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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

12. Migrant

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Rudolfo A. Anaya
- Carlos Bulosan
- Robinson Jeffers
- Alberto Ríos
- Tomas Rivera
- Muriel Rukeyser
- Upton Sinclair
- John Steinbeck
- Henry David Thoreau
- Helena Maria Viramontes
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco, Manacled Together
[7426] Herbert Photos, Inc., Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco, Manacled Together (1927), courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-124547].

Muriel Rukeyser Activities
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Muriel Rukeyser was a political poet whose verse is noted for its intricate style and sophistication. She was born in New York City and attended Vassar College and Columbia University. Though from a wealthy family, Rukeyser was deeply concerned with the plight of laborers, the downtrodden, and the disadvantaged. She was shocked by the working conditions and meager wages of the lower classes and attracted to the solidarity she witnessed in the labor movement. Her political activism began in 1932 when she was covering the Scottsboro trials in Alabama for the Student Review and was briefly detained by the police because she was seen speaking with African American journalists. Later, she would lobby for the loyalists during the Spanish Civil War, speak out on behalf of Sacco and Vanzetti, protest the Vietnam War, and write against the persecution of Kurds in Iran. Her poems of social protest deal with the inequalities she witnessed in race, gender, and class, both in America and abroad. Rukeyser always considered herself a poet of the radical left, and her poems often connect an emotional reaction with a political or social event.

She published over twenty books of poetry, including The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser (1978), seven books of prose, and five books of letters. In addition to writing poetry, Rukeyser translated works by Octavio Paz and Bertolt Brecht; wrote a biography of Wendell Willkie, an internationalist and strong opponent of American isolationism before World War II; and authored several children's books. Rukeyser never wrote in any particular poetical form, but instead preferred to experiment with language and structure. Her intricate and complex verse addresses a wide variety of subjects, including anthropology, war, the environment, biology, psychology, religion, and social issues such as women's rights, motherhood, lesbianism, and anti-Semitism.

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