Friday, July 6, 2012


Mary Ruefle makes one-of-a-kind "erasure books" (as sampled above) in addition to the writing she sends out into the world via conventionally published books and journals. People born in the early 1950s (as Mary Ruefle was and as I was) developed a fond and intimate relationship with White-Out when they started composing poems on typewriters as teenagers. Among the differences between Mary Ruefle and me is that she was an excellent, original poet from the start and that she has remained true to that vocation all her life and that she has even adopted this subtraction method for remaining true to White-Out (now a vintage curiosity in the eyes of younger people, along the same lines as Cod Liver Oil).

Below, a small chunk from one of her recent essays in Poetry.   

I remember sending my poems to Little, Brown and Company and suggesting they title the collection “The Little Golden Book of Verse,” and I remember their rejection was very kind and I was stunned when they made a guess at my age and were correct, I was in the fourth grade, and I felt the people at Little, Brown and Company were so smart they could read minds.

I remember I chose Little, Brown and Company for a very special reason: they were the publishers of my favorite author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the Little House on the Prairie books (this was long before the television series). And although Little, Brown and Company sent me a very kind letter indeed, and guessed my age, they also did something I could never forgive them for, something that upset me for days and weeks and months. They sent me a picture of Laura Ingalls Wilder as a ninety-year-old woman; they told me she was dead, her mother and father and sisters were all dead too, and her husband, and that one of my favorite characters had died in a threshing machine accident—a threshing machine accident—it was so specific I was able to picture it vividly in my imagination, the mangled body in its overalls, the hat fallen off, some blood on the ground, the machine stopped in the noonday sun, one of its wheels bent out of shape, or some spoke or cog, and a leg or arm was in there, and the whole scene took place in the center of miles and miles and miles—as far as you could see—of beautiful golden grain, all the same length, like a crew cut.

I remember I was not exactly sure what a threshing machine was.

from I Remember, I Remember