The Center for the Humanities

Barcelona, 1936: Selections from Muriel Rukeyser’s Spanish Civil War Archive

Editor: Rowena Kennedy-Epstein
32 pages, softcover, saddle-stitch binding

"Barcelona, 1936," published in Life and Letters To-day, and the unpublished poem "For O.B." are two of Muriel Rukeyser's earliest pieces about the Spanish Civil War, an experience she would write about throughout her lifetime and one that shaped her poetic and political commitments. This volume offers an exclusive selection from her Civil War archive, complete with maps, photographs, and manuscript pages uncovered through the extensive archival research of editor Rowena Kennedy-Epstein.

Author Biography:

MURIEL RUKEYSER was born in New York City in 1913. After winning the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1935 for her first collection, Theory of Flight, Rukeyser’s poetic output would go on to span 14 volumes. Many of her books incorporate documentary material, notably, “The Book of the Dead” series in her 1938 collection U.S. 1, an examination of the Gauley Bridge industrial disaster, in which approximately 1,000 men died of silicosis. Rukeyser’s wide-ranging body of work also includes biographies of American physical chemist Willard Gibbs (Willard Gibbs: American Genius, 1942) and English Renaissance explorer and astronomer Thomas Hariot (The Traces of Thomas Hariot, 1971), a book-length “story and song” about the life of 1940 Republican presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie (One Life, 1957), a musical about Harry Houdini (Houdini: A Musical, published 2002), a personal exploration of the pagan goat festival Puck Fair (The Orgy, 1965), a collection of lectures about the uses and possibilities of poetry (The Life of Poetry, 1949), translations (of Octavio Paz and Gunnar Ekelöf), children’s books, film scripts, and criticism. Rukeyser begins The Life of Poetry with her experience in Spain at the start of the Civil War, framing her talks as an answer to the question posed to her, “And poetry—among all this—where is the place for poetry?” Both her writing and her life experiences—witnessing the 1933 Scottsboro trials as a student journalist or traveling to Hanoi to protest America’s involvement in Vietnam—are a testament to their deep interconnectedness. Rukeyser died in New York in 1980.

Selected Archives:

  • Muriel Rukeyser Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

Editors