Mary Ruefle on the Need to Cultivate Patience
In Conversation with Courtney Balestier on the WMFA Podcast
Writing can be lonely work; WMFA counters that with conversation. It’s a show about creativity and craft, where writer and host Courtney Balestier talks shop with some of today’s best writers and examines the issues we face when we do creative work. The mission of WMFA is to explore why we writers do what we do, so that we can do it with more intention, and how we do what we do, so that we can do it better.
This week on WMFA, we revisit our conversation with poet and essayist Mary Ruefle about her Pulitzer Prize-nominated collection, Dunce, and discuss boredom, uncertainty, and letting go of expectations.
From the episode:
Mary Ruefle: To be honest, the problem with poetry is its medium is language. And language is something that every human being uses every day. Because they use it every day, if they encounter language they do not understand it makes them feel dumb. And that’s very frustrating, so they turn away from it. But if you listen to language the way you might listen to music… poetry is very much music. Its origins are song. If you listen to poetry the way you listen to music and let the expectations go of language set in an order that will be exactly like every other ordered language you have encountered in your life.
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Mary Ruefle is the author of many books, including Dunce (Wave Books, 2019), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry, and the Los Angeles Times Book Award; My Private Property (Wave Books, 2016), Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013), Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures (Wave Books, 2012), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010), which was the winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Robert Creeley Award, 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, where she serves as the state’s poet laureate.