Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Peckville, Lackawanna County
A professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, Helen Ruggieri has written a number of books of poetry, including The Character for Woman.
Born on August 30, 1938, in South Plainfield, New Jersey, Helen Ruggierihas worked as both an editor and a publisher, and for the last twenty years, she has taught at the University of Pittsburgh, Bradford Campus. Ruggieri's poetry encompasses many themes, including the feeling of being a foreigner, growing up in Pennsylvania, and teenage angst.
Helen Ruggieri was born in South Plainfield, New Jersey, on August 30, 1938, to James Gordon and Lily Mitchell. Her family frequently moved around during her childhood, and after attending six different elementary schools and two high schools, she graduated high school from Blakely High School, in Blakely, Pennsylvania, in 1956. She feels her strongest connection to Pennsylvania comes from this period of time, located particularly in the small town of Peckville, just up the road from Blakely. Ruggieri attended Keystone Junior College for one year before transferring to The Pennsylvania State University. She graduated with a B.A. in Arts and Letters (Literature in English) in 1960. She received two degrees for post-graduate work, a M.A. from St. Bonaventure University and an M.F.A. from the Pennsylvania State University, where she received the Academy of American Poets Prize. In 1963, she married Ford F. Ruggieri, and together they have three children: Maria, Ford Mitchell, and Andrea.
Aside from writing poetry, Ruggieri has worked in jobs as both an editor and a publisher. One of her first jobs was society editor for the Olean Time Herald. She has also worked as an editor and publisher at the Allegany Mountain Press, as well as a professor in composition at Jamestown Community College in Olean, New York. She also taught at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford as a Professor of English.
Ruggieri was first published in the English Journal in the early 1970s. Since then she has been featured in many anthologies, contributed more than 200 poems to magazines, and written several books of poetry, including The Poetess, Concrete Madonna, and Glimmer Girls. She has also written creative non-fiction. Recently after a prolonged visit to Japan where she was a visiting professor, she wrote a collection of memoir essays about being a visitor in a strange culture.
Ruggieri feels that her poems are accessible for all age groups, and one of her major themes is the angst that comes from being a teenager. When discussing the connection between herself and the reader of her poems, Ruggieri stated, "I hope that I can touch some aspect we have in common, some shared emotion, some moment." In her book Glimmer Girls, "Under the Arbor" perfectly captures the attitude of little girls playing house and their attempt to imitate adults. "The Worst We Did to Each Other" is more about teenage girls, drawing upon examples such as girls sneaking out of their house, giggling to each other, and dancing to the jukebox. Ruggieri's language and word choice is simple but precise, evoking memories from childhood and emotions never quite forgotten.
Throughout her career Ruggieri has received several awards for her work, including a Sasakawa Fellowship from the Nippon Foundation in 2001, the Allen Ginsberg Prize from the William Paterson College of New Jersey, and poetry prizes from the Artists Embassy International and Goose Festival. Her work in the following anthologies earned her nomination for the Pushcart Prize: Earthtones: Twenty Years of Uncommon Nature Writing, Knocking on the Silence, Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania.
Ruggieri currently resides in Olean, New York, where she continues to write poetry from her home.
The Poetess. Olean, NY: Uroborus Books, 1981.
Glimmer Girls. Saginaw, MI: Mayapple Press, 1999.
The Character for Women. Karona, NY: Foothills Publishing, 2002.
Concrete Madonna. Austin, TX: S&S Press, 1982.
Rock Hill City Exercises. Olean, NY: Allegany Mountain Press, 1985.
Walking the Dog. Cave Canum Chapbooks, 1986.
Small Song for Jupiter. Moonwash Press, 1987.
BeBop a Lula. Bradford, PA: Elvis Press, 1997.
"Helen Ruggieri." Gale Literary Database: Contemporary Authors Online. 19 May 2003. 5 Dec. 2003.