First things first: kudos to Mary Ruefle for using the Oxford comma in her title! I love that little comma. If you are a semi-regular reader of these semi-daily musings, you have probably already noticed that I use it myself. Generally, I like commas. Aesthetically speaking.
Ruefle is a poet, but Madness, Rack, And Honey is a collection of essays. I’m not a huge fan of her poetry, if I am being completely honest, but this book has been staring at my from the shelves of the poetry section in downtown DC’s Barnes & Noble for some time. Eventually, I submitted.
Ok then. It’s a good book, but it’s got its highlights and lowlights. The essays on ‘Secrets’ and ‘Fear’ are definite highlights. The inquisition about secrets and poetry, with some references to Jesus thrown in, is amazing. Similarly, the lecture on fear and poetry is great. Does fear inspire a poet? Stop a poet? Are you afraid when you’re writing or when you’re not? Is writing scary? Is being a poet scary or does it relieve fear? Is fear the source of knowledge, as Nietzsche claims?
But the ending drags, with a serious of unsystematic brief essays and ‘gobbets’ that add to something closer to laziness than insight.