One of the fun things about writing a blog is being able to write about whatever I want to write about ;). Today it’s poetry. Specifically the poetry of Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980).
She’s one of my favorite poets. Her most famous poem ended up creating a rallying cry for feminist scholars and women writers.
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.
Once, Rukeyser wrote about herself under the mask of myth. But now Rukeyser was throwing off the mask. She (and by extension, all women) could now show herself in print and in real life without masks.
Women no longer had to pretend to be what they were not.
Unfortunately, I think people are still wearing masks.
Today, it might be easier to have masks. We lurk behind social media, cell phones, and, yes, blogs, never fully showing ourselves without masks.
I will say that I think some masks are necessary, and that we have to protect ourselves.
But the masks Rukeyser is referring to are masks that deny who we truly are. For instance, she was a lesbian, and in a time when it was considered abnormal to be gay, homosexuality was one identity that many people felt forced to deny. A good mask to abandon.
In trying to figure out what masks I’ve worn, I think too often I have been in social settings where I didn’t feel comfortable being the nerd that I really am and have pretended to be more conventional and modulated, hiding my passions for nerdy pursuits like scholarship, writing, and poetry.