Muriel Rukeyser: Stories not Atoms

Photo credit: Wally Gobetz

There’s a great essay on The Toast by Laura Passin about Muriel Rukeyser, “Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980): The Forgotten Woman”. I loved it. Here’s the first paragraph, to whet your appetite:

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.

Muriel Rukeyser wrote that in 1968, even though she’d been splitting the world open for decades already. She’d gone from literary wunderkind to lefty pariah to feminist heroine precisely because of her commitment to telling the truth–about one woman’s life, yes, but also about many, many women’s lives, about the lives that weren’t yet celebrated in poetry. The girl cutting her brother’s hair before his job interview. The mother burying her sons. The pregnant woman. The suicidal woman. The woman who loves sex. The women written out of myths and legends: the girl waiting for Icarus to come back; even the Sphinx and her infuriating riddle. Muriel Rukeyser died in 1980, and if there is any justice in literary history (and let’s be real, there is not much), her name will outlive mine and yours by hundreds of years. Anne Sexton called her “Muriel, mother of us all,” and Adrienne Rich named her “our twentieth-century Coleridge, our Neruda, and more.”

And here’s a link to Ms Rueyser’s Book of the Dead. Go read and be awed.

2 thoughts on “Muriel Rukeyser: Stories not Atoms

  1. love the quote in the picture and the quote about the world splitting open in the essay – I’ve had that one in my arsenal of writing since the mid 90s when i was working on my thesis. and yet I don’t believe I’ve ever read any of her stories. I”ll have to remedy that!


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