Mary Ruefle was born in Pennsylvania in 1952. Her father was a military officer, and she spent her early life traveling throughout the United States and Europe. She graduated from Bennington College in 1974 with a degree in literature.
Ruefle has published many books of poetry, including The Book (Wave Books, 2023); Dunce (Wave Books, 2019), finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize and long-listed for the 2019 National Book Award in Poetry; My Private Property (Wave Books, 2016); Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013); A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006), an art book of erasures, a variation of found poetry; The Adamant (University of Iowa Press, 1989), winner of the 1988 Iowa Poetry Prize; and Memling’s Veil (University of Alabama Press, 1982). She is also the author of a book of collected lectures, Madness, Rack, and Honey (Wave Books, 2012); a book of prose, The Most of It (Wave Books, 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 [Emily] 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.
Ruefle 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 teaches in the MFA program at Vermont College and is the poet laureate of Vermont. In 2020, she was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow.