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September 28th, 2010

Michael Ruby: Experimental Poet in Park Slope

He may look like just another interesting, artsy Park Sloper but the truth of the matter is: he’s an experimental poet with a bevy of books in publication and a pile of reviews that are pretty damn impressive.

His name is Michael Ruby and when he’s not being a poet (and a Park Slope dad) he’s an editor at a notable NYC newspaper.

But each summer he writes a book of poetry and every few years he’s got a book or two out. He tells me that summer is when he does his best work. I asked him to explain and he just shrugged said, “That’s when it gets done.”

Autumn brings two new books from Ruby, Compulsive Words and The Edge of the Underworld, both from BlazeVOX, an online journal and press in Buffalo that publishes experimental fiction and poetry

I thoroughly enjoyed Ruby’s 2009 eBook, Fleeting Memories from Ugly Duckling Press, which Ruby describes as a “collection of memories that popped into my mind over a period of seven years at work, as a copy editor at The Wall Street Journal, across the street from the World Trade Center. As far as I can tell, the memories came from nowhere, with no relation to the mostly political articles I was editing about the Republican takeover of Congress, the government shutdown, Monica Lewinsky, the Starr Report, the downfall of Newt Gingrich, impeachment, Florida or Bush v. Gore. Many of the memories are glimpses of places, a street corner and nothing more, as if a major function of the mind were this continuous global positioning, this continuous murmuring, ”Right now, I’m at the corner of 10th Ave. and 64th St.”

The book, a long list of memories accompanied by a fascinating slide show of personal snapshots, was Ruby’s first foray into the realm of electronic publishing where books are viewed on an individual’s computer (iPhone or other electronic deveice) and not by turning paper pages.

Describing his new book,  Compulsive Words Ruby writes that certain words appear “forcing themselves on me, taking over the poem.” His writing, it would seem, is prolific frenzy of taking notes from his unconscious. As a reader it’s important not to try too hard to find meaning in each line but to take in the entirety of Ruby’s unique universe of language, image and juxtaposition.

A poem like Titles & First Lines is especially fun with its visual cacophony of lines like: The wound wouldn’t heal, Hall full of doorways, Beware when life becomes symbolic…

The poem goes on for 10 pages and reading it out loud is a sublime immersion in Ruby’s method of being in the world, listening closely and paying close attention to the words and phrases that come his way.

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