Sofia Belimova

Podcast: Cheryl Collins Isaac on “Spin”

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Cheryl Collins Isaac speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her story “Spin,” which appears in The Common’s new spring issue. “Spin” is about two Liberian immigrants making a new life in Appalachia. In this conversation, Cheryl talks about the inspiration behind this story: writing from music and toward beautiful, sensual language. She also discusses Liberia’s interesting cultural history, her writing and revision process, and what it’s like to do a writing residency in Edith Wharton’s bedroom.

Image of Cheryl Collins's headshot and the Issue 23 cover (piece of toast on turquoise background)

Podcast: Cheryl Collins Isaac on “Spin”
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Two Poems by Alejandra Pizarnik

Poems by ALEJANDRA PIZARNIK

Translated from the Spanish by ILAN STAVANS

Image of shadows of a fern and other plants reflecting against the background of tree bark in golden hour sunlight.

Mexico City, Mexico

Translator’s Note

Translation is home. Whenever I travel, I seek it either by reading translations, or by translating as a grounding exercise. Lately I have been translating into English poems from Jewish Latin American poets, specifically works by conversos or those written in Yiddish and Ladino by immigrants and their offspring. And—in a room of her own—Alejandra Pizarnik, whose life makes me think of Emily Dickinson. I recreated these two poems while visiting my mother, who has been suffering from Alzheimer’s. Pizarnik distills the fibers of existence so as to reveal the madness that palpitates underneath. Her poetry is contagious. The toughest part is to convey her silences. I wish I had met her.

—Ilan Stavans

Two Poems by Alejandra Pizarnik
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My Grandmother’s Radio

By CAREY BARAKA

 

Every day at four, my grandmother listened to the radio, as her enemies died around her one by one. The disembodied voice on the radio shared in her delight, singing to the next world those who had departed us.
 
My Grandmother’s Radio
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Podcast: Nathan Jordan Poole on “Idlewild”

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If you require a transcript or other accessible format, please contact us at [email protected].

Nathan Jordan Poole speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about his story “Idlewild,” which appears in The Common’s new spring issue. In this conversation, Nathan talks about doing seasonal work at Christmas tree farms, the workers from all walks of life he met there, and how those experiences and those people helped to inspire this story. He also discusses his writing and revision process, his story collections and future projects, and why he chooses to write unromantically about rural life.

Image of Nathan Poole's headshot and the Issue 23 cover (piece of toast on turquoise background)

Podcast: Nathan Jordan Poole on “Idlewild”
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Of Prayers and Orisons

By BENJAMIN PALOFF

 

It has become the first ritual of morning to throw the door open, welcoming the breeze now free of evening’s biting insects, another in a long line of self-justifications: it will arrive whether it’s welcome or not. As will the birds, who know when you breakfast and on what, who are generous with suggestions, whether here, in your dishabille, or at the seasonal cafe, in not much else. There is a three-sided varnished pine box with a plexiglass front, like a bird feeder or diorama or, in traditions less eager to let go or get rid, a coffin, scale being trivial to all species but those least likely to accept it, though the slot on top and slips of paper on display suggest a raffle or ballot, a variation on a theme performed in a tiny theater, and the blanks and golf pencil at the side are, in combination and without need to announce itself with embossed lettering or miniature reply envelope—scale, again—an invitation. At this suggestion, you suggest: The history of our times betrays the stupid arrogance of this and so many other definite articles, symptomatic of these times and others. It might be noticed and echoed and yet go unchallenged on social media, but here it could ignite a sudden change, a contemplative pleasure, and be forgotten all in the span of a few moments, like rain in the green season. It means something to us, this refusal to admit our visceral understanding of the unity of space and time, when, honestly, we know them in no other way. Whereas your ruminations on what memory means to the birds have proven inconclusive. Like you, they’re as routinized in their offices as offices. Like you, they celebrate the light that breaks the rain, throughout the day and without memory, as the arrival of a god. 

Of Prayers and Orisons
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The Marching Bands of Mahatma Gandhi Road

By LIESL SCHWABE

Image of 6 members of a marching band from India dressed in orange and yellow posing for a photo.

“Name and fame,” Mohammad Sabir said in English, shouting over the noise of the traffic. Manager and occasional trumpet player for one of dozens of marching bands for hire in Kolkata, India, he was describing the glamor that once compelled families across the city to hire bands like his. 

Fifty-year-old Master Sabir, as bandleaders are known, was sitting behind his desk in a pink, threadbare shirt. A goat was tied to the electricity box out front, barefoot children raced past, and, nearby, bidi makers sat chopping dried tobacco by hand. According to my phone, it was only 103 degrees, but the reported “feels like” had hovered between 118 and 125 for days, and it was sometimes hard to breathe. This was in May of 2019, halfway through Ramadan and an hour before iftar; Sabir had not eaten or taken a drink of water all day.

The Marching Bands of Mahatma Gandhi Road
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Breakfast of Champions

By TINA CANE


I woke up in a panic     this morning thinking     what if my
love language 

is granola?     I found a quiz online     but was too chicken to take it     having had 

Russian bots once read      my face and place me     alongside a woman     holding a mango 

or some bullshit in Gaugin     
                                                    nothing exotic for me     today 

Breakfast of Champions
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Curses

By EYAD BARGHUTHY

Translated by NASHWA GOWANLOCK


He stormed out of the house, yelling and cursing. His belly, hemmed in and taunted by high-waisted underpants (which had once been white), flopped over his waistband as if trying to flee from his too-short pants. He cursed those raucous kids; cursed their parents, those bastards; cursed the father who spawned those wretched creatures. As for his other neighbors: in a matter of seconds they were at the black iron railings, gripping onto the bars that surrounded the high windows to stop reckless children from falling yet still allow the adults to enjoy the view over the city. Meanwhile, the Syrian characters of the soap opera were left to discuss amongst themselves the various methods of smuggling weapons and prisoners, and how to free themselves from the yoke of the French colonizer.

Curses
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