Madness, Rack and Honey is a collection of lectures by the poet Mary Ruefle in which she contemplates the various struggles surrounding her art, and gosh darn it if this book isn’t endlessly quotable. I haven’t been able to put it down since as Mary eloquently captures, in so many ways, what it feels like to write about literature, poetry and the arts (especially when you’re forced to talk about all this stuff in a classroom). She writes:
I get so very tired of having to talk about literature. I didn’t begin writing because I wanted to sit in a room and talk about the construction of subjectivity in Wordsworth and Ashbery; I began writing because I had made friends with the dead: they had written to me, in their books, about life on earth and I wanted to write back and say yes, house, bridge, river, hair, no, maybe, never, forever.
After reading it I found that my copy was overflowing with notes and scribbles I’d made – every inch of every margin is filled with either !!!!’s or ????’s or woah’s. Every available space in the book is now an underline or a rushed, passionate note. In short: I’m beginning to think again, or perhaps reaffirm, that the mark of a truly great book is all of this excess material that couldn’t possibly make it to print – it’s that strange private/public experience between both reader and writer.
If a wonderful reading experinence mostly consists of all of those marks that you leave on a book before you place it back on its shelf, then this collection of writings by Mary Ruefle can certainly be described as one of my all time favourites. I highly recommend that you grab a copy and start contributing to those margins yourself.