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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
The frolicking of sailors aboard a ship’s deck reminds Herman Melville of young horses, which might lead him to the “gambols” of whales. In associations such as these, Melville shows us the incongruities and false gilding we add to life in order to make it more palatable, less terrifying.
Layli Long Soldier’s 2017 poetry collection is—beyond its brilliant depiction of colonialism’s legacy—also a book about liminal spaces and stolen time, by which I mean, the dilemma of the mother/maker or mother/artist.