Mary Ruefle Wins the Robert Creeley Award

Mary Ruefle photoMary Ruefle will be presented with the 14th Annual Robert Creeley Award on Wednesday, April 16, and on that evening she will read to an audience that, if it lives up to earlier Creeley award winner readings, may include close to one thousand people — a fantastic audience for a poetry reading. The audience size is only one of the reasons this yearly event is called a premier event of National Poetry Month.

But Ruefle should keep that enormous audience alert and dynamically involved. Robert Clawson, who founded the Creeley Awards, says that her poetry reminds him of the New Yorker cartoonist, Roz Chast. I agree, but for perhaps the same reasons her poetry reminds me of a Wes Anderson movie.  Mary Ruefle infoThe cartoonist, the movie director, and the poet are all wonderfully quirky, sometimes mysterious, often very funny, and at the same time surprisingly serious.

Ruefle is the recipient of numerous previous honors, including an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Book Award, a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Whiting Award.

Her books include: Selected Poems; A Little White Shadow; Tristimania; Among the Musk Ox People; Apparition Hill; Cold Pluto; Post Meridian; The Adamant, winner of the 1988 Iowa Poetry Prize; Life Without Speaking; Memling’s Veil; and an art book of “erasures,” a variation on found poetry. Ruefle is also the author of two books of prose, The Most of It, and Madness, Rack, and Honey, plus a comic book, Go Home and Go To Bed.

When you read the following poem, you’ll understand why we used those inviting adjectives to describe her work: (funny, serious, mysterious, and wonderfully quirky). Enjoy!

County Fair

Mrs. Oakley entered the category of Other Muffin

(that being the one where blueberries were denied):

Not uniform in shape or color. Not standard!

No award. Not a difficult decision. Her doughnut

fared no better, was shriveled by noon, its shadow

in grease on the paper plate—

no one should get hurt at the county fair

but life is a laminar surface of surfaces

and though Mrs. Oakley to her continuous credit

continuously bakes in seven categories annually

from the marquee a letter occasionally falls.

In Dusseldorf a mechanic compared premium petrol

to caviar, great sex to Sacher tortes.

The philosophers concurred: these thoughts

fall apart when you think them.

Neither deserves an award.

Rise up, Mrs. Oakley, you are not alone!


Mary Ruefle

Selected Poems, Wave Books, 2011

Check out more on the reading at the Creeley Foundation site.  And get there early to be sure to get a seat!