Madness, Rack, and Honey
Madness, Rack, and Honey
By Mary Ruefle
For every time I read a poem I am willing to die...
Over the course of 15 years, award-winning poet Mary Ruefle delivered a lecture every six months to a group of poetry graduate students. Collected here for the first time, these lectures articulate the wisdom accrued through a life dedicated entirely to poetry. Intellectually virtuosic, instructive and experiential, Madness, Rack, and Honey resists definition, demanding instead an utter—and utterly pleasurable—immersion.
2012 National Book Critics Circle Award finalist in Criticism
Listed in Best Books for Writers by Poets & Writers
This is one of the wisest books I've read in years...
David Kirby, 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 work is never once stuffy or overdone: she writes this stuff with a level of seriousness-as-play that’s vital and welcome, that doesn’t make writing poetry sound anything but wild, strange, life-enlargening fun.
Weston Cutter, The Kenyon Review
Profound, unpredictable, charming, and outright funny...These informal talks have far more staying power and verve than most of their kind. Readers may come away dazzled, as well as amused...
Madness, Rack, and Honey is a gift from a rigorous intellect, unflinching critic, and a big old sloppy heart. Ruefle has created a work of poetry from the daunting task of writing about it. Don’t be surprised if this book is remembered as a classic of its genre.
Lisa Wells, The Rumpus
This is a book not just for poets but for anyone interested in the human heart, the inner-life, the breath exhaling a completion of an idea that will make you feel changed in some way. This is a desert island book.
Matthew Dickman, Tin House
Ruefle’s voice is rangy and intellectually supple, capable of conjuring with the knottiest questions of identity and narrative in one breath and then swooping to the personal or lyrical in the next. Especially tonic is the author’s impatience with stodgy, unquestioned verities or lazy thinking in general; at times, she bristles with exasperation.
Michael Lindgren, The Washington Post
These are adroit, polysemic essays that frequently wrong-foot the reader: just when one thinks the writer has gone too far out, is wandering lost amidst her quotations and references, she turns suddenly canny and pulls the connections together in one swift movement. Ruefle likes to play dumb and then turn on a dime to reveal an intelligence almost cruel in its precision. Hers are neither formal essays nor craft writing (though there is no doubt that the exercise of poetic craft is their fuel); they are learned, thoughtful pieces, with thick references to Coleridge and Keats, Bataille and Barthes, Cy Twombly keeping good company with John Crowe Ransom.
J.S.A. Lowe, Gulf Coast
Ruefle’s musings defy genre or the neat order of the form, and their marvelous charm is the result of not adhering to particular rules.
Sarah Seltzer, Flavorwire
The accomplished poet is humorous and self-deprecating in this collection of illuminating essays on poetry, aesthetics and literature...
San Francisco Examiner
Mary Ruefle is the author of many books, including, most recently, The Book (September 2023), along with Dunce (Wave Books, 2019), which was a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize, longlisted for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, as well as a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. She is also the author of My Private Property (Wave Books, 2016), Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013), Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures (Wave Books, 2012), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has also published a comic book, Go Home and Go to Bed! (Pilot Books/Orange Table Comics, 2007), and is an erasure artist, whose treatments of nineteenth century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries and published in A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006). Ruefle is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Robert Creeley Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Whiting Award. She lives in Bennington, Vermont, where she serves as the state’s poet laureate. Her forthcoming book of prose, The Book , will be published in 2023.
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
ISBN# 9781933517575 (5.5x8 332pp, paperback and limited edition hardcover)