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Present Tense
The Figures , 1996

Things happen fast and abundantly as perceived in the present tense. Not that the present isn't "selected" as much as the past is, but being less a function of memory and more of attention to the sights and sounds and textual material before the writer, any truly responsible present tense seems less constructed than received; it is both littered with specificity and cumulatively abstract.

Two constants in Ratcliffe's scanner, as this long poem in twelve sections hums by, among the legible many, are the sudden recognitions of music intimately heard in ear and mind, and the remarkable articulations of the sense-sound sunstruck plentitude of natural phenomena that literally radiates outwards from his person, in all directions, a not always pleasant but inescapably full creation whose principle of order is always change. And then he asks: "why not learn to read the right way, monosyllabically," as if to slow himself, and us, down to the actual moments that yield sensory delight and knowledge of the world. To be precise, and yet as continuous as attention is particular, is to harness the "presentational immediacy" of this work's operative poetic muscle. As we read, we listen to the language we speak, but we also hear it streak, fly, mope, glance, loaf, seduce, & dance. In these stanzaically subtle sections, Ratcliffe's performative pen scores a possible creation, one filled with all manner of unpredictable noticings, dislocations, mortal acknowledgements. "blink the vines cover the house"