Thursday, December 27, 2007

two radicalisms redux

“Muriel Rukeyser came from a specific line of privileged New York German Jews. Her own mission was to criticize, according to leftist and feminist politics deeply rooted in the Eastern European Socialist tradition, economic and social exploitation. Her poems, as I see it, are the beginning of a startling, deeply important movement, or series of movements, that involve fields as diverse as poetry, art, dancing, economics, and politics.”--Gerald Stern in Nextbook. MORE>>>

Yes, okay, but not "the beginning." She came of age poetically and politically at the end of the 1930s, and she took advantage of movements of the 1920s and of the '30s (distinctly and also converged) that set collage (in the Juan Gris but also the John Dos Passos sense) side by side with the documentary urge. Not to press the point too hard, for Stern here seems to be an ally of this important modern combination: yet this assumption--"her poems...are the beginning"--is one of remnants of the campaign in the postwar period to deny or forget that the two radicalisms--aesthetic and political--ever consorted. But they did, and Muriel Rukeyser appeared on the scene when that merge had already been made possible.