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Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures Paperback – August 14, 2012
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The edition by Wave Books is comfortable to read, on sturdy paper and with nice wide margins for making notes.
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."
"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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I agree with the 3 star review by Althea. Not much to add to it. Althea said: "I don’t like to give up on a book, but I continually felt that either I was missing the point, or... Read morePublished 2 months ago by BfloBen
Mary Ruefle is an intriguing writer. I'm surprised I had not crossed her literary path before learning about this book. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Joe Blanda
I don't read poetry much. It doesn't occur to me and there are other things on the list. I should, but I don't. I'm a product designer, dammit. I read other kinds of books. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Jeff
mildly engaging set of pieces, but nothing to stay up late withPublished 7 months ago by Timothy E. Green
Well some concepts are kinda ill-defined but really worth to read.Published 15 months ago by Weipeng Sun