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About this poet

In 1952, Mary Ruefle was born outside of Pittsburgh to a father who served as a military officer. She spent her early life traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe. She graduated from Bennington College in 1974 with a degree in literature.

Mary Ruefle has published many books of poetry, including Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013); Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010); A Little White Shadow (2006), an art book of "erasures," a variation on found poetry; Tristimania (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 2003), Among the Musk Ox People (2002); Apparition Hill (2001); Cold Pluto (2001); Post Meridian (2000); Cold Pluto (1996); The Adamant (1989), winner of the 1988 Iowa Poetry Prize; Life Without Speaking (1987); and Memling's Veil (1982).

She is also the author of a book of prose, The Most of It (2008), and a comic book, Go Home and Go To Bed (Pilot Books/Orange Table Comics, 2007).

About Ruefle's poems, the poet Tony Hoagland has said, "Her work combines the spiritual desperation of Dickinson with the rhetorical virtuosity of Wallace Stevens. The result (for those with ears to hear) is a poetry at once ornate and intense; linguistically marvelous, yes, but also as visceral as anything you are likely to encounter."

Mary is the recipient of numerous honors, including 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, and teaches in the MFA program at Vermont College.

Sentimental Education

Mary Ruefle, 1952

Ann Galbraith
loves Barry Soyers.

Please pray for Lucius Fenn
who suffers greatly whilst shaking hands.

Bonny Polton
loves a pug named Cowl.

Please pray for Olina Korsk
who holds the record for missing fingers.

Leon Bendrix loves Odelia Jonson
who loves Kurt who loves Carlos who loves Paul.

Please pray for Cortland Filby
who handles a dead wasp, a conceit for his mother.

Harold loves looking at Londa's hair under the microscope.
Londa loves plaiting the mane of her pony.

Please pray for Fancy Dancer
who is troubled by the vibrissa in his nostrils.

Nadine St. Clair loves Ogden Smythe
who loves blowing his nose on postage stamps.

Please pray for William Shakespeare
who does not know how much we love him, miss him and think of him.

Yukiko Pearl loves the little bits of toffee
that fall to the floor when Jeffrey is done with his snack.

Please pray for the florist Marieko
who wraps roses in a paper cone then punches the wrong code.

Muriel Frame loves retelling the incident
that happened on the afternoon of November third.

Please pray for our teacher Ursula Twombly
who does not know the half of it.

By the radiator in a wooden chair
wearing woolen stockings sits a little girl
in a dunce's cap, a paper cone rolled to a point
and inverted on her hair; she's got her hands
in her lap and her head bowed down, her chin
is trembling with having been singled out like this
and she is sincere in her fervent wish to die.

Take it away and give it to the Tartars
who roll gloriously into battle.

From Post Meridian, published by Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2000. Copyright © 2000 by Mary Ruefle. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

From Post Meridian, published by Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2000. Copyright © 2000 by Mary Ruefle. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Mary Ruefle

Mary Ruefle

The poet Mary Ruefle is the author of many books of poetry, a book of prose, and a comic book.

by this poet

poem

for James Schuyler

Pink dandruff of some tree
afloat on the swimming pool.
What’s that bird?
I’m not from around here.
My mail will probably be forwarded
as quietly as this pink fluff
or a question or morphine
or impatience or a mistake
or the infinite

poem
The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom 
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that 
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look
poem

It was one of those mornings the earth seemed
not to have had any rest at all, her face dour
and unrefreshed, no particular place-- subway,
park-- expressed sufficient interest in present circumstances
though flowers popped up and tokens
dropped down, deep in the turnstiles. And