VIDA Reads with Writers — Elisabeth Reidy Denison!

What are you reading on the subway or in the waiting room today?

Stacy Schiff’s The Witches. Camille Rankine’s Incorrect Merciful Impulses.

What book popped for you in 2016?

In particular: Look, a book of poems by Solmaz Sharif.

Whose words do you return to regularly?

Virginia Woolf, Martha Gellhorn, Zadie Smith, Arundhati Roy, Elizabeth Bowen, Anne Carson, Marie Howe.

Is there an author you can’t wait to read next?

Claire-Louise Bennett, John Berger, (VIDA’s own!) Lynn Melnick.

What are you working on now?

A series of poems about distance / landscape / technology / dirt / my friends. Also: trying to return to something prose-y, about where I grew up, begun a long time ago.

What do you hope your work for the VIDA Count will achieve?

I would like the results of the VIDA Count to prompt the literary world to actively reckon with the ongoing discrepancy between who is producing excellent work today and who is, and is not, consistently being recognized for their excellence in print. I’m encouraged by the Count’s expansion to consider disparities of representation rooted in gender identity, sexual identity, race, and ability — to quantify and document the disproportionate representation of some women over others.

Our publications exist to promote and celebrate outstanding new literature — but the spectrum of talent is broad and varied, as it has always been, and editors have a responsibility to ensure honest depictions of the contemporary literary landscape (which is to say, again: of who is writing). My hope is that the numbers, whatever they ultimately look like, will serve as a reminder of this responsibility, and further agitate all of us in the literary community to raise our expectations and our standards in a lasting, reforming way.

Have you witnessed any of the effects of the VIDA Count in the literary world? 

As a reader, I’ve noticed an uptick in literary magazines started and edited by an all- or majority-female staff. A few that come to mind are Powder Keg Magazine, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Bodega Magazine. Regardless of whether it’s a conscious organizing choice on the part of founding editors, it’s heartening to see more women in editorial roles, making the decisions about whose words and voices to feature.


Elisabeth Reidy Denison is a writer from Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in THRUSH, Bodega, Berkeley’s Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal, and elsewhere. A graduate of the University of St. Andrews, she has been a reader for Ploughshares and an assistant editor at The New Yorker.