Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mary Ruefle - Cassandra

Mary Ruefle has, I think, eleven books out now? Something like that? I was surprised to see that, and then to see that I have seven of them. And I’ve just read in APR that she has a selected poems coming out soon, or soon-ish.

Mary Ruefle is one of those poets who doesn’t so much fall through the cracks as she has a presence in several groups of poets, which can be seen in her two major publishers: Carnegie Mellon and Wave Books. The first, a university press with a long and various list, but one that puts most of its weight behind fairly conservative older poets, and the other, a still fairly new press with a lot of hipness and a growing list of mostly young poets who no one would ever label conservative. In that way, she’s a little like Gillian Conoley, who is also on the Carnegie Mellon list.

Mary Ruefle’s work fascinates me. And the ability of her work to land on so many different, conflicting bookshelves. I don’t imaging that Tony Hoagland, for instance, reads many books from Wave with pleasure, but he has read Mary Ruefle’s work with pleasure (at least in the past). She’s found a way—or, more likely, it’s found her—to be something of a poetry uniter. I say that “it’s found her” because I think of her as a very natural writer, one who not very interested in schools and manifestoes (at least this is how I imagine it from reading her work). She’s the type of writer who bedevils those who like to make lists of where people fit, where they belong.

Here’s a poem from Indeed I Was Pleased With The World, which came out a few years ago from Carnegie Mellon, but which I just got recently.


I am on my hands and knees
looking through a grille.

I can see a television of the world
in the next room.
My family is eating very slowly, on trays.

I think it is some kind of hospital
and I am about to be born.

I will be the light bulb at the end of the cord.

A dark, angelic glimpse.

Everyone I meet will be either a spy
or a messenger.

We will go through the four seasons
in ten-minute cycles.

I will experience bath water running.

I will have my picture taken with a stranger
who will touch the small of my back.

I do not know if he will feel my eyeball
alone and quivering in its nest.

And because I do not know
if he will feel my eyeball
alone and quivering in its nest

I cannot wait to be born.


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