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About the event

In her unpublished 1957 essay “Many Keys,” Muriel Rukeyser writes “there is waste in nature, waste in art, and plenty of waste in the lives of women. Waste is an influence, and the making of poetry works against waste.” Rukeyser’s analysis of the gender politics of women’s artistic lives and labor is explored in Unfinished Spirit: Muriel Rukeyser’s Twentieth-Century, Rowena Kennedy-Epstein’s new book on Rukeyser’s extraordinary archive of unpublished and incomplete works. Despite Rukeyser’s status today as an influential poet, much of her critical and feminist writing remained unfinished – from Savage Coast, her novel of the Spanish Civil War (Feminist Press, 2013) to her photo-text collaboration with Berenice Abbott, to essays on women writers, radio scripts, and biographies. Bound together by her radical vision of artistic creation and political engagement, these incomplete texts open a space to theorize the politics of the unfinished for understanding women's artistic production and reasserting the importance of the archive as a primary site for understanding feminist and radical history.

In conversation, biographer Francesca Wade (Square Haunting, 2020) and Kennedy-Epstein will explore the ways in which the archive remains an invaluable space for writing women’s lives – thinking about how political repression and misogyny influences the kinds of texts we have access to, read and value, and showing why bringing unpublished archival materials into publication has changed how we understand the culture and politics of the 20th-Century.

This event is sponsored by Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative.

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A miscellaneous, undated “note” in Rukeyser’s archive at the NYPL Berg Collection.

Unfinished Spirit: Muriel Rukeyser's Twentieth Century

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