Intelligence and composure are the roots ...


W I N D O W 
Stephen Ratcliffe

ISBN ​​​​978-1-959556-75-6       1010 pages        $60.00

On Stephen Ratcliffe        

Here’s a new music of greatest subtlety where the poems’ musicality is not due only to their sounds but to their structure. The use of repetitions with minute variations goes beyond its equivalence in contemporary American music, and achieves the hypnotic power that we find only in the best renditions of, for example, classical Persian melodies. Stephen Ratcliffe has taken his poetic researches into highest territory by instinctively managing to assemble his modules – or short verses, in ways strategically controlled and still seamlessly and hauntingly beautiful. His mythical ridge has become the earth’s curvature, as well as a space platform, where energies shift, turn and return, to create a “mega-poem” of cosmic intention.         
   Etel Adnan       

Reading from any of Ratcliffe’s books seems to slow time down. We’re not rushed along by the plot. We can dip in and out anywhere and not feel lost. We become more attentive to incremental changes. Maybe the poems carry an understated Buddhist acknowledgment of the coming and going of life and death and of all phenomena, but never in a didactic way. The phrases that are reused and rearranged over and over create a rhythmic rendering of intimate space and time—this particular space from which seeing takes place, this particular moment in which thinking occurs. And so the structure of the book reshapes our experience. We are given to share a point of view, an angle of inquiry. We rock back and forth with the writing, outside and inside a mediated space. Inside, outside. We bob back and forth on the waves of writing. The Aztecs believed that the world had ended several times already, by fire, by flood, etc. In our time, they predicted, the world would come to an end due to motion. Perhaps, against our hurried cultural drift, Ratcliffe’s colossal but anchored writing practice takes on a profound spiritual, political, and philosophical importance. John Cage famously noted, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.” 
   Forrest Gander 

In Lines reflecting a “reading” of Mallarme’s prose poems—a form of surrender, of seduction, of imperilment—Ratcliffe survives the risk. His poetics flourish in this dual atmosphere. They are rinsed with a surprising glow in the valiant process of relieving the Mallarmean tension, while maintaining his own arena of sensitivity. How frequent it is that we desire to wear a robe of silken strings, that adorns us as if we were kings. Stephen Ratcliffe successfully transcribes in poetry, both restive and active, the fact of things both Human and Natural.
   Barbara Guest 

Ratcliffe’s answer to Basho, Rocks and More Rocks travel along an axis of spontaneity and formal restraint, distance and intimacy, where natural landscape becomes a landscape of the mind. It is poetry as practice, a moving meditation, that form of presence – continuous/as moments. 
   Eric Selland

This year and a half of the poet's life reads like an inspired and perceptive documentary. Daily pieces are comprised of stage directions in which action, color, figures and objects emerge and disappear in the cinematic framing of a subtle drama. Inst4ude5ions on what to view in a beautifully spare but concise and timeless world. 
   Joanne Kyger 

Written as a daily practice from March of 2000 to July of 2001, REAL has a meditative intensity as it gives both the spectacular and the ordinary moments of daily life an equal attention. This is a deep, long poem, not for those addicted to the surface pleasures of the quick cut. Each section is seventeen lines and certain themes return again and again – the ocean, relations between men and women, small animals such as cats and owls, lemon yellow and various blues. This structure frames and supports the poem's celebration of intimacy with both the natural and the human world and its quiet, patient attentiveness to how luminous it all can be to those who just sit still and notice. 
   Juliana Spahr

Stephen Ratcliffe is the author of more than twenty books of poetry, including most recently Rocks and More Rocks (Cuneiform 2020), sound of wave in channel (BlazeVOX [books], 2018), Painting (Chax Press, 2014) and Selected Days (Counterpath, 2012) which won the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award.  He has also written three books of literary criticism, Reading the Unseen: (Offstage) Hamlet (Counterpath, 2010), Listening to Reading (SUNY Press, 2000), and Campion: On Song (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981). Publisher of Avenue B books and Emeritus Professor at Mills College, he has lived in Bolinas California since 1973.

Johnny Ratcliffe