the Black, Wes Ramsey has certainly taken control of a piece of his own legacy by sharing his words with the world. And perhaps his poetry might inspire you to do the same with your own legacy, in your own unique way:
“First the breath
Then the thought
Then the loving call to arms”
As 2020 unfolds, I hope you find your own loving call to arms. Happy New Year and happy reading!
To purchase Wes’s book Into the Black, visit his website:
Hallie Shepherd is a writer, actress, and film producer. Follow her on Instagram where she celebrates the stories we tell.