This essay was originally published on June 19, 2015. It is being re-shared in support of LPR’s 10th Anniversary celebration.
Mike Ratcliffe is the kind of man one loves to spend the afternoon with, whether biking or hiking the rolling hills of Central Maryland or – as in my case – meeting over coffee, grown cold, as we discussed everything from poetry to how people identify with place. His bottle brush hair, brown, is shot with gray as is his goatee. Smile lines frame both his piercing blue eyes and his wide mouth. It’s easy to feel comfortable in his company, and sink into the depths of weighty conversation.
Born in 1962, Mike grew up keenly interested in people. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in geography before heading to Oxford to earn a master’s degree at St. Antony’s College. His day job as an Assistant Division Chief at the Census Bureau may seem at odds with his poetic leanings. But the intersection of people, landscape, and meaning – the backbone of geography – aligns perfectly with Mike’s love of words.
LPR Poetry Editor Laura Shovan introduced me to Mike via email several months ago, saying our shared interests in genealogy and history were two sure-fire conversation starters. Mike sent me a draft of his chapbook, along with links to his previously published works, and I devoured it all. An email correspondence began. We met in person one sunny Sunday in late April at a noisy, crowded coffee shop in Fulton, Maryland to talk about his forthcoming chapbook from Finishing Line Press, Shards of Blue, which is based on his genealogical and historical research and focuses on two ancestors: John and Mary Ratcliff.
NOTE: If you enjoyed this essay, please check out LPR’s Issue 18: https://littlepatuxentreview.org/issues/18-summer-2015/