The author has mastered the tone and dialect of romantic poetry, and he uses them to explore quotidian urban matters as familiar to 21st-century readers as daffodils were in Wordsworth’s day. In “The Idle Corner-Boys,” two young men attempt to prove their manhood by challenging each other to grope women. Seeing a woman already in distress, they forfeit their plan of feeling her up and instead help her find her missing brooch. "The Sewer and the Maple Leaf" has an engaging use of personification, as it finds a sewer grate and a maple leaf in an interesting exchange about the maple leaf's survival of winter. In “The Shepherd’s Blues,” stars are hard to see in “the city haze,” but starlets proliferate.
Each piece showcases Ramsey's knowledge of different poetic styles as he employs couplets, triplets, free verse and multiple other forms. There’s a seeming paradox in imitating Wordsworth’s language, which was meant to replace florid 18th-century poetry with earthy everyday speech but sounds nearly as fancy to modern ears. However, Ramsey blends in plenty of current idiom, and the juxtaposition of “crack alley” with “poor hovels” or “a bus shelter/ Of plexiglass and yellow steel” with the “whirl-blast” of snow is delightful. Readers who know enough about romantic poetry to get the joke will enjoy this witty homage.
Takeaway: Aficionados of 19th-century romantic poetry will enjoy this clever update of William Wordsworth’s style with 21st-century subjects and language.
Great for fans of William Wordsworth, William Blake.
Design and typography: B-
Marketing copy: B