Iconic poetry work to be celebrated on Saturday at White Whale Bookstore | Program Notes

Iconic poetry work to be celebrated on Saturday at White Whale Bookstore

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Muriel Rukeyser was a political activist and important American poet, and one of her most notable works was The Book of the Dead. The 1938 poetry sequence was written in response to the Hawk's Nest Tunnel disaster in West Virginia, in which hundreds of miners died of silicosis.

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A new edition of The Book of the Dead is out, the poems published for the first time with photographs by Nancy Naumburg, who in 1936 accompanied Rukeyser to Gauley Bridge, the town a few hours south of Pittsburgh where the disaster occurred. Most of the workers who died were African American.

On Saturday, White Whale Bookstore celebrates with an event featuring Catherine Venable Moore, the West Virginia-based writer and producer who wrote the book's introduction. Also visiting is Kevin Haworth, an author who teaches at Carlow University.

Here's an excerpt from "George Robinson: Blues," one of the poems in Book of the Dead:

      Did you ever bury thirty-five men in a place in back of your house,
      thirty-five tunnel workers the doctors didn’t attend,
      died in the tunnel camps, under rocks, everywhere, world without                 end.

      When a man said I feel poorly, for any reason, any weakness or such,
      letting up when he couldn’t keep going barely,
      the Cap and company come and run him off the job surely.

Muriel Rukeyser Night is 7-9 p.m. Sat., Feb. 3.

White Whale is located at 4754 Liberty Ave., in Bloomfield. For more info, see here.




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