3/30-4/5 Finding Mary Ruefle


A Hermit Thrush (image courtesy of Audubon.org)

“I don’t think I really have anything to say about poetry other than remarking that it is a wandering little drift of unidentified sound, and trying to say more reminds me of following the sound of a thrush into the woods on a summer’s eve – if you persist in following the thrush it will only recede deeper and deeper into the woods; you will never actually see the thrush (the hermit thrush is especially shy), but I suppose listening is a kind of knowledge, or as close as one can come.”
–Mary Ruefle, from the introduction to Madness, Rack, and Honey

It’s hard to believe that our little enterprise on this WordPress site is already coming to an end. I hope you’ve enjoyed the chance to do some purposeful reading in the Bennington canon–we have barely scratched the surface!–and that you’ve either re-discovered (this seems to be the case for many of you with Donna Tartt’s The Secret History) or discovered, for the first time, work by writers who have stalked the campus through the decades. It’s been an education for me to read your posts on the Forum and to get a glimpse into a few of the teeming minds that maintain an ongoing relationship with the College and this very special place.

I wanted to finish this very partial sampling of work by Bennington writers with a poet, essayist and teacher who is perhaps not so well known on a national scale: Mary Ruefle ’74. Ruefle has written a whole slew of slim volumes of poetry, a collection of experimental fiction, and a book of “lectures” (Madness, Rack, and Honey) that are really indefinable. She’s one of my favorite writers and I discovered her soon after I came to Bennington.

Last fall one of my students took on an assignment that should have been easier than it turned out to be: to “find” Mary Ruefle (she lives in Bennington) and interview her for the Literary Bennington blog. The result is fittingly discursive given the rigorous evasions of Mary Ruefle’s work, particularly the lectures.

Here is Part One of “Finding Mary Ruefle.”

Here is Part Two.

And for those who are interested in reading Ruefle’s work, here is her evanescent lecture “My Emily Dickinson

Assignment: For this week I’d like you to finish Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss. As you’ll see, despite Desai’s unsparing look at global inequality (and its consequences), there is something like a hopeful note that the novel strikes at the end.

We’re waiting for you on the Forum! And we sincerely hope that all of you who can make the journey to New York City next month will be able to join us for the special alumni reception with Kiran Desai on April 21st.

1 thought on “3/30-4/5 Finding Mary Ruefle”

  1. Thank you very much for the chance to be part of this course, and for the very nicely presented writing and stories about people. Really enjoyed it. Happy spring to you.
    Cheers, or as my mother would have said, Shabash. Jessie Dole

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