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A Little White Shadow

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  315 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Selectively painting over much of a forgotten nineteenth-century book, Ruefle’s ninth publication brings new meaning to an old story. What remains visible is delicate poetry: artfully rendered, haunted by its former self, yet completely new. A high-quality replica of the original aged, delicate book in which Ruefle “erased” the text, this book will appeal to fans of poetry ...more
Paperback, 56 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Wave Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 564)
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Nate D
Feb 17, 2011 Nate D marked it as read-in-2011
Shelves: oulipo
As someone who has occupied myself carefully exacto-ing words out of old books until only a strange residue remains, I can immediately appreciate this weird little book, created from redacting content from a short preexisting story of the same name until only a dizzy, unfamiliar poetry remains, sometimes funny, sometimes wise, often surreal. Not sure if this actually qualifies as Oulipo, but I found it in the Proteus Gowans Oulipo bookstore, which is good enough for me. Right next to Nets, a sim ...more
Sep 21, 2010 Anne rated it liked it
I'm assuming, since the original Little White Shadow was copyrighted in 1889, that Ruefle didn't run into any copyright issues with what she chose to do. Honestly, my first reaction to the book was one of visceral horror that someone would deface a book in that manner. Once I got over my shock, I began to admire the idea, and I think it's something I'd like to try myself (perhaps with an obnoxiously famous poem like "The Wasteland"). In order to make sense of the poem, I found myself copying out ...more
Mar 20, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing
A beautiful little book of erasure poems. Ruefle is a master at this form. This book is pocket-sized and has the feel of an art book.
Sean A.
Sep 03, 2014 Sean A. rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The erasure lends to revisiting just as much if not more so, than a typical poetry text. Re-looked at this after reading an essay-poem of hers about her erasure technique. The words chosen and the technique itself are haunting. The shadow is like a ghost, but a shadow. The white is the white-out that removes much of the original text.
Jun 29, 2014 Hans rated it it was amazing
Mary Ruefle creates a new work using the white shadow of Wite-Out to obscure text from a mostly-forgotten text, creating poems on each page. Though it took less than one BART commute for me to read, it is quite an incredible work that clearly took a lot longer to create. The printing shows the de-creation process including the white streaks with clear decisions and piecemeal selections on top of the color-aged pages. This was mentioned in an article from the January 2012 issue of The Believer--r ...more
Ben Bonyhadi
Sep 14, 2010 Ben Bonyhadi rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
I was a little disappointed with Ruefle's work. She shows an eye for the humorous and the offbeat - an ability to take something out of context and in the decontextualization find or create a nugget of tongue-in-cheek beauty. Subtractive works like A Little White Shadow or A Humument have the potential to generate the surreal or the sublime; the difference between Tom Philips and Mary Ruefle's work is that Philips is not only aware, but wary of this potential. It seems like Ruefle is too often t ...more
Sep 20, 2010 Sylvia rated it really liked it
Mary Ruefle's little book is aptly named, or has an aptly borrowed title. I was enchanted at first by the size, the layout, the fact that each page looks as though it has been scanned right from the original, white out mess and all. Beyond the design however, I felt a little let down at first. Each poem was such a small snippet, almost a little forced into the text that was there, or forced into sounding too "pretty" with the options given. Also, I kept wanting the poems to continue from page to ...more
Jan 13, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I love these. They are delicate. They are modest. They are like little treasures you find in other people's desk drawers, or the bits and pieces that collect on the edge of tidal pools.

Timing is everything, of course. When I picked up this book, I had just finished reading The Children's Book (a novel of the Victorian era by A.S. Byatt), and wasn't ready to leave that world yet. The pamphlet Ruefle draws her "erasures" from - written by Emily Malbone Morgan - was published in 1889, so boom! I'm
Kelsey Williams
Apr 13, 2011 Kelsey Williams rated it really liked it
A Little White Shadow by Mary Ruefle

