COLUMNS

  • A WORLD OF PURE IMAGINATION

    IMAGINE SOMEONE with “Q”-level security clearance in the American federal government joining an online message board’s anonymous hordes to post allusive crumbs of insider intelligence about Donald Trump’s plan to crush the “deep state.” And imagine that this Democrat-controlled shadow government comprises bloodthirsty, adrenochrome-addicted, sex-trafficking pedophiles obsessed with flaunting their vices through a symbolism both totally pervasive and curiously inscrutable. Can you conceive of plots involving secret connections between Obama.org tweets and George Floyd’s death and a premeditated

    Read more
  • NEW WAVE

    THEY SAY WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER. That we’re the most important political force in the nation. That feminism is the future. What would it take to make these platitudes—touchstones from August’s Democratic National Convention—meaningful during a complete economic and social catastrophe and under a pandemic that has all but extinguished any faith left in already attenuated notions of universality and progress?

    Conceived in the wake of the 2017 Women’s March, the Feminist Art Coalition is a call to action that encompasses climate change, decolonization, racial justice, Indigenous struggles, diasporic

    Read more
  • The New World

    “You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great—and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past.” —Elon Musk

    I TRY TO GO SEE the SpaceX rocket launches whenever I am back home in Florida. I attended one in the very first week of this year, pulling off to the side of the road on a little sandbar between Titusville and the Cape and parking with a direct view across the water to the launchpad. It was a tradition that I knew from childhood on the Space Coast of

    Read more
  • THE BOOK OF LIFE

    No actually the first word emerged

    Deep in the bowels of the human throat

    & forged in loathing & envy, has now attained majority

    & like a Christ is rising, gagging, pointing to its second wound

    The better to distract me

    All my life you’ve taught me to mourn the son

    Nevermind that this isn’t even my religion

    Then after stealing my children you hacked

    Away my reproductive organs

    You never believed me capable of grief

    On behalf of my own immensity

    And caused to orbit all about my head the mouths

    Of those white women rich enough to fatten

    Their lips with silicone.  And bade them shape

    Woken syllables on the

    Read more
  • HEAL HER

    Does all evil emanate from a single source?

    And do the hundred thousand elaborations of bad

    Over which puritans and pundits fight it out on the crust

    Of the earth correlate to the lack of spiritual and political

    Foundation that would make it easy to see the Marxist reality

    That the corporate and billionaire class is what’s really got to go?

    That my racism and yours, our failure to love, are masquerading

    As things that’re wrong with you & me when we’re just walking symptoms

    Of the structural reality into which trees, poems, tears & miracles

    Introduce a rending, streaming, higher truth, a better flow, the

    Read more
  • Tate Awakening

    “SHAME ON TATE.” This chant reverberated at a protest organized by dozens of staffers with PCS Tate United and PCS Culture Group on Monday, ensuring that no visitor to London’s Tate Modern—newly reopened after four months due to the pandemic—could think it accepted or normal for the institution to threaten 334 employees of its commercial arm, Tate Enterprises, with redundancy. The decimation of jobs is completely preventable, workers argue, and political. Ultimately, Tate’s board decides on resource allocations, and the Prime Minister appoints thirteen out of fourteen members. Monday’s protest

    Read more
  • Poppy and Recollection

    “I didn’t think it was physically possible, but this both sucks AND blows.” —Bart Simpson

    THE VIRUS BROUGHT STRANGE BEDFELLOWS, but then again so did the uprising. You didn’t love the smell of your own breath behind your mask. Neither did you love certain things about yourself that had formerly been easier to escape.

    Confinement led to masses of people finally catching the thought: human beings should not be put in cages. Instagram became a pedagogical tool, rather than merely the matrix of DIY propaganda. Then it slid back. “For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer.” So it says in the Book

    Read more
  • OCCIDENTAL TOURISTS

    ORIENTALIST PAINTING dates back at least to the Renaissance but was especially popular from the early nineteenth century to the early twentieth, a period that tellingly coincided with the heyday of colonialism. Intent on displaying “Oriental” (read: Ottoman and Arab, mostly) life in all its strangeness and colorfulness, artists working in this subgenre of academic painting espoused a number of thematic categories that accounted for most of their output. These included portraits of Oriental stereotypes (tribal chieftains, guards, or mystics), street views or interiors, sun-drenched picturesque

    Read more
  • American Degeneracy

    SOME HAVE BEEN INCLINED to view the recent removal of Civil War monuments as a turn away from the past. To many of us, however, it is a prompt not for less but rather for more history—which is to say more clear-eyed, more unflinching, more detailed historical inquiry—that would help us better understand the circumstances under which those markers were erected in the first place, often decades after the war’s end.

    This is just one of many stories comprising that history, one that I think should be better known.

    In 1916, a new monthly magazine appeared on the US art scene. Published in New York,

    Read more
  • Square Roots

    FOR MOST OF US, the threat of disease is a largely invisible one. This is what makes it so pernicious: Often we cannot even see its symptoms. Coronavirus could be anywhere. But the pandemic has rapidly developed a distinct visual culture. The oddly beguiling 3-D visualization of the virus created by Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins at the Center for Disease Control has become the default symbol for Covid-19, and as Americans have grown more accustomed to covering their faces, parody images of masked public statuary and even topiary circulate widely. But perhaps the most pervasive of Covid imagery

    Read more
  • THE MOTHER OF ALL SEASONS

    I’LL WRITE THE HYPOSTASIS OF BECKY AND KAREN, I thought, but then a stalker showed up at my house, and I was overworked, but I had to deal with that, and think on things I never think on, for example my own safety, for example my own protection. Zoom swelled like a buboe and popped. The stalker had driven from Michigan to deliver a mug to me, he said, to thank me for having written my last book, showed up on my back porch and wouldn’t leave. 

    I can’t write about the fact that the partner of a new student of mine was shot by white supremacists four days ago. I thought I might manage to write about

    Read more
  • Anniversary

    MONDAY, JUNE 15, is the anniversary of the death of writer Kevin Killian, who was my husband for thirty-three years. The thought of spending it alone during San Francisco’s shelter-in-place both terrifies and numbs me. I have discovered that I have an enormous capacity for numbness, which continues to surprise me. Before Kevin’s death, I couldn’t bear to think about the horrors of widowhood. Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking seemed like the most dangerous book in the world; I wouldn’t touch it. After he died, I read it compulsively.

    For all other anniversaries this past year, I went to

    Read more