Spiritual Concerns

by Jessie Roberts

Mary Ruefle, whose work the Dish recently featured, responds to an interview question about the role of spirituality in her work:

My preoccupation with God—what you call the theological—is not aesthetic—that would be awful! Any art[ist] who encounters the spiritual in their work is driven to do so out of a genuine preoccupation with existence, with being. At least I hope so. I am not religious in the traditional sense of the word—I do not belong to a church, or practice any one of the numbers of ritualistic belief systems. But I am interested in them all, and I find in each something of essence. As for poetry, of course it is a spiritual practice, in so far as it celebrates or laments the human spirit, in so far as it is always deeply curious about something—it could be language, or the natural world, it could be the absurdities of culture, or human beings in general or in specific—how to live, what to do, these are the questions of poetry. Environmental concerns—they are ultimately spiritual ones; if you are interested in how persons will experience the world in the future, well, that’s something you can’t see. What is the point of recycling if you don’t have faith that it is the right thing to be doing? That it impacts something you can’t see and don’t understand.