Category Archives: LITERATURE/POETRY


Join Nikky Finney, Sonia Sanchez, Jericho Brown, Tyehimba Jess, Elizabeth Alexander, Mahershala Ali, and Kamasi Washington for the launch of LIFT EVERY VOICE, “a year-long nationwide public humanities initiative exploring African American poetic traditions.”*

Presented by the Library of America and the Schomburg Center, the event also celebrates celebrates the publication of the new LOA anthology African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song, edited by Kevin Young.

See link below for details.



Thursday, September 17.

3:30 pm–6 pm on the West Coast; 6:30 pm–9 pm East Coast.

From top: Nikky Finney, photograph courtesy and © the author and the University of South Carolina; Sonia Sanchez, photograph courtesy and © the author and Mezzocamin; Jericho Brown, photograph courtesy of the author; Tyehimba Jess, Olio, cover image courtesy and © the author and Wave Books; Jess, photograph courtesy and © the author; Elizabeth Alexander, photograph courtesy and © the author; Kevin Young, editor, African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song, cover image courtesy and © the Library of America.


I always think of Sojourner as being in conversation with many different objects, wallpapers, surfaces, textures, and banners. By the time viewers watch the film, they have already received so much informational groundwork from the environment that the film can focus on conveying a particular kind of imagery or feeling. When the title credits appear at the end of Sojourner, the room is completely dark, and that’s the moment when people can see the disco ball installation producing a cosmos on the ceiling. I always consider who the work is made for and what I want it to convey. It is so important that people are given an experience that cultivates their intellectual and physical well-being. That’s why I started making installations for my films, instead of simply showing them. — Cauleen Smith

MUTUALITIES—Smith’s first solo exhibition in New York City—has reopened at the Whitney. The show, which includes her 22-minute video installation Sojourner, was organized by Chrissie Iles, with Clémence White.

This week, join Smith and curator Amber Esseiva for a virtual conversation presented by the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard.

See links below for information.


Through January 31, by appointment.

Whitney Museum of American Art

99 Gansevoort Street, New York City.


Thursday, September 10.

4:30 pm on the West Coast; 7:30 pm East Coast.

Cauleen Smith, Mutualities, Whitney Museum of American Art, February 17, 2020–January 31, 2021, from top: Alexis Hold Audre Lorde, 2020, from the ongoing series Firespitters, gouache, graphite, and acrylic ink on paper; Gregg Bordowitz, 2020, Firespitters series, gouache, graphite, and acrylic ink on paper; Sojourner, 2018, stills (2), video, color, sound; Pilgrim, 2017, still, video, color, sound, Whitney Museum of American Art; Natalie Holds Dionne Brand, 2020, Firespitters series, gouache, graphite, and acrylic ink on paper; Natalie Diaz, 2020, Firespitters series, gouache, graphite, and acrylic ink on paper. Artwork and video images courtesy and © the artist, Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, and Kate Werble Gallery, New York City. Firespitters series photographs by Matthew Sherman, courtesy of the photographer and the Whitney Museum of American Art.


Robert Silvers was a brilliant, demanding, funny, painstaking, and inspiring editor, a walking chronicle of postwar literary-political history, an intimidating sweetheart, and very dear to me. At the end of an editorial session, once he had identified all your piece’s weaknesses, evasions, and missed opportunities, he would close with a brusque, even peremptory, but always, somehow, hopeful, “See what can be done.” In the world according to Silvers, there was always something to be done. — Michael Chabon

The New York Review of Books was founded in 1963 by Barbara Epstein, Jason Epstein, and their West 67th Street neighbors Elizabeth Hardwick and Robert Lowell during an extended newspaper strike in New York City. They asked their friend Robert Silvers to edit the broadsheet—and he agreed, if Barbara would join him as co-editor.

The Review was an immediate success, and during first decades published Mary McCarthy on Vietnam, James Baldwin (“An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis”), Isaiah Berlin, Hannah Arendt, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Richard Hofstadter, Edmund Wilson, Susan Sontag, Noam Chomsky, I. F. Stone, W. H. Auden, and many more. Today, Zadie Smith, Yasmine El Rashidi, Zoë Heller, Janet Malcolm, Hilton Als, Darryl Pinckney, James Fenton, Colm Tóibín, and Daniel Mendelsohn continue the intellectual tradition.

Before Silvers died in 2017, Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi filmed the editor in his domain. The resulting film—THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT, narrated by Michael Stahlbarg—documents the history of the paper with in-person interviews and a rich selection of clips. The film is available through HBO Max and is streaming free in September, courtesy of the Review.

See link below.


Directed by Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi.

Now streaming.

From top: Barbara Epstein and Robert Silvers in 1963 in their first office in the Fisk Building, New York City, photograph by Gert Berliner, courtesy and © the photographer and The New York Review of Books; David Moore, Mary McCarthy, New York, 1956, courtesy and © the photographer and the National Portrait Gallery, Australia; The New York Review of Books, May 25, 2017; Gore Vidal (center) with John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy; Nina Simone and James Baldwin, early 1960s, photograph by Bernard Gotfryd, courtesy and © the photographer’s estate and the Library of Congress Collection; Isaiah Berlin (left) and Silvers, photograph by Dominique Nabokov, courtesy and © the photographer; Darryl Pinckney in London, 1991, photograph by Nabokov; Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi, The 50 Year Argument (2014), image courtesy and © HBO Documentary Films; W. H. Auden; Joan Didion, photograph by Jill Krementz, courtesy and © the photographer; Francine du Plessix Gray and Silvers, photograph by Nabokov, courtesy and © the photographer.


