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Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures Paperback – August 14, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mary Ruefle is the author of Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures, a finalist for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism (Wave Books, 2012), and Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award. She has published ten other books of poetry, 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); she is also an erasure artist, whose treatments of nineteenth century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries, and include the publication of A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006). 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 lives in Bennington, Vermont, and teaches in the MFA program at Vermont College.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Wave Books; First Edition edition (August 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933517573
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933517575
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.1 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Madness, Rack and Honey is one of the most important books of contemporary poetic theory I've come across in many years, totally non-academic and written from the point-of-view of a practitioner and innovator of the craft, emphasizing the real over the ideal, the rock-hard detail over the abstract concept. To see Ruefle's mind at work, finding correspondences between seemingly incompatible topics, is a wonder, and her voice rings with clarity and tinkles with offbeat humor. Compare these lithe lectures to Louise Gluck's stodgy prose theorizing, also useful in its way, but not half as much fun and ultimately cold-hearted and academic.

The edition by Wave Books is comfortable to read, on sturdy paper and with nice wide margins for making notes.
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Format: Paperback
This book of essays by Ruefle is brilliant---intelligent, deeply humorous,and warmly vulnerable. Every 20 minutes as I am reading Ruefle I shout out to the universe,"I love this woman." I hope new readers will seek her out. She is a gift.
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Format: Paperback
After reading over many years many books and article on the craft of poetry, this is the very first time I have read an examination of poetry that feels truly alive. One good measure of a book on poetry is if having finished it you find your reading of poetry is immediately made the richer. In my case, I picked up the recent issue of Poetry and a book by Ted Hughes, and felt that I had entered a magnified, vibrating world.

I am tempted to imagine that I did not, in fact, read Ruefle's book as much as meet her for coffee over several hours. What she calls lectures felt to me like conversation-like essays, some to the notes or journal entries. I suspect there are a few but I can't recall a single instance in which she analyzes a line of poetry; her approach has not a whiff of the academic and is deeply ambitious. She quotes Pound saying that people speak only one sentence in their lives. Her approach, in effect, is to comment, often amusingly, on selective passages of her own sentence, starting at age five, and those of others such as Emily Dickinson and Anne Frank.

Her comments include: "I believe that all poetry, poetry from all periods and all cultures, has only one theme, of mutability".... "I do not really see, at this point in my life, any difference between repression and expression."
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mary Ruefle is poet, essayist, and professor; the recipient of numerous awards and honors. She has received the Whiting Writers’ Academy Award, an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as Guggenheim Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. She has published eleven books of poetry, most recently Trances of the Blast (2013).
"Madness, Rack, and Honey" is a collection of Ruefle’s lectures to graduate students dating from 1994.The lectures presented in Madness, Rack, and Honey, while for the purpose of educating poets, are nothing akin to the more common perception of a lecture. Such discourse is generally associated with the clichéd image that one is being spoken at, tendentiously, tediously, in a flat and bland style. Ruefle, however, is not standing at the lectern here, reading at the students from the same textbook they were assigned at semester’s beginning. She is not the jaded and worn speaker who can recite the words backward, forward, sideways, and while playing poker on Friday night. Ruefle’s lectures stand out like gold charms on a bracelet – each collected for a specific memory, place, or event, able to stand on its own, yet as a collection, they combine and connect one to another, to form a bracelet as unique and special as the person wearing it. The book presents 14 charms, each its own story, and together as a collection, a precious and unique whole.
Reading this book made me want to break out in song. It is melodic and lyrical, a sweet violin andante that pushes forward while you long to be held back in its grasp. There is a waywardness to her lectures. They follow no known map; the actually resist being mapped.
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Format: Paperback
Mary Reufle's world is a world of poetry. This book is rich with her reading and experience of Poetry. She has read and reread a wide variety of poets including those who among the anthologized classics and the contemporary less known. She makes it clear that this absorption in the world of poetry began with her very early. She tells many stories of interest about the life work and thought of a wide variety of poets. She does touch and give examples of her own poetry but the real center of the work is her experiencing of the Poetry of others..There is not I believe an attempt to provide some overall Theory of Poetry but rather an appreciation of many different kinds of Poetry and poets.
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By Althea on November 6, 2015
Format: Paperback
Mary Ruefle, in the first lecture of this book, provides a quote from Gaston Bachelard: “We begin in admiration and we end by organizing our disappointment.” That’s a succinct summary of my feelings about this book.

I’ve enjoyed Ruefle’s poetry and I was intrigued when I skimmed her introduction to this volume. But I started having doubts halfway through the first lecture which contained numerous quotes from other writers and poets but left the thread of cohesion dangling. I wasn’t looking for a how-to book, so it wasn’t that my expectations weren’t met in regard to writing instructions (there are none really); it was more that the anecdotes and quotes lacked an essential focus. Ruefle’s ultimate advice, in a nutshell, was this (I think): start with an image, not with an idea. Not bad advice, but once it was delivered it was immediately contradicted. This pattern of assertion and then cancellation, of presenting dichotomies or paradoxes only to resolve them flippantly, occurred so often in the following pages that it became predictable.

I waded through next few lectures, trying to understand the praise this book has received, and I can’t say exactly what bothered me–maybe a tone of tired irony mixed with phony self-deprecating protestations, or maybe it was lack of air. Ruefle is not fond of paragraphing. Her paragraphs can run on for 3 to 5 pages. It’s possible that as she gave the lectures these blocks of writing needed no breathing space, but I found them stifling.

I don’t like to give up on a book, but I continually felt that either I was missing the point, or that she was failing to make it. I turned to the final section called Lectures I will Never Give.
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