Biography of Katha Pollitt
Katha Pollitt (born October 14, 1949) is an American feminist poet, essayist and critic. She is the author of four essay collections and two books of poetry. Her writing focuses on political and social issues, including abortion rights, racism, welfare reform, feminism, and poverty.
Pollitt is best known for her bimonthly column "Subject to Debate" in The Nation magazine which The Washington Post called "the best place to go for original thinking on the left." Pollitt has contributed to The Nation since 1980, first serving as editor for the Books & the Arts section before becoming a regular columnist in 1995. She has also published in numerous other periodicals, including The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, Ms. Magazine, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Glamour, Mother Jones, and the London Review of Books. Her poetry has been republished in many anthologies and magazines, including The New Yorker and The Oxford Book of American Poetry (2006). She has appeared on NPR's Fresh Air and All Things Considered, Charlie Rose, The McLaughlin Group, CNN, Dateline NBC and the BBC.
Much of Pollitt's writing is in defense of contemporary feminism and other forms of 'identity politics' and tackles perceived misimpressions by critics from across the political spectrum; other frequent topics include abortion, the media, U.S. foreign policy, the politics of poverty (especially welfare reform), and human rights movements around the world. Her more controversial writings include "Not Just Bad Sex" (1993), a negative review of Katie Roiphe's The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism on Campus, and "Put Out No Flags" (2001), a Nation essay on post-9/11 America in which she explained her refusal to fly an American flag out of her living room window.
In addition to her writing, Pollitt is a well-known public speaker and has lectured at dozens of colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brooklyn College, UCLA, the University of Mississippi and Cornell. She has taught poetry at Princeton, Barnard and the 92nd Street Y, and women's studies at the New School University. Pollitt is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the National Magazine Award (1992, 2003), the American Book Award "Lifetime Achievement Award" (2010), and the National Book Critics Circle Award (1983). She has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fulbright Program.
In 2003 she was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto.
Pollitt earned a B.A. in philosophy from Radcliffe College in 1972 and an M.F.A. in writing from Columbia University in 1975. She is currently working on a book about abortion politics.
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Katha Pollitt Poems
Coffee and cigarettes in a clean cafe, forsythia lit like a damp match against a thundery sky drunk on its own ozone,
November Fifth, Riverside Drive
The sky a shock, the ginkgoes yellow fever, I wear the day out walking. November, and still light stuns the big bay windows on West End
When I think of my youth I feel sorry not for myself but for my body. It was so direct and simple, so rational in its desires,
The Old Neighbors
The weather's turned, and the old neighbors creep out from their crammed rooms to blink in the sun, as if surprised to find they've lived through another winter.
Everywhere I look I see my fate. In the subway. In a stone. On the curb where people wait for the bus in the rain.
It's better to be a cat than to be a human. Not because of their much-noted grace and beauty— their beauty wins them no added pleasure, grace is
What I Understood
When I was a child I understood everything about, for example, futility. Standing for hours on the hot asphalt outfield, trudging for balls
Now that I am all done with spring rampant in purple
The nurse coming off her shift at the psychiatric ward nodding over the Post, her surprisingly delicate legs shining darkly through the white hospital stockings,
It's what you don't hear that says struggle as in wrath and wrack
No one left to call me Penelope, mourned the old countess, on being informed of the death of her last childhood friend. Did she sit long
Worse than the boils and sores and the stench and the terrible flies was the nattering: Think.
It's what you don't hear
that says struggle
as in wrath and wrack
and wrong and wrench and wrangle.
The noiseless wriggle
of a hooked worm
might be a shiver of pleasure
not a slow writhing