Contemporary Poetry |2| Billy Ramsell

Billy Ramsell is from Cork. He has published two collections with Dedalus Press, Complicated Pleasures in 2007 and The Architect’s Dream of Winter in 2013. Shortlisted for several prizes, including the Irish Times Poetry Now Award, he was awarded the Chair of Ireland Bursary for 2013. A renowned performer, he has read his work around Ireland and in places such as South Africa, China and the U.S.

When the reader comes across the line,

They see the machine in my heart.

—Dear Heart

she gets a summation, albeit simplistic, of what The Architect’s Dream of Winter is all about: the observation of the increased mechanization of humanity. The poems that make up Billy Ramsell’s second collection are innovative in style and efficient in meaning; they illuminate the onslaught of the digital age and attempt to discuss some of the effects it is having on us as people. In lines like,

I outsourced all my memories to machines.

—Memory House



The circuits whisper and it dreams our names.

—Present Fears

we get a sense of the conversation that is taking place between humanity and the matrices of machines.

Ramsell is equally adept at displaying his skills in both formal rhythmic/rhyming poems, such as ‘Repetitive Beats’ and ‘Lament for Esbjörn Svensson’, as well as being inventive formally, in poems such as ‘The Silence Bar’—a poem that imitates the descriptive nature of a wine menu but offers various silences instead. The discovery of a prose poem that is not listed amongst the contents midway through the collection is another interesting experiment: its style will trigger feelings in anyone who’s ever sat an English exam in high school.

At times the specialized language can be off-putting, but that is a very small complaint against what is an otherwise incredibly precise collection. Billy Ramsell’s third collection promises much but, until it arrives, please do engage with the work of a poet who is very much at the forefront of contemporary poetry in Ireland.

You can see more about Billy Ramsell on his website.