Katha Pollitt

Acclaimed Poet & Columnist
National Book Critics Circle Award

"[Pollitt’s] intelligence is always relentless, always bracing, while always; maintaining a wonderful lightness. She is the gin-and-Campari of the women's movement." —Mary Gordon


"Katha Pollitt writes the liveliest, smartest general essays on women's issues today. (They're awfully good on America, too.) Relief—that someone is finally saying it—is one of the many pleasures that Pollitt invariably gives me. Brave. funny, commonsensical, morally right on, she's almost always right." —Susan Sontag


Anne Lamott declares, "Katha Pollitt has long and rightly been hailed for her brilliance, with, and great insight into politics, social issues, and women's rights." An award-winning poet, she is the author of two books of poetry, Antarctic Traveller (1982), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and The Mind-Body Problem (Random House, 2009). She is also the author of a collection of personal essays entitled Learning to Drive and Other Life Stories (Random House, 2007). In all of her work, Pollitt is well known for her keen sense of both the ridiculous and the sublime.

Pollitt’s column, "Subject to Debate," in The Nation magazine, was called "the best place to go for original thinking on the left” by The Washington Post. Before she became a regular columnist for The Nation, Pollitt edited its Books & the Arts section. Many of her contributions to The Nation are compiled in three books: Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism (Knopf), which was nominated for The National Book Critics Circle Award; 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). Pollitt was nominated for a 2013 National Magazine Award in Columns and Commentary.

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 is taught in many university classes.

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. The essay "Learning to Drive" is anthologized in Best American Essays 2003. As a poet, Pollitt has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her poetry has most recently been anthologized in The Oxford Book of American Poetry (2006). In 2010 she was awarded The American Book Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Born in New York City, Pollitt received an A.B. in philosophy from Radcliffe College and an M.F.A. in writing from Columbia University. Married to political theorist Steven Lukes, she lives in New York City.


About THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM (Poetry, 2009)

“It’s awfully good to have such a great-hearted poet as Katha Pollitt take on mortality’s darkest themes. Again and again she finds a human-sized crack of light and squeezes us through with her.” —Kay Ryan

In The Mind-Body Problem, Katha Pollitt takes the ordinary events of life–her own and others’–and turns them into brilliant, poignant, and often funny poems that are full of surprises and originality. Pollitt’s imagination is stirred by conflict and juxtaposition, by the contrast (but also the connection) between logic and feeling, between the real and the transcendent, between our outer and inner selves: Jane Austen slides her manuscript under her blotter, bewildered young mothers chat politely on the playground, the simple lines of a Chinese bowl in a thrift store remind the poet of the only apparent simplicities of her childhood. The title poem hilariously and ruefully depicts the friction between passion and repression (“Perhaps / my body would have liked to make some of our dates, / to come home at four in the morning and answer my scowl / with ‘None of your business!’”). In a sequence of nine poems, Pollitt turns to the Bible for inspiration, transforming some of the oldest tales of Western civilization into subversive modern parables: What if Adam and Eve couldn’t wait to leave Eden? What if God needs us more than we need him? With these moving, vivid, and utterly distinctive poems, Katha Pollitt reminds us that poetry can be both profound and accessible, and reconfirms her standing in the first rank of modern American poets.

About LEARNING TO DRIVE (Stories, 2008)

“A powerful personal narrative...full of insight and charm...[Katha] Pollitt is her own Jane Austen character . . . haughty and modest, moral and irresponsible, sensible and, happily for us, lost in sensibility.” —New York Review of Books

Celebrated for her award-winning political columns, criticism, and poetry, Katha Pollitt offers something new in this poignant, hilarious, and sometimes outrageous collection of stories drawn from her own life. With deep feeling and sharp insight, she writes about love, sex, betrayal, heartbreak, and much more: what she learned about her parents from reading their FBI files, the joy and loneliness of new motherhood, the curious mental effects of a post-college stint proofreading pornographic novels, and the decline and fall of practically everything, including herself. Unafraid to say what others only think and acknowledge what others won’t admit, Katha Pollitt surprises and entertains on every page.

Katha Pollit blog