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Claire Schwartz

Claire Schwartz is the author of the poetry collection Civil Service (Graywolf, 2022). Her writing has appeared in Poetry, the Believer, the Nation, the Iowa Review, the Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. The recipient of a 2022 Whiting Award for Poetry and a Pushcart Prize, she received her Ph.D. in African American Studies, American Studies, and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies from Yale. She is the culture editor of Jewish Currents.


Meaning Well

Summer 2022 | Poetry

We have come together, the Board Chair begins,
for obvious reasons. In a time of great division, this table
he raps his knuckles against the oak
for emphasis

Death Revises Badly

Summer 2022 | Poetry

In the Old Dictator’s obituary, a charming anecdote—

When the Old Dictator was a boy, his father saved his wages
for a month to buy his son a watch.

Forward Thinking

Fall 2018 | Interviews

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. 

Photograph by Fred Viebahn

An Interview With Rita Dove

Winter 2016 | Interviews

In Germany, I began to experience what it was like to think in another language. Also, the way Germans looked at me—with curiosity but no racial baggage—was so different than Americans. I began to understand a little bit more about my own country and how I fit in or not.