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 Prime Minister of Israel, male. SCENE 1 A New York City apartment, May 14, 1948. Morning. A large clock on the wall shows that the time is just past 9 AM. A group of thirtysomethings is huddled around a radio at the kitchen table. The young adults listen intently [...]
6:00 AM The alarm clock begins its song and dance promptly as the time strikes six, ringing out and shaking Marie out of her dreams. She rubs her eyes open, forcing herself up and swinging her legs around and over the side of the bed. The sunlight sneaks its way through the translucent curtains, lighting up Marie’s small apartment with its golden dew, preparing the start of a new day. But first, coffee. After twenty silent minutes of steady caffeine consumption, Marie shuffles from her chair in the kitchen back to her bedroom. She sheds her comfy clothes, replacing them [...]
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 organize servants, how to organize a banquet, on and on…Still something feels off about all of it. My living here. I know some of the Maids scoff, Madame even found the idea pitiable to begin with. A servant becoming a Princess. I have heard them talk. A Common orphan becoming [...]
Professor Eric Keenaghan Fall 2019 Note: Syllabi are the product of extensive intellectual labor; sharing them with others is a significant act of generosity. Please acknowledge Eric Keenaghan's syllabus should you use it in your own teaching, research, and writing. Course Description Twentieth-century artist Muriel Rukeyser (born 1913, died 1980) believed that the purpose of art was, as she wrote in The Life of Poetry (1949), to bring its creators and audiences “toward the most human.” She was always activist minded, though she tried to avoid categorical definitions of her politics and most aspects of her identity. The few identities [...]
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.
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, / viewing from far-off many-branching deltas, / innumerable seas.”((Muriel Rukeyser, “Poem Out of Childhood,” Theory of Flight (1968). Other poems in which Rukeyser engages with the ocean as a space of possibilities include “Child and Mother” (1935), “Ryder” (1939), “Sea Mercy” (1944), Elegies (1949), “On the Death of Her Mother” (1958), [...]
In “Dream Drumming,” an interview with Pearl London from February 22, 1978, Muriel Rukeyser responds to the “processes of craft,” providing a provocative and telling explanation of what she felt was the most important aspect of poetry writing: It’s very hard to talk about the rewriting that goes into [poems] because the major rewriting is likely to be in the matter of sound, the sound that is deep in the structure, almost a crystalline structure of sound in the poem. (28-29) Sound is both pronounced and buried in Rukeyser’s poetry, initiating multiple conversations yet begging to be revealed. When reading [...]
May 29, 1909: "Betzabel" (later Charles) Naginski is born in Cairo, Egypt, where there is a substantial community of East European Jewish immigrants who benefit from the comparative liberality of the Sultan's regime. His parents, Abraham and Nahema Naginsky, speak Yiddish at home. As a child, Betzabel studies piano with his father and begins composing at an early age. 1925: Abraham and Nahema Naginsky emigrate to the U. S. with their children, but Betzabel remains in Egypt, perhaps to finish his education. March 30, 1927: "Betzabel Naginsky," age seventeen, "an artist," emigrates to New York City from Alexandria, Egypt. He [...]