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A New Video from Nicelle Davis and Cheryl Gross

Nicelle Davis is working on a new project, and fortunately for all of us, that means a new video collaboration with illustrator Cheryl Gross. You can watch the video on our little screen in the upper-right hand corner of Contrary Blog. Here’s more on the collaboration: Illustrator Cheryl Gross and poet Nicelle Davis create a grotesque peep-show [...]

Never sell your right to speak out

Last week, the New York Times published an article on its website by Will Blythe, the former editor at large at Byliner, in which the author recounts how he was fired from that job and asked to sign a non-disparagement agreement in exchange for two weeks’ pay. He refused. I was once in the exact same position. Except [...]

Tough love: Johns Hopkins proposes a bold new plan

Tom Waits once said, “It’s not that the world is over-populated; it’s just that everyone wants to live in the same places.” He wasn’t wrong, but his logic was specious. There’s a reason that millions of people crowd into Mumbai, New York, and Beijing: opportunity, or the lack of opportunity in the places they left. [...]

Elaine’s and the New York I barely knew

I never had a chance to go to Elaine’s, the famous writers’ haven on the Upper East Side that closed in 2011. But I know its kitschy decor, its tightly packed dining rooms, and even its pay phone. Thanks to Woody Allen. He used Elaine’s in his films, from Manhattan (1979) to Celebrity (1998). It was the perfect [...]

Flying Paper: a film review

I recently watched a screening of the feature-length documentary film Flying Paper, directed by Nitin Sawhney and Roger Hill, at the Downtown Islamic Center in Chicago. Today I’m thinking about people around the world trapped in political nightmares and ideological wars waged beyond anyone’s reach. I’m also thinking about what the arts can do to [...]

To save the humanities, try a little tenderness

Did you know that only 8 percent of undergraduates major in a humanities discipline like English or philosophy? Or how about the fact that more than half of college professors today are adjunct, or so-called “contingency” faculty? Or what about the hard, cold reality that people who study English or philosophy enter their working lives [...]

If you have a story to tell, just tell it

A confession: I rarely write if I’m not getting paid for it. So I was humbled earlier this week to attend a reading by a woman I’d never heard of before, but who has built a following that any writer would covet. In the basement of a small independent bookstore in Brooklyn, at least 100 [...]

In defense of unpaid internships

In 1999, I published my very first article: a 400-word review of a book about Japanese art from 1615 to 1868. It was a catalogue for an exhibition that spring at Yale University, and I got the assignment not because I was an expert on Japanese art, or because I was a student at Yale, or [...]

Rage against the language

I once knew a guy who thought that when journalists are recognized for outstanding work, they receive a Pewlett Surprise. And who of us didn’t, at some point in life, utter the words “intensive purposes” when we should have said “intents and purposes” instead? Then there’s “should of known,” “supposably,” and the most cited example [...]

Review: A Self Made of Words

A Self Made of Words by Carl H. Klaus Iowa, 2013 Recently a Buddhist acquaintance suggested I read Simone Weil because of her work on attention. She writes, for example, that “Absolute undivided attention is prayer,” which lends a Buddhist flavor to her Judeo-Christian theology. Attention can be aimed at anything, after all, not necessarily [...]

Life, works cited

In her book But Enough About Me, What Do You Think of my Memoir, Nancy K. Miller describes reading as an autobiographical act. The books we read help to define us, she writes, and, in turn, they say something about who we are. In other words, you are what you read. So on this 10th anniversary [...]

Black and White and Blue All Over

What’s black and white and blue all over? A magpie! I should know. My best friend was a magpie. We met when I first went to France. Each day I followed the same forest trail that led me to my favorite spot in the world, a hillside abbey built in the 13th century. I loved [...]

How to break up with an island

Step #1 — Unfairly blame all your unhappiness on the island. And then realize the island is YOU. Many of us spent our days trying to explain the inexplicable of Zanzibar. A vortex, a magnet, a spell. It’s the tiny island with an epic history, whose trade winds speak the language of spirits. It’s a [...]

Contrary Turns Ten

For Contrary’s Tenth Anniversary, the editors compiled top-ten lists of the best works of poetry, fiction, and commentary we’ve published since the magazine’s debut in Autumn 2003. But of course, these lists could never be complete—or even correct. What have we left out? If you have  favorites that you’ve read in Contrary, please let us [...]