Longlisted for the 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
"These poems grace the readers with wonder, wisdom, and whim . . . securing Ruefle’s reputation among poets as the patron saint of childhood and the everyday."—Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
In Dunce Mary Ruefle returns to the poetic practice that has always been at her core. With her startlingly fresh sensibility, she enraptures us in poem after poem by the intensity of her attention, with the imaginative flourishes of her being-in-the-world, always deep with mysteries, unexpected appearances, and abiding yearning.
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- The ostensible occasions of Ruefle’s poems are minor: not the funeral, but the bath. They record small moments with sweeping scope, moments in which the speed of thought seems to outpace real time.
Elisa Gabbert, The New York Times
Ruefle delivers a giddy, incisive ode to failure, fragility, and unknowing in her 12th book. “It may be our heads/ are filled with feathers/ from the stuff/ we don’t know,” she hazards, tiptoeing through one after another outlandish scenario sketched with uncanny delicacy. Many of these poems conceal sly fragments of lyric allusion or history: “I loved to wander, utterly alone”; “The fourteenth way of looking at/ a blackbird is mine.” Rhymes abound as though refusing resistance to such play, and a poem that opens in euphoria (“What a beautiful day for a wedding!”) ends, just a few lines later, in despair (“I hate my poems”). However, the poet reassures the reader that such states are kindred, even twinned. Ruefle celebrates the world’s imagination and mystery: “I want to thank my clothes for protecting my body. I want to/ fold them properly—I want/ the energy that flows from my hands/ to engulf the world./ Upon reflection, this is not/ possible. Upon reflection/ it is I who am pummeled by/ the world, that vast massage/ machine.” These poems grace the readers with wonder, wisdom, and whim “conducted/ without compromise,” securing Ruefle’s reputation among poets as the patron saint of childhood and the everyday.
Publishers Weekly, starred review
Each poem radiates with the intensity of her attention and reveals the mysteriousness deep within daily life.
Lisa Grgas, The Adroit Journal
“A Morning Person” opens with “what a beautiful day for a wedding!” Less than 20 lines later it ends, “I hate my poems.” What happens in between, all the places Ruefle takes us – her willing readers – is unrelenting attentiveness to everyday occurrences and imaginative flights, and the porous border between them. We need both to live.
John Yau, Hyperallergic
Ruefle makes the impossible connect, and her connections seem comforting, and all-encompassing.
Her observant, humorous, tender, heartbreaking, atmospheric writing is the kind of writing to have in your backpack (just in case) at all times.
Ben Niespodziany, neonpajamas
Mary Ruefle is the author of many books, including Dunce (Wave Books, 2019), My Private Property (Wave Books, 2016), Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013), Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures (Wave Books, 2012), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has also published a comic book, Go Home and Go to Bed! (Pilot Books/Orange Table Comics, 2007), and is an erasure artist, whose treatments of nineteenth century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries and published in A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006). Ruefle is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Robert Creeley Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Whiting Award. She lives in Bennington, Vermont.