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Interviews

Recent Issue

Illustration by Denise Nestor

Reading the Bones [private]

In his response to my first letter to him, Charles Wright said of my own decision to write poems, “I hope it gives you what it has given me—a life.” I took this wide view from such a hard gazer of a poet as both balm and call.


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Forward Thinking

Claire Schwartz: According to the poet Marie Howe, who studied with Joseph Brodsky at Columbia, Brodsky said: “You Americans are so naïve. You think evil is going to come into your houses wearing big black boots. It doesn’t come like that. Look at the language. It begins in the language.” You’ve written about the relationship between language and the social imagination—in particular, about the ways that totalitarian regimes in Russia and, more recently, the current government in the United States, have eroded public speech. Would you describe what you mean by that and how you see language functioning in public space right now?

Masha Gessen: For totalitarian regimes, language is an instrument of subjugation. It’s a way of controlling both behavior and thought. Attempting to ensure that words mean what the regime says they mean is a way of undermining people’s ability to inhabit a shared reality outside of what the regime says reality is. There are all sorts of tricks the regime performs along the way—such as using a word to mean its opposite, or almost its opposite. 

VQR Online

Playing Nice

September 3, 2019

Lisa Suhay dismisses the myth of the solitary chess genius. She uses chess to cultivate community and personal growth through her program, the Norfolk Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE).

Comic and Interview by Jess Ruliffson

Last Shift

December 13, 2018

Author Elaine Castillo grew up as a first-generation American with Filipino immigrant parents. She lived abroad in London for nearly a decade before moving back to her hometown of Milpitas, California, against the background of anti-immigrant sentiment in England and America.

Interview and comic by Jess Ruliffson

The Final Act

March 6, 2018

Dr. Thomas A. Andrew served as New Hampshire's Chief Medical Examiner for two decades, retiring in September 2017 amid the growing opioid crisis. Now he's studying to become an ordained deacon in extension ministry to help at-risk youth on the Appalachian Trail.