Personal Essays Archive

The Poetics of Body Positivity

My earliest memories of the poetic representations of other cis women, like me, were highly sexualized. It seemed that women’s bodies, rather than the women, were (cis male) poets’ muses.

Showing Up; or, Passing “Thirty Under Thirty” Eligibility

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In Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer had tapped into that well of invisible truth, while I—an aspiring writer struggling to sit my ass long enough in a chair to produce anything at all—could only hope to scratch the surface.

The Other America

As Claudia Rankine’s new play The White Card premieres at Boston’s Paramount Theatre, Ploughshares is proud to publish Catina Bacote’s “The Other America,” which investigates police brutality and the failure of community policing in New Haven, Connecticut, discussing Rankine’s Citizen in relation to the author’s experiences.

A Moment of Grace in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”

At its heart, like so many of Flannery O’Connor’s stories, "A Good Man is Hard to Find” is a story about error at the level of perception, about a confrontation with reality, and the grace that can enter a human heart when a person is stripped down to nothing.

Can Twitter Make Trauma Generic? And If So, What Should We Do About It?

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As a writer, I've been thinking about the importance of our trauma—the needle-pushing trauma of the #MeToo movement, of the interrogation of "post-truth," of the existential crisis necessary for confronting something like climate change, or the stories beyond the body counts of the drug war in Mexico.

For the Love of Boys

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I don’t pretend to understand Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts. The materials she has read, the level of her intellectual thinking, as well as the life she leads—and conveys in this memoir—are several levels of complexity and depth beyond what I can comfortably claim to know.

A Mother’s Work and Rachel Sherman’s Uneasy Street: the Anxieties of Affluence

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Spending less time working and more time with our children was a choice that was entirely in our control. We realized that most people didn’t have a choice—they either went back to work quickly after their children were born or quit their jobs in favor of full-time parenthood.

Olive Kitteridge and My Mother

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Each day after her husband's death, Olive Kitteridge runs down the clock until she can go to bed with the sun. She has her routine, but it feels purposeless. Olive made me wonder if the days felt like this to my mother after my father’s death.

The Mother of All Fears

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This week, I reread Alexandra Kleeman’s short story “Choking Victim”. I had first read it when it was published in The New Yorker in May 2016, when I was spending most of my days at home with a mysterious newborn.

A Lot of Sorrow, A Lot of Faith

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I round a dark alcove in the Reykjavík Art Museum to find twenty or so people gathered in a space the size of a hip basement venue. Before them is a screen on which The National plays.