Muriel Rukeyser

How can they write and believe? (PoemTalk #78)

Muriel Rukeyser, 'Ballad of Orange and Grape'

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Amy King, David Abel, and Mytili Jagannathan joined Al Filreis for this 78th episode of PoemTalk to discuss a poem by Muriel Rukeyser about urban activism. “Ballad of Orange and Grape” [link to text] appeared in Rukeyser’s 1973 book Breaking Open, and is perhaps the best known poem from the end of her career. The recording we feature here is from a 1977 LP release of a recording produced with the 92nd Street Y in New York. But we make reference to a recording of the poem performed after a long discursive introduction by the poet for students and teachers at the University of Warwick, England, in 1971.

Of experts and inexperts

Jules Boykoff

In her last post, Kaia wrote about inexpertise as a possibly positive interventionary poetry stance.

Many of us have a conflicted relationship with experts and expertise. To be sure, in general, contemporary society demands increased reliance on and deference toward experts and expertise. Pay heed to the news any day of the week—whether it be television or radio or a newspaper—and you’ll find a cavalcade of experts expertly asserting expertise. 

On the positive side, experts can provide us with shortcuts, time-savers, insider insights, and thought-provoking analysis. Not a day goes by when I don’t appreciate an expert offering shrewd dissection of a topic I hadn’t quite thought of in that particular way. 

Muriel Rukeyser now at PennSound

Some years ago, while reading around in the Poetry magazine archive in the Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, I ran into a stack of letters to and from Lee Anderson. Anderson had just made an arrangement to present his archive of reels of audiotape to the Beinecke Library of Yale University. He would deliver recordings he'd made of poets to that date, and then would continue to record and deposit subsequent reels later. I took a mental note, but then forgot all about the project. Then, later, came PennSound; we began of course to collect and borrow recordings to add to the quickly growing online archive. More years went by. Last year I was back at the Regenstein, as it happens, giving a talk on Henry Rago at a conference there, and met the poet-archivist Nancy Kuhl, another of the presenters. Nancy is one of the head librarians at the Beinecke; we talked; then the fact of Lee Anderson's recordings came back to me. I asked Nancy about them, and, as it happens, she'd already started the process of digitizing a few of the old reels. Were we interested in perhaps requesting some as a priority? Yes.

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