A necessary tension in memoir is that between the individual at the center of it and the broader context—the cultural or historical moments shaping the author’s trajectory into our lives. Patrisse Khan-Cullors’s When They Call You a Terrorist, co-written with asha bandele, with a foreword by Angela Davis, . . . Read more
In Oceanic, her luminous fourth collection of poems, Aimee Nezhukumatathil concludes with the image of “a child stepping / out of a fire, shoes / still shiny and clean.”
I encountered this mysterious image on a day in mid-February, 2018. As the temperature hovered at a record-smashing seventy degrees, . . . Read more
Every biography—in a way, every book—invites readers to examine their own lives, the more we share with their subjects the more so. Jonathan Blunk’s James Wright: A Life in Poetry, the authorized biography of the brilliant, troubled, and influential American poet from my adopted home state of Ohio, . . . Read more
Kaveh Akbar’s debut poetry collection, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, is about the essential consequences of incarnation, is a sensory catalog of wounds and wonders, vices and pleasures. His poems—fragmented, plaintive, at points frantic—are occupied with what it means to be a spirit and a mind haunted by their physical baggage and delighted by their physical inheritance—or, . . . Read more
Poets have been lamenting the recalcitrance of language at least since Byron’s Childe Harold complained in the early nineteenth century that he had not found “words which are things.” Approaching the midpoint of the twentieth, T. S. Eliot observed in “Burnt Norton” how
Crack and sometimes break, . . .
What gives a poem with political content its force? How does a poet use lyrical tools—in a book-length narrative—to critique powerful institutions when those very institutions seem too large and unwieldy to describe? In their new poetry collections, two contemporary women invite readers to consider their approaches to these questions. . . . Read more
To say anything about Donika Kelly’s gorgeous debut poetry collection Bestiary is difficult. The book takes its title from illustrated volumes made popular in the Middle Ages that categorize real and imaginary animals. In classical bestiaries—which often fasten each animal to a moral lesson—naming is a process of differentiation, . . . Read more
When the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up onto the shore of Bodrum, Turkey, in September 2015, the photograph of him went viral, sending a shockwave through a part of the world that, until then, had largely ignored the civil war the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres has called “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.”
Four thousand miles east in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, . . . Read more
Almost by accident, not long ago I found myself living and teaching in the Baltic seaport town of Klaipeda, Lithuania, for several months. A few wealthy Mennonites from North America started an English-language liberal arts college there twenty-five years ago, and today LCC International University has 600-plus students from all over the Baltics and eastern Europe. . . . Read more
Whereas speaking itself is defiance.
—Layli Long Soldier
In the discourse of law the term whereas signals a recitation of the important context in a formal or contractual document—but it also represents non-binding language. In the discourse of a contract or a treaty, . . . Read more