Go back

spaces in the light said to be where one/ comes from
Potes & Poets, 1992



The intensely particularizing method of this impressive work brings the reader into a place almost beside himself, as if one were objectifying in singular manner the evidence of one's own existence. The coherence is a web of intricate music, the sound of one's own thought, the complex presence of each thing.
--Robert Creeley

A beautiful poem of water and light, music and thought. Its eighty-eight semi-autonomous parts--each of twenty-two lines punctuated as a single sentence--convincingly connect phrases and clauses that would otherwise seem disjunct. Remarkably fluid--"musical" in every sense--they encompass (to quote Ratcliffe's luminous study of Campion's song) a "multiplicity of relationships among parts and patterns whose simultaneous likeness and unlikeness pull them simultaneously together and apart.
--Jackson Mac Low

The half-lit space "under the filtered fear of shadows" is Stephen Ratcliffe's subject in these beautifully wrought lyric meditations. A metaphysical poet, Ratcliffe takes such natural phenomena as light, darkness, sunlight, sky, air, leaves, and branches, and follows them through an elaborate set of permutations [whose] mathematical structure governs--but never quite contains--the "many-colored, broken glass on hands and knees" which is the poet's everyday life. In its spare and severe measures, spaces in the light approaches the condition of music.
--Marjorie Perloff

Somewhere between the dice-throw of Mallarmé and the alea of Cage, Stephen Ratcliffe has discovered an expanding universe of meanings. It is a daedal space, one of otherness and origins. As a reader, it is a true pleasure to be let in.
--Michael Palmer

* * *


Every lights on a twig, each butting away the want from leaning
on its tatters, Mediterranean, which clarion
through the house it hangs on
"are you happy?"--among themselves sudden pastel lights
a color known as somnolent beside the dish
the sickle's compass, so much
more than it seems when it gets dark on a page
preparing nothing to do with the ear but more if the color is
careless, like water when it makes its nest
on the bank where the white
flash--lines passing
the steps of a circle whose skin would hand
flowering hills--the feeling is of cast down, yet bottles
pinned for days to the ground on a path caught up in the shadow
of home, winter the marrow replies to distance
the watch passing the clock
like sand, the white down in a silence considered
impossible though she breathes air, quiet as the spectrum forgotten
where the crowd was, windows opening
on pulse failing, light
under the filtered fear of shadows of the house where lillies grow
like meaning, nerves, brush.