Jan 22, 2014

Mary Ruefle, Kurt Vonnegut and the Problem of Anti-War Literature

Cat with No Tail

It’s supremely difficult to raise an anti-war poem above the level of shouted, trite protest. Vonnegut succeeded in Slaughterhouse-Five, largely because he was aware that “writing an anti-war book is like writing an anti-glacier book.” He sees from the get-go that he must do something new, and he does.
Paper Mill

I’ve started exploring the poetry of Mary Ruefle (ROOF-lee), and the half-dozen or so poems I've read are brainy, but also emotional and witty. Her turns are often abrupt or extreme, but they're earned, legitimate, and purposeful, I think.  I'll have to reread to feel more confident about that, but I’m optimistic.
Lovers, Thinkers

Here’s Mary Ruefle’s poem, “The Letter,” which I particularly like. It’s a poem about the history of love, tragedy, and human transience as well as war, and that multidimensional feature is much of what I admire:   

Grackles, Florida
The generically evil, invading army in the first five lines felt a bit different, somehow more creative than most writing about evil, invading armies, but I wasn’t sure Ruefle would bring it off. Then Jocko’s frozen tear made me pretty sure the poem had me in its grip and would keep me there—once more, the power of a single detail.
Thinkers, Lovers

By the way, here’s a site that has many videos of poets reading, including Reufle. It’s a good place for an initial impression of any one of many poets.


RuneE said...

Very fragmentary (for the lack of a better word), but maybe that is why it is so touching, feels so real. I can see this (presumably) woman writing these words just sentence by sentence when no one was looking, and then ...

And of course the excellent photos. My favourite is No. 2.

John Evans said...


That's what comes through to me.

I hope there was another army at least as strong to stop them.

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

An interesting post with a nice poem.

Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

-K- said...

Hey Mr. Banjo - I just wanted to say thank you for your as-always-perceptive comment about my "Sun(L)and" photo. And the same goes for the shredded basketball net of last week.

It's nice to have someone spend so much time on what I do.

Much appreciated!

Jean Spitzer said...

She is engaging on the video. Listening to her read her work improves the experience.

Anonymous said...

The Letter is now one of my favorite poems. Tragic and yet hope springs eternal.

Unknown said...

I hope 2014 proves to be a good year for you and yours.

Banjo52 said...

Rune and John, fragmentation and madness--I hear you. And thanks, Rune, 2 is probably my favorite too.

K, your photos deserve the attention--and more.

Jean, I find that's often the case, but I also worry that people will let the spoken word REPLACE the written word, which is, or should be, more careful, accurate, precise, even more musical.

AH good deal. Mine too.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

haunting stuff there Banjo. Sent a chill down the spine.

Banjo52 said...

PA, thanks. I'll take that as good news.

Lovers' Lane