The Ghetto by Lola Ridge, Radical Poet

Lola Ridge

2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the first and most important book by Lola Ridge,The Ghetto and Other Poems. In the epic-length title poem, the Irish-American poet, known for her radicalism, celebrated the Jewish immigrants of New York City’s Lower East Side.

Terese Svoboda, author of Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Radical Poet (2018) wrote of Ridge:

“A bigamist as well as an anarchist, Ridge left her son in an orphanage in L.A. soon after her arrival in the U.S., when she went to work for Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger in New York. Ten years later, she protested Sacco and Vanzetti’s execution in Massachusetts, and faced down a rearing police horse.

Solo and broke in the next decade, she traveled to Baghdad and Mexico – and took a lover at sixty-one. Her five books of poetry contain poems about lynching, execution, race riots, and imprisonment.” Read More→


Madeleine B. Stern’s Brilliant Analysis of Little Women

Louisa May Alcott - a biography by Madeleine B. Stern

Louisa May Alcott: A Biography by Madeleine B. Stern (1999) is considered the definitive biography of the famous author of Little Women (1868). Presented here is Stern’s brilliant analysis of Little Women.

Tracing the life of Louisa May Alcott (1832 – 1888) the writer, Stern gives penetrating insight not only into Alcott’s life, but her very essence as a writer.

As a writer myself, I have found much wisdom in these pages and have marveled at Alcott’s ability to “simmer a story” in her head while fulfilling duties around the house, and then later sitting down to spill it out on paper to submit without editing.

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A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf: Two 1929 reviews + quotes

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf has stood the test of time, though the fact that it remains relevant is a sorry statement of contemporary culture. Following are presented two reviews from both sides of the Atlantic, plus a selection of quotes.

Based on two lectures Woolf delivered in the late 1920s at Newnham and Girton Colleges, two women’s colleges in Britain, it has since become a classic feminist text.

First  published in 1929 by Hogarth Press, a publishing company in the U.K. that the author herself ran with her husband, Leonard Woolf, it was also published by Harcourt, Brace in the U.S. that same year.

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Ariel by Sylvia Plath — a review and analysis

Ariel was the second published collection by Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963). It came out two years after she took her own life at age thirty. Following is an analysis of Ariel by Sylvia Plath as well as a review, both from 1965, the year in which it was first published.

Plath’s poetry, considered part of the “confessional movement,” was influenced by Robert Lowell as well as by her friend, the poet Anne Sexton, who also explored dark themes and death in her work (and who, like Plath, committed suicide). Depression had been a constant companion, leading to a life of struggle that was reflected in her work. 

Once Plath started to publish, her star quickly rose in the world of poetry. Her first collection, The Colossus, was published in 1960. Its poems were intense, personal, and delicately crafted. In Ariel, the beauty of craft remains even as it reveals the fissures growing in the poet’s psyche. According to the Penguin Companion to American Literature: Read More→


A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks (1945) — Two Reviews

A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 – 2000) was just twenty-eight years old when her first book, A Street In Bronzeville, was published in 1945. Following are two original reviews from 1945 of A Street in Bronzeville, which are typical of the universal praise it received.

The title of this poetry collection, whose title was a reference to  Chicago’s South Side where the poet grew up, was very well reviewed and led to her winning a Guggenheim Fellowship. 

Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetic work included sonnets, ballads, and blues rhythm in free verse. She also created lengthy lyrical poems, some of which were book-length. Each poem is an exquisitely crafted portrait of fictionalized (but true-to-life) characters and landmarks of the community.  Read More→


11 Iconic Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 – 2000) sustained a decades-long career as a poet, and was recognized with many honors, including the Pulitzer Prize, during her lifetime. Following is a sampling of poems by Gwendolyn Brooks, with links to analyses following each one.

This selection doesn’t claim to be the absolutely most representative of her poems, as that would be a tough call — so much of her work is part of the American literary canon.

Brooks’s poetic work included sonnets, ballads, and blues rhythm in free verse. She also created lyrical poems, some of which were book-length. Read More→


Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1933)

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1893–  1970) has endured as this British author’s best known work. A memoir on how her life, and that of her generation, were forever marked by the losses endured as a result of World War I, it is indeed a touching testament.

Brittain’s brother, Edward, and her fiancé, Ronald Leighton, were both killed during the war. As a result of the these losses, and the suffering she personally witnessed as a volunteer nurse, she became a pacifist and remained a dedicated member of the peace movement for the rest of her life. Read More→


The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne by Lesa Cline-Ransome

The story of Ethel L. Payne (1911 – 1991), the American journalist and correspondent, is a portrait of persistence, passion, and determination. Award-winning author Lesa Cline-Ransome has told her story in an inspiring book for younger readers. We’ll get to that after a brief introduction to Ethel Payne’s life and work.

Ethel grew up in a working-class African-American family in Chicago.  She was a diligent student and avid reader, and showed an early interest in writing.

Pursuing the dream of becoming a reporter was no small feat for a black woman of Ethel’s era. A trailblazer from the start, she set her own path, which began in Washington, D.C. during World War II and in post-war Japan. Her experiences in both places shaped her as a journalist and activist. Read More→


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