A Little White Shadow by Mary Ruefle has to be the strangest book of poetry I have ever read. The book itself is rather small and when you open it up each page was filled with text, but looks to have white-out covering a majority of the words. This is extremely creative, it makes the few words left stand out and look very important. I believe many times poets use to many words, in my mind poems should be to the point and if you want the poem to be short there
Cooper Renner
Mar 27, 2014 Cooper Renner rated it really liked it
Clever whiting-out of most of the words on pages of a Victorian (1889) prose text to create very very short "poems". Quite enjoyable but rather expensive for what it is.
"in black velvet / the last one he wrote when quite an old man / Rendered into English / this was something of its meaning: / paper / on / fire"
Aug 29, 2014 Helen rated it it was ok
Little experimental book of found poetry in which an older pamphlet is whited out leaving only a few words per page. It's a neat idea but the whiteness of the white out is so bright against the faded color of the page that it's hard to focus on the words that are left. A good idea that doesn't quite live up to its potential.
Jen Maidenberg
Nov 27, 2014 Jen Maidenberg rated it liked it
I am really into erasure poems, found poetry, and Mary Ruefle but this did little to nothing for me
May 08, 2014 Tess rated it it was amazing
I love this little book because Mary tells a lovely story with elegant syntax that isn't her own.
Apr 24, 2015 Moira rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this piece of erasure work, but I think I will enjoy it more after I learn more about how one can approach this sort of poem/work.
Kassie King
Jan 05, 2015 Kassie King rated it it was amazing
This is honestly one of the best pieces of poetry I have ever read. Its energy is completely original, its style is a mastery of artwork and literature itself. My professor at Truman State, Jamie D'Agostino assigned me this little piece of obliterature I did not expect it to change the way I perceive writing and reading as a conceptual task. Some of Reufle's lines strike me with increasing genius, but others flow with a simplistic grace. Everything fits so perfectly without fitting into any fram ...more
Alyson Hagy
Dec 03, 2011 Alyson Hagy rated it really liked it
In the small realm of recent books that feature erasures, A LITTLE WHITE SHADOW is memorable for its design and delicacy. The production of Ruefle's redactions by Wave Books is nearly as lyrical as Ruefle's work with the strange and potent 19th century text. I was delighted by Ruefle's poetry--both its originality and the way her sculpted lines riff on and appropriate some of the Gothic conventions of the original novel. A LITTLE WHITE SHADOW (and the book truly is little) is a delight to hold, ...more
Mandy E
Oct 20, 2015 Mandy E rated it liked it
It is incredible that within the framework of another, much-removed voice Ruefle can so deftly manage to raise her own.
Feb 15, 2015 Philip rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, owned
Everything about this little erasure is delicious from the design and attention put to the book as an object, down to the images Ruefle conveys...To say nothing about the fact that Ruefle has taken a helm as the poet I can't seem to get enough of right now.

I find so much to love in this little artifact that was included in my Wave Books subscription box this year. Thanks to Rachel Welty and everyone at Wave Books for making my year!
May 28, 2009 rr added it
After I read this book, I passed it on to Chris--and his verdict was: "perhaps a little precious." It is a precious experiment in altered text; to its credit, it seems aware of its preciosity and doesn't strain its limits. Even physically it's a small, dear volume: 5 by 4 inches, under 50 pages, and carefully reproduced by Wave Books. And its cryptic, sibylline sentences, emerging from pages mostly whited-out, feel decidedly gem-like.
Nov 25, 2012 Terresa rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
In some circles Mary Ruefle is overrated. Give someone with any poetic sense an old book and some white out and it'd be possible to come up with something similar. Why do these poems continue to feel like a parlor trick, part awe, part gimmick?

Half of the poems in this collection ring true and an odd/good/gut way. The others? Not so much. All the same, any poet today needs to have Ruefle on their radar; what will she think of next?
May 27, 2009 Elisabeth rated it it was amazing
The five stars are for design, not so much Ruefle's content. Is that allowed on GoodReads? I love how the erasure retains the integrity of the original. I was able to get that original (only like two libraries in the states have it!) and read a very different story about nineteenth century Americans holidaying in Italy and a continuous fascination with the way shadows look (magnificently) different in a new country.
Jun 27, 2013 Sienna rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, poetry
A little jewel, exquisite and meditative. I wish Wave had published it in hardcover form, but suspect this would have made the price point prohibitive. As a tiny full-color paperback, it's still beautiful — and inspiring. Has anyone managed to read this without wanting to venture into the world of erasure poetry? I failed miserably and couldn't be happier about it.
Kim Lohse
Mar 19, 2008 Kim Lohse rated it it was amazing
This book always sounds gimmicky to people when I explain "erasure", but it is the best example I have ever seen, It has some killer lines like, "autumn had no qualities, but genius". A great example for teachers trying to shake beginning poetry students out of the dribble they so often write.
Jun 10, 2012 Dylann rated it really liked it

This book isn't bad. It's quite enjoyable to read. But I didn't love it. However, I must acknowledge I went into it feeling some disdain toward it as it was the most expensive text I had to order for my class and also the smallest and most thin.
May 02, 2014 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
fascinating, artful, fun...
Feb 12, 2013 Caelin rated it liked it
An excellent introduction to erasure poetry. Ruefle is so strange, but this collection is fascinating. One of my personal favorites.
Jun 27, 2008 Signe rated it it was ok
it is what it is. found poetry such as this seems more like a writing exercise than something to publish.
Mar 25, 2012 Christie rated it it was amazing
The book itself is art and inspires writers to find creativity in the pages of other books.
Oct 31, 2012 Cliff rated it liked it
This was my first experience with erasure poetry. Not bad.
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Mary Ruefle is an American poet and essayist. The daughter of a military officer, Ruefle was born outside Pittsburgh in 1952, but spent her early life traveling around the U.S. and Europe. She graduated from Bennington College in 1974 with a degree in Literature.

Ruefle's work has been widely published in literary journals. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Whiting Wr
More about Mary Ruefle...

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