Ad Policy

Katha Pollitt

Columnist

Katha Pollitt is well known for her wit and her keen sense of both the ridiculous and the sublime. Her “Subject to Debate” column, which debuted in 1995 and which the Washington Post called “the best place to go for original thinking on the left,” appears every other week in The Nation; it is frequently reprinted in newspapers across the country. In 2003, “Subject to Debate” won the National Magazine Award for Columns and Commentary. She is also a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute.

Pollitt has been contributing to The Nation since 1980. Her 1992 essay on the culture wars, “Why We Read: Canon to the Right of Me…” won the National Magazine Award for essays and criticism, and she won a Whiting Foundation Writing Award the same year. In 1993 her essay “Why Do We Romanticize the Fetus?” won the Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Many of Pollitt’s contributions to The Nation are compiled in three books: Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism (Knopf); Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture (Modern Library); and Virginity or Death! And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time (Random House). In 2007 Random House published her collection of personal essays, Learning to Drive and Other Life Stories. Two pieces from this book, “Learning to Drive” and its followup, “Webstalker,” originally appeared in The New Yorker. “Learning to Drive” is anthologized in Best American Essays 2003.

Pollitt has also written essays and book reviews for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Harper’s, Ms., Glamour, Mother Jones, the New York Times, and the London Review of Books. She has appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air and All Things Considered, Charlie Rose, The McLaughlin Group, CNN, Dateline NBC and the BBC. Her work has been republished in many anthologies and is taught in many university classes.

For her poetry, Pollitt has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her 1982 book Antarctic Traveller won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her poems have been published in many magazines and are reprinted in many anthologies, most recently The Oxford Book of American Poetry (2006).  Her second collection, The Mind-Body Problem, came out from Random House in 2009.

Born in New York City, she was educated at Harvard and the Columbia School of the Arts. She 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.


  • February 4, 2009

    From My Inbox: Pledge-a-Picket for New Clinic in Montana

    Dr. Susan Wicklund, whose 2008 book This Common Secret, detailed her life as an abortion provider, has just opened a clinic in Livingston, Montana. Even before it opened on February 2nd, the clinic was being picketed by opponents of abortion rights. In the mail below, Wicklund's co-author, Montana writer Alan Kesselheim, explains how you can turn their protests peacefully against them. (I've pledged $1 per picketer. That puts me in a slightly weird position: Do I hope lots show up so the clinic gets plenty of cash, or few show up so that I can save mine?) If you want to pledge, e mail Martha_Kauffman@msn.com.

    Dear Friends of Dr. Susan Wicklund:

    As most of you know, Susan Wicklund has been hard at work trying to open a women's reproductive health clinic in the Bozeman/Livingston area. It has not been easy. It has taken several years. Deals have fallen through because word leaked out and landowners were intimidated by violent threats. Other potential arrangements have collapsed due to financial difficulties, political controversy, or simple logistics.

    Katha Pollitt

  • January 29, 2009

    Birth Control Belongs in the Stimulus Bill

    To the outrage of many feminists and family planners, yesterday Democrats heeded President Obama and dropped from the stimulus bill aprovision that would have made it easier for states to offercontraception through Medicaid to low-income women not covered byMedicaid now. This followed several days in which Republicans mocked theitem as frivolous pork, like Las Vegas's proposed Mob Museum or thereseeding of the national mall. And how dare Nancy Pelosi suggest thatwomen should be helped to avoid unwanted pregnancies in the midst of aneconomic crisis! It's eugenics and China's one-child policy rolled intoone. You wonder how giving women more freedom to plan their kids equalsforcing them not to have any? Ask Chris Matthews, that noted expert onwomen, who on last night's Hardball seemed to think the US hadnarrowly escaped becoming a reproductive gulag:" It turns out the ideaof getting people to have fewer children didn't sell as national policy. Maybe people don't like Washington, which has done such a bang-up jobregulating the sharpies on Wall Street, to decide it's now time toregulate the number of kids people might be in the mood for."

    There are people who thought Obama practiced some clever politicaljiu-jitsu by bending over backwards to meet Republican objections. Supposedly, this bipartisan gesture would make it harder forRepublicans to reject the bill. Whoops, guess not: House Republicansjust voted against it unanimously. Backup theory: Well, now Obamalooks reasonable and statesmanlike, while Republicans look rigid andinsane. The stimulus will pass, and Republicans will get no credit.Low-income women get the shaft, but they should be used to it by now.

    But then there are those who think birth control really doesn't belongin the bill.Matt Yglesias writes, "Unlike some, I'm not per se outragedby the idea of dropping a family planning provision from the stimulusbill in response to conservative objections. I'm all for the provision,but it's genuinely tangential to the point of the bill, so if this isreally what's standing between us and a universe in which a substantialnumber of conservative get on the stimulus train so be it." Over atSlate's XX Factor, E.J. Graff, rather surprisingly, agrees.

