Olive Amdur

Workshopping the Elements

By MERYL ALTMAN 

—after Pindar, Olympian Ode #1

Water is best; and gold, which shines like fire
burning at night, says this is a very rich man
like nothing else does; and when you need
an image for the thrill of victory, what could be
stronger than the sun? there can, one supposes,
be poems about the moon, or a good loaf of bread,
but no one searches the empty daytime sky
for any fainter star when the sun is shining;

Workshopping the Elements
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March 2024 Poetry Feature: New Poems by Our Contributors

New poems by our contributors DAVID LEHMAN, MATT DONOVAN, JULIA KOLCHINSKY DASBACH, and GRAY DAVIDSON CARROLL

 

Table of Contents:

  • David Lehman, “Honor Code” and “Rhode Island is Famous for You (for Denise Duhamel)” 
  • Matt Donovan, “Looking at the Statue of Athena in Nashville’s Replica of the Parthenon, Waiting for Something to Happen”
  • Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, “What does the vulture say to the snowman(?) or how my son is learning to tell jokes(.)”
  • Gray Davidson Carroll, “November 19, 2022,”
March 2024 Poetry Feature: New Poems by Our Contributors
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Reaching a Pulse Point: Melody Nixon Interviews Rushi Vyas

Content warning: This interview discusses death by suicide.

Headshot of Rushi Vyas Headshot of melody nixon


MELODY NIXON and RUSHI VYAS first met at a 2020 poetics seminar hosted by the University of Otago, where Vyas is completing a PhD in Poetics. Since that meeting Nixon and Vyas have exchanged thoughts on poetry, grief, and their own experiences of parental death by suicide as they each became new parents themselves.

This conversation distills some of those themes in relation to Vyas’ 2023 chasmic collection When I Reach for Your Pulse (Four Way Books and Otago University Press), which was a two-time finalist for the National Poetry Series and is currently longlisted for New Zealand’s Ockham Book Awards. Vyas is also co-author of the collaborative chapbook Between Us, Not Half a Saint with Rajiv Mohabir (Gasher Press, 2021). Born in Toledo, Ohio, Vyas now lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin, Aotearoa New Zealand, while Nixon lives on another Aotearoa island in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington.

Reaching a Pulse Point: Melody Nixon Interviews Rushi Vyas
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Mala Beads

By MAW SHEIN WIN

Sunset over Joshua tree
Yucca Valley, California

When she wakes, I offer water. She sips from the glass. I ask if she needs more pillows behind her head. I look into her eyes and notice that she has deep blue lines that circle her almost black pupils. Why hadn’t I seen that before? I think of the nazars that I bought in Athens fifteen summers ago. Those glass amulets to ward off the evil eye were also called evil eyes. A source of protection against a malevolent gaze. Things make me choke, she says suddenly, then closes her eyes again.

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I’m with my younger sister and my 89-year-old mother at a rental in Yucca Valley, California. It’s nearly 100 degrees outside, tumbleweeds and succulents outside the door. My sister and I drink cold water and blast the air con.

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Mala Beads
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Fatigue Can Shatter A Person

By ED YONG 

This piece originally appeared in The Atlantic. Journalist Ed Yong will be a guest at Amherst College’s LitFest 2024. Register for this exciting celebration of Amherst’s literary legacy and life.  

headshot of journalist ed yong

 

Alexis Misko’s health has improved enough that, once a month, she can leave her house for a few hours. First, she needs to build up her energy by lying in a dark room for the better part of two days, doing little more than listening to audiobooks. Then she needs a driver, a quiet destination where she can lie down, and days of rest to recover afterward. The brief outdoor joy “never quite feels like enough,” she told me, but it’s so much more than what she managed in her first year of long COVID, when she couldn’t sit upright for more than an hour or stand for more than 10 minutes. Now, at least, she can watch TV on the same day she takes a shower.

Fatigue Can Shatter A Person
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The Other Side of the Moon

By JESUS FRANCISCO SIERRA 

The day of the moon landing, George and I planned to hunt for rocks. Jorge was his actual name, but he preferred to go by George, like The Beatles guitar man. We were going to look for samples just like the astronauts would.

I sprang out of bed and cranked the window open. Looking out between the twisting glass slats, I noticed the leaves of our lemon tree were still. I hoped it meant the rains would stay away, even though July afternoon downpours in Cuba were as regular as the blood orange sunsets.

After dressing to the sound of Mima’s clanging in the kitchen and the scent of coffee brewing, I sat at the dining table. I dipped a piece of stale Cuban bread into the café-con-leche she’d set there. “It needs sugar,” I said.

“You don’t need more sugar,” she said.

But I didn’t understand why. Sugar was the one thing on the island that wasn’t rationed. 

I asked if she was going to my friend Raul’s house to watch the moon landing. His family had the only working television in the neighborhood.

“Maybe,” she said.

I’d dreamt about the moon landing even before I learned that the Americans were going to do it. Ever since I read Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, a book George had given me, I’d been imagining a spaceship just like the one in the book: a long, narrow, bullet-like rocket, slicing through the heavens.

