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The Muriel Rukeyser Living Archive
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.
Eulàlia Busquets, Returning to Savage Coast
In September 2019, the Catalan publishing house :Rata_ released Muriel Rukeyser’s novel Savage Coast, translated into Spanish by Milo J. Krmpotić and into Catalan by me. This is a first step to making the North American poet known in a country where she spent five transformative days, in July 1936. She came here to write an article about the alternative Olympic Games in Barcelona but ended up writing a novel instead. The games never took place, there was a military coup, the people’s revolutionary response broke out, and the confrontation was the beginning of a three-year civil war. I first discovered her and some of her writings in 2000, when I was doing research on women, literature, and the Spanish Civil War at the University of Kingston upon Hull (UK). At that time, her book The Life of Poetry made me realize the importance of making poetry accessible to everyone and its power of transforming human consciousness.
In Spain, and especially in Catalonia, we still have a long way to go to acknowledge Muriel Rukeyser as an activist, a radical poet, and a feminist woman. When she died on February 12, 1980, she did not leave us; we still do not know her enough and she should really exist among us, especially now. Since she has a lot to give us, we must go to her, bring her in, return to her work and make it germinate within our present historical moment.
At the frontier getting down, at railhead drinking
hot tea waiting for pack-mules, at the box with
three levers watching the swallows … The fatty
smell of drying clothes, smell of cordite in a wood,
and the new moon seen along the barrel of a gun.
The words at the end of a poem, the slogan shouted, the headline for gray industrial scenes, waterfront blue-gray, the black even in the air over mines, the dark sidewalks before factories, covered with lines of gray parading people. Words printed, painted out, broadcast in handbills. Not like this.
She looked about the platform.
There, the young pregnant blonde turned, and began her slow walk toward the head of the train, weighted, undisturbed; the Hungarians began to talk at top speed in their own language, a very beautiful one with heavy eyebrows, the grasping printer, the manager, Toni staring, and the anonymous rest; the boys called out from the yellow trees; the pavement was fairground, distinguished and made serious only by the guards near each door of the train. The near guard came closer to the team, and nodded yes in answer to their question.
“Huelga General,” he substantiated.
And the scene was intensely foreign, it was a new world indeed, with these words true.
The train, the frontier.
Textual Practice‘s Special Issue on The Life of Poetry (Vol. 32, no. 7), edited by Catherine Gander, is now available at Textual Practice. Gander's introduction to the issue can be accessed, free of charge, here.
Muriel Rukeyser’s iconic The Book of the Dead has been published as a free-standing volume from West Virginia University Press. The book, so Bill Rukeyser tells us, gets “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 book is beautifully introduced by writer and multi-media producer Catherine Venable Moore. 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.
Our “Living Rukeyser Archive” is entering its eighth year and planning to expand in significant ways. We hope you consider joining the growing number of contributors and bloggers, who have enriched this living archive over the 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 Evans, Trevor Snyder, Adam Mitts, Alicia Ostriker, Walter Hogan, Helen Engelhardt, Arica Frisbey, Vivian Pollak, Tim Decelle, Alexandra Swanson, Heather Macpherson, and, most recently, Aaron Pinnix and Trudi Witonsky. We’ ve been lucky to receive wonderful creative contributions: Stephanie Strickland permitted us to post her poem “Striving All My Life”; Kellie Nadler, Ned Randolph, Victoria Emanuela Pozyczka produced sound remixes of Rukeyser poems. We are always looking for more!
More InfoCopyright Permission
Who was Rukeyser?
JNT Special Issue on Muriel Rukeyser Ordering Information
Rukeyser symposium 2013
Recent PostsA Visit with Louise Kertesz--Pioneer of Rukeyser Studies
The Power of Suicide: Muriel Rukeyser’s Poetic Responses to Sylvia Plath
Discovering Muriel Rukeyser as a Young Writer
Muriel Rukeyser and Other Writers
On the centenary of Muriel Rukeyser’s birth: the lives of a poet
‘Islands’: Dragging Our Heads Back