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Louise Kertesz papers

Identifier: 018.LK

Scope and Contents

This donation from Louise Kertesz comprises materials related to the composition and publication of The Poetic Vision of Muriel Rukeyser. It includes correspondence, research notes, photocopies of reviews and critical studies of Rukeyser’s works, programs, photographs, and recordings of conversations between Rukeyser and Kertesz.

This collection of documents sheds new light on Rukeyser’s life and work. In her correspondence and wide-ranging conversations with Kertesz, Rukeyser offers detailed responses to questions about specific works and references and addresses struggles with depression and professional disappointments. The collection includes letters from influential authors like Kenneth Rexroth and Denise Levertov responding to Kertesz’s inquiries and her book on Rukeyser.

The testimonials from former students detail Rukeyser’s idiosyncratic pedagogy. The collection also chronicles Kertesz’s protracted struggle to find reviewers for her book on Rukeyser, a sign of the continued indifference, even hostility to Rukeyser in the 1980s. Lastly, it documents the difficulty of a scholar, writer, and teacher to secure permanent employment in the academy at a time when women authors were rarely, if ever, included in the literary canon and considered worthy subjects for scholarly study.

The collection includes file level and item level descriptions, an effort supported by the Department of English and Professor Elisabeth Däumer to facilitate greater access to the items in the collection.


  • Creation: 1934-1984


Conditions Governing Access

Researchers are asked to request materials 24 hours prior to visiting the the University Archives.

Biographical Note

Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980) was a Jewish American writer who over the course of five decades produced a prolific, varied body of work: Fifteen collections of poems; an essential prose work about American culture, art, and poetry, The Life of Poetry; a memoir; children’s literature, plays, films, translations, and three biographies. Rukeyser is best known for her political themes since in many of her writings she responded to the events of her time, from an industrial disaster in West Virginia and the onset of the Spanish Civil War to World War II and the Shoah, as well as social, racial, and environmental injustices in the U.S. and abroad. Rukeyser was however more than a political poet. She had deep faith in poetry as a source of emotional and spiritual health, helping us imagine and strive for peace and justice. She was convinced that poetry in its many forms creates unique meeting places for readers especially needed during times of conflict and crisis, which tend to divide and isolate people. Aware of the widespread resistance to poetry, Rukeyser incorporated poetry into popular forms—such as film, radio plays, children’s books, her musical on Houdini—that might prove more engaging for audiences from different backgrounds and life experiences. At the same time, she insisted that artistic accessibility should not forfeit complexity, which she considered essential for complex times.

Biographical Note

Louise Kertesz (1939-) was born in Ludlow, Massachusetts. She received an MA in English from Columbia University in 1963 and a PhD in American Literature from the University of Illinois in 1970. An avid reader and writer of poetry, Kertesz completed the first extensive study of Muriel Rukeyser’s wide-ranging body of work and its often dismissive reception by the literary establishment. The Poetic Vision of Muriel Rukeyser was published in 1980 by Louisiana State University, not long after Rukeyser’s death in the same year. Failing to obtain a tenure-track position at Wayne State University where she was an adjunct instructor, Kertesz, by then the mother of two girls, decided to change tracks and made a living in business reporting and writing for several weekly news magazines, among them Automotive News in Detroit, and Business Insurance and Modern Healthcare in Los Angeles. With the advent of the internet and laptops, she turned to freelance writing and editing, working as a freelance copy editor for the University of Chicago Press where she helped scholars in various disciplines improve their manuscripts. Kertesz currently lives in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.


.8 Linear Feet (2 archive boxes)

Language of Materials


Related Materials

Library of Congress, Muriel Rukeyser Papers: finding aid link

New York Public Library, Muriel Rukeyser Collection of Papers: finding aid link

Vassar College, Muriel Rukeyser Papers, 1927-1967: finding aid link

Louise Kertesz papers
In Progress
Alexis Braun Marks, Latitude Brown, Elisabeth Daumer, and Micha Zerod
26 April 2023
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Eastern Michigan University Archives Repository

Bruce T. Halle Library, Room 310
955 West Circle Drive
Ypsilanti Michigan 48197