Missing the Mark: Nell Zink’s Racial Fluidity

When Jess Row’s “White Flights” was published in Boston Review in 2013, nobody in the American literary world, except perhaps Jonathan Franzen, had heard of Nell Zink, an American writer…

A Lot from a Little: Demystifying the Aphoristic Poem

“Tulip” by Mark Rothko Aphoristic poems are a verbal sleight of hand: minute, almost indecipherable movements generating outsized effects. In his paper, “Aptness and Truth in Verbal Metaphor,” David Hills writes…

For whom the trumpet sounds: on Laura Kasischke’s The Infinitesimals

“They are neither finite quantities nor quantities infinitely small, nor yet nothing. May we not call them the ghosts of departed quantities?” This epigraph from George Berkeley’s The Analyst primes…

A heap of unidentifiable shards: on Vivian Gornick’s The Odd Woman and the City

It used to be that we offered one another the best versions of ourselves. Now we do our best to give the worst. I’m supremely flawed, we all recite in…

Truth and Beauty share a tomb: reflecting on 6 classic poems by women

1. “The Author To Her Book” by Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain, Who after birth didst by my side remain, Till snatched from thence by…

The independent seat: on Judith Barrington’s The Conversation

An “independent seat” is a rarely achieved height of equestrian skill, in which mechanical command and response are transformed into a fluid conversation between the bodies of horse and rider. It is…

The last Americans in Palmyra

The ruins of Palmyra. “All the sacred Mysteries of Asia, with their strident music, served now to add to this voluptuous unrest … I felt only disgust and abhorrence for all…

You Run, Darling: Mark Doty’s Deep Lane

Mark Doty is tenacious in his in his examination of life and endlessly fussy about his use of words. He makes sure to convey his meaning, whether in the criticism…

Family; or, What It Means to Be a Freak

In Tod Browning’s 1932 film, Freaks, Hans, a sideshow dwarf, falls in love with the beautiful trapeze artist Cleopatra, who marries him for his money and plots to poison him…

Blood on the Jumbotron: Martial’s Arena Poems

Cum traheret Priscus, traheret certamina Verus,    esset et aequalis Mars utriusque diu, missio saepe viris magno clamore petita est;    sed Caesar legi parvit ipsae suae (lex erat ad…

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