Louise Kertesz, Review of Unfinished Spirit: Muriel Rukeyser’s Twentieth Century

Rowena Kennedy-Epstein’s Unfinished Spirit, Muriel Rukeyser’s Twentieth Century, is itself a work of bold originality and personal, passionate scholarship. It’s fitting that Rukeyser’s work modeled those qualities when critics were dismissing them as inappropriate, even offensive in a woman writer. In her acknowledgments, K-E professes the deep connection she has forged with her subject: “Writing about Rukeyser has helped me think through our political, humanitarian, and environmental crises and to remain, as she models, a ‘vulgar optimist.’”

Trudi Witonsky, “Lecture by Mr. Eliot”: Some Context

Published 7/20/2022 The Vassar Encyclopedia's entry on Muriel Rukeyser contains part of a poem, originally published anonymously in the November 1933 issue of Con Spirito.  Highly critical of T.S. Eliot, "Lecture by Mr. Eliot" was identified as Rukeyser's by Mary McCarthy, musing over the publication in her memoir, How I [...]

Elisabeth Däumer, Context for “Waterlily Fire”

By Elisabeth Däumer, Eastern Michigan University Published 2012/05/10 Rukeyser composed this five-part poem over the span of four years (1958-1962) in response to a fire at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, which destroyed two of Monet's Waterlily paintings, one of them an 18-foot long panel attached to the [...]

Joely Byron Fitch, The Marks of Her Knowing: On Muriel Rukeyser’s “Käthe Kollwitz”

There’s a line in Muriel Rukeyser’s poem “Käthe Kollwitz” next to which I write: this, the center of everything. That line, from the five-part poem’s second section, reads: “A woman pouring her opposites.” The poem is better-known for a question that Rukeyser later asks, then immediately answers: “What would happen [...]

Modina Jackson, Activism and Shared Consciousness in Muriel Rukeyser’s “Breaking Open”

“Most demonstrators and marchers did not worry over fine points of strategy; they were simply ‘against the war’” (Bricks and Phelps 141). This sentiment of undirected defiance resonated with the radicalism that emerged in the 1960s protests of the Vietnam War. Even more pertinent, the same sentiments reverberate today. When [...]

Vered Ornstein, The Blood is Justified

CHARACTERS MURIEL: Muriel Rukeyser. An activist and poet, Jewish. Begins the play in her mid-thirties. FRIEND 1: A friend of Muriel’s, any gender, Jewish. FRIEND 2: Same as Friend 1. FRIEND 3: An activist friend of Muriel’s, Black, any gender. NEWSCASTER: A radio host, male. PRIME MINISTER: A future nondescript [...]

Sam Buczeksmith, The ‘C’ Word

Perhaps I have become bitter. I have lived in the Palace now for three weeks, and I have begun to learn all of the Princess things. How to walk (apparently, I have been doing it wrong all of these years), how to talk, how to set flower arrangements, how to [...]

Eric Keenaghan, Total Imaginative Response: Five Undergraduate Studies from “The Lives of Muriel Rukeyser”

I do and I do. Life and this under-war. Deep under protest, make. For we are makers more. —Muriel Rukeyser, “Breaking Open” (Collected Poems 527) How should one approach Muriel Rukeyser’s vast body of work and multifaceted life? My first inclination is through her role as poet,one of the few identity [...]

Eulàlia Busquets, Returning to Savage Coast

Eulàlia Busquets, the translator, into Catalan, of Rukeyser's novel Savage Coast, explains the novel's pertinence to understandings of the Spanish Civil War and contemporary Catalan politics. And she describes her historical research in Moncada about the days that Rukeyser spent there in July 1936.

Aaron Pinnix, Learning to Breathe Underwater–The Tidalectics of Rukeyser’s “Anemone”

Over the course of her career Rukeyser was consistently interested in the ocean as a space of possibilities. For instance, her first book of poems, Theory of Flight (1935), begins with overlapping references to drowned Sappho, Sacco (an Italian-American anarchist executed in 1927), and “Rebellion pioneered among our lives, / [...]