Linda Nochlin had a towering, completely ferocious, revolutionary intellect. The magnitude of her intelligence—well, there are very, very few people like that. She literally changed everything. I think that with her essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” in 1971, she made women’s and queer studies possible because of how she reformulated the question. She shifted the focus from subjective experience toward an interrogation of the material aspects of culture: What were the conditions that make things the way they are? By restructuring cultural history, she also gave those of us who were marginalized by it a new way to look at literature and other disciplines. — Deborah Kass

Nochlin—the late scholar, critic, and curator—is the subject of an exhibition at NMWA. See link below for details.


Through October 8.

National Museum of Women in the Arts

1250 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.

From top: Linda Nochlin in front of Philip Pearlstein, Richard Pommer and Linda Nochlin, 1968, photograph by Adam Husted, image courtesy and © the artist and the photographer; Deborah Kass, Orange Disaster (Linda Nochlin), 1997, image courtesy and © the artist; Artnews, January 1971, Women’s Liberation, Women Artists and Art History: A Special Issue, cover painting is Marie Denise Villers, Young Woman Drawing, 1801, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, cover image courtesy and © the publisher; 1959 art history class at Vassar with Professor Nochlin, Class of 1951, image courtesy and © Vassar College; Women Artists: The Linda Nochlin Reader (2015), edited by Maura Reilly, cover image courtesy and © Thames & Hudson; Nochlin in Paris in 1978, photograph by Marion Kalter, image courtesy and © the photographer.


Hazel V. Carby, author of Imperial Intimacies, and Priyamvada Gopal, author of Insurgent Empire, discuss the “media responses to Covid-19 and the kinds of discourse that are given a platform, appropriate forms of response, and the media more generally relating to who it is doing the writing—as well as looking towards what sorts of new theoretical frameworks we might employ to think about what has happened.”*

The authors will be joined by Annie Olaloku-Teriba. See link below for Verso Live registration information.



Thursday, August 20.

10:30 am on the West Coast; 1:30 pm East Coast; 6:30 pm in London; 7:30 in Paris.

Hazel Carby’s “Quarantine Reading”:

You ask me what I read in quarantine but I want to tell you about where I read. I read from a location of privilege, for it is a privilege to be in lockdown in an affluent Connecticut shoreline town. I am reminded of this every morning. I see the lives and deaths of those who find themselves designated “essential workers”—the poor black and brown residents of New York’s outer boroughs of Queens and the Bronx who maintain the city, its transportation systems, and its hospitals—who live precarious lives, who cannot afford to stay at home, who cannot afford to be sick, who are dying of coronavirus and being buried in mass graves. These lives are being “seen” now because newspapers like the New York Times have just discovered the inequities of structural racism and the struggles for existence of those the paper usually ignores as not worthy of being written about. Structural racism and poverty constitute normal life in the United States: they are the fundamental characteristics of the normative social order to which corporate elites and their allies, reading in lockdown, wish to return.

You ask me what I read but I avoid reading a lot of things. What I read also depends upon when I read. Dawn finds me in the kitchen curled up with tea and cats in a chair reading The Guardian on an iPad trying to avoid reading statistics of infection, hospitalization and death, accumulations of numbers which disguise the condition of life. I aim for The Guardian’s “Long Reads,” detailed investigative essays by thoughtful writers, for the sections on the environment and the amazing collections of photography from around the world.  In the mirror I read my face, adjusting my mask before I leave for the grocery store.  I try not to read the anxiety I see in the eyes that look back.

In the working part of my day I have been reading two books: Thomas Chatterton WilliamsUnlearning Race: Self-Portrait in Black and White, who imagines that “race” exists only in our minds. A generous reader could dismiss this as naïve, but generosity is not my reading of an author writing from an extremely privileged position in France who renders the racial formation in which he lives invisible by ignoring France’s colonial legacy and the present black and brown residents of the Parisian banlieues. In stark contrast, The Grassling, by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, a writer of Kenyan and English heritage, is a gorgeous geological account of the Devon village in which she grew up. She reads the landscape from beneath as well as above its soil, rendering its flavors, sounds and smells in poetically intense prose.

In the evening I retreat into fiction trying to immerse myself in other, distant worlds. Hillary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, is absorbing me with its conjuring of political intrigue, of the wrangling for power between men who lie without compunction, and for its spiteful, vengeful, narcissistic ruler—a world that is, perhaps, not so far from our own.

From top: Hazel V. Carby; Priyamvada Gopal, photograph courtesy and © the author and Cambridgeshire Live; Priyamvada Gopal, Insurgent Empire, 2020, image courtesy and © the author and Verso; Hazel V. Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist, 1987, image courtesy and © the author and Oxford University Press; Hilary Mantel, The Mirror and the Light, 2020, image courtesy and © the author and Henry Holt; Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, photograph by Graham Shackleton, image courtesy and © the author, the photographer, and The Guardian.