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The Life Of Poetry

by Muriel Rukeyser
With a new foreward by Jane Cooper

"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 I've ever known. She also believed it could change us, move the world. This deep and challenging book is 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 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

"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. Mainly it's a collection of talks Rukeyser gave in the forties, in America at a time of war. 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…. 'Meeting Place' is her mantra, and it means linking the public to a cumulative privacy of people, to living. It's a staunch reminder at a moment when global culture is evincing such a horror of the small. And poetry's so tiny it's universal: A famous painter might be invited by The New York Times to give us a tour of the Met to show us what he knows, but for poets there's no such building, or even bookstore. It's simply the world. The Life of Poetry takes us on a whirlwind tour of Rukeyser's interests, the niches she found herself in. She liked this century, and her liking was not wholly abstract. Her frequent allusions to film, for instance, are grounded in experience, not theory...It's great to come to such an American book, a World War II book — the intimacy of understanding firsthand that Franklin Roosevelt fearlessness. 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself' is pretty good poetry, Rukeyser agrees; the greater poetry is invisibly in the millions of listeners' homes — they're allowing the President in. So we arrive; the moment of history is a meeting place. It's like the shared sense of danger in a darkening theater: 'We sit here, very different each from the other, until the passion arrives to give us our equality, to make us part of the play … the play part of us.' The passion she speaks of is worthy of our fear. It's history."
The Nation

"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

The Life Of Poetry

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