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My Private Property

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  364 ratings  ·  57 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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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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!
Gwendolyn Jerris
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.*
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..."
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.
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.
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
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
wilde (jessica)
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: essays
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.
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Replace sadness with happiness. It means the same.
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
funny.brilliant.too little.just enough
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
One of those books that changes your perspective on life and so many of the things in it. Highly recommended for those who want their existential sadness to be acknowledged for the grave thing it is.
Patti K
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A short book of prose poems that are curious and provocative.
Some sound like koans and others like experimental short fiction.
But all the short pieces are fun and worthy of attention.
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
Suzan Bond
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I came to this book with big expectations. Bigger than one book can fulfill perhaps. It was recommended and beloved by so many that it leapfrogged its way to the top of my list. Though there were a few essays that I didn't connect with, by in large this slim volume met my expectations. At first I wasn't drawn to the color essays and then I couldn't escape them. I devoured them and went back through the book to read them all again, side by side. My favorite was pink. Other favorite essays include ...more
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars Finally picked up the book after revisiting "Personalia" for months. I can see how her writing may annoy some (it can feel like rambling/you're reading a run-on sentence) but I saw a lot of myself in the book. The tenderness and warmth her words carry make me feel like someone sees me. I was left to confront memories and emotions I usually avoid, but it was almost comforting to be overwhelmed by such a margin.

Favorites I assume I'll often be revisiting in no particular order: "Persona
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
"It is sad, is it not, that no one today displays any interest in the art of shrunken heads."

I've taken to scanning the poetry section of my library and just checking out whatever looks good. I'm so glad that I grabbed this book. It's not so much poetry. It's a mix of essays, short stories, poetry, musings. I particularly liked 'Please Read' and 'Pause' (both of which you can google if you feel so inclined.

"Author's note: In each of the color pieces, if you substitute the word 'happiness' for t
Krish Sanghvi
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a delightful book! Her style is very unique, and her descriptions of things are ironic, but full of childlike enthusiasm. I love her benign pessimism about things. My favourite poems from this would be ‘observations on the ground’ and ‘the woman who couldn’t describe a thing’. Her word play is spot on. If you read between the lines, these poems can be very insightful!
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Another amazing collection by one of my favorite writers. Ruefle's prose is as mesmerizing as her verse, and periodically more so. But it's her peerless ability to be so funny, so sad and so profound all at once that really separates her from the rest. Loved it. Although, if it isn't clear, I was a huge fan before.
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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
“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.” 0 likes
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