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Saturday, December 18, 2021

‘No Such Thing As Bad Art’


“A work of art is one through which the consciousness of the artist is able to give its emotions to anyone who is prepared to receive them. There is no such thing as bad art.” – Muriel Rukeyser


Born on Dec. 15, 1913 Rukeyser was an American poet and political activist, best known for her poems about equality, feminism and social justice. 


One of her most powerful pieces was a group of poems entitled The Book of the Dead (1938), documenting the details of the Hawk's Nest incident in West Virginia, an industrial disaster in which hundreds of miners died of silicosis.   That followed closely on the heels of her coverage of the Scottsboro Boys case in Alabama (as a journalist).   Her writings on the case were among those used in the creation of the award-winning Broadway show by the same name.


She traveled to all the world’s hot spots, including the Spanish Civil War in the '30s, the war fronts during World War II and Korea, and to Vietnam, using her poetry to speak out on behalf of what she considered to be injustice or mistreatment.  The key to powerful and expressive writing, she said:  “Breathe-in experience.  Breathe-out poetry.”  For Saturday’s poem here is Rukeyser's,


Murmurs From The Earth Of This Land


Murmurs from the earth of this land, from the caves and craters,
from the bowl of darkness. Down watercourses of our
dragon childhood, where we ran barefoot.
We stand as growing women and men. Murmurs come down
where water has not run for sixty years.
Murmurs from the tulip tree and the catalpa, from the ax of
the stars, from the house on fire, ringing of glass; from
the abandoned iron-black mill.
Stars with voices crying like mountain lions over forgotten
Blue directions and a horizon, milky around the cities where the
murmurs are deep enough to penetrate deep rock.
Trapping the lightning-bird, trapping the red central roots.
You know the murmurs. They come from your own throat.
You are the bridges to the city and the blazing food-plant green;
The sun of plants speaks in your voice, and the infinite shells of
A beach of dream before the smoking mirror.
You are close to that surf, and the leaves heated by noon, and
the star-ax, the miner’s glitter walls. The crests of the sea
Are the same strength you wake with, the darkness is the eyes
of children forming for a blaze of sight and soon, soon,
Everywhere, you own silence, who drink from the crater, the
nebula, one another, the changes of the soul.




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