    Katha Pollitt

  • Publishing Industry January 22, 2009

    Stimulating Reading

    The economy of reading is rapidly collapsing. If we can bail out banks, why not the book industry?

    Katha Pollitt

  • January 22, 2009

    Wise Words on the 17th Amendment

    (Daniel Pollitt, who is professor of law emeritus at the University of North Carolina and my uncle, sent me his reflections on The Blogojevich-Burris flap. I figured I should put them up before New York Governor Paterson selects his own personal Senator.)

    The F.B.I. was bugging Illinois Governor Blagojevich and recorded him commenting that the opportunity to name the Senate replacement for Barack Obama was "golden" (apparently there is no one offering a pot of gold for the appointment).

    On this, Democratic Senate leaders announced that anyone appointed by Blagojevich would be "tainted" and would be denied a seat in the Senate. The Illinois Secretary of State piled on, saying he would not sign or affix the State Seal to any Blagojevich appointments.

    Katha Pollitt

  • January 17, 2009

    MLK-Inauguration Challenge

    I love the idea of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a day of community service rather than a day to shop for bargains on mattresses and sweaters. The USA Service website lists all sorts of opportunities, but by the time I logged on most of the actual organized events in New York City were full, and somehow, lugging a bag of old clothes to the Housingworks thrift store, apparently our town's backup proposal for latecomers, lacks that certain thrill.

    So in the spirit of the day, I offer some classroom proposals from Donorschoose.org as a challenge to those of you out there who are in the same fix as me: you want to honor MLK Monday-- and Inauguration Tuesday-- but haven't quite found the way. As you may already know, Donorschoose.org is a website where teachers put up their classroom needs, and donors--that's you -- can give any amount they want to fund them.

    I hope you'll check out my Giving Page here. I've focussed on high-poverty schools around the country.You'll find opportunities to fund supplies for the only debate team in the South Bronx, guitars to rebuild a once-famous music program in Baltimore, classroom essentials for Chicago kindergarteners and more.

    Katha Pollitt

  • Support Independent Journalism.


  • January 8, 2009

    Caroline and Me

    What Caroline Kennedy lacks as an appointee to the Senate, Tom Geoghegan possesses as a Congressional candidate.

    Katha Pollitt

  • Politics December 17, 2008

    ‘Tis the Season to Be Generous

    Ten great groups that help people who are worse off than you are.

    Katha Pollitt

  • December 8, 2008

    Bill Ayers Whitewashes History, Again

    It couldn't have been easy for Bill Ayers to keep quiet while the McCain campaign tarred him as the Obama's best friend, the terrorist. Unfortunately, the silence was too good to last. On Saturday's New York Times op-ed page, he announced that "it's finally time to tell my true story." Like his memoir, Fugitive Days , "The Real Bill Ayers" is a sentimentalized, self-justifying whitewash of his role in the weirdo violent fringe of the 1960s-70s antiwar left.

    "I never killed or injured anyone, "Ayers writes. "In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village." Right. Those people belonged to Weatherman, as did Ayers himself and Bernardine Dohrn, now his wife. Weatherman, Weather Underground, completely different! And never mind either that that "accidental explosion" was caused by the making of a nail bomb intended for a dance at Fort Dix.

    Ayers writes that Weather Underground bombings were "symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam War." That no one was killed or injured was a monumental stroke of luck-- an unrelated bombing at the University of Wisconsin unintentionally killed a researcher and seriously injured four people. But if the point was to symbolize outrage, why not just spraypaint graffiti on government buildings or pour blood on military documents?

    Katha Pollitt

  • Economy December 3, 2008

    Barack Obama, Feminist in Chief?

    Obama should make gender equality a keystone of his presidency--and the economic stimulus is a great place to start.

    Katha Pollitt

  • December 2, 2008

    Can you help “Nickie”?

    In the endless debate over abortion, we can forget the concrete reality in which pregnant girls and women so often live. Feminists for Life and other anti-choice groups make it sound as if an unwanted pregnancy is just one of life's little challenges --some baby clothes, some food stamps, some campus housing for college-going moms and tots, and everything will be fine. It's usually not so simple. The appeal below popped up in my inbox this morning. It's from the DC Abortion fund, which raises money for low-income women's abortions.

    "Nickie" needs a lot of things -- beginning with a family free from domestic violence -- but one thing she doesn't need, or want, is a baby. Her pregnancy places her at risk in all kinds of ways.Can you help her? Even five dollars, added to the donations of others, would make a difference.

    You can donate here.

    Katha Pollitt