Poetry News

Never-Before-Published Erasure by Mary Ruefle

By Harriet Staff

What a nice Sunday present! Michelle Aldredge, who runs Gwarlingo, received Melody, a new erasure by Mary Ruefle, and was kind enough to post it in its entirety on the site.

Aldredge introduces the piece thusly:

When Mary Ruefle’s book Melody: The Story of a Child arrived in the mail several weeks ago, I could smell the musty, antique pages and the faint whiff of stale cigarette smoke before I even opened the package. The beige envelope arrived by U.S. Postal Service, without insurance and without tracking–a method that is not only cheaper, but also less conspicuous, as Ruefle explained to me on the phone one afternoon.

Ruefle is anti-FedEx (a description that fits this writer in so many ways); she finds both the cost and the hyped-up urgency of express shipping unnecessary. She also hates preciousness. When I expressed concern about damaging the spine of the book during the scanning process, Mary was lackadaisical: “Don’t worry. It’s meant to be handled. That whole archival, white-glove thing is ridiculous anyway.”

A new erasure by Mary Ruefle is a rare event, and the publication of one online or in print even rarer. Her one-of-a-kind creations occasionally appear in journals or are purchased by museums or collectors. In 2006 Wave Books published the acclaimed volume A Little White Shadow, a book of ”haiku-like minifables, sideways aphorisms, and hauntingly perplexing koans,” as described by Publisher’s Weekly. Although Ruefle doesn’t own a computer or do email, she has a website where fans can enjoy perusing a small sampling of her one-of-a-kind erasures.

Still, these unique works are difficult to come by, so when Mary offered to share an erasure that had never been seen before, I jumped at the chance to publish it on Gwarlingo.

It's pretty awesome, and there is more from Aldredge, including Ruefle's insights on the erasure process (via Gulf Coast) here. Go!

Originally Published: May 7th, 2012