Poet-in-residence Mary Ruefle encourages students to ‘write without fear’

Sasha Weilbaker, Senior Writer

Mary Ruefle, the Stadler Center for Poetry’s Poet-in-Residence, held a question and answer session on Feb. 1 about her most recent book of poems, “My Private Property,which was released in 2016.

The Poet-in-Residence program, founded in 1981, has brought notable writers from across the country to stay in Lewisburg for one week during the spring semester. The job of the poet-in-residence is to hold a Q&A, present a section of their work, and teach a master class.

Ruefle, a Pennsylvania native, graduated from Bennington College in 1974 and is currently a professor at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. In addition to “My Private Property, Ruefle’s most famous books include “The Most of It,a collection of prose published in 2008, and “Madness, Rack, and Honey, a collection of lectures published in 2012.

In addition to her poetry, Ruefle talked about the 86 erasure books that she has created over the years. In order to create the erasure books, Ruefle has used mediums such as collage to block out the words originally printed on the page of a book and create pieces of poetry with the remaining words.

Of her 86 total erasure books, two have been published and are available in facsimile format on her website. When asked if the lack of printed material was disappointing, Ruefle said no.

“Eventually someone will find all of these books and they will make that person smile,” Ruefle said.

Program Manager of the Stadler Center for Poetry, Andrew Ciotola, counted upwards of 50 students, faculty, and community members at the event and said that the staff was “very pleased with the exceptional turnout.”

Those in attendance received important advice about learning to overcome personal doubts while writing. When event moderator and Associate Professor of English G.C. Waldrep asked Ruefle about the lack of fear in “My Private Property,” Ruefle explained that fear is not something usually present in her poems.

“If you’re afraid, you’ll never be an artist,” Ruefle said.

According to Ruefle, when her students are afraid of writing bad poems, she tells them, “it is a wonderful thing to write a bad poem. You have to write bad poems to be able to write a good one.”

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