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Monday, July 14, 2014

Muriel Rukeyser

"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."

American Poet
1913 - 1980

The universe is alive with story.  Without story, much of what we as humans know would be meaningless.  Through story we understand the world around us.  Through story we understand our lives and why we have lived the way we lived.  Story provides meaning to the events that have happened and the sorrows we have experienced.  

As creative leaders, we are driven to share our story whether that be through a poem, a painting, a novel, a song, a sculpture, a film or a dance.  What stories are you telling in your art?  What stories are you telling that define who you are?  Our lives are filled with story.  Share yours today.

Muriel Rukeyser was born in New York City to a middle-class Jewish family.  Her father, Lawrence B. Rukeyser was born in Wisconsin.  He moved to New York and started his own sand and gravel company which went bankrupt in 1932.  Her mother, Myra Lyons, was born in Yonkers.  Muriel began writing poetry in high school.  Muriel attended Vassar College and Columbia University, but her education ended with her father's bankruptcy.

Muriel married and divorced the painter, Glynn Collins.  The marriage lasted on six weeks.  She gave birth to her son out of wedlock.  

Rukeyser's first book of poetry, Theory of Flight, was published in 1935 as part of the Yale Younger Poets Series.  She was 21.

Muriel Rukeyser was a poet, social activist, teacher, biographer, screenwriter, dramatist, translator and author of children's books.  She taught at Sarah Lawrence College and founded a literary magazine with Elizabeth Bishop, Mary McCarthy and Ellen Clark.

Here is a poem by Muriel Rukeyser.

by Muriel Rukeyser

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.

I lived in the first century of these wars.

Here is Muriel Rukeyser reading The Ballad of Orange and Grape.