In 1968, Muriel Rukeyser created a poem based on the life of the German artist Käthe Kollwitz.
Within her poem, Rukeyser makes multiple references to Kollwitz’s works. We reviewed Woman With Dead Child in class, but there are quite a few other works and aspects of Kollwitz referenced.
In section II of the poem, Rukeyser writes in the voice of Kollwitz and explains her subject matter:
A woman pouring her opposites.
“After all there are happy things in life too.
Why do you show only the dark side?”
“I could not answer this. But I know–
in the beginning my impulse to know
the working life
had little to do with
pity or sympathy.
I simply felt
that the life of the workers was beautiful.” (1208-09)
Kollwitz tended to portray the lives of everyday people in her works, such as in March of the Weavers (1897) and Workers Going Home (1897).
Each of these works shows just what the poem says: the life of workers.
On page 1210, Rukeyser writes:
all of them
death, the children
patients in wating-rooms
the corpse, with the baby
floating, on the dark river
Woman with Dead Child comes to mind after reading this, but there are other works of Kollwitz’s that are related to this. Some examples are Poverty (1893-94) and Unemployment (1909).
Both of these works show the emotional toll that famine and other related stresses (which is mentioned in the poem) have on a person.
After reading selections of Rukeyser’s poems and examining several of Kollwitz’s works, a similarity can be gathered between the two. Each based their respective expressions of art on more everyday-type people than anything else. While some authors we have read in class wrote sections of the Bible from female perspectives and some created short stories from their minds, Kollwitz and Rukeyser created based on actual people.