A Turning Wind [ePub]

by Muriel Rukeyser

The more I read of Rukeyser's work in its original book-length form, the more I'm convinced that she belongs in the fS. Iirst tier of 20th century American poets.Like its immediate predecessor, U.S. I, A Turning Wind was written under the gathering clouds of the Spanish Civil War and the rise of fascism.Even, or maybe especially, when she's writing about "personal" experience, the force of history is present in every line.See "Reading Time: 1 minute 26 seconds," "For Fun," "The Shortest Way Home."Several poems focus on how these forces play out "invisibly" in domestic life, among them "The Victims: A Play for the Home" and "Speech for the Assistant, from Houdini."Both of those anticipate insights I associate more with the 50s and 60s, specifically Adrienne Rich's early poems on domestic entrapment and James Baldwin's portraits of (symbolic) whiteness.Rukeyser sympathizes profoundly with individuals trying to imagine their way out of worlds they know are traps.

Several new themes/patterns emerge, or perhaps coalesce, in A Turning Wind, the most important being Rukeyser's interest in systems.The suite of poems titled "Correspondences" moves from Democritus to a fascinating engagement with (and ultimately rejection of) the notion that the world has been "disenchanted" by the rise of scientific thinking.Playing with recent developments in physics (later she'll add biology in a more central way), she develops a vision of the interplay of structure and detail which incorporates aspects of dialectical thinking without the political teleology (not easy to pull off at that point in time).All of this comes to a climax in the second part of the book, titled "Lives," a series of poetic biographies of the thinkers and activists Rukeyser was using as her points of reference: the physicist Gibbs, painter Ryder, labor organizer Ann Burlak, composer Charles Ives.She's starting to imagine a new (American, but not only American) self, and those are the models she's using to thinking her way ahead.



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