BR Blog

September 15, 2014 Mixed Signals: Responses to Daniel Tiffany Boston Review

Image: Smallest Forest

Daniel Tiffany’s “Cheap Signaling,” with its provocative argument about class conflict and poetic diction, ignited conversation on- and offline. Its case for the relevance of the logics and under-histories of kitsch, and its reframing of vernaculars in some contemporary poetry, led readers to admire Tiffany’s innovative synthesis but also to question inclusions and omissions. Some applauded the revitalization of terms of class oppositionality in poetry, while others challenged troublesome figurations they felt didn’t account for the verities of economic class, or of race or gender. Knowing the essay left so many with so much to say, we wrote to a number of critics and poets soliciting responses to the essay. Some accepted our invitation eagerly, and others, including Fred Moten and the editors of Commune Editions, indicated they might respond to the essay elsewhere—so be on the lookout.

Over the course of the week, we’ll present eleven essays that speak to questions that Tiffany’s essay has raised. They interpret, in a wide variety of ways—in a variety of dictions, in fact—the currents that transmit “...

September 10, 2014 2014 Poetry Contest Winner: francine j. harris Boston Review

Once again our annual poetry contest received hundreds of entries from around the globe and in a variety of forms, styles, and themes so wide we can’t help but call it astonishing even though we have come, happily, to expect it. We are honored to announce that this year’s winner is francine j. harris of Traverse City, MI, pictured at right. The final judge, Major Jackson, praised harris’s poems for the exceptional acuity of their commentary and even more so for their “ability to enact and signify beyond literalness.” We couldn’t agree with him more. harris’s poem “Canvas” appears below and four more of her winning poems will appear in the November/December issue of Boston Review.

We would also like to mention that exceptional entries were received from runners-up Michael Peterson of Cincinnati and Kiristin Prevallet of Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. Thank you to everyone who submitted.


September 09, 2014 The Rhetoric of the "Achievement Gap" Colin Vanderburg

Photograph: Pewari

On June 9, fresh from a major victory against Mayor Bill de Blasio over its rent-free use of publicly owned space, Success Academy, New York’s largest charter school network, announced that it plans to double its size over the next two years. The charter chain, run by Eva Moskowitz, wants to open fourteen new schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens, targeting areas where “achievement is low.”

Its mantra is to narrow and ultimately close the “achievement gap.” Indeed, this is the mission of every self-described school reformer. In 2009 Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Moskowitz’s strongest ally and admirer, declared that “we are closing the shameful achievement gap faster than ever” (this turned out to be less than true). His schools chancellor Joel Klein proclaimed ”closing the insidious achievement gap” to be the nation’s “one last...

September 09, 2014 The Haifa Mob Noam Chayut

Counter-protestors wave Israeli flags and chant at a peace demonstration in Haifa, Israel, on July 19. Photograph: Michael Waas

On July 19 I joined a licensed march in Haifa against the Gaza war. Typically such demonstrations draw a few hundred people who gather to shout slogans: “Girls in Gaza and Sderot want to stay alive,” “Money for education, not for occupation.” The Israeli press mostly ignores them. They thus achieve little either as acts of solidarity with Palestinians or as political pressure. Still, I felt an urge to go. Many innocent Gazan children were being killed in my name.

The day of the protest, the sound of a crowd reached my open windows. I was surprised. It was too early and too loud to be the demonstration. An optimistic thought crossed my mind—a huge antiwar march—but I knew that couldn’t be. I drove, following the sound to the main road where counter-protesters with Israeli flags walked toward the meeting point. I kept going until the road was blocked, not by the demonstration but by a huge crowd, mostly men, many in black shirts, holding the Israeli flag in one hand and a stick in the other. Some wore the flag like a toga. Their shouts were loud and clear: “Death to the Arabs! Death to the traitors! Death to the leftists!”

Through my open car window, I heard one flag-wearing guy tell others where the...

September 04, 2014 Empathy vs. Rationality: The Ice Bucket Challenge Andrew Mayersohn

Photograph: Anthony Quintano

Are empathy and rationality necessarily opposed? This question is at the core of many debates about ethical action, including the recent Boston Review forum "Against Empathy." Some participants, such as Barbara H. Fried, see empathy as a danger for policy-making, leading to a “fixation on proximate and emotionally salient consequences” rather than a careful accounting of positives and negatives. Others, particularly Simon Baron-Cohen, argue that rationality divorced from empathy is a tremendous force for evil, responsible for some of the world’s greatest atrocities. Still others suggest that forces other than empathy should supplement rationality and motivate us to act; Jesse Prinz, for example, nominates righteous anger.

A similar debate about the role of...