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The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser

edited by Janet E. Kaufman and Anne F. Herzog

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The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser
A victim of the intractability of critical imperatives that crushed non-conformers, she was not even represented in the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry that appeared in 1973. However, after the Vietnam War generated new interest in political rhetoric, her anti-war poetry's emphasis on the relationship between one's private experience and public politics generated renewed respect. The first Collected Poems - less comprehensive than the current volume - was published in 1978. She was compared to Pablo Neruda, whose work she admired, and a serious critical study, The Poetic Vision of Muriel Rukeyser, by Louise Kertesz, was published in 1980. She was elected president of the PEN American Center, which works internationally to safeguard writer's rights, in 1975.

Late in life her humanism, pacifism and belief in the possibilities for peace were widely extolled. Her influence is evident in the work of many contemporary poets, including Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Audre Lord, June Jordan, Joy Harjo, Judy Grahn, and Irish poet Evan Boland.
When she died in 1980, The New York Times published a lengthy obituary that described her fifty years' work as mirroring "United States history from the Depression and the coming of Fascism to World War II to the Vietnam war." One of her greatest contributions was her ongoing counter-attack on cabalistic literary establishments that place high value on conformity in all literary periods, and her urging of a more generous and inclusive attitude toward art and artists: "the multiplicities sing, each in his own voice. Then we understand that there is not meaning but meanings; not liberty, but liberties."

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