Treasure Island

Muriel Rukeyser

(December 15, 1913 – February 12, 1980 / New York City)


  • ''To be against war is not enough, it is hardly a beginning. And all things strive; we who try to speak know the ideas trying to be more human, we know things near their birth that try to become real. The truth here goes farther, there is another way of being against war and for poetry. We are against war and the sources of war. We are for poetry and the sources of poetry.''
    Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), U.S. poet. The Life of Poetry, ch. 13 (1949).
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  • ''Our poems will have failed if our readers are not brought by them beyond the poems.''
    Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), U.S. poet. The Life of Poetry, ch. 5 (1949).
  • ''If there were no poetry on any day in the world, poetry would be invented that day. For there would be an intolerable hunger.''
    Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), U.S. poet. The Life of Poetry, ch. 10 (1949).
  • ''Exchange is creation.''
    Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), U.S. poet. The Life of Poetry, ch. 11 (1949).
  • ''There has been in our time a lack of reliance on language and a lack of experimentation which are frightening to anyone who sees them as symptoms. We know the phenomenon of stage-fright: it holds the player shivering, incapable of speech or action. Perhaps there is an audience-fright which the play can feel, which leaves him with these incapacities.''
    Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), U.S. poet. The Life of Poetry, ch. 8 (1949). On American playwriting. Prominent playwrights of the time included Eugene O'Neill, Maxwell Anderson, Robert E. Sherwood, Thornton Wilder, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellman, and William Saroyan.
  • ''Flight is intolerable contradiction.''
    Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), U.S. poet. "Theory of Flight," line 8 (1935).
  • ''When I wrote of the women in their dances and wildness, it was a mask,
    on their mountain, gold-hunting, singing, in orgy,
    it was a mask; when I wrote of the god,
    fragmented, exiled from himself, his life, the love gone down with song,
    it was myself, split open, unable to speak, in exile from myself.
    No more masks! No more mythologies!''
    Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), U.S. poet. "The Poem as Mask," lines 1-5 and 10 (1968).
  • ''The first green night of their dreaming, asleep beneath the Tree,/God said, "Let meanings move," and there was poetry.''
    Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), U.S. poet. "The Sixth Night: Waking," (1958).
  • ''The universe is made of stories,
    not of atoms.''
    Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), U.S. poet. "The Speed of Darkness," part 9, lines 3-4 (1958).
  • ''I will try to be non-violent
    one more day
    this morning, waking the world away
    in the violent day.''
    Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), U.S. poet. "Waking This Morning," lines 22-25 (1973).

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St. Roach

For that I never knew you, I only learned to dread you,
for that I never touched you, they told me you are filth,
they showed me by every action to despise your kind;
for that I saw my people making war on you,
I could not tell you apart, one from another,
for that in childhood I lived in places clear of you,
for that all the people I knew met you by
crushing you, stamping you to death, they poured boiling
water on you, they flushed you down,

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