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Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  1,981 ratings  ·  226 reviews
This is one of the wisest books I've read in years... —New York Times Book Review

No writer I know of comes close to even trying to articulate the weird magic of poetry as Ruefle does. She acknowledges and celebrates in the odd mystery and mysticism of the act—the fact that poetry must both guard and reveal, hint at and pull back... Also, and maybe most crucially, Ruefle’s
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Paperback, 326 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Wave Books
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4.41  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,981 ratings  ·  226 reviews


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Jay
Jun 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Currently reading forever.

Date I finished this book: upon my death.
Jason Koo
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I'm 73 pages into this book and fuck if it isn't already one of the greatest books of my life.
C
Aug 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Reread in August 2017: Still the best.

Original review: What IS this book?? It's like a Mary Poppins bag full of treasures--you just keep pulling out more beauty with every page, with every re-read. Even though I have been to enough boring and pretentious lectures on poetry to fully appreciate these insightful, messy, gorgeous pieces, I don't think being interested in poetry is a prerequisite to reading this book. Highly, highly recommended.
Mike Lindgren
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Mary Ruefle’s dazzling and idiosyncratic Madness, Rack, and Honey is the freshest and most startling piece of criticism I have read in a long time. The book is billed as “collected lectures,” with titles such as “Poetry and the Moon” and “On Fear,” but they have about as much in common with the standard academic lecture as spicy homemade salsa does with ketchup. Ruefle’s voice is rangy and intellectually supple, capable of conjuring with the knottiest questions of identity and narrative in one b ...more
Dc
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
after i finished reading this book, i looked up and said, "i have found the book that i will take to the You Can Only Have One Book On This Island, island.

i want to eat this book so the pages wrap around my bones and the ink leaks into my blood.
i don't know where mary ruefle lives, how old she is, or anything about her but i want to find her, and
follow her around and carry her books and throw my jacket over a puddle so her smart, smart shoes don't get muddy.

i will read this book again and again.
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Haley
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
If you're interested in poetry criticism, then I think this book has a lot to offer. Ruefle made me reflect on what I'm getting out of poetry, and how I might expand my experience of poetry - I definitely think that I will be able to use this collection to become a better poetry reader. If you have absolutely zero interest in poetry (or criticism) then this is definitely not the work for you.

She writes consistently about language, and the connection of language and what that connection means. H
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Abby
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“I used to think I wrote because there was something I wanted to say. Then I thought, ‘I will continue to write because I have not yet said what I wanted to say;’ but I know now I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.”

With deep gratitude for Celeste for lending me her much-loved copy. Such a gorgeous collection of writing on poetry, meaning, and inspiration! I had not heard of Mary Ruefle until someone told me I had to read her and that this series of lect
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Stephen
Aug 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, 5-star, 2013
Ostensibly, Mary Ruefle's lectures are about poetry.

What they're really about is being alive to wonder and vulnerable to curiosity--an openness of being that often manifests itself in the poet, but that is not necessarily limited to poets. As such, these lectures (essays, really) are digressive and full of cul-de-sacs, meandering through a landscape strewn with the wisdom of poets, which is a type of wisdom we would do well to heed. Ruefle does not draw many conclusions, other than than in the
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Ben Loory
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
i've been reading this and ruefle's Selected Poems nonstop for about three months now, i just open one or the other at random and read a bit each night before i go to bed. sometimes i read a bit i've already read before and sometimes it is a new bit. but whether i have read it before or not it is always surprising and beautiful and perfect and fun. and usually heartbreaking too. i can't really say that i understand what ruelfe's doing but i sure do love it a lot.
Owen Curtsinger
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ruefle's got a creative and perceptive mind, of course, and this book is like a barrage of insightful arrows from that mind. Sometimes the arrows are too fluffy, aloof, and self-involved, getting caught up in crosswinds and becoming lost in the atmosphere of my attention span, but many hit the mark straight and true. Here's my favorite so far:

"We are all one question, and the best answer seems to be love -- a connection between things. This arcane bit of knowledge is respoken every day into the
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Kevin Fanning
Nov 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
"I want to write but I don't know what to write about."

This is common thing, right? We've all been there. Maybe a lot of us are there right now!!! Sometimes, you wait around and an answer, an idea, presents itself, phew, and you write. Sometimes you just watch an entire season of New Girl on Netflix. S2 is underrated imo.

What I love and find so inspiring about this book is that it was born out of that Not Knowing What To Write. Ruefle had to give some lectures. In order to give those lectures sh
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Charles Finch
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read. Hard to say if non-writers will respond quite as strongly as I did (a lot of it is about writing and its peculiarities) but I feel sure any intelligent reader will be overwhelmed by its wisdom, sense of humor, humility, penetration, etc
Amorak Huey
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I will never not be reading this book.

It's inspiring.

As a writer and as a teacher, I need this book and will always need it.
Margaret
Superb series of poetic lectures/essays on poetry, literature, reading, theme, and Emily Dickinson. I would have underlined whole pages if I hadn't borrowed the book from a friend.

Jim Coughenour
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
If you married the sharp sensibility, intelligence and humor of Maureen McLane's My Poets with Howard Nemerov's elegant Figures of Thought, you'd get something (at least in my imagination) like Mary Ruefle's Madness, Rack, and Honey. Reufle's new book has been my favorite café reading over the past couple weeks and probably the most fun I've had reading a book since, well, My Poets.

