The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser

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Muriel Rukeyser held a visionary belief in the human capacity to create social change through language. She earned an international reputation as a powerful voice against enforced silences of all kind, against the violence of war, poverty, and racism. Her eloquent poetry of witness-of the Scottsboro Nine, the Spanish Civil War, the poisoning of the Gauley Bridge laborers-split the darkness covering a shameful world.

In addition to the complete texts of her twelve previously published books, this volume also features new poems discovered by the editors; Rukeyser's translations, including the first English translations of Octavio Paz's work; early work by Rukeyser not previously published in book form; and the controversial book-length poem Wake Island. An introduction by the editors traces Rukeyser's life and literary reputation and complements discerning annotations and textual notes to the poems.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One of the most admired poets of the American left, Rukeyser (1914-1980) is in the midst of a revival: this enormous collection should help keep the spotlight on her work. Rukeyser's early poems (1935's Theory of Flight, 1938's U.S. 1) melded modernist surfaces with outspoken Popular Front politics. The best known (and best) of her many sequences, "The Book of the Dead" (1938), chronicles corporate negligence at a West Virginia construction project: "Almost as soon as work was begun in the tunnel/ men began to die among dry drills." As her star waned after the Second World War, she continued to enunciate bold hopes: "Let me tell you what I have known all along," she asked in 1949: "meaning of poetry and personal love,/ a world of peace and freedom." Later odes and longer poems praised Rukeyser's heroes, among them Kathe Kollwitz, Herman Melville, the Jewish folk-hero Rabbi Akiba, the New England entrepreneur Timothy Dexter and the physicist Josiah Willard Gibbs. Though the would-be mythic poems she produced in the 1950s are now hard to read, her decade of work returned to her fiery strengths; drawing her forms, at times, from tribal chants, her energies from protest movements, Rukeyser hoped to "recognize at the other edge of ocean/ a new kind of man a new kind of woman." (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Coeditors of "How Shall We Teach Each Other of the Poet?": The Life and Writing of Muriel Rukeyser, Kaufman (English, Univ. of Utah) and Herzog (English, West Chester Univ.) present a finely notated scholarly anthology of a major poet of the 20th century. Rukeyser herself edited the original edition (1978) and wrote in the preface, "might it not be that poetry and indeed all speech are a translation? This translation, this music, speaks to our silence. It in my childhood did, and ever since, I hope these may speak to yours, as my silence goes on speaking." This 2005 edition includes a poem that Rukeyser omitted from the 1978 edition: the long poem Wake Island. That it can be found here signals the new volume's scholarly value, for the poem glorifies war and could easily misrepresent Rukeyser to contemporary general readers. Scholars, however, will appreciate the different moment in 1942 and the burden that Rukeyser was suggesting the American poet had to bear at that time. While Rukeyser's edition remains highly valuable, this new edition will add meaningfully to academic collections. Recommended for large academic collections.-Heidi Arnold, formerly with the American Theological Lib. Assn., Vestal, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Rukeyser appears more and more as an exemplary American modernist, the lyric poet of epic awareness. Her Collected Poems is a monument of the last century, a gift to the present and a hope for the future. In it one finds . . . poems of such variety, passion and compassion, indignant judgment, joy, humor and conviction that it is impossible to summarize.”
The Washington Post

"The breadth , innovation, variety and daring  of Muriel Rukeyser’s work has always defied efforts to confine her.  She was, in fact, one of the major American imaginations  of "the first century of world wars. "     Now at last comes  this scholarly, yet  beautifully accessible edition of her lifework in poetry—a great  gift to the 21st century."   

—Adrienne Rich

"An event to loudly celebrate—a new collected poems of Muriel Rukeyser, who opened much of the forbidden territory where poets can now move with ease. Here, for a new generation, the full range of the capacious poet who gave twentieth-century women’s poetry its mottos and its most audacious exemplar, and poetry of witness and moral passion its most ardent and urgent American voice."

—Eleanor Wilner

"Now, as ever, we need these poems that speak to ethical issues and social justice, individual and international concerns. An impressive contribution to Rukeyser scholarship, this edition includes translations and secures for the poet an important place in American letters."

—Robin Becker

"One of the most important poets of our time. . . . Her originality, her genius, her courage illuminate our century."

—Sharon Olds

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822942474
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 600
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Janet E. Kaufman is assistant professor of English at the University of Utah.

Anne F. Herzog is Dean of theSchool of Arts, Science, and Professional Studies at Springfield College. They are coeditors of "How Shall We Tell Each Other of the Poet?": The Life and Writing of Muriel Rukeyser.

Jan Heller Levi, is the author of a collection of poems, Once I Gazed at You in Wonder, and editor of A Muriel Rukeyser Reader. She is working on a biography of Muriel Rukeyser.

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