FINALIST FOR THE 2020 PULITZER PRIZE IN POETRY
A finalist for both the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award and a the LA Times Book Award, and longlisted for the National Book Award.
Through her many projects across numerous genres, Mary Ruefle has proven herself a singular artist, drawing many fans from around the world to her unique vision. With Dunce she returns to the practice that has always been at her core: the making of poems. With her startlingly fresh sensibility, she enraptures us in poem after poem by the intensity of her attention, with the imaginative flourishes of her being-in-the-world, which is always deep with mysteries, unexpected appearances, and abiding yearning.
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About the Author
"Ruefle has shown a talent for elevating her acute observations and narrative inclination well above mere anecdote to create quietly disquieting moments--a literature of barbed ambiguity and unresolved disruption."--Albert Mobilio, Bookforum
"Straightforward in form, comic and companionable in tone, blessed with the Martian gift of seeing the strange in the ordinary and vice-versa. . . "--Joel Brouwer, Poetry
"Ruefle's speakers muse in a very deliberate, declarative syntax in a lot of universalities, generalities, and absolutes, speaking often for all of us."--Adrien Blevins, Ploughshares
"For more than thirty years, she has freshened American poetry by humbly glorifying both the inner life and the outward experience."--Rodney Jones, Poetry Society of America
"[She is] a poet of visionary imagination, abiding sensitivity, and melancholy humor."--Publishers Weekly
"Ruefle is clearly one of the best American poets writing, and her body of work is remarkable for its spiritual force, intelligence, stylistic virtuosity, and adventurousness."--Tony Hoagland, On the Seawall
"Ruefle is the Poet Laureate of the City of Ideas -- surreal and lyrical and deeply moving at the same time."-- Michael Klein, Los Angeles Review of Books
Ruefle delivers a giddy, incisive ode to failure, fragility, and unknowing in her 12th book. "It may be our heads/ are filled with feathers/ from the stuff/ we don't know," she hazards, tiptoeing through one after another outlandish scenario sketched with uncanny delicacy. Many of these poems conceal sly fragments of lyric allusion or history: "I loved to wander, utterly alone"; "The fourteenth way of looking at/ a blackbird is mine." Rhymes abound as though refusing resistance to such play, and a poem that opens in euphoria ("What a beautiful day for a wedding!") ends, just a few lines later, in despair ("I hate my poems"). However, the poet reassures the reader that such states are kindred, even twinned. Ruefle celebrates the world's imagination and mystery: "I want to thank my clothes for protecting my body. I want to/ fold them properly--I want/ the energy that flows from my hands/ to engulf the world./ Upon reflection, this is not/ possible. Upon reflection/ it is I who am pummeled by/ the world, that vast massage/ machine." These poems grace the readers with wonder, wisdom, and whim "conducted/ without compromise," securing Ruefle's reputation among poets as the patron saint of childhood and the everyday.
--Publishers Weekly, starred review
"The ostensible occasions of Ruefle's poems are minor: not the funeral, but the bath. They record small moments with sweeping scope, moments in which the speed of thought seems to outpace real time."--Elisa Gabbert, The New York Times