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Bush called "the first war of the twenty-first century," that hope looks pretty well crushed. View 2 comments. Feb 21, Keith Taylor rated it really liked it. I have come late to Rukeyser's poetry. I am drawn to it, but yet it seems to open itself reluctantly to me. I felt the same way about this book -- I had to learn how to read it as I was reading it.

In many ways, it works like a poem -- placing ideas and incidents side by side and asking the reader to make the connections. The jumps. Asking the reader to come to the same place as the author, a place of belief in the importance and centrality of the process of poetry. But at the end Rukeyser comes to an incredible statement of her belief in poetry.

from Lives of the Poets by Samuel Johnson | Poetry Foundation

The artistic process breaks down barriers and opens the door for unity and a profound peace. And we speak across the barriers, many to many. And that is almost at the very end of the book. For most of the pages before that she has, in her own way, been preparing us for that conclusion. I will have to return to this book, but I will do it after I have spent a lot more time with her poems.

Sep 08, Tara Meissner rated it it was amazing. So much to love! One to savor. A book to own to read over and over. Great joy in this book. Feb 04, Susan rated it really liked it. It was an interesting read. It gave one hope for the future of poetry in todays world. Dec 12, Jennifer rated it really liked it.

Oct 11, secondwomn rated it really liked it Shelves: about-poetry , school , This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Overall I enjoyed Rukeyser's conversational, confessional, impassioned writing about poetry. She's not afraid to make big pronouncements such as: "Many of our poems are They offer the truths of outrage and the truths of possibility" 66 and "Punctuation is biological" and "If there were no poetry on any day in the world, poetry would be invented that day" I thoroughly enjoyed the first two sections of the book, titled "Resistances" and "Backgrounds and Sources," which Overall I enjoyed Rukeyser's conversational, confessional, impassioned writing about poetry.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two sections of the book, titled "Resistances" and "Backgrounds and Sources," which dealt respectively with the places of poetry in society - specifically a society that wages wars - and with critical analysis of Melville and Whitman. The book was published in , and Rukeyser is understandably obsessed with the concepts of war and peace. Imagination, the arts, poetry, seem to be her refuge and solution to the problem of peace as not merely the absence of war, but as stillness and completeness.

A theme she returns to in the closing chapters of the work. The works of Melville and Whitman specifically illuminate for her the interplay of good and evil and the ways in which they cannot and should not be separated in human thought. Section three, on the "uses" of poetry, completely broke down for me. Rukeyser discusses other art forms - touching on plays, music, and dance, but focusing the bulk of her attention on film, an industry in which she worked as an editor. The material here felt dated in a way that her opinions on society, art, and war do not; and perhaps the very contemporaryness of her other statements creates a greater gulf to overcome.

I could happily have skipped this entire chunk of book and not really missed much aside from a historical perspective. The final section reiterates much of the material before it, but significantly finally! I was surprised that it took pages to reach, but I did find her definition resonate and flexible. It is and it expresses; it allows us to express. The fact that it extends in time means that motion is internal to the poem. Rukeyser also melds the concepts of science and poetry in this section, a pairing that intrigues me as well.

Ultimately, what Rukeyser believes in is in "the unity of the imagination" - a concept she applies universally to science, religion, society, and poetry. Her perspective is a hopeful and optimistic one, and one that still seems somehow attainable and yet only in some future time.

She strangely attacks poets who treat the poem as an object I've yet to entirely figure out what she means by that, except perhaps that she refers to poems that deal more with concrete imagery, whose emotional landscape is merely implied or must be entirely supplied by the reader. She rejects those who "sell out" by not exploring "relationships" and "possibility" I find myself sympathizing with her ideals, although I am put off by her narrow attitude towards who she seems to consider a 'real' poet.

Despite agreeing with many of Rukeyser's ideas and genuinely liking her authorial voice, I was not equally interested in all parts of the book. Her dated discussions of early 20th century art, film especially, did not engage me, and I found her dismissals of other poets as sell outs troubling. Additionally, the entire work takes as its foundation the idea that everyone should be invested in poetry although she acknowledges from the get-go that there is a "hatred to poetry" 9 , it does not seem to inform her conclustions or attitudes , which lends it a quality of perhaps preaching to the choir -- I'm not entirely sure that a book which takes nearly its entire length to arrive at a definition of poetry will appeal to or be read by anyone who is not already a poet.

However, I find her definition of poetry wonderfully expansive, able to encompass multiple forms and highlighting elements that I do not think poetry should do without. Her idealism, particularly following her experiences with wars and social injustices, moves me and I am particularly touched by her discussions of unity and peace.


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Rukeyser is at her best when tackling big concepts with her uplifting sense of possibility. Jun 22, Maggie rated it liked it. I wanted to love this book. I really like Rukeyser's poetry, and she was a boundary-busting activist who did not separate that activism from her creative work.

