The Sixth Night: Waking
That first green night of their dreaming, asleep beneath
God said, "Let meanings move," and there was poetry.
-- Muriel Rukeyser, from Body of Waking
Celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day by carrying around the Library of America's American Poets Project volume featuring Muriel Rukeyser, edited by Adrienne Rich, as well as separately the poem below. I realized the other day that we've come to the end of April and I really haven't put up many poems by women, a crushing oversight on my part which I'll have to remedy in future posts. So what better way to begin to fix the problem than with this prolific proto-feminist. I also think her The Life of Poetry should be required reading for all poets.
Here's The Poem as Mask, part of whose most famous line was used as the title for an important early anthology of 20th Century women poets (I've linked to it in the poem).
The Poem as Mask
When I wrote of the women in their dances and
wildness, it was a mask,
on their mountain, gold-hunting, singing, in orgy,
it was a mask; when I wrote of the god,
fragmented, exiled from himself, his life, the love gone
down with song,
it was myself, split open, unable to speak, in exile from
There is no mountain, there is no god, there is memory
of my torn life, myself split open in sleep, the rescued
beside me among the doctors, and a word
of rescue from the great eyes.
No more masks! No more mythologies!
Now, for the first time, the god lifts his hand,
the fragments join in me with their own music.