REAL
Stephen Ratcliffe
474 pages
ISBN 978-0-939691-13-5
$22.00

 

"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 of this poem 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 human world and its quiet, patient attentiveness to how luminous it all can be to those who just sit still and notice."

-- Juliana Spahr


"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. Instructions on what to view in a beautifully spare but concise and timeless world."

-- Joanne Kyger


"Stephen Ratcliffe's REAL, the second volume in what promises to be a long poem of unprecedented magnitude, continues where 2002's Portraits & Repetition left off, occupying the measure of a day in 474 'takes' of frames, each documenting the minutia of the subject's extension into the world as the ocean's low-end rumble frames the coastline it erodes. These nuanced gestures resist being dwarfed by the sheer girth of the project, so that, in a tradition akin to the minimalist music of Steve Reich or Tony Conrad, the repetition of the open note holds the listener mesmerized for hours, suspended just outside the body's frame, only for the slightest tonal shift to return one's geist to form; as such, these poems read not as autonomous stanzas in a collection of 'verse,' but, rather, as notes in a massive orchestral architecture. Ratcliffe dwells in this music with such confidence that, when it shifts directions and reorients its centers of gravity, the entire structure quakes, taking us with it."

-- Michael Cross