Where is Pagan Heaven? It’s all around us. In our unceasing fascination with a movie star who died over half a century ago. In an inner-city youth who muses over the meaning of the word philosophy. In a statue of the Virgin Mary sitting atop a Coke machine. On a street where Walt Whitman once lived. On a lesbian-only cruise ship off the coast of Alaska. In an unusual melding of narrative poetry and spot-on prose, Pagan Heaven offers a wry take on the absurdities of modern American life, all the while celebrating human uniqueness whenever, wherever, and however it’s found.
“The first part of this literary collection is devoted to narrative poems, which are notably contemporary, clear, and concise. Rouff’s voice is easily heard, for her style seldom wavers; that is, each poem consists of short lines, and is rarely more than a page long. Her topics vary, from Marilyn Monroe in the title poem to her own harried mother; from baseball’s Roberto Clemente to the subjects of Botticelli’s paintings. Although her deep feelings for those who inhabit her works are obvious, she never sentimentalizes. Turning to her short stories, “The Circus” is a perfect gem, combining the pathos of a family coping with a depressed parent with the humor of the source of their relief. Another favorite, for its poignancy, is “Ten White Russians.” Her consistency of style, paucity of words, and culmination of each narrative, be it poetry or prose, with a twist (not unlike that tart and tasty lemon slice, with rind, that adds zest to a dish or drink) are attributes that place Ruth Rouff’s work on the highest level.”–Rosemary Cappello, Poet, Writer, and Editor of Philadelphia Poets