The opening movement of Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others can be described in many ways: bracing, informed, thoroughly engaged with history, disturbing, even profound. I would, however, describe it simply as reassuring. Consider that I’ve just designated the beginning of her text a movement. If I possessed more poetic leanings, I might contend that it functions as a stanza. Its title is measured, artful, a statement that can be read multiple ways — as an opening clause (Regarding the pain of others, comma, here’s what I have to say) or as a commentary on the act of regarding, of viewing, of assessing and appraising human beings in a state of pain and suffering and death. It is in its literary-ness that I find comfort and reassurance, and in its author’s commitment to truly essaying its subject matter (representations of violence) that this volume shines with a lapidary efflorescence. Sontag’s deeper topic, however, is a consciousness of our shared and frangible humanity. More… “Sparing No Pains”

Sean Hooks is originally from New Jersey and presently lives in Los Angeles. He teaches English and Writing at the University of California, Riverside and California State University, Dominguez Hills. Recent publications include Los Angeles Review of Books, Bright Lights Film JournalEntropyThe Molotov Cocktail3:AM Magazineand Wisconsin Review.


Kierkegaard was a dissembler and a clown. He had a Christ complex and a club foot. He looked great in an overcoat with a turned-up collar. Much of his adult life was spent mentally obsessing over a woman. Catullus had his Lesbia. Dante had his Beatrice. Petrarch had his Laura. Kierkegaard had his Regine. She appears in some form or another in all of his writing. The reader can be forgiven for not recognizing Regine as Isaac in the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac, but that’s the way Kierkegaard saw her.

By all accounts, Kierkegaard and Regine Olsen were genuinely in love. The two were affianced in 1840. But by 1841, Kierkegaard had decided to call it off. Thus begins the great… More…


What poem are you going to carry in your pocket on April 30 [Poem in Your Pocket Day]? — Cassy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I am going to carry at least three, and they’ll be color-coded, so that I’ll be sure to read the appropriate poem to the appropriate audience.

My green poem, for all audiences, will be Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “My Father and the Fig Tree”:

“I’m talking about a fig straight from the earth — gift of Allah! — on a branch so heavy it touches the ground. I’m talking about picking the largest, fattest, sweetest fig in the world and putting it in my mouth.” (Here he’d stop and close his eyes.)

The poem is accessible and innocent, and its dialogue will enable an animate reading. Its themes are powerful: the loss of leaving a homeland… More…