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On "The Book of the Dead"

John Lowney

When the conclusion of "The Book of the Dead" reiterates the poem's opening refrain—"These roads will take you into your own country" (OS 37)—this refrain is also rewritten, insisting on the reader's active role as "witness" much more forcefully. "These roads" constructed for commerce, including the commerce of tourism, are also the roads traveled by anonymous migrant workers. "The Book of the Dead" assures that "your own country" can neither "forget" nor "keep silent" these workers' defiant narratives of counter-memory.

from "Truths of Outrage, Truths of Possibility: Muriel Rukeyser's 'The Book of the Dead'" in "How Shall We Tell Each Other of the Poet?": The Life and Writing of Muriel Rukeyser. Ed. Anne F. Herzog and Janet E. Kaufman. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999. Copyright 1999 by Anne E. Herzog and Janet E. Kaufman.

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