SPEED OF DARKNESS by Muriel Rukeyser


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In her latest collection, a well-known poet tends to discard outer coherence of form and logic, and instead ties her poetry together with internal meanings based on intense personal emotions. Without this central thread, the poems tend to collapse into fragments, but at best, it holds and fuses even the most awkward-seeming digressions and roughnesses. This is not comfortable poetry. It blazes with an ecstatic striving toward a mystic awareness of past and present (as in a sequence about Akiba, an early Jewish hero), and even the simplest scenes are apt to be heightened with a feverish, semi-mythic Old Testament sunlight. It is also earthy; the occasional love poems are neither idyllic, nor precisely personal, but they are frankly and sensually female. There is sometimes a flatness underlying this lyric outpouring, and a diffuseness in the gaps in the ideas and in the spacing of the lines; fervent emotion does not always compensate for the lack of precision. On the other hand, the sense of tension between earthly and mystic desires is compelling; a flashing, fragmented reflection of many feelings and aspects of our times.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1968
Publisher: Random House