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About this poet

Mary Ruefle was born in Pennsylvania in 1952. Her father was a military officer, and she spent her early life traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe. She graduated from Bennington College in 1974 with a degree in Literature.

Ruefle has published many books of poetry, including My Private Property (Wave Books, 2016); Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013); A Little White Shadow (2006), an art book of “erasures," a variation on found poetry; The Adamant (1989), winner of the 1988 Iowa Poetry Prize; and Memling’s Veil (University of Alabama Press, 1982).

She is also the author of a book of collected lectures, Madness, Rack, and Honey (Wave Books, 2012); 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).

About Ruefle’s poems, the poet Tony Hoagland has said, “Her work combines the spiritual desperation of Dickinson with the rhetorical virtuosity of Wallace Stevens. The result (for those with ears to hear) is a poetry at once ornate and intense; linguistically marvelous, yes, but also as visceral as anything you are likely to encounter.”

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.


My Private Property (Wave Books, 2016)
Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013)
Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010)
Indeed I Was Pleased with the World (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2007)
A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006)
Tristimania (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 2003)
Among the Musk Ox People (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2002)
Apparition Hill (CavanKerry Press, 2001)
Post Meridian (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2000)
Cold Pluto (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1996)
The Adamant (University of Iowa Press, 1989)
Life Without Speaking (University of Alabama Press, 1987)
Memling’s Veil (University of Alabama Press, 1982)

Madness, Rack, and Honey (Wave Books, 2012)
The Most of It (Wave Books, 2008)

The Hand

The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom 
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that 
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look out the window.
You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers,
which aren’t even drumming, but lie 
flat and peaceful.
The teacher repeats the question. 
Outside the window, on an overhanging branch,
a robin is ruffling its feathers
and spring is in the air.

Reprinted from Cold Pluto by permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press. Copyright © 1996 by Mary Ruefle.

Reprinted from Cold Pluto by permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press. Copyright © 1996 by Mary Ruefle.

Mary Ruefle

Mary Ruefle

The poet Mary Ruefle is the author of many books of poetry, including My Private Property (Wave Books, 2016) and Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013).

by this poet


for James Schuyler

Pink dandruff of some tree
afloat on the swimming pool.
What’s that bird?
I’m not from around here.
My mail will probably be forwarded
as quietly as this pink fluff
or a question or morphine
or impatience or a mistake
or the infinite


I am rejecting your request for a letter of rejection. One must reject everything in order to live. That may be true, but the rejected know another knowledge—that if they were not rejected, heaven would descend upon the earth in earthly dreams and an infinite flowering of all living forms would form a silveresque


Once upon a time there was a bird, my God.
—Clarice Lispector

I am the yellow finch that came to her feeder an hour before she died. I was the last living thing she saw, so my responsibility was great. Yet all I did was eat. Through eight long months of winter the