Author Archive

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.

A History of National Poetry Month

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Since the inception of National Poetry Month in 1996, people around the world have spent every April celebrating poetry.

The Give and Take of Literary Magazines

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The value—and power—of new independent publishing goes without saying. But new publishers, operating with virtually unlimited space to publish, also run the risk of taking more than they provide.

Bullets into Bells: Gun Violence and the Nuance of Suffering

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Days before the fifth anniversary of the shooting at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary school, Beacon Press published Bullets into Bells, an anthology of poetry and prose responding to gun violence. While one might argue such a collection runs the risk of poeticizing violence, it succeeds in quite the opposite.

Kevin Young and the Age of Euphemism

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In his eleventh book, Young recapitulates some of America’s most notorious humbugs, from P. T. Barnum’s Feejee Mermaid to James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces and Rachel Dolezal’s blackface. While his text primarily works to link the rise of hoaxes to “race and racialism,” Young also links this evolution

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.

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.