Ruefle begins the titular essay in her collection with the statement, “I don’t know where to begin because I have nothing to say,” and then proceeds, as elsewhere in the book, to say a great deal:
John Ashbery, in an interview in the Poetry Miscellany, talks about wasting time: “I waste a lot of time. That’s part of the [creative process]….The problem is, you can’t really use this wasted time. You have to have it wasted. Poetry disequips you for the requirements of life. You can’t use your time.” In other words, wasted time cannot be filled, or changed into another habit; it is a necessary void of fomentation.
“For there is so little time to waste during a life. [Mary Ruefle]” What a lovely corrective to the advice we’re usually given, that wasting time is slothful or indolent. And note that Ruefle is careful not to suggest that wasted time is invisibly productive. This isn’t a backhanded lifehack—it’s a defense of inefficiency.
— Mandy Brown