In her Introduction to this posthumous collection, the poet’s daughter writes, "If I had to identify a single distinguishing figure of his imaginative world . . . it would be his preoccupation with the human task of sustaining the intensity of experience against a backdrop of desensitizing forces and death." These 25 poems range across Bruce Ruddick’s lifetime of sensitive responding to those desensitizing forces. Some spring from the pen of Ruddick as a young Canadian poet; others from the life experience of an aging psychoanalyst. All share the discipline, imagery, and economy of line that characterizes them as the work of a fine poet.

In "#25"(p. 10) Ruddick adopts the voice of a medical student who categorizes and quantifies the life of his cadaver. But the patient needs more than this. Indeed, the patient needs "a physician’s ear." ("The Patient," p. 11) Ruddick demonstrates such a sensitive ear in poems like "Ache" (p. 13)," Rehabilitation" (p. 39), and "Fever" (p. 41). And he also puts his "grouchy" heart on the table for all to see in "When the Dog Leaped"(p. 33) and "Spring" (p. 17).


Bruce Ruddick studied medicine and literature at McGill University. In 1957 he left Montreal for New York, where he practiced psychiatry and psychoanalysis until he retired. His book of "Poems" is remarkable because it proves that one can be a true (even distinguished) poet without writing very many poems.

Ruddick published a few poems early in his career; however, most of the 25 in this volume were unpublished. Given today’s preoccupation with quantity and the desperate urge to publish, this handful of small gems is a refreshing reminder that it is not volume, marketing, or glitziness that makes a poet. In the long run, the poem’s the thing.


Sheep Meadow

Place Published

Riverdale, N.Y.


Stanley Moss

Page Count