Sofia Belimova

Fragments of Shame and Pride

By RAED RAFEI

Image of men smoking in the park

In the living room of my parents’ home in Tripoli, Lebanon, an elaborate family tree is displayed in a golden frame. It is a constant reminder of a fatalistic vision of life’s ultimate purpose: reproduction. Males are depicted as branches; females as leaves. The thriving of the tree relies on branches like mine. A single man who bears no new branches or leaves could condemn an entire lineage to an end.

Fragments of Shame and Pride
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August 2020 Poetry Feature #2: Philip Nikolayev translates Alexander Pushkin

Two poems by Alexander Pushkin, translated from the Russian by Philip Nikolayev

Table of Contents:

  • Night
  • The Burned Letter

Philip Nikolayev is editor of Fulcrum. His poetry collections include Monkey Time (Verse / Wave Books) and Dusk Raga (Salt).

Alexander Pushkin (1799-83) is widely regarded as the greatest Russian poet and the founder of modern Russian literature. 

Night

It’s for you that my soft and affectionate voice
Disturbs at this late hour a silent night’s repose.
Where by my bed a melancholy candle glows,
My verse rushes along, burbles and overflows
In brooks of love, filled with you, and at last I see
Your eyes, out of the dark shining, smiling at me,
And finally my ear makes out the cherished words:
My gentle, tender friend… I love you… I am yours!

August 2020 Poetry Feature #2: Philip Nikolayev translates Alexander Pushkin
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Review: The Illness Lesson

Book by CLARE BEAMS

Review by ETHAN CHATAGNIER

Image of book cover of The Illness Lesson.

The events of Clare Beams’ debut novel, The Illness Lesson, start with the founding of a school for girls in 19th-century New England, but the novel begins just before that with an omen. A flock of mysterious red birds visits the Massachusetts estate of Samuel Hood for the first time since the collapse of his previous social experiment decades earlier, a failed agricultural commune called the Birch Hill Consociation. Some find the birds beautiful, but to Samuel’s daughter, Caroline, their “shape might be a red so bright and so unexpected, so unlike the colors of her life, that it held a violence.” Samuel is a noted idealist in the tradition of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and he, Caroline, and his acolyte David live off the income of his Transcendentalist essays. The girls’ school is an attempt to prove his latest hypothesis: that girls can be ushered into the world of ideas as easily as boys.   

Review: The Illness Lesson
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George Seferis: Poetry in Translation from Greek

Poetry by GEORGE SEFERIS

Translated from Modern Greek by JENNIFER R. KELLOGG

Poems appear in both English and Modern Greek

Translator’s Statement

These two poems by George Seferis explore the disorienting confusion and fear that arises from living through war and catastrophe. Seferis spent his life as a spokesman for the Greek state and Hellenic culture, working as a career diplomat and poet. He lived through the Balkan Wars, World Wars I & II, and the Greek Civil War as well as continual political crisis.

His poetry interprets Greece’s contemporary tragedies as the result of a mythical hubris, especially internecine murder in the heroic past. Bloodshed in the present is due to an endless chain of retribution set in motion by ancient Greeks who transgressed against the laws of nature, the gods, and the rights of their fellow men in pursuit of power and self-gain.

George Seferis: Poetry in Translation from Greek
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Walk

By RAYNOR WINN

Excerpted from The Salt Path

Image of The Salt Path book cover.

We’d expected extremes of weather while we were on the Coast Path, British weather. Wind, rain, fog, occasional hail even, but not the heat, the burning, suffocating heat. By lunchtime we’d crawled out of the shade of Woody Bay into an intensely hot afternoon. We shared a cereal bar and banana, looking west across some of the highest cliffs in England. Near vertical faces rising as high as 800 feet and stretching away to the Great Hangman, at 1,043 feet, the highest point on the whole of the South West Coast Path. But between us and the Hangman was a series of savage rises and falls, which even Paddy admits are steep. From the cliff top to near sea level, from sea level to the cliff top. And repeat. This was why I’d wanted to start in Poole. Then it got hotter.

