Author Archive

The Colonizer and The Ghost

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Museums are filled with ghosts, if “ghost” is just another word for “longing.” Their collections typify our desire for possession, which, as poet and essayist Mary Ruefle would argue, is a “sickness”—the “world’s greatest sickness on earth,” in fact.

The Radical Grief of Obit

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The elegies in Victoria Chang’s new collection show us how grief radiates from a central loss inwardly toward self-examination, and outwardly toward collective grief.

Horse Poems

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Horses are ghosts. They are living reminders of our preindustrial past. Like ghosts, they remind us of uncomfortable things.

The Moral Universe in Ninety-Nine Stories of God

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Fiction writer and essayist Joy Williams wears sunglasses all the time—a fact that might be a walking metaphor. In Williams’ world, it seems, God is also wearing a pair of mirrored sunglasses, and after we tire of making funny faces at ourselves in His lenses, we start to panic.

The Angel in the Woods

Emily Dickinson knew that modesty and self-confidence, blended together, would disarm her reader and delight and mystify the people around her. Shirking conventionality offered her a modicum of freedom and enlarged her presence simultaneously; she was both eccentric spinster and white-clad angel, depending on how you saw her.

Prospero the Homeschool Teacher

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Even to an erudite mage like Shakespeare’s Prospero, Miranda’s mind is mysterious and powerful, her memory evocative of her individual, autonomous character. He’s done his best to teach her, despite the circumstances, but no teacher can say with certainty what a student will remember and what will be forgotten.

The Banality of Evil in The Turn of the Screw

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Henry James’s 1898 novella exists as a sort of literary question not unlike that posed by Hannah Arendt. Are the ghosts in this ghost story actually present, or are they just extensions of its governess’s disordered mind? Or—to put it another way—if evil is present in the narrative, where

Music, Violence, and Joy in They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us

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Hanif Abdurraqib’s 2017 essay collection explores a conflict he sees in his own project, perhaps in any endeavor toward joy: how can one write about music, let alone listen to it or make it, when people are dying?

Watching King Lear on Zoom

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Technology (whether we mean social networking, video conferencing, virtual reality, or even language itself) can be both perilous and liberating, an architect of intimacy and an architect of loneliness too.

Kinetic Orality in 1919

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Eve L. Ewing fills her poems with bodies and voices. This interplay between rhythm and language becomes a means by which the marginalized speak; kinetic orality is a response to the recurring nature of systemic racism in that it thrives on both repetition and improvisation.