Essays

Helen Engelhardt: Muriel’s Gift–Rukeyser’s Poems on Jewish Themes

© Helen Engelhardt To be a Jew in the twentieth century Is to be offered a gift. So begins the most well-known and beloved of the poems written by Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), who was astonished when the Reform synagogue movement … Continue reading

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Walter Hogan–Rukeyser’s “The Outer Banks”

  Muriel Rukeyser’s 1968 collection, The Speed of Darkness, begins with four dozen short poems, and concludes with several longer poems, of which “The Outer Banks” is the first. (It is followed by “Akiba,” “Käthe Kollwitz,” and the title poem, … Continue reading

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Adam Mitts: The Book of the Dead–Rukeyser’s Map of America

Muriel Rukeyser begins The Book of the Dead by writing, “These are roads to take when you think of your country,” explicitly linking geography and history to the poem’s central concern, the painful silicosis and death of hundreds of workers … Continue reading

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Adam Mitts: The Ajanta Group–The Poem as Meeting Place

Memory, like a cave exposed to air, consumes its own images, as if the act of remembering graffitis the mind’s paintings in the name of restoring them. I can’t help but feel as if the pigments crack and peel from … Continue reading

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Adam Mitts: The Vocabulary of Silence: Voice and Disability in “The Speed of Darkness”

In 1964, the poet Muriel Rukeyser suffered a stroke. Four years later, in 1968, she published a poem called “The Speed of Darkness.” Over the years, this poem has been interpreted in a number of ways. A common interpretation is … Continue reading

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Elisabeth Däumer: “Ajanta”–An Introduction

Part One: Although Rukeyser never visited the Indian Caves of Ajanta, her poem evokes the atmosphere of the caves and glimpses of their paintings in stunning imagery. Her knowledge of the man-made caves was indebted to a portfolio of large-scale … Continue reading

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Laura Passin: The Power of Suicide and the Refusal of Mythology–Sylvia Plath and Muriel Rukeyser

This essay is, in itself, evidence of a slight derangement in my scholarly life: I am obsessed with two lines by Muriel Rukeyser. I will explore the connections suggested by those lines and the complex ways Rukeyser grapples with gender, … Continue reading

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Dara Barnat: Finding Muriel

I did some thirty years of living before encountering the work of Muriel Rukeyser. I don’t remember the exact day when I came upon this subversive Jewish-American poet, but my affinity to her is so strong that I think of … Continue reading

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Elisabeth Däumer: Muriel Rukeyser’s Presumptions

Muriel Rukeyser was presumptuous. Her presumptions were multifold and risky. They involved contentious claims for poetry’s many “uses”—emotional, intellectual, and cultural; for its kinship with science, particularly “abstract science”; and for its value as “meeting place,” capable of linking not … Continue reading

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Kellie Nadler: Constructing Women as Sources of Power in “The Book of the Dead”

Muriel Rukeyser constructs women as sources of power in The Book of the Dead.1 The prominent female voices in the poem come from two women, Philippa Allen and Mrs. Jones. Both Philippa Allen and Mrs. Jones were actual women who … Continue reading

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