Jump Straight Up
by Jarold Ramsey
Rushing in as a welcome surprise, these “new late poems” were mostly composed both late in the year and late in the author’s years. In Jump Straight Up, Jarold Ramsey versifies and pokes at an odd knot of themes: encroaching age overtaking a long wonderful marriage; the delights of grandparenthood; awareness of our “interspecies” situation in the everyday natural order; the blessings and challenges of Central Oregon’s canyons, summits, and rangelands; and the intriguing ways the mostly horizontal left-to-right axis of our lives seems to shift in old age toward the vertical—“way down” (and out) but also “jump straight up” (in the imagination).
Early Praise for Jump Straight Up:
A descendent of strummers and pickers and fiddlers, the compiler and editor of the justly famous Coyote Was Going There (his anthology of Oregon Indian Literature), Jarold Ramsey now gives us this welcome book of “new late poems.” Whether it’s with elegies or tributes, Ramsey prompts us toward joy, urging us to “jump straight up, / free of the gravity of time.” Like Old Man Coyote “forever meddling with every polarity / he meets,” this wise, spirited, buoying voice defies dichotomies and denies divisions. When Ramsey asserts “On both sides, let there be a sharing of light,” we say a grateful “Amen.” Jarold Ramsey is an Oregon treasure.
—Paulann Petersen, author of My Kindred
Robert Frost remarked that a poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom. Jarold Ramsey’s “new late poems” abound with both. Walk these pages and meet the Happy Boy, the granddad standing on his head, elegies to friends and peers, love poems of long marriage, an ode to Satchmo conceived on a treadmill, an Aeolian harp, a curious wolf spider, and a slime mold that talks. Jump Straight Up is a buoyantly beautiful report from a Northwest master at age 85.
How often do you get to read poems firmly planted in a boyish elderhood, alive to past wonders yet rueful over losses rich and uncountable? This book delivers rich devotions to local antics and timeless questions, to natural wonders and human resonance with family neighbor, community character, companionable spider, meadowlark, coyote, amoeba. Long a student of story from Native myth to Shakespeare, Ramsey here delivers accounts of history, local lore, love for kinfolk, and yearning to understand the changes carrying us all along, richly in need of poems just like these.
—Kim Stafford, author of Singer Come from Afar
About the Author:
Jarold Ramsey grew up on a ranch north of Madras, Oregon, and earned a BA in English from the University of Oregon, and a PhD in English Literature from the University of Washington. For nearly thirty years he taught Shakespeare, Modern Poetry, Creative Writing, and Native American Literature at the University of Rochester in New York State. He and his wife Dorothy, also a teacher, have three children and five grandchildren. After retirement, in 2000 Jerry and Dorothy moved back to the family ranch in Central Oregon, where they assumed the roles of “Groundskeepers Emeriti.”
Ramsey’s books of poems include Love in an Earthquake (1973), Hand-Shadows (1989), and Thinking Like a Canyon: New and Selected Poems (2012). His collection of Northwest Indian traditional stories, Coyote Was Going There (1977) is still in print. Since moving back to Central Oregon, he has written two books on the region’s local history, New Era (2003) and Words Marked by a Place (2016), and he serves as Advisory Editor of the local history journal, THE AGATE. His poetry has won numerous awards, including the Lillian Fairchild Award and the Quarterly Review International Poetry Prize; and in 2017 he was given the C.E.S. Wood Award for Lifetime Achievement as an Oregon Writer.