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date: 14 June 2024

Rukeyser, Muriellocked

Rukeyser, Muriellocked

  • Jan Heller LeviJan Heller LeviHunter College
  •  and Christoph KellerChristoph KellerIndependent Scholar


As expansive as Whitman, as subversive as Dickinson, Muriel Rukeyser pursued a prescient engagement with the limitations, but also the possibilities, of the American imagination. Her poems grapple with the connections between love and revolution, between poetry and political action; between the private life of the individual and the communal life of the species, between the searching for truth(s) in both art and science, and between what Rukeyser called “verifiable fact”—documents, statistics—and “unverifiable fact”—memories, myths, and dreams. She spoke out, in her writing and in her life, against war, sexism and homophobia, xenophobia, racism, (trans)gender and body discrimination, and the suppression of what has been buried or lost in American culture and created a body of work that continues to be a model of independence, insight, and inspiration for poets, scholars, and theorists.

Her best known poems include “Poem Out of Childhood”; “Effort at Speech Between Two People”; “Theory of Flight”; “Homage to Literature”; “The Book of the Dead”; “Boy with His Hair Cut Short”; “Ajanta”; “Letter to the Front” with its sonnet,” “To be a Jew in the twentieth century”; “Nine Poems for the unborn child”; Elegies; “Night Feeding”; “Waterlily Fire”; “The Poem as Mask”; “The Outer Banks”; “Akiba”; “Käthe Kollwitz”; “Waking This Morning”; “Despisals”; “Myth”; “Searching/Not Searching”; “Ballad of Orange and Grape”; “Wherever”; “St. Roach”; “Double Ode”; “Islands”; “Then”; and “The Gates”; her best-known prose work is The Life of Poetry.


  • North American Literatures
  • Poetry

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