“My one reader, you reading this book, who are you?” Muriel Rukeyser (December 15, 1913– February 12, 1980) asks with the big forthright eyes of her words in one of the most stunning and permeating books ever written on any subject. “What is your face like, your hands holding the pages, the child forsaken in you, who now looks through your eyes at mine?”
It is the summer of 1949. Her life is still only thirty-six years long but thirty thousand years smart. She has endured two World Wars, has shared a little ship with fivefold the variety of refugee bodies the vessel can hold, has been arrested for putting her own solid and unapologetic body on the best side of what is yet to be commemorated and capitalized as Civil Rights, has stood amid the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War and took a trip house to inform their story, has actually staggered the world with her launching poetry collection at just twenty-two and followed it with a thoroughly unexpected sidewise accomplishment of vision in her staggering more-than-biography of one of the most influential and misconstrued researchers who ever lived.
However it is this book, The Life of Poetry (public library), that is and would remain her elemental declaration of belief– a humanistic file for the epochs, a reliquary of rapture, a blueprint for resistance to the thousand desultory derogations by which living can desecrate life.
Rukeyser composes in the intro:
In times of crisis, we summon up our strength.
If we are lucky, we are able to call every resource, every forgotten image that can leap to our quickening, every memory that can make us know our power. And this luck is more than it seems to be: it depends on the long preparation of the self to be used.
In time of the crises of the spirit, we are aware of all our need, our requirement for each other and our requirement for our selves. The time of the turning may be extremely long.
Slow or subtle the turning, the fulcrum by which we turn is love. “In time of struggle,” Rukeyser tells us, “all individuals consider love”– never ever more so than in the middle of uncertainty, when the familiar terrain grows irregular and foreign, when the really ground below our feet fails to hold stable:
In this moment when we deal with horizons and disputes larger than ever before, we want our resources, the methods of strength. We look again to the human dream, its faiths, the methods by which the creativity leads us to surpass ourselves.
If there is a feeling that something has actually been lost, it might be because much has not yet been used, much is still to be found and begun.
Art by Ofra Amit from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. Offered as a print.
We have struggled to find this untapped capacity, Rukeyser argues, since our basic modes of intellectual penetrating sidestep the life of sensation, which poetry– “this other sort of understanding and love”– alone can access and allay:
Now, when it is difficult to hold for a moment the huge clusters of event and significance that every day appear, it is time to remember [poetry], which has forever been a way of reaching complexes of emotion and relationship, the attitude that is like the attitude of science and the other arts today, however with beautiful and considerable distinctness from these– the mindset that maybe might equip our imaginations to handle our lives– the mindset of poetry.
A generation before Audre Lorde put at the heart of poetry the guts to feel, from which all power and all modification spring, Rukeyser distills the essence of poetry as “an approach to the reality of feeling,” insisting upon its clarifying and cohesionary power:
Confused the scene of our life appears, however torn we might be who now do face that scene, it can be faced, and we can go on to be whole.
As we wade from the turmoil without to the cohesion within, this is what we move through and approach:
The images of individual love and liberty, controlled as water is controlled, as the flight of airplanes is controlled. The images of relationship … the music of the images of relationship.
Experience taken into the body, breathed in, so that truth is the completion of experience, and poetry is what is produced. And life is what is produced.
In the last pages of the book, Rukeyser returns to what is left as the bedrock of our strength when all breaks down and away:
As we live our facts, we will interact throughout all barriers, speaking for the sources of peace. Peace that is not absence of war, however intense and positive.
[…] All the poems of our lives are not yet made.
We hear them weeping to us, the injuries, the young and the coming– we will define that peace, we will live to eliminate its birth, to build these significances, to sing these tunes.
Enhance this fragment of Rukeysers uncommonly vitalizing The Life of Poetry with Maya Angelous poetic alleviation for our crises and our contradictions, then revisit Rukeyser on the deepest wellspring of our aliveness.
Muriel Rukeyser (December 15, 1913– February 12, 1980) asks with the large forthright eyes of her words in one of the most gorgeous and permeating books ever written on any subject. “What is your face like, your hands holding the pages, the child abandoned in you, who now looks through your eyes at mine?”
Her life is still only thirty-six years long but thirty thousand years wise. She has actually lived through 2 World Wars, has shared a small ship with fivefold the number of refugee bodies the vessel can hold, has been detained for positioning her own solid and unapologetic body on the ideal side of what is yet to be celebrated and capitalized as Civil Rights, has actually stood amid the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War and traveled house to inform their story, has staggered the world with her launching poetry collection at just twenty-two and followed it with a completely unexpected sidewise accomplishment of vision in her incredible more-than-biography of one of the most influential and misconstrued scientists who ever lived.
, which has actually forever been a method of reaching complexes of emotion and relationship, the attitude that is like the attitude of science and the other arts today, however with gorgeous and considerable distinctness from these– the attitude that possibly may equip our creativities to deal with our lives– the attitude of poetry.