An interview

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Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Date: 2000
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay; Interview
Length: 6,707 words

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[(interview date December 1994) In the following interview, Pollitt discusses her political views and the differences between her poetry and prose.]

“Although feminism came out of the Left and naturally belongs on the Left, sometimes you wouldn't know it.'

Like Broadway, the novel, and God, feminism has been declared dead many times,” Katha Pollitt writes in the introduction to her new book, Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism, published in September by Knopf. Pollitt herself is one of feminism's liveliest writers, tackling, in her delightfully witty prose, such diverse issues as family values, breast implants, male Muppets, and the notion that women are somehow more special than men. Her book is comprised of the essays and regular columns she writes for The Nation, as well as pieces that first appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times. Besides being one of America's best political essayists, Pollitt is an accomplished poet. She has won numerous awards for her poetry, including a National Book Critics Circle Award for Antarctic Traveler, published in 1983.

Katha Pollitt grew up in Brooklyn, graduated from Radcliffe, and earned an M.F.A. in poetry at Columbia University. For several years she was poet-in-residence at Barnard College, where she has also taught writing. She worked as a copy editor and proofreader at Esquire and The New Yorker, and wrote free-lance book reviews, before becoming first Literary Editor and then an associate editor of The Nation.

I visited her in the cheerful, cluttered apartment she shares with her seven-year-old daughter, Sophie, and her partner, Paul Mattick, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. When I arrived, she was attempting to make coffee. Mattick intervened, averting a near disaster with the grounds and boiling water. “Women don't belong in the kitchen,” they said simultaneously, laughing.

In person, Pollitt comes across the same way she does in her writing--funny and personable, extremely sharp--taking aim at stereotypes and fuzzy thinking.

As we talked, her four cats wandered in and out of her study, walking all over her desk and sitting on her lap. We were interrupted several times by phone calls and faxes from people who wanted to tell her about the rave reviews for her book.

[Conniff]: Why did you pick the title Reasonable Creatures?

[Pollitt]: It's part of a quotation from Mary Wollstonecraft, the founding mother of modern feminism. She was the first woman to write a full-dress argument for the emancipation of women, and I'm a big fan of hers.

The quotation was, “I wish for women to be neither angels nor brutes but reasonable creatures.” And what she meant was that women should be neither placed on a pedestal nor considered to be of a lower nature than men, but treated as human beings. I think it's truly amazing that 200 years later this is still a controversial statement. You still have to make an argument that women should have the same rights and responsibilities as men, beginning with the right to control...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420026160