Currently accepting online submissions | Learn More
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.
Featured Blog Post
Muriel Rukeyser’s “Lecture by Mr. Eliot”: Some Context
By Trudi Witonsky
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 Grew: “The Scottsboro Boys. Yes, that sounds like Muriel and the reference would be to a reading by Eliot in Avery [Hall] during our senior year, when he gave us one of the early Possum poems” (260). This remembrance might seem like slim evidence, without available confirmation from any of the magazine’s other founders (Elizabeth Bishop, Frani Blough, Eleanor and Eunice Clark, and Margaret Miller) (Hicok 84). However, recent discoveries of archival materials add to the case for authorship and clarify Rukeyser’s ultimately more expansive and nuanced assessment of the older poet.
We know from Rukeyser’s diary that 1933 was a time of heightened interest in Eliot. As Elisabeth Däumer explains, he had just returned to the U.S. that year for “an ambitious tour of lectures — among them the Norton lectures at Harvard University, later published as The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, and his infamous Page-Balfour lectures at the University of Virginia, published as After Strange Gods, in which he articulated an explicitly conservative Christian literary and cultural criticism, speculating about the corrosive influence of large groups of ‘free-thinking Jews’” (1181-2). Hallie Flanagan, hired to develop experimental theatre at Vassar and, later, director of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Theatre Project, was staging the first ever production of Eliot’s Sweeney Agonistes, and had invited the poet. He came to see the performance on May 6th, and the next day read his poems.
Lecture by Mr. Eliot Originally published in Con Spirito 2.1 (Nov. 1933), p. 2. Archives and Special Collections, Vassar College Library Dither and amble and twitter at the brink of time whispering fragments of a century sliding among a thousand ghosts of meaning nudging an emotion for the reason of a rhyme impaling logic’s strict velocity. Mr. Panfilo sits and grins absorbed beyond hope in his own grinning-- collapsing in attempts to make an end to his idea’s beginning. The hall is blanched, engrossed in a stupendous boredom. The audience crumbles in cerebral whoredom, devoted lustfully to a conceit’s expansion, to an obscure line’s scansion. These Fantastics bow and nod homage to prosody as god. Continue Reading
Poet and journalist Dennis Bernstein is reinaugurating, after 40 years, the Muriel Rukeyser Hour on Air! Listen to the first installment with poets and Rilke translators Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy here.
Rowena Kennedy-Epstein's pathbreaking new book, Unfinished Spirit: Muriel Rukeyser's Twentieth Century, is now available from Cornell University Press. Order your copy right away!
We are thrilled to share the recordings of the Houdini Webinar on March 20, 2022, and two performances of Rukeyser's play on March 20 and 27. Feel free to leave comments.
In case you missed our February 19-20, 2021 webinar on Rukeyser's Elegies, you can now access video recordings of keynotes and presentations at Revisiting Muriel Rukeyser's Elegies in Times Like These. Also have a look at Dennis Bernstein's interview with Bill Rukeyser, February 16, 2021.
Muriel Rukeyser: The Contemporary Reviews, 1935-1980 is now available. Vivian Pollak, Professor of English at Washington University, has put together this invaluable resource in collaboration with Washington University's Digital Commons and Bepress. Have a look: Washington University Open Scholarship.
Catherine Gander's introduction to the Special Issue of Textual Practice centered on Rukeyser's The Life of Poetry 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.
Our “Living Rukeyser Archive” is entering its tenth year, and we are 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); poet and independent scholar Laura Passin; Canadian researcher and sound archivist Katherine McLeod, who produces monthly audio content for SpokenWeb’s ShortCuts as part of The SpokenWeb Podcast feed, and, most recently, Jackie Cambell who is completing her dissertation on Rukeyser at Princeton University. We have published many critical essays, by established and emerging scholars and readers of Rukeyser's work, among them, more recently, Vivian Pollak, Tim Decelle, Alexandra Swanson, Heather Macpherson, Aaron Pinnix, Trudi Witonsky, Eulàlia Busquets, Eric Keenaghan, Sam Buczkesmith, Modina Jackson, Vered Ornstein, Lily Pratt, Chloe Ross, Joely Byron Fitch, and Louise Kertesz. 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?
Rukeyser's Difficulty, American Literature Association, May 26, 2022
Revisiting Muriel Rukeyser's Elegies in Times like These: A Webinar, February 19-20, 2021
JNT Special Issue on Muriel Rukeyser Ordering Information
Rukeyser symposium 2013
Recent PostsTrudi Witonsky, Rukeyser's "Lecture by Mr. Eliot": Some Context
What are all his Escapes For? Making Sense of Muriel Rukeyser's Houdini
A Conversation about Muriel Rukeyser and Harry Houdini between Carolyn Stroebe and Elisabeth Daumer
Celebrating Muriel Rukeyser's 108th Birthday--a collection of readings
Bill Rukeyser interviewed by Dennis Bernstein, February 16, 2021 KPFA Flashpoints
"Every elegy is the present": Listening to Muriel Rukeyser
A Visit with Louise Kertesz--Pioneer of Rukeyser Studies