Sophie Durbin

Operation Avalanche


Translated from the Italian by LAURA MASINI and LINDA WORRELL 

“I am living permanently in my dream, 
from which I make brief forays into reality.”

—Ingmar Bergman, The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography



Erminia danced the Charleston. My friend Gianluca told me how, almost every evening, his grandmother would pause on the threshold of the French doors that opened onto the terrace and trace out the steps. Her arms swinging, legs twisting, a toe to the front, then to the back, a heel swiveling to the side, a toe to the front again. She confined her movements to the doorway as though she wanted to go unnoticed, and yet somehow she demanded the attention of anyone nearby. Whenever I was at Gianluca’s, I always saw her singing softly to herself.

Operation Avalanche

The Lesson



Or else swoon