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Joan E. Bauer: At Poets House, Remembering Muriel Rukeyser

I was born the same year Rukeyser gave birth

to her son William & my mother’s frequent threat

was to disinherit me:


for registering Peace & Freedom, leaving home

before I married, doing anti-war work in L.A.

then moving up to Berkeley. Always my mother

would relent, after the requisite tears.


What got Muriel disinherited by her father?

Editing that leftist journal at Vassar? Arrested

while covering the Scottsboro trial in Alabama?

Raising her son alone, as an outlaw-unwed mother?

That she was a gadfly, a bisexual, a Marxist, a poet?


In 1978, Muriel hoped to give a talk on “Lesbians

in Literature,” but was too ill. By 1980, she was dead

of a stroke.


It’s a wintry 100th birthday party in Manhattan

with Rukeyser’s favorite rum raisin ice cream,

Dunhill cigarettes & whiskey. Everyone’s there:

her son William, biographers, poets, editors,

old lefties.


I study the squint lines

behind Alicia Ostriker’s gold-rimmed glasses,

Gerald Stern’s stooped gait & steady voice

& whisper Rukeyser’s words:


What would happen if one woman told the truth—


Copyright 2016 Joan E. Bauer. 

First published in Voices from the Attic (Carlow University). Reprinted by permission of the author.



Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

2 comments on “Joan E. Bauer: At Poets House, Remembering Muriel Rukeyser

  1. Charlie Brice
    December 15, 2016

    As usual, Joan paints an individual and cultural portrait with words and rhythm. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dbuccilli
    December 15, 2016

    I love this poem. Thank you, Joan.

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on December 15, 2016 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry, Social Justice and tagged , .

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