Welcome to the Muriel Rukeyser Website.
As a “Living Archive,” our website is designed to engender lively interdisciplinary conversations about this important twentieth-century poet. 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.
Ready for a Birthday?
We are! On December 15, Muriel will turn 100 (or would have). Chris White will serenade her with a musical rendition of “Islands.” Marian Evans will have finished her play involving Rukeyser, Throat of These Hours, and blog about it. Catherine Gander will submit another scintillating blog post. And JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory will release a special Rukeyser issue. The issue covers new ground, exploring works that have received little attention so far, among them her ground-breaking biographies of Willard Gibbs and Wendell Willkie and her experimental photo-narrative “Worlds Alongside.” Have a look at the Table of Contents and at the introduction, “Muriel Rukeyser’s Presumptions.”
There is more to come. Stay tuned.
We are happy to welcome Catherine Gander as a new guest blogger to our site: Catherine Gander is lecturer in American Literature in the School of English at Queen’s University Belfast, where her research addresses the conceptual, practical and philosophical cross-currents between literature and the visual arts. Her monograph Muriel Rukeyser and Documentary: the Poetics of Connection was published by Edinburgh University Press in January 2013 and won the inaugural Peggy O’Brien book prize of the Irish Association for American Studies. Catherine Gander’s interdisciplinary interests involve ethical and political aesthetics in modern and contemporary American fiction, poetry, art, and photography, as well as the cognitive work of imagetexts and visual cultures. She is currently working on a book examining the role of the artwork in attitudes to crisis in 21st century American fiction.
From New Zealand, Marian Evans and Chris White continue to contribute wide-ranging blogs to our Living Archive. Have a look at their most recent one, From the Shaky Isles. Marian Evans is a cultural activist and currently writing a play on Rukeyser, entitled Throat of These Hours. The play is part of her post-doctoral Development Project , an autoethnographic exploration of relationships between arts practice, activism and academia and the opportunities that media convergence provides for women storytellers.
Christine White is a singer-songwriter/performer/composer and sound enthusiast based on the Kapiti Coast in Wellington, New Zealand. She has released 2 solo albums (Pure White and Pirouette) and another album (Snap Happy) with Hinemoana Baker under the duo name Taniwha. Christine has performed extensively on stage, television and radio including a national tour with two other songwriters in Voices of our Ancestors, which explored their shared Ngāi Tahu ancestry through story and song. She has also supported international acts such as Ani di Franco, Suzanne Vega and Melbourne’s Blue House.
Our current featured writing is an excerpt from Muriel Rukeyser’s posthumously released novel Savage Coast. Savage Coast is now available for purchase from The Feminist Press. You can read the featured excerpt here on our website.
Savage Coast is Muriel Rukeyser’s (1913-1980) unpublished autobiographical novel about her experience during the first days of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Part documentary realism, part lyric interiority, the novel is both a modernist experiment in form and a radical Buildungsroman. Written when she was just twenty-two, the narrative traces the political and sexual awakening of Helen, as she witness the fascist military coup and revolutionary response in Catalonia, falls in love with a German socialist, watches the first militias set off to the Zaragoza front from Barcelona, and is “almost born free” from the gender and class confines of her youth as she becomes radicalized, finding her voice and subjectivity in the Popular Front struggle. The events that unfold in the novel reflect the biographical narrative of Rukeyser’s trip to Spain. On July 18-19th, 1936, she traveled from England to Barcelona, on assignment for the British magazine Life and Letter’s To-day, to report on the People’s Olympiad (Olimpiada Popular), an anti-fascist alternative to Hitler’s Berlin Olympics. She was on a train with the Swiss and Hungarian Olympic teams, as well as tourists and Catalans, when it was stranded in the small town of Moncada as the civil war began and a general strike was called in support of the government, the fascists fleeing through the surrounding hills. Two days later she arrived in Barcelona just as the city established “revolutionary order.” Though she was evacuated only a few days later, these experiences would prove profoundly transformational. Rukeyser would write about Spain for over forty years, in nearly every poetry collection, in essays and in fiction. Savage Coast, written at a feverish pace immediately upon her return from Europe, was rejected by her publisher Covici-Friede in the Spring of 1937; they published the long poem Mediterranean in her second poetry collection instead (U.S. 1, 1938). Despite this, she continued to work on and edit the novel throughout the war. It is not clear when she abandoned the project entirely, but it was never finished in her lifetime, eventually filled under “Miscellany” in her archive at the Library of Congress. Savage Coast is now available for the first time from the Feminist Press.
- Rowena Kennedy-Epstein, Editor of Savage Coast