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My Private Property

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  716 ratings  ·  107 reviews
Author of Madness, Rack, and Honey ("One of the wisest books I've read in years," according to the New York Times) and Trances of the Blast, Mary Ruefle continues to be one of the most dazzling poets in America. My Private Property, comprised of short prose pieces, is a brilliant and charming display of her humor, deep imagination, mindfulness, and play in a finely crafted ...more
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Wave Books
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Average rating 4.37  · 
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Aug 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Some books you can finish in a day, some in an hour. In that sense, this collection of shorter-than shortcake essayettes by the poet Mary Ruefle meets Edgar Allan Poe's definition of a short story: something you can finish in one sitting without growing uncomfortable, needing the bathroom, or getting a snack.

I 5-starred the lectures collection of hers read earlier this year, Madness, Rack, & Honey. These weren't as sweet, which is not to say that some were not nourishing. If you're a fan of simp
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've read bits and pieces of Ruefle before but this is my first whole book experience and I was won over quick. These are tightly-crafted, wise, and funny poem-essays on various subjects, ranging from Christmas trees to menopause (sadness, salted milkshakes, and shrunken heads are also brought to light). My fave piece though was "The Woman Who Couldn't Describe a Thing If She Could" which boils down her observational style to its stunning, darkly funny essence. I am now a Mary Ruefle fan. ...more
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting collection. Some pieces seemed poems, others more very short stories. Ruefle has an interesting mind and her stories always caught and kept my attention (and I can be a very ADD reader!) throughout. Even when I hated the subject (for example--and primarily--the shrunken heads of the title piece) I couldn't put the story down; I had to see where Ruefle would take me.

Charles Finch
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautiful and jaw-dropping, like all of MF's work. Knocked a star off because it's slim and has a few weaker sections; would start elsewhere with her, but this is wonderful. ...more
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Replace sadness with happiness. It means the same.
Vincent Scarpa
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Another great collection from Mary Ruefle, one of my favorite poets. It's interesting to see her working in blocks of prose—I think it's a great stylistic move for this collection in particular. And while I couldn't always jive with the "color of sadness" pieces woven throughout, the remaining pieces hold such gems that I didn't mind. The book gets five stars alone for the title poem/essay, which I heard Mary read at Tin House a few years ago and have never forgotten since. What a piece of writi ...more
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The mind of Mary Ruefle is mesmerizing.
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
Ruefle is very original. Or at least I haven't read anything like her work before. Very witty writing that constantly caught me by surprise. Some of the poems were serious, some fun, some surprisingly humorous. My favorites were "Among the Clouds" and "Like a Scarf."

A bit of Among the Clouds:

"That was the summer we had so many clouds we didn't know what to do with them. They overflowed the sky -- they were on our streets, in our homes, in our drawers, and in our cabinets. They were in our cars
Mar 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mary Ruefle's prosy musings offer a particularly enchanted relationship between thinking and being. Every page is wonderfully weird. The titular piece, "My Private Property," is about shrunken heads and is everything; amusing, macabre, thoughtful, and profoundly sad. I’ve never thought about shrunken heads before and now I can’t stop. I love the unexpected note Ruefle wrote in the acknowledgements about the color essays and was instantly compelled to circle back and reread them all.

A peek insid
I thought this book a good one, but I am not sure if it was the best place to begin reading Mary Ruefle. These are prose poems, which I am not the expert at, and they just seem like cute and funny and sometimes depressing short texts on many things like aging, or different every day situations being pondered at, but I did not feel like I was really getting to know her as a poet, more like a poet experimenting with prose. Or maybe this is all wrong, what I am saying, and this is the way she usual ...more
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is a blessing that I discovered Mary Ruefle three years ago, in the poetry section of my local library. She doesn't write the way others write, and she's strange and fascinating, and one of the only writers I'd like to read over and over again. ...more
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a fast-paced collection of some of Ruefle's most recently published work, along with little essay fragments on sadness and in scene. I realized I had read many of the longer pieces before ("Pause", "My Private Property") which rang as a weird kind of bell when I got to them again, but they are enjoyable nonetheless. These bites of thought, small as they are, are thought-provoking and deeply felt. If you need to see someone consistently stick the landing on cumulative, digressive, ramblin ...more
Carolee Wheeler
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could invent my own goodreads notation system. Which amount of the stars is “fuuuuuck.” And which is “now I am but a shell, hollowed out by your fiery explosion”?

Mary Ruefle - what a poet’s name - Rue-full. She will take out your spleen and hold it in her gilt hands. And although you won’t have a spleen anymore, it’ll be encrusted in gold, so you won’t care.
Veronica Ciastko
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
oh this book is delightful!! weird little prose-poem-essay-meditations. they’re quirky and funny and frequently brilliant. they made me giggle girlishly on the train.

my favorite pieces were poems on the different colors of sadness, which are scattered throughout the book. for example, red sadness is like the little card an art curator attached to a piece in a gallery: “because of the fragile nature of the pouch no attempt has been made to extract the note.”

also ruefle manages to write a poem ab
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Mary Ruefle keeps surprising the reader with strange and often wonderful images. They are often ordinary things or a few pages on shrunken heads. The Library of Congress assures us that these are poetry, perhaps because she has published many volumes of poetry; these clearly are short essays. She has said (in an interview) that she doesn't really care if people call them poems or prose. Her topics are varied: clouds, colors, lots about animals. What an active mind she has! ...more
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lovely, lovely.

