Portraits & Repetition

By Stephen Ratcliffe


The Post-Apollo Press
Original Language(s)
Additional Credits
Cover art by Etel Adnan
Design by Simone Fattal
Edition, Year
First Edition, 2002
In Print

This major work of poetry, written with a form and texture reminiscent of musical score, takes its inspiration from Gertrude Stein’s lectures on art and writing.

Stephen Ratcliffe
Stephen Ratcliffe has published more than twenty books of poetry, including Sound of Wave in Channel (BlazeVOX, 2018), Painting (Chax, 2014), Selected Days: The Selected Poetry of Stephen ... Read More

…a series of 474 consecutively dated, obscure portraits of the famed North Coastal poet-town Bolinas, Ca., is the beginnings of Ratcliffe’s magnum opus, one systematically charting shape, color and action as sound.

— J.D. Mitchell, Cricket Online Review


Praise for Portraits & Repetition

Once I sat on a train from New York City next to a man who was reading (avidly, non-stop) a book of music. I am hit with this same sensation reading Portraits & Repetition, whose poems take the kyric impulse in a direction that favors silence. You can read them like pieces of sheet music, and though they appear to be simply painterly, they are ordered like abstract, mathematical notations. You hear what you see, and no one is there.

— Fanny Howe

This book stuns me every time I go back to it—it’s so quiet, so calm, yet it accumulates into a tremendous presence based entirely in the senses. Ratcliffe begins with Stein’s wondering “what one saw when one looked at anything really looked…” and then proceeds to see. And as with those famous coastlines that keep getting longer, the closer he looks the more there is. He articulates it all in a syntax so attentive that it startled us back into the world.

— Cole Swensen

The ‘abstract’/’inside’ of direct perception & knowing made words, so that that material—vision/mind thinking/feeling/imagining here deftly (invisibly?) ‘lightly’ structuring—be not excluded from ‘real life’ joy & dolor, marital & inside/outside all such: waking up in the pre-dawn/acutely (from dream) looking around also going on in this evidently made/’constructed’ real-life Bolinas day-book — “2.9.98 – 5.28.99” — “ocean pounding” strangely (often ‘greyly’) orange & blue beautiful throughout these courageous & rhythmically bountiful/cosmic with exact local attention to ‘detail’ 60 x 57’s!

— Robert Grenier

Portraits is the best sort of daybook: at once teeming with uninterrupted attention to phenomena, while remaining firmly rooted in the world of experience.

— Michael Cross for The Poetry Project Newsletter


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