Mima wasn’t much of a reader. Not much of a dreamer either. I think that was why she’d never thought of leaving Cuba, even though everyone else seemed to be doing so.

“What are they looking for up there, anyway?” she said. “We have enough to worry about right here.”

The Other Side of the Moon
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The Most-Read Pieces of 2023

As our new year of publishing and programming picks up speed, we at The Common wanted to reflect on the pieces that made last year such a great one! We published over 200 pieces online and in print in 2023. Below, you can browse a list of the six most-read pieces of 2023 to see which stories, essays, and poems left an impact on readers. 

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Two Poems from The Spring of Plagues by Ana Carolina Assis, translated by Heath Wing

bird on a branch

“i wish I could / prevent your death / and bury your body alive / in the puny damp / earth
we tended / so that it kept on living / mandioca corn banana / would not sprout forth / 
but instead / acerola cherry blackberry pitanga hog plum.” 

Read more. 



January 2023 Poetry Feature, with work by Tina Cane, Myronn Hardy, and Marc Vincenz

Purple flowers close up 
“Sheila had IHOP     delivered to her apartment     in El Alto, NY    / on January 6th    
so she could kick back     self-proclaimed terrorist     / that she is     and eat pancakes
     while watching white supremacists / storm the Capital.”

Read more. 



The Story of A Box by Jeffrey Harrison 

box with art on the inside   
“Duchamp gave my grandparents the Boîte-en-valise in the early 1960s. It was one of many handmade boxes Duchamp created containing miniature versions of his paintings and other works. This item… might have been the most intriguing to my siblings and me.”

Read more. 

 



Dispatch from Moscow, Idaho by Afton Montgomery

Moscow Idaho plain    
“The neighbor children are in the Evangelical cult that Vice and The Guardian wrote about last year. They’re not allowed to speak to us, which is a thing no one has ever said aloud but is true, nonetheless. This town is full of true things that no one says aloud.”

Read more. 



Five Poems by Serbian Poet Milena Marković, translated by Steven and Maja Teref

clothes hanging on a line in front of yellow building 
“the girl isn’t wearing warm socks / some men catcall her at the bus station / she pretends not to hear them / the barking dog chases the escaping sun / there used to be a landfill / behind the supermarket / black birds used to have lunch / and even dinner there.” 

Read more. 



Farmworker Poetry Feature, with work by Rodney Gomez

eye of a hurricane

“If I sang I was sinful, I was animal. Stole sips from circumscribed fountains.
I said murciélago, my knuckles drew a ruler. I said San Judas, my arm was viced.
Survived by christening the bruise a train track.”

Read more. 

 


 

Thanks for a great year! We are excited to continue sharing work by writers all over the world with you in 2024. Keep up with the art, prose, and poetry we publish each week by subscribing to our newsletter

The Most-Read Pieces of 2023
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Review: Happy by Celina Baljeet Basra

Book cover of happy

Everything about Happy Singh Soni, the titular hero of Celina Baljeet Basras stinging first novel, is unlikely. He is the son of Punjabi cabbage farmers, but he fancies himself a screenwriter and prospective movie actor in the mold of Nouvelle Vague darling Sami Frey. (Indeed, he has effectively memorized Godards Bande à part.) He imagines his future in a Europe of all the classic allures, living in an elegant stone house with a yellow door; he is all about the details, which are uniformly sensual and full of wonder to him. Even as a child on his parents’ modest farm, he begins practicing for the day when his public utterances will be sought after by the press, so he invents a series he titles The Loo Interviews,conducted by an eager reporter for the gossipy Jodhpur News . . . while he occupies the privy.

He is in exuberant love with all he experiences, especially his mothers adoringly proffered fried treats. Happy even appreciates the pests that afflict the surrounding farmland that is slowly being consumed by the amoeba of a badly managed Disneyland knockoff called Wonderland, where he takes a desultory job in which his nascent talents are ignored. He is the kind of imaginative soul who cant help but personify even the stars in the sky (Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde”).

Review: Happy by Celina Baljeet Basra
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Call for Submissions: A Special Folio on China after 2008

The Common, in collaboration with guest editor Cleo Qian, will publish a special online folio of work about youth and contemporary culture from writers with a strong tie to Mainland China. Submissions will open on February 1st. 

Call for submissions graphic with same information as is on the web page
For the rest of the world, China’s 2008 Summer Olympics—with its $40 billion budget, dramatic “Bird’s Nest” stadium, and the lavish spectacle of its opening ceremony—marked the ascension of a new economic superpower onto the modern stage. Since then, new generations of Chinese youth have come of age into a society constantly rippling with changes, inundated with globalization, technology, and consumerism. The West continues to view China with curiosity, suspicion, and a sense of enigma as the country rapidly industrialized and urbanized, and its economic and political influence continues to shift. Yet Chinese literature translated into English is still predominantly written by older authors from the period of WW2, Maoism, and the Cultural Revolution, while neglecting the up-and-coming generation of Chinese artists, now dealing with wholly different lifestyles and sets of concerns.

Call for Submissions: A Special Folio on China after 2008
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