This book is apparently a bunch of lectures. "Lectures for me are bad dreams," she writes, but most of these begin
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Scott Wilson
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is my new favorite "poets are people, too" book, a collection of lectures that's very approachable without sacrificing erudition. It turns far less on poetry than on staking one's own claim to anything one chooses to read -- as long as one has chosen to read deeply. Whatever these words sounded like when spoken in a seminar, on the page they read like comforting marginalia, short and piercing reactions to literature and to how we take it in. Thanks to the magic of someone else's obsessive T ...more
Jesse De Angelis
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book of 2012, and while the year's not over yet, I am 100% sure that's not going to change.

All of the lectures here are incredibly entertaining, beautiful, and inspiring. They are also often very funny, and sometimes they can be quite sad. Tonally, they share a lot with Ruefle's poetry, so if you like that, you'll certainly like this too.

Before I started the collection, I was expecting that it would be like nearly all the books of non-fiction that poets publish: either a li
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TinHouseBooks
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-we-love
Matthew Dickman (Poetry Editor): The other day I was having a conversation with a friend who feels that the most human she ever feels is when watching Antonioni films. His art makes her feel brave and hopeful and complicated and found. I was thinking of art that makes me feel that way too. The first thing that came to mind was Mary Ruefle’s book Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures. This is a book of lectures by an incredible poet though the lectures are more than talks on poetry: they a ...more
P
Nov 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
"The greatest lesson in writing I ever had was given to me in an art class. The drawing instructor took a sheet of paper and held up a pencil. She very lightly put the pencil on the piece of paper and applied a little pressure; by bringing up her hand a little ways in one direction, she left a mark upon the paper. 'That's all there is to it,' she said, 'but it's a miracle. Once there was nothing, and now there's a mark.'"

This book is teeming with such profundities.
Emmanuel
Sep 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
after it was over, i didn't know what to do with myself so i just started taking pictures of the book on my bathroom floor, a feeble, superficial attempt at capturing whatever it is this book has done to me
Susannah
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: femme, poetry
I read "I Remember, I Remember" quite on accident, in the middle of a Keats bender. (when am I not on a Keats bender?) I figured that anyone who could articulate so beautifully the breath-catching passion I felt about Keats was worth paying attention to. I was right. This book will be a permanent resident on my bedside table. Utterly brilliant and irreverent and just the right amount of italics.
I finished it last night in the bathtub, which is where all my best reading happens. After I closed t
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Rae
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
'Accidental' lectures written in the space poetry is born. One of the most illuminating things I've read, ever. I will forget 95% of the terrain of this collection within six months, I am sure, but I will never forget the absolute feeling of transportation that lives in this prose, and that will bring me back in a state of blissful having-forgottenness to go it again. If "We are all one question, and the best answer seems to be love--a connection between two things" isn't a thesis for a lifetime ...more
Barry Wightman
Jan 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you crossed Patti Smith (shaman rock 'n roller, poet, writer) with Vladimir Nabokov (in his lecturer guise) with Steven Wright (deadpan comic famous for his one liners) you'd have something sort of close to Mary Ruefle. If you're a writer, this book's for you. And judging by the number of dog-eared pages in my copy, which I've been carrying around for weeks, Madness, Rack and Honey is invaluable.

At Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she teaches poetry, her lectures have been standing room on
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A. Anupama
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love this, especially "On Fear" and "My Emily Dickinson." I still think it is funny that her practical advice to us students, about to write our graduation lectures, was "17-and-a-half pages, double-spaced," and "you can't fail." I guess that means that this sort of genius and courage only needs a form and faith, which is the opposite of what she actually writes in the content of these lectures! But even that discrepancy isn't a real one--- the humor, passion, and wisdom of her work is a beaut ...more
Sophfronia Scott
Mar 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Now I will give you a piece of advice. I will tell you something that I absolutely believe you should do, and if you do not do it you will never be a writer. It is a certain truth.

When your pencil is dull, sharpen it.

And when your pencil is sharp, use it until it is dull again."

Mary Ruefle is simply sublime and this collection of her written lectures is a treasure. A challenging but enjoyable read.
Regan
Apr 12, 2017 rated it liked it
A series of lectures by poet Mary Ruefle about the components of poetry, the titular Madness, Rack, and Honey of it. Like all good poets she is a reluctant lecturer, and like all good lecturers she explains her topic poetically. This reads as a modern-day Letters to a Young Poet.
Mara
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2013
Every single necessary word!
Matthew Hall
Nov 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
These lectures are ostensibly about poetry. Ruefle, in introducing them, admits that while her students usually prefer informal talks, she has never been good at extemporizing, so she wrote out her lectures.

What followed, however, weren't really lectures so much as thirty page prose poems that explore poetry just as much as they explore creativity, theme, fear, emotions vs. feelings, how to exist, hiding, torture, capitalism, art, loneliness vs. solitude, joy, sorrow and the reading life, all w
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Sigrun Hodne
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Can't remember having read anything better than this in a very long time!
Just listen to this:

WHY ALL OUR LITERARY PURSUITS ARE USELESS

Eighty-five percent of all existing species are beetles and various forms of insects.

English is spoken by only 5 percent of the world’s population.

WHY THERE MAY BE HOPE

One of the greatest stories ever written is the story of a man who wakes to find himself transformed into a giant beetle.



Once I wanted to write a lecture on two self-portraits by the German artist
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Cooper Renner
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very interesting series of lectures on a variety of subject, often touching on poetry in some form or fashion, but not always. Perhaps particularly notable is "My Emily Dickinson," her meditation of Emily D and Emily Bronte.
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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
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“People, the people we really love, where did they come from? What did we do to deserve them?” 32 likes
“And who among us is not neurotic, and has never complained that they are not understood? Why did you come here, to this place, if not in the hope of being understood, of being in some small way comprehended by your peers, and embraced by them in a fellowship of shared secrets? I don't know about you, but I just want to be held.” 25 likes
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