"Of course in the meantime you have destroyed your life and it has to be completely remade and there is a great deal of grief and regret and nostalgia and all of that, but even so you are free, free to sit on the bank and throw stones..."
Gwendolyn Aislinn Fae
bittersweet, witty, wise as usual. but ever so much sadder than any of her other books. not an emotional or intense or weeping sadness, either. but gray and at the edges, empty. like resignation. like endings that have no closure, when things just drift off to nothing. i might not recommend it right this minute if you are dissatisfied or regretful- or if you are at any lonely crossroad or turning or just turned forty.

* i ought to caveat that yes, this is my very dry and self deprecating humor.*
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Pensive yet succinct and wonderfully weird as always!
Jan 24, 2020 added it
Shelves: poésie
This made for a very lovely Friday evening. (I kind of want a pamphlet with all the colours of sadness)
Jane Somers
Feb 20, 2017 rated it liked it
The whole book is worth the purchase price for the essay "Pause." But maybe not if you aren't a fifty-something woman. ...more
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It took me almost two months to read 100 pages just because I didn't want this book to end. What a lovely collection and how wonderful Mary Ruefle is. I love her. ...more
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First of all, the title essay is about shrunken heads. That should be enough to be at least intrigued by this. If that doesn't do it for you, this is my favorite thing I've read in awhile. Lyrical essays or prose poems, these vignettes are gorgeous. What do the various colors of sadness mean? Where can you see the world's largest crib? Did this lie a character told in a fictional story just become another story and other fictional layer, with a whole new set of characters? What is like to be a C ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This small collection of very brief prose poems was an instant favorite for me. Oh my god, I've never experienced so many emotions so potently in such short spans before! The titular piece, "My Private Property," is about shrunken heads (!) and is in turn funny, gruesome, thoughtful, creepy and profoundly sad. One of the last pieces, "The Gift," made me laugh out loud in the beginning, then it turned meditative, strange and disconcerting (with the last sentence again soliciting a surprise guffaw ...more
Jim Coughenour
Oct 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: prose-poems
I'll come right out with it – after Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures and Trances of the Blast, Mary Ruefle's prosy musing in My Private Property is only so-so. The proportion of snoozers to wry wit is about 10 to 1. There's a series that start with colors of sadness: "Gray sadness is the sadness of paper clips and rubber bands…" "Pink sadness is the sadness of white anchovies." None make a bit of sense, even metaphorically. (The payoff is the Author's Note at the back of the book.) T ...more
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Bliss and haunting seem to be collaborators in My Private Property. This slim volume of 41 prose/poems, published by Wave Books in 2015, gives us Ruefle in her aphoristic mode. A concluding line like "On this day we shut out Nothing!" has the unexpected force of a final capitalization--Nothing being more capacious absence than itself absent that N--but the line preceding it, in Ruefle's "Recollections of my Christmas Tree," also includes capitals, thusly: "When it comes to Christmas, when Christ ...more
Bookforum Magazine
"A few of the paradoxes that animate the texts in Mary Ruefle's My Private Property are embedded in the title itself. The proclamation that property is private is typically intended to ward off intruders, whether it appears on the cover of an adolescent's diary or is posted on a fence around an inviting lake.

The book is for sale and readily perused, and the tone–confessional yet dispassionately precise, elegantly ruminative–allows us to read the adjective private as an enticement to enter. And
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Technically, this Mary Ruefle collection is not entirely prose poetry. There are short essays, tiny stories, lots of little reflective texts. But they operate like poetry and feel designed to be experienced and considered and breathed while you're reading them. This is my excuse for why I can't write a 5-star review that's anything other than this: I read most of this while slowly eating leftover pub-food sriracha chicken tenders and carrot sticks while I sat at my desk still wearing a winter ha ...more
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"One thing is for certain--I wouldn't want to be a Christmas tree. It would be nice to be the center of attention, to be so decorated and lit that people stared at you in wonder, and made a fuss over you, and were mesmerized. That would be nice. But then you'd start dropping your needles and people would become bored with you and say your weren't looking so good, and then they'd take off all your jewelry, and haul you off to the curb where you would be picked up and crushed and eventually burned ...more
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
These are gorgeous, funny, arresting, poetical essays about topics both familiar and heretofore unexamined (by me). The essay on menopause scared the hell out of me; I really hope it's not as bad as all that. I love the note Ruefle wrote in the acknowledgements re: the color essays. This might be one that I buy because I feel that these essays might mean different things to me if/when I read them at another time/place in my life. Recommended as a welcome breath from everything that's happening r ...more
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction-gems
I loved this book, especially the colours of sadness and the eponymous "My Private Property." I feel as if Ms. Ruefle gives me permission to be fanciful and yet true. I recommend this book to everyone who needs it and I think that's the world. ...more
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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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“It is sad, is it not, that no one today displays an interest in the art of shrunken heads. Men, women, and children walk on the streets, they cross fields and enter forests, they run along the edges of oceans, but none of them, to the best of my knowledge, are thinking about shrunken heads.” 1 likes
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