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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. In 2011, Pollitt won the American Sociological Association Award for Excellence in the Reporting of Social Issues. 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 2013, her column won a Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as did her 1993 essay “Why Do We Romanticize the Fetus?”

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 follow-up, “Webstalker,” originally appeared in The New Yorker. “Learning to Drive” is anthologized in Best American Essays 2003. It has been made into a movie of the same title, starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley. Her most recent book is Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, which The New York Times listed as a Notable Book of 2014.

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.


  • April 8, 2009

    Get Rid of Bush’s Last-Minute HHS Regulation

    Thursday, April 9th, is the deadline for comments on the proposed rescission of the Bush administration's last-minute HHS regulation expanding provider "conscience" clauses to allow just about any health worker to deny contraceptive services to women. Under this vague, confusing rule, a pharmacist could refuse to fill a birth-control prescription, and also refuse to get another pharmacist to do so. A nurse could refuse to give emergency contraception to a rape victim, and give her a lecture about "babykilling." Abortion clinics would be forced to hire, and retain, personnel who refused to carry out the very duties they were hired to perform. Nor does the regulation stop there. Conceivably, a health-care worker could refuse to care for a gay, lesbian or transsexual person, on the grounds that to do so would violate their religious beliefs.

    The law already provides "reasonable accomodation" for religious beliefs, by the way. This regulation is just President Bush's farewell gift to the religious right. It only takes a few minutes to encourage President Obama to return that gift to the store.

    (Thanks to intrepid reporter Cynthia Cooper for the heads up.)

    Katha Pollitt

  • Society April 2, 2009

    Mad About Michelle

    Yesterday's fist-bumping radical is today's mom in chief.

    Katha Pollitt


  • Love Me, I’m a Conservative

    Atlantic blogger Ross Douthat joins the New York Times's op-ed lineup. Depressing.

    Katha Pollitt


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  • Economy March 5, 2009

    Lifestyles of the Rich and Generous?

    Will the skewed values of the boom years give way to a spirit of generosity toward the poor?

    Katha Pollitt


  • Politics February 18, 2009

    Freedom of Speech, Round 5,425

    Two decades after the Ayatollah Khomeini called for a fatwa against Salman Rushdie, not much has changed on either side of the cultural divide.

    Katha Pollitt


  • February 11, 2009

    Today’s the Day to Donate to Tom Geoghegan

    Have you been wondering about the best possible moment to donate to the campaign of progressive labor lawyer/ writer/ activist Tom Geoghegan? As you may know, he's running in the Democratic primary for Rahm Emanuel's seat in Congress. Well, it's today. Midnight tonight, February 11, is the FEC filing deadline for campaign contributions.

    Why does this deadline matter? A strong showing encourages donations from those who've been waiting to see if the campaign has legs. It also attracts press. So far, none of the candidates have gotten much attention in the local media -- you could help change that.

    Even a small donation, added to others, really helps. So don't be shy, visit

    Katha Pollitt