Welcome to the Muriel Rukeyser Website.

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As a “Living Archive,” our website is designed to engender lively interdisciplinary conversations about this important twentieth-century poet. We include a rotating number of selected poems by Muriel Rukeyser. Published with permission of Bill Rukeyser, the poet’s son, these offer a representative sample of her voluminous and variegated body of work. The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser, edited by Janet Kaufman and Anne Herzog and available from the University of Pittsburgh Press, remains the most comprehensive collection of Rukeyser’s poetry.

Please take a minute to acquaint yourself with the site. Also consider contributing responses–critical, pedagogical, or creative–to the website by contacting us here.

Rukeyser News

Big News! West Virginia University Press will issue Muriel Rukeyser’s iconic The Book of the Dead as a free-standing volume.  The book, so Bill Rukeyser tells us, “will get as close as possible to realizing the 80-year old vision of both MR and [photographer] Nancy Naumburg that Book of the Dead be published as a photo/poetry work.”  The press plans to include three of the surviving Naumburg photos of Gauley Bridge along with a sketch of the area that MR drew in 36.  In order to facilitate publication of the poem, we have taken down its digital copy on our website, including, unfortunately, the marvelous annotated copy prepared by former webassistant Adam Mitts, who is now pursuing a PhD at SUNY-Buffalo.  Fortunately, Adam also wrote an essay on the poem, “The Book of the Dead–Rukeyser’s Map of America,” available right here, on our website.  In addition, Textual Practice will devote an upcoming Special Issue to The Life of Poetry, edited by Catherine Gander.

Our “Living Rukeyser Archive” is now in its sixth year. Over the past years, our bloggers have included Joe Sacksteder (now a PhD student at the University of Utah), Marian Evans, a writer and cultural activist living and working in New Zealand, Catherine Gander, lecturer at Maynooth University, Ireland, and author of Muriel Rukeyser and Documentary: the Poetics of Connection, Adam Mitts (now a PhD student at SUNY Buffalo), and poet and independent scholar Laura Passin.  We have published critical essays by Dara Barnat, Charlotte Mandel, Chelsea Lonsdale, Alice Thomsen, Laura Passin, Elisabeth Daumer, Kelly Nadler, Kyle EvansTrevor Snyder, Adam MittsAlicia Ostriker, Walter Hogan, and Helen Engelhardt.  We’ ve been lucky to receive wonderful creative contributions: Stephanie Strickland permitted us to post her poem “Striving All My Life”; Kellie Nadler, Ned RandolphVictoria Emanuela Pozyczka produced sound remixes of Rukeyser poems. We are always looking for more!

Featured Poem

Our featured poem this Fall is Rukeyser’s “The Minotaur,”  published in her 1944 collection Beast in View.  We are extremely fortunate to have Vivian Pollak, scholar of American poetry and Professor of English at Washington University, and two of her students, Tim Decelle and Alexandra Swanson, share their thoughts and exhilarating discoveries about the historical and biographical context of the poem–in particular Rukeyser’s friendship with composer Charles Naginski.  Have a look at their contributions to our Living Archive: “‘The Minotaur’ and the Trouble with Normal” by Pollak;  a Charles Naginski Timeline by Pollak and Swanson; and “Lost in a City of Madness: Finding the Minotaur” by DeCelle.


The Minotaur

Trapped, blinded, led; and in the end betrayed
Daily by new betrayals as he stays
Deep in his labyrinth, shaking and going mad,
Betrayed. Betrayed. Raving, the beaten head
Heavy with madness, he stands, half-dead and proud.
No one again will ever see his pride.
No one will find him by walking to him straight
But must be led circuitously about,
Calling to him and close and, losing the subtle thread,
Lose him again; while he waits, brutalized
By loneliness. Later, afraid
Of his own suffering. At last, savage and made
Ravenous, ready to prey upon the race
If it so much as learn the clews of blood
Into his pride his fear his glistening heart.

You will find the entire poem Here