Author Archive

Alias Grace and the Revision of Female Experience

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In writer and producer Sarah Polley’s adaptation of Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood's meticulous narrative becomes a brutal, hushed study in the effects of subjugation. How does a woman protect her personal truth from those so determined to rewrite it?

Numbers & Golden Ages: A Closer Look at the National Book Award for Poetry

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Last week, the National Book Foundation announced nominees for its annual awards in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature. If we are, in the words of poet Kaveh Akbar, living in a “golden age of poetry,” what can a closer look at this year’s contenders tell us about

Humor, Candor, & Collision in Chen Chen’s When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities

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When I heard Chen read “Poplar Street” in a busy Washington, DC lunch spot, the whole farting bit elicited a variety of guffaws and cackles from his listeners. Their laughter sounded almost like barking. But Chen continued reading, and the rest of his couplet silenced the room.

What’s the Point: How Sherman Alexie, Ross Gay, and Tommy Pico Write About Pain

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A few weeks after the release of his memoir, Sherman Alexie cancelled the second half of his national book tour. “I have been rebreaking my heart night after night,” he explained. Writing about pain had become a process of inflicting it on himself.

Take a Turn for the Worse: How We Write About Ghosts and “Goneness”

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Every good ghost story has a volta, a point at which the narrative dramatically changes, and reality turns toward paranormal chaos. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.

Chris Pratt, Blue-Collar Poetry, and the Relatability Problem

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As Chris Pratt got dragged across the internet, I thought about poet friends who have told me they don’t see their own “average, blue-collar” stories reflected in what gets published. For many reasons, this is hard for me to believe.

S-TOWN and the “Daunting Exercise” of True Crime

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Less than forty-eight hours after Serial and This American Life released their new true crime podcast, I got a text message from a friend about it. “S-Town podcast. Listen immediately. All seven episodes.”

You vs Me, An Intellectual: Rewriting Pop Culture in Poetry

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Pop culture, like poetry, can work like excavation; it authorizes us to ask questions, to uncover, and to translate.

This is Normal: Reading Evil in the Everyday

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On Twitter, people keep saying this “isn’t normal.” In this story, the villain is an exception to the rule of normalcy. Maybe, I thought, that story is easier to tell than the real one.

Thirst Trap: Desperation in Kaveh Akbar’s PORTRAIT OF THE ALCOHOLIC

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I carried Kaveh Akbar’s Portrait of the Alcoholic around for weeks before reading it. I do this from time to time when I know a text is going to challenge me beyond the ways in which poetry is always challenging; I like to prepare for a confrontation.