Louise Kertesz, “My Untamable Need”: Reading Rukeyser’s Elegies in Light of Some of Her Later Poems

I wonder how many have come upon Rukeyser’s work – as I did —surprised that we’d not heard very much about her. In the early 1970s, I was a new PhD in English, reasonably acquainted with the work of despairing, self-destructive, suicidal poets (most of them men), whom critics and English courses focused on: Robert Lowell, Dylan Thomas, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, Hart Crane, Theodore Roethke. The writing in this canon was undeniably brilliant. But after Berryman’s suicide in 1972 by jumping off a bridge, Lowell wrote a dispirited response: “Yet really we had the same life,/the generic one/our generation [...]