Mary Ruefle holds poetry reading

By Sarah Bookstein


The comic and mundane mingled with the humorous and the sad when visiting poet Mary Ruefle gave a reading of her poetry on Nov. 2 in Bucknell Hall.

In a poetry reading hosted by the Stadler Center for Poetry, Ruefle mixed comical elements with mundane ones, as in her piece “Mary’s Hot Dog,” which Ruefle described as “the earliest extant example of my writing.” The work was a recipe for preparing frozen hot dogs for dinner.

Ruefle read two poems about childhood entitled “Provenance” and “Middle School.” While some poets comment between readings, Ruefle joked that she likes to save all her banter for one shot. This made the poetry flow pleasantly and without disruption. Her poetry has a repetitive feel.

Ruefle also read from her more recent books, including poems “The Bunny Give us a Lesson in Eternity,” “Hold that Thought,” “The Day” and “Dodo.”

“Hearing Mary Ruefle read her poetry gave her works a unique, distinct voice,” Mary Coyne ’11 said.

Ruefle has published 10 books of poetry, one of prose and a comic book titled “Go Home and Go to Bed.” She has received many awards for her writing, including an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Whiting Writers’ Award and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Ruefle published her work in such magazines as “The American Poetry Review” and “Harper’s Magazine,” and in the anthologies “Best American Poetry” and “Great American Prose Poems,” among others.

Ruefle read from a “sample exam” for her students, inspired by a nineteenth-century penmanship workbook. Instead of rewriting the sample sentences, she followed them up with imaginary exam questions for her students. For the sentence, “Every cloud has a silver lining,” Ruefle wrote, “Think of exceptions to this statement, and write about them in an upbeat tone.”

She is known for her quirky style, as in her poem “The Estate of Single Blessedness,” written on the shell of an egg. She currently teaches in the MFA program at Vermont College.

“Ruefle was humorous, refreshing and creative. The way she ended the poetry reading showed the audience that she could work humor into her poetry as well as sadness and everyday events,” Elizabeth Macmillan ’12 said.

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