The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Ruby Tells All” is a sixty-four-line, five-stanza poem written in blank verse. The title of the poem establishes both the occasion of the poem and the confessional nature of the piece: The speaker in the poem is a woman named Ruby, who recounts some of the major events in her long life and reflects upon what life has taught her. One of the strongest features of the poem is the voice of Ruby, an unwavering and direct voice that characterizes her and establishes her position in society.

“Ruby Tells All” is an appropriate introduction to Miller Williams’s work because Williams frequently writes poems that are dramatic monologues: works in which a character directly addresses an audience in such a way as to unintentionally reveal some substantial insight or show some important aspect of his or her personality. As is the case with many of Williams’s dramatic monologues, in “Ruby Tells All” the speaker is identified in the poem’s title. While there is little interaction between speaker and listener in the poem, some critics have maintained that Ruby is telling her life story to a customer at the coffee shop where she works. Support for the assumption that Ruby is speaking to one of her customers comes in the second stanza, in which Ruby says, “I’ve poured coffee here too many years/ for men who rolled in in Peterbilts.”

In the first stanza Ruby tells about her childhood; in the second she explains how difficult it is as an adult to tell truth...

(The entire section is 607 words.)