Noren Ramus’ Three Lives as a Poet
Noren Ramus was a controversial American poet active through the years 1981-2013, his death taking place only a month ago by an act of murder from a jealous writer-friend, Julian Armes (Gollard, The Guardian). His verse often escaped definition, as critics defined him as either a Beatnik poet, a Surrealism poet, or a Metaphysical poet. To comprehend Ramus closer to entirety, we will investigate each of these associations and link them to his personal life. These poetic styles were not developed in Ramus’ career in sequence, but rather as an amalgamation.
Born in Seattle, Ramus in a sense grew up in Beatnik culture. Though not so much as in Portland, the “Emerald City” embraced the idea of attaining global peace and everyday compassion towards human beings. Despite Seattle being a hub for business entrepreneurs, it has continually tended towards an outlook of mysticism and revolution (Barry, Wish to the World).
Early on in his career, he read Beatnik poetry in its depth and became somewhat attached to the philosophies of its revolution. He could be seen walking around Sherwood Middle School reading the The Outsider’s Bible to Poetry on a daily basis (1993). It contained works from the Beatniks, Dadaists, and Surrealists. Yet mainly, the book was centered on Beatnik poetry and the theme of overcoming the “stuck” feeling that America had driven itself into by the occurrence of the Cold War (Fredrick, Beatnik War). One of his poems written in the summer of his 13th year was particularly inspired by the reading of this text. Note the cadence and phrasings that are particular to the Beatniks:
How did you know to paint a god
when its statue told you not to?
We all have seizures of the generous type,
the gangrene you filled yourself with.
Let me eat spinach for a year—
It’s what life begs of you:
eat and eat for the taste and not the stuffing.
You are not a turkey.
You are not gobble gobble.
Take your hands and eat them instead,
or else you won’t be able to walk.
———————————- (Ramus, Complete Poems)
It was obvious in the early stages of his career that he had a unique perspective of reality and way of expressing his emotions. He was recorded taking long cycling trips, extended treks, and acting homeless in order to experience new frontiers of imagination. At first, his father Gerald Ramus would take Noren on cycling trips in order to introduce him to the wilderness, to bond, and develop an interest in Zen meditation (Rasmus, Diaries of the Poet-Philosopher).
Gerald Ramus had been a Zen monk before becoming a father (Rasmus, Diaries of the Poet-Philosopher). He had taught Noren meditation, Zen’s principles and culture. This was in a direct line to the Beatniks, as that particular revolution had a sustained relationship with Zen and its associations to everyday living.
(Four more pages on Ramus’ connection with the Beatniks)(excerpt only)
Ramus’ first encounter with Surrealism poetry and its school of thought was when he received a book by his father entitled Running the Vex by Fredrick Pinkis (1983). Noren’s father was an eclectic man who harbored many books on subjects that encompassed history, world literature, music, dance, religion, and many other time-honored subjects. Noren was not a keen reader of his father’s vast library at first, but he gradually became more attuned to its value.
By the age of 15, Noren had read much of Pinkis’ work, along with volumes of Marie Shungen’s poetry. At this time, he was writing poetry as a daily practice and would relay his works to his father. His father’s method of teaching was not so didactic: he would tell “no” or “yes” instead of lecture. Through these brief lessons, Noren became self-critical and investigative of his own styles (Gammus, Ramus the Mistaken King).
Noren was still heavily influenced by the Beatniks at this point, though he swayed a bit more towards Surrealism. Noren recorded in a diary of his thoughts:
Style doesn’t got anything on me. Though the Surreals got me going, the Beats are my grandfathers—the Surreals are my new cousins.
(Rasmus, Diaries of the Poet-Philosopher)
We can see Ramus gave thought about style and accepted that he fit in somewhere with the legions of poets. The phrase, “Style doesn’t got anything on me” is certainly what critics complain about him, though. He enjoys being defined and does not enjoy being defined, simultaneously. He was conflicted about his standing as a poet: was he supposed to fall into a category or defy compartmentalization?
(5 more pages of Ramus’ association with Surrealism) (excerpt only)
His basis of poetical thought was philosophy. His link to the Metaphysical poets is clear, in that he questions and expands everyday objects. Ramus’ earliest writing were mainly based on philosophical knowledge he believed in. At the age of 11, he pronounced in his first poem:
Everything is within.
Why be afraid?
It is there
——————- (Ramus, Complete Poems)
With his father’s Zen teachings and Ramus’ reading from possibly hundreds of books on mysticism, spirituality, religion, and philosophy, it is not surprising he would have a connection with the Metaphysical poets. At the age of 11, he thought of himself as a prophet, being led into believing it by the work of a tarot card reader (Redwood, Journals of Madmen). He held the belief for almost 10 years, until he realized that others had the same spiritual potential and knowledge he had attained (Perin, Modern-Day Riots). This sentiment of prophethood reflected in his writing with an inimitable stamp. What follows is a poem he wrote at the age of 18 that was eventually inserted into his first published poetry collection, Beauty’s Beauty:
An ecclesiastical crow
I am without holy order
no one understands the protector
of tender divinity
the mystic-dives of concern
for yourself as another
(6 more pages on Ramus’ association with the Metaphysical era) (excerpt only)