Synopses & Reviews
Observing that poetry is a natural part of our pastimes and rituals, Rukeyser opposes elitist attitudes and confronts Americans'fear of feeling. Multicultural and interdisciplinary, this volume makes an irrefutable case for the centrality of poetry in American life.
"The Life of Poetryis not easy reading, nor was it intended to be. At times its range may seem nervously scattering, and the lyric prose takes on a heavy supersaturation. Nonetheless, one must admire, even 17 years posthumously, a brilliant mind fiercely at work."-Liz Rosenberg, The New York Times Book Review
Now poetry, at this moment, stands in curious relationship to our acceptance of life and our way of living.
The resistance to poetry is an active force in American life.... Anyone dealing with poetry and the love of poetry must deal, then, with the hatred of poetry, and perhaps even more with the indifference which is driven toward the center. It comes through as boredom, as name?calling, as the traditional attitude of the last hundred years which has chalked in the portrait of the poet as he is known to this society, which, as Herbert Read says, "does not challenge poetry in principle-it merely treats it with ignorance, indifference and unconscious cruelty."
Poetry is foreign to us, we do not let it enter our daily lives. Do you remember the poems of your early childhood-the far rhymes and games of the beginning to which you called the rhythms, the little songs to which you woke and went to sleep?
Yes, we remember them.
But since childhood, to many of us poetry has become a matter of distaste. The speaking of poetry is one thing: one of the qualifications listed for an announcer on a great network, among "good voice" and "correct pronunciation," is the "ability to read and interpret poetry." The other side is told conclusively in a letter sent ninety years ago by the wife of the author of Moby?Dick.Mrs. Melville said to her mother-"Herman has taken to writing poetry. You need not tell anyone, for you know how such things get around."
"The Life of Poetry
has the urgency of saying what one believes in the face of crisis— crisis of the spirit and crisis in the world
. Rukeyser's book is about poetry, always, and also about much more
modern film, jazz, war, science, musical comedy, her own childhood and youth
. A brilliant mind fiercely at work." THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
Muriel Rukeyser loved poetry more than anyone Ive ever known. She also believed it could change us, move the world. This deep and challenging book is a testament to her faith that we need not encounter Poetry with fear. That openness to Poetry opens us to our most essential inner life.” ALICE WALKER
The Life of Poetry is a lost American classic restored to us by Paris Press. In 1949 Rukeyser understood the breadth and potential of our continents poetries as few have done since
as we look in the face of the fear of poetry she name, and its monsters, this book seems written for us. What does poetry have to do with democracy? Read it here. Jane Coopers forward provides a vivid context.” ADRIENNE RICH
"Like most of Muriel Rukeyser's work, The Life of Poetry has been out of print for twenty years, so its reappearance is a genuine cultural event
. Written in an expansive prose - poetic style, it's a scarily beautiful book, almost disorienting in its clarity
. Muriel Rukeyser unspools one of the most passionate arguments I've ever read for the notion that art creates meeting places, that poetry creates democracy
.The passion she speaks of is worthy of our fear. It's history." THE NATION
"The Life of Poetry is a heartfelt, majestic testimonial, entirely without the shortcomings of its genre
. It is highly charged, emotionally, and full of beautiful, sonorous language, but its greatest virtue is that it has a bold thesis, bluntly stated: Poetry can save your life." THE PROVINCETOWN BANNER
"The reappearance of [Muriel Rukeyser's] remarkable The Life of Poetry, originally published in 1949, is an event to celebrate. No ordinary book of criticism, The Life of Poetry is written in a prose which resembles lava overflowing, molten, incoherent, cooling into shapes whose seeming resistance to hard-edged form bespeaks the intense intellectual heat and explosiveness of their origin
. To read it is to enter a mind seething with the flow of connection between poetry and everything else." THE HUNGRY MIND REVIEW
Observing that poetry is a natural part of our pastimes and rituals, Muriel Rukeyser opposes elitist attitudes and confronts Americans' fear of feeling. Multicultural and interdisciplinary, this collection of essays and speeches makes an irrefutable case for the centrality of poetry in American life.
Our century's lost classic, about American culture, the essential saving force of poetry and how it can improve the quality of American life.
About the Author
Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980) is one of our country's most influential yet neglected writers. She published fifteen collections of poetry, plays, translations, children's books, and several works of nonfiction. Her "toys of fame" include the Yale Younger Poets Award, the Copernicus Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Shelley Memorial Award. From 1975-1976, she served as president of P.E.N. American Center.