“What are all his escapes for?”: Making Sense of Muriel Rukeyser’s Houdini

Dear Reader, In what follows, I have tried to offer a careful reading of Muriel Rukeyser’s 1973 version of Houdini: A Musical, published by Paris Press in 2002. This is the version new audiences will soon encounter together during the four public Houdini events sponsored by the Eastern Michigan University Center for Jewish Studies and the English Department this spring. My goal was to strike at some of the play’s most central questions, to pick up on some of the ambiguities and ideas that might appeal to new and not-so-new readers alike. My own reading grew from the question Marco Bone [...]

2022-03-05T16:29:14+00:00March 5, 2022|Ruke Blog|2 Comments

Ecstacy of a Woman Detective

Published in Houdini (2002) I love using what I’ve got Love not being what I’m not— After a long time of one kind of living, And it was all right, it was really partly good, Full of one-sided things, And disturbing . . . and absorbing . . . almost Every day . . . But Then the new life came along, bringing The joy of reaching, of stretching, of being Effective— This is another place, this is another way, The ecstasy of a woman detective— And what I detect, what I really find Is your body-and-mind and your life and my [...]

2023-09-04T17:18:07+00:00February 7, 2022|Poetry, Writings|0 Comments


Published in Houdini (2002) It’s like a Tap-Dance Or a new pink Dress, A shit-naive Feeling Saying Yes. Some say Good morning Some say God bless – Some say Possibly Some say Yes. Some say Never Some say Unless It’s stupid and lovely To rush into Yes. What can it mean? It’s just like Life, One thing to You One thing to your Wife. Some go Local Some go Express Some can’t wait To answer Yes. Some complain Of strain and Stress The answer may be No for Yes. Some like Failure Some like Success Some like Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes. [...]

2022-02-04T16:34:34+00:00February 4, 2022|Poetry, Writings|0 Comments

Beer and Bacon

Published in Houdini (2002) When you see a woman riding the air Well, you see a woman playing with fire, A woman made of storm and desire And she loves the whole damn zoo. But you can be sure, whatever I do, That I need my beer and bacon too. I wake every night at 4 A.M. And I tell my dreams to the man who is there, Dreams of animals not like him— A woman who rides on fire and air Loves to dream with the whole damn zoo But I need my beer and bacon too. My dreams [...]

2022-02-04T16:12:21+00:00February 4, 2022|Poetry, Writings|0 Comments

Chains, Freedom, Keys

Published in Houdini (2002) There are chains— There is freedom— There are keys— And of these, chains are strong Freedom’s endless, keys are great And we Are the greatest of these, The greatest Of these. There are chains— There is freedom— There are keys— And of these, There are those I have seen I have heard And I know I have seen I have heard And I know— There are chains— There is freedom— There are keys-- And the greatest of these Can free the world.

2022-02-04T15:49:34+00:00February 4, 2022|Poetry, Writings|0 Comments

I Make my Magic

Published in Houdini (2002) I make my magic Of forgotten things Night and nightmare and the midnight wings Of childhood butterflies— And the darkness, the straining dark Underwater and under sleep— Night and a heartbreak try to keep Myself, until before my eyes The morning sunlight pours And I am clear of all the chains And the magic now that rains Down around me is A sunlight magic, I come to a sunlight magic, Yours.

2023-09-04T17:20:49+00:00January 27, 2022|Poetry, Writings|0 Comments

Muriel Rukeyser and Other Writers

Posted on May 19, 2014 by Catherine Gander  In just a few days, I will have the pleasure of chairing a panel at the American Literature Association’s annual conference at Washington, DC. The panel, organised by Elisabeth Däumer (herself a force of intellectual connectivity of the sort Rukeyser celebrated) will bring together five established and emerging Rukeyser scholars including myself and Professor Däumer: Rowena Kennedy-Epstein, whose diligent scholarship recently brought Rukeyser’s ‘lost novel’ Savage Coast to light and publication; Laura Passin, whose work on the politico-aesthetic strains of contemporary American poetry traces valuable lines of influence to the lyrical, subjective [...]

2018-12-28T16:56:55+00:00May 19, 2014|Ruke Blog|0 Comments
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