There were some great moments in these essays - " I know these essays were originally lectures; perhaps they didn't translate as well on the page. And my mind kept wandering, and I kept losing my place.


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  4. I don't know. Maybe I'll try the book again in a few years, and it'll 'click' - at this point, I am moving on. Nov 18, Paris Press rated it it was amazing Shelves: published , poetry. The Life of Poetry is an interdisciplinary book that explores American culture. This collection of essays addresses Americans' fear of feeling and how that fear contributes to the devaluation of the arts, especially poetry, in the United States. Through discussions of history, science, film, literature, mathematics, the visual arts, dance, theater, and politics, Rukeyser speaks to Americans who are intimidated or bored by poetry; she also speaks to those who love it.

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    At the center of this book is Rukeyser's belief that a culture is more compassionate and humane when it embraces, uses, and lives with poetry and the arts. May 18, Heather rated it really liked it.


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    Rukeyser's arguments for the significance of poetry are full of detours and asides, which can make this a difficult read. Much of her views on poetry's possibilities are very closely tied to her interest in the sciences, which can be distracting although her criticisms of the rigidity of method that emerges in science and the humanities resonates. The detours and asides, though, are often quite wonderful, as are her conclusions about the reader not just as audience, but witness , and the poem a Rukeyser's arguments for the significance of poetry are full of detours and asides, which can make this a difficult read.

    Apr 25, Ken rated it liked it Shelves: finished-in , nonfiction. This is one of those serious books that I read quickly -- not a good combination. And I suppose, given the many 5-stars, it shows just how shallow I am when it comes to poetry.

    The Life of Poetry

    Kept thinking it was like a textbook. Or criticism. Rough, meet sailing. But I DID love her brief chapter toward the end -- the one with childhood memories written in a poetic way. Rukeyser takes her poetry straight up and on the rocks. Alas, more seriously than I do Nov 10, Liza rated it it was ok.

    When I was 15 I started reading this in the bathtub and stayed in there until I got pruney and the water turned cold and then slowly drained out, and I really felt that she had the right idea about the anti-touch people and the anti-poetry people and how they ruin everything and the fear of poetry is the fear.

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    The ideaology didn't hold up very well, and I hold that against this book, maybe unfairly. Jun 16, Daniel Klawitter rated it liked it. If you ask your friends about it, you will find that there are a few answers, repeated by everyone. One is that the friend has not the time for poetry. This is a curious choice, since poetry, of all the arts that live in time--music, theater, film, writing--is the briefest, the most compact.

    Mar 21, Sarah rated it really liked it Shelves: poetry. The last page has given me one of my favorite epigraphs. Jan 31, Liz Scheid rated it it was amazing Shelves: favs. One of the best books that tackles the undefinable answer to the question: what is poetry? Rukeyser, perhaps way ahead of her time answers this questions in an arc, circling into it, passionate about it's ability to change lives. This is a must read for every poet.

    Jul 24, Julene rated it it was amazing Shelves: poetry , about-writing-poetry. Read a long time ago and have as a mainstay of poetry on my shelf. This is a classic and very inspiring for any poet. May 12, Catherine Theis rated it it was amazing. So inspiring!

    If anyone is feeling blue about poetry, and what's the use anyway, she should read this.

    Tony Hoagland

    Dec 08, Natalie Raymond rated it really liked it. A good look at Rukeyser's poetics, but a bit dated in its references. Overall, I found the first part to be the most useful.

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    Jun 21, Jenn rated it it was amazing. This book validated my existence. May 30, Caroline rated it it was amazing. Good call, Sarah. Aug 19, Urmy rated it it was amazing. Aug 27, Melissa rated it it was amazing Shelves: poetry. Great for restoring your faith. Katie rated it it was ok Feb 08, I later learned that Holmes has a line of clothing emblazoned with his words. I wanted to learn more about Holmes and his medium. I asked if we could chat via Instagram D. All these forms of communication but no one communicates.

    Social media has become a way of window shopping, of watching other people love one another. But then, social media has also given him an audience that he feeds fifteen to twenty times per day. I am a workhorse. Holmes, who is twenty-seven, was born in New Jersey, but his mother relocated the family to public housing in Tampa, Florida, after she left his father.

    The Lives of the Poets

    He began to keep a journal and wrote essays and narrative stories through high school, but when it came time to go to college, he balked. It was , and Holmes had been tinkering with a new social network, Twitter. He experimented on the Internet in other ways as well. He quit his Target job, and in became an independent contractor for ChaCha, the human-guided online search engine. I was able to understand the consumer and how much work it took to get their attention. Not being tethered to an office gave Holmes room to write, and in he started composing epigrams and short, satirical poems tailor-made for social media.

    But, despite his growing fan base, his life was in shambles. That relationship continues to fuel his writing, which encourages women to dump lesser men, avoid jerks, and stand up for what they want. In the twilight of his past relationship, in , he received an Instagram D.