Critical Essays Archive

The Artist as Writer

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In 1973, Kusama Yayoi returned to Japan from New York and began experimenting with poetry and fiction.

Capitalism, Racism, and Misogyny in Natasha Brown’s Assembly

Brown’s debut novel is a slow-motion tragedy, all the weight of four hundred years coming to bear on one woman and the heartbreaking clarity with which she narrates exactly what that feels like. It is a story of all the ways capitalism, racism, and misogyny inflict violence on the

On Be Holding

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Ross Gay’s book-length poem suggests that within the horror show of objectified Black pain and the not-finished history of stolen Black bodies, the answer is a community that holds each other with care and beholds in Black lives not just suffering but life, dignity, complexity—and joy.

Courage and Craft in Wanting: Women Writing About Desire

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The contributors to Margot Kahn and Kelly McMasters’s new anthology risk sharing their desires on the page in empowering personal essays that demonstrate astonishing courage, but also craft, making it a collection that reveals the relationship between wanting and body, mind, and heart, but also between wanting and voice.

Dreams and Death in Karisma Price’s I’m Always So Serious

Price’s poems often play with dreams, with alternate realities. Price writes about these dreams, these alternate realities, by using metaphor, by making lists, in which one person, one object, one thought, lives different realities. Love poems here have the names of the dead. Poems repeatedly turn serious.

The Century’s Quiet Crises

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With her third collection, out last week, Éireann Lorsung’s ambition is clear: to conduct a historical audit in poetry of the points of history her life touches.

The Repetition and Accretion of Violence

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Three recent books by poets Valzhyna Mort, Eduardo C. Corral, and Claudia Rankine examine state violence by using violence’s signatures—repetition and accretion—as tools within the text. In these works, post-Chernobyl Belarus, barren American border landscapes, and the minefields of everyday social interactions are scrutinized, again and again.

Discovery and Re-Discovery in Endpapers

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Jennifer Savran Kelly’s new novel, centered on a genderqueer bookbinder living in New York in 2003, is a story of intimate discoveries.

The Contradictions of Love in Love in a Fallen City

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Eileen Chang’s stories portray love as having a dual nature, often experienced as hot or cold, and they reveal what can happen as people navigate these opposing forces

Tracing Ancestry in The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South

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Throughout his life, the kitchen was the place where truth always found Michael Twitty. It was where he first came out to his mother. Where he first felt kinship toward Jewish tradition. And where he decided to delve as deeply as possible into the culinary history of his ancestors.