Mary Ruefle

Matt Valentine

Poetry Icon


Mary Ruefle

Past Event: Thursday, November 21, 2019

At Seattle Central Community College—Broadway Performance Hall

Known for her light-handed concision, her strange imagination, and her ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, Wave poet and essayist Mary Ruefle has published over ten collections of poetry, including the highly anticipated Dunce (2019).

Caitlin Youngquist, for The Paris Review, observes the koan-like quality of Mary Ruefle’s poetry and prose, noting how the author “muses on ordinary things like keys or clouds, yellow scarves or golf pencils, until those descriptions unfurl and beget larger, existential meditations on sadness and boredom, on language and lullabies and autonomy in old age.”

Ruefle has written numerous books of poetry, which all play with this existential strangeness, and straddle the line between the dark and the comic. Her debut collection of prose, The Most Of It, appeared in 2008, and her stunning collection of lectures, Madness, Rack, and Honey, was published in August 2012—over the course of fifteen years, Ruefle delivered a lecture every six months to a group of poetry graduate students, and this culminating work became a finalist for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award.

A Little White Shadow (2006), her book of erasures—found texts in which all but a few words have been erased from the page—is a practice that reveals what Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, called “haiku-like minifables, sideways aphorisms, and hauntingly perplexing koans.” Erasure is a regular practice for Ruefle, who has said in an interview with Front Porch Journal, “Erasures make me happier than anything in the world. I’d rather talk about them than poetry any day.”

Ruefle released My Private Property in 2018. Comprised of short prose pieces, My Private Property “recalls fables, in that contained narratives and simple premises turn to reveal something of the human predicament. But far from offering moral instruction, Ruefle tunes into an unsettling and enlivening strangeness” (Publishers Weekly).

Wave Books, the publisher of Ruefle’s forthcoming collection, describes her latest work as such: “In Dunce Mary Ruefle returns to the poetic practice that has always been at her core. With her startlingly fresh sensibility, she enraptures us in poem after poem by the intensity of her attention, with the imaginative flourishes of her being-in-the-world, always deep with mysteries, unexpected appearances, and abiding yearning.”

Ruefle has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, as well as a Whiting Writers’ Award and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her work has been anthologized in Best American PoetryGreat American Prose Poems (2003), American Alphabets: 25 Contemporary Poets (2006), and The Next American Essay (2002).

Ruefle was born outside Pittsburgh, but she spent her youth moving around the United States and Europe with her military family. She received a B.A. in Literature from Bennington College and has taught at Vermont College of Fine Arts and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Vermont.

Event Details

Seattle Central Community College—Broadway Performance Hall

1625 Broadway
Seattle, WA 98122

View directions.

Know Before You Go

Don't have your tickets?

Most tickets have been emailed, so be sure to check your inbox for an email from Call us at 206-621-2230 x10 if you can’t find them.

Have a question for the speaker?

Want to ask Mary Ruefle something? Send your question to SAL’s Associate Director at—it might be asked onstage!


Open Books will have copies of Ruefle’s work, including Dunce, available for purchase at their table in the lobby.

The event will conclude with a book signing.

Patrons & Grand Patrons, you're invited to Happy Hour!

Patrons & Grand Patrons, join us for light bites and wine with Mary Ruefle at The Tin Table, located at 915 E Pine St between 10th & Broadway, from 6:30 to 7:15pm.

Transportation & Parking

The Broadway Performance Hall is located at Seattle Central College’s main campus, in the heart of the vibrant Capitol Hill neighborhood.


Parking for visitors and event guests is available 24/7 at the Harvard Garage (1609 Harvard Ave.), which is operated by Seattle Central College. For rates, visit Seattle Central’s Public Parking & Transportation page. Metered street parking is also available in the area.

Public Transit

By bus: Metro buses 11, 49 and 60 all pass next to, or within a block of, both the Broadway Performance Hall and Erickson Theatre. Visit King County Metro Trip Planner to learn more about these and other nearby bus options.

By streetcar: Take the Broadway route to the stop at Broadway & Denny.

By light rail: The Capitol Hill Link station is located approximately one block north of the Broadway Performance Hall, and two blocks north of Erickson Theatre.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing losses, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. Please note: for events at Broadway Performance Hall, we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure captioning services.

Assisted Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). This season, Broadway Performance Hall has an FM assistive listening system, which transmits sound via radio waves. To pick up a headset, check one out at the box office on the main floor when you arrive.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals. To make a request for ASL interpretation, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Guide and service dogs are also welcome. Broadway Performance Hall is equipped with an elevator and has eight handicapped-accessible seats in the central section, and a ramp and handrail lead into the hall on the left side of the auditorium. For more venue details, click here.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive. Our Patron Services Manager is available at, or Monday-Thursday from 10:00am – 5:00pm, and Fridays from 10:00am – 1:00pm, at 206.621.2230×10.


Poetry Series Sponsor
Charles B. & Barbara Wright