Author Archive

The Poem and the Hotel

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Dear Loews Luxury Hotels & Resorts, When you decided to move in, we were nervous. This is Chicago, an unsophisticated Midwestern city, and you’ve built your leisure palaces for the super-rich all over North America. We’ve been hurt by people like that before. (Don’t get us started about that

Emily Dickinson: A Private Poet in the Digital Age?

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Walt Whitman once wrote, “To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too.” But around the same time Whitman wrote those words, living a just few states away from him was a great poet who had almost no audience whatsoever. She tended to send her poems only to a

Guns and Poems: Why is it (almost) impossible to write a great poem about guns?

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Poetry has a history of violence. It was true a few hundred years ago, when bards wrote of knights and of great battles, and it is true today, when poets pick up their pens to write about the trauma of war, abuse, or repression. Whether they abhor it or

No Poetry Aloud…?

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July, 2007. The Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. The Italian comedian Roberto Benigni takes the stage and begins to recite poetry. Pausing between cantos of Dante’s Divine Comedy, he offers observations about the poem and anecdotes from his own life. Maybe this type of event sounds simple, or

Oscar Wilde and the Stereotype

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Each semester, I ask my freshmen writing students what at first seems like an obvious question: “What is a stereotype?” Students tend to love the word. They use it all the time. They talk about challenging stereotypes, resisting stereotypes, and being stereotyped. And yet, I’ve never once had a

Easter 1916

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“Easter—that’s a weird tradition,” says the comedian Jim Gaffigan in one of his imagined dialogues. He continues: “The day Jesus rose from the dead—what should we do?” “How about eggs?” “What does that have to do with Jesus?” “Alright, we’ll hide them.” “….I don’t follow your logic.” “Don’t worry,

Reading All the Things

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Ahhh, new books. Nothing like the thrill of the pristine cover, the creaseless spine, the fresh pages free of marginalia, the story inside like a continent yet to be discovered. About a month ago, we bibliophiles had our new books arranged in a perfect mental stack. We contemplated them.

The Serial Itch

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If you’re like me, then you’ve been in a funk since Serial ended. The holidays came and went. The new year began. You muddled through it all with a sort of ennui. The anticipation that transformed Thursday into the highpoint of the week was gone. Of course, you could

The Evolution of the Style Guide: An Interview with Psycholinguist Steven Pinker

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Steven Pinker is a cognitive scientist and psychologist whose work focuses on language–how it works and how it breaks down. Drawing upon his nearly forty years of research, as well as his experiences on the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, Pinker has developed a new guide to