The Book of the Dead

Adam Mitts: The Book of the Dead–Rukeyser’s Map of America

Muriel Rukeyser begins The Book of the Dead by writing, “These are roads to take when you think of your country,” explicitly linking geography and history to the poem’s central concern, the painful silicosis and death of hundreds of workers in West Virginia from 1932-1935. When Rukeyser writes that “these are roads to take when you think of your country” (italics mine), she is mining recent history to form a conceptual map of America. Rand McNally this isn’t. Rukeyser challenges to reimagine our atlas of the continent, taking in the blood-drenched soil of the continent while firmly keeping to the [...]

2021-02-11T15:11:10+00:00October 17, 2015|Essays, Resources, Scholarship|0 Comments

Waterlily Fire

Posted on February 5, 2013 by Joe Sacksteder Elisabeth Däumer’s post Context for Waterlily Fire rightly points out the theme of interrelatedness that runs through the Living Archive’s featured poem this month. When I first read "Waterlily Fire," I was struck even more by the idea of impermanence and change, which is the actual bridge (to use Rukeyser’s image) that might be relating everything together in this poem. As I wrote in the post Synecdoche, West Virginia, Rukeyser wants her readers to see a kinship between localized disasters, whether it’s the Spanish Civil War or an outbreak of silicosis, and [...]

2013-02-05T00:20:24+00:00February 5, 2013|Ruke Blog|0 Comments

The Brilliant Truth, Rukeyser vs. Oprah

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Joe Sacksteder Against all sage advice from my colleagues, I’m thinking about proposing a class. I want to call it “True Lies: Untruth in Nonfiction,” a creative writing class that explores the gray area that Elisabeth called attention to in my last post: the various ways that artists define truth. The first thing that comes to mind is James Frey’s Oprah-enraging “memoir,” A Million Little Pieces. What I’m more concerned with, though, is the unflinching, unapologetic notion of how we can make stuff up and claim that it’s somehow truer than what actually happened. [...]

2013-01-14T20:38:04+00:00January 14, 2013|Ruke Blog|1 Comment

Synecdoche, Minnesota

Posted on December 14, 2012 by Joe Sacksteder My bio on the homepage for “Muriel Rukeyser: A Living Archive” states that I just completed a novel partly inspired by The Book of the Dead, and I wanted to use this post to relate how Rukeyser’s poetry has influenced my creative work. Back in undergrad at St. John’s University, I was lucky enough to be able to do volunteer work at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud, an institution with a very unique history. Most of my initial knowledge was word-of-mouth, and it disturbed me in a gut-level way that [...]

2012-12-14T23:39:04+00:00December 14, 2012|Ruke Blog|3 Comments

Dear The Objective Correlative,

Posted on December 1, 2012 by Joe Sacksteder I admit it: I don’t understand you. But it’s not that I haven’t tried. I Google your name to see what you’re up to these days. At faculty parties I have a few too many Two-Hearteds and then beg my colleagues to tell me if they’ve seen you recently. I consider editing your Wikipedia page, and it kills me to know that there are others who are far more qualified. I try to remember those days back in undergrad when we were so bold and carefree. Remember how we used to make [...]

2012-12-01T01:01:52+00:00December 1, 2012|Ruke Blog|1 Comment

Muriel Rukeyser, Zombie Necromancer

Posted on November 23, 2012 by Joe Sacksteder I don’t care for this new zombie renaissance. And I don’t mean that like I’m afraid of zombies or something. I just think that 1). it’s a default subject matter for horror writers, 2). all interesting scenarios and subject matters were long ago exhausted, and 3). our current fascination with the genre points to disturbing cultural predilections. So I was surprised when reading a new compilation put out by Butler University’s Pressgang Press, Monsters: A Collection of Literary Sightings, that my favorite story was Amiee Bender’s Among Us. Briefly, it starts as [...]

2012-11-23T22:27:20+00:00November 23, 2012|Ruke Blog|0 Comments

Synecdoche, West Virginia

Posted on November 16, 2012 by Joe Sacksteder This past spring I was attending a Creative Writing Department meeting here at Eastern Michigan University, and one of my colleagues mentioned a list of literary terms that we’re supposed to make sure all of our Intro students are familiar with. I immediately became nervous and scouted the room for other people who looked like they might have never heard of this list. Either everyone was pretty good at pretending–Ah yes, the list!–or I was the only one who missed the memo. I discreetly obtained a copy of the list without anybody [...]

2012-11-16T18:08:00+00:00November 16, 2012|Ruke Blog|2 Comments

Important Poetry

Posted on November 10, 2012 by Joe Sacksteder One good thing about the gym that I go to is that people are always leaving behind old issues of Harper’s and The New Yorker, allowing me to cancel both of my subscriptions in exchange for getting them like a month or two late. Last week somebody left behind the September 2012 issue of The Sun (score!), and a piece of non-fiction called "Ten Days in November" by Eric Anderson caught my eye. In the first of the ten days, Anderson is addressing an Intro to Poetry class: The worst thing you [...]

2012-11-10T01:54:39+00:00November 10, 2012|Ruke Blog|5 Comments
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