Walk
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Call for submissions from the Arabian Gulf

Calling All Gulfie Kids!

Did you grow up in the GCC countries? If so, The Common wants your work for its Fall 2021 Issue, which will feature a portfolio on migration, disorientation, and complicated relationships to “place” in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman. 
 
 

Airplanes over a map of the Arabian gulf

Call for submissions from the Arabian Gulf
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Reading Black Voices: TC Staff Picks

This is the first in a series of features highlighting the Black writers our editors and staff have been reading. To read The Common’s statement in support of the nationwide protests against anti-Black racism, white supremacy, and police brutality, click here.

Recommendations: water & power by Steven Dunn, King Me by Roger Reeves, and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Book cover of water & power

water & power by Steven Dunn

Recommended by Elly Hong, Thomas E. Wood ’61 Fellow

The cover of water & power calls it a novel. Both author Steven Dunn and the book’s narrator describe it as a “fictional ethnography,” and this broader term is perhaps a more fitting description of a book that defies classification. Most of water & power resembles a novella in flash, written in prose that comes in bursts no longer than a page. Yet there are also moments of poetry, as well as photographs, found documents, and collages. The book’s dynamic structure was immediately striking, and both its form and its content continued to stun me as I read.

Reading Black Voices: TC Staff Picks
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ruckus

By VAUGHN M. WATSON

Image of household objects

The United States

a rotor spins in concentric circles
the epicenter a DC street at dusk
even a military helicopter’s incessant droning
can’t wake this country to its circumstance

ruckus
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Dick Cheney Was Not My Father

By AMY STUBER

Image of snow geese


But he could have been. My father was a similar man. His name was Richard Cheney, though he never went by Dick, and he never lived at the Naval Observatory. He was an orthopedic surgeon in suburban Kansas City who said stupid things like, “These hands are gold,” to people at dinner parties where he was often the one who ate more than his fair share of Shrimp Scampi and dove into the pool drunk in his clothes because he thought everything he did was a fun spectacle.

Dick Cheney Was Not My Father
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Jesmyn Ward on writing honest novels with good titles, inhabiting ghosts, and learning to love Faulkner

JENNIFER ACKER interviews JESMYN WARD

Image of Jesmyn Ward

On February 29, 2020, Jesmyn Ward visited Amherst College to headline LitFest and host a masterclass with students. The below interview is adapted from her public conversation with The Common’s Editor in Chief Jennifer Acker.

Jesmyn Ward reading the opening of Sing, Unburied, Sing.

[JA]: I think what comes through so clearly in that passage are all of the details of that property and all the norms of the community. So I want you to just tell us a little bit more about this place you’ve created, Bois Sauvage. Tell us what this place is like, and why it’s a fictional place, because it is very much inspired by your home.

[JW]: When I came up with the idea of creating a fictional town that’s based on my hometown, one of the reasons I wanted to do so was because I felt like the place where I’m from is so small that it would be harder to write about if I didn’t transform it. Sometimes I feel like the Bois Sauvage that I write about is this idealized version of my hometown, and not my hometown. Even though Sing, Unburied, Sing takes place in 2016-2017, I feel like Bois Sauvage is the idealized version of DeLisle, my hometown, from maybe in the 1980s when I was a child, when it was even more rural than it is now. Both DeLisle and Bois Sauvage are small rural places where community is very important, where families have been living for generations, because everyone knows everyone and everyone knows everyone’s history. I think part of what I’m trying to communicate or explore in Bois Sauvage is this idea of community and what community looks like in a place like that, and how a community can help its people survive in very specific, particular ways. I think I am also trying to convey the beauty of that area and that region.

Jesmyn Ward on writing honest novels with good titles, inhabiting ghosts, and learning to love Faulkner
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