The Celtic Carnivalesque and Muriel Rukeyser’s Irish Journey of Passion and Transformation

  • Jack Morgan
Part of the New Directions in Irish and Irish American Literature book series (NDIIAL)


In the American literature of visits to Ireland, The Orgy (1965), Muriel Rukeyser’s memoir based on the notebook she kept during her August 1958 attendance at the Puck Fair, the annual festival of the Goat King in County Kerry, is one of the more estimable though it is hardly known. While a nonfiction work, it differs from other books on Ireland by American visitors from Asenath Nicholson to Rosemary Mahoney and Thomas Lynch, for example. Written in what is sometimes referred to as “poet’s prose,” The Orgy defies easy categorization. A narrative of self-discovery and cultural discovery, it begins with the authorial interrogative: “What kind of book is this?” Furthermore, a puzzling prefatory note to the original Pocket Books edition asserted that all the characters and acts in the work were “a free fantasy on the event.” But much of the book, on the contrary, appeared to be factually and closely recorded experience, and real names were often retained. The names of two companions Rukeyser meets at Puck, main characters in the book, are changed to “Liadain and Nicholas Hilliard,” but the pair are clearly recognizable as Eithne and Rupert Strong — she an Irish poet, he a lanky British psychoanalyst practicing in Ireland and part of the Jonathan Hanaghan Irish Psychoanalytical Society in the 1950s.1


Fairy Tale American Literature Ferris Wheel Irish Language Livestock Market 
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© Jack Morgan 2011

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  • Jack Morgan

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