• Lily Pratt, Another Day in the Life of a Persevering Woman Posted in: Essays, Scholarship - 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… ...Continue Reading
  • Sam Buczeksmith, The ‘C’ Word Posted in: Essays, Scholarship - 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… ...Continue Reading
  • Eric Keenaghan, Total Imaginative Response: Five Undergraduate Studies from “The Lives of Muriel Rukeyser” Posted in: Essays, Pedagogy - 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 categories she embraced, uncritically, alongside those of “American,” “woman,” and, after the birth of her son in 1947, “mother.” But given pervasive misconceptions about poetry’s apolitical or antipolitical nature, and given the variety of forms Rukeyser explored over her long career, even that identity seems too limiting. Other forms of… ...Continue Reading
  • Eulàlia Busquets, Returning to Savage Coast Posted in: Essays, Scholarship - 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. ...Continue Reading
  • Aaron Pinnix, Learning to Breathe Underwater–The Tidalectics of Rukeyser’s “Anemone” Posted in: Essays, Scholarship - 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),… ...Continue Reading
  • Heather Macpherson–She Sings the Body Electric: Soundscape in Two “Songs” by Muriel Rukeyser Posted in: Essays, Scholarship - 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… ...Continue Reading
  • Vivian Pollak and Alexandra Swanson–Charles Naginski Timeline Posted in: Essays, Scholarship - 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… ...Continue Reading
  • Tim DeCelle–Lost in a City of Madness: Finding the Minotaur Posted in: Essays - “Deep in his labyrinth, shaking and going mad,” Rukeyser’s Minotaur stands in a maze, a “crooked city” (Collected Poems) whose apparent order masks a subterranean sphere of madness. We are brought into and through, again and again, the dead-ends and never-ending walls of confinement and isolation. By invoking the imagery of seclusion and despair, Rukeyser may well be directing us towards the ways that ideological systems impose order on madness, trapping citizens into a Minotaur-like existence. In “Letter to the Front,” Rukeyser notes that being Jewish in the twentieth century may involve “Full agonies: / Your evening deep in the… ...Continue Reading
  • Vivian Pollak–“The Minotaur” and the Trouble with Normal Posted in: Essays - In the fall of 2016, the same semester that Washington University hosted a presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I began teaching a fifteen-person seminar organized around the theme "American Women Poets and the Trouble with Normal." There was a lot of energy and excitement on campus, and Chancellor Wrighton sent an e-mail to the Wash U community urging us to remember "our shared values of mutual respect, inclusion and the celebration of differing perspectives." In what may have been an excess of caution, I felt reluctant to express my views about the candidates to students, having been… ...Continue Reading
  • Helen Engelhardt: Muriel’s Gift–Rukeyser’s Poems on Jewish Themes Posted in: Essays - © 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 included it in their revised prayerbooks in the 1940s. “To Be a Jew” also appears under the heading, “Israel’s Mission” in the 1975 edition of Gates of Prayer. “One feels that one has been absorbed into the line,” Rukeyser said of its inclusion, “and it’s very good.” Except for “a Bible on a bookshelf [and] a ceremonial goblet handed down… ...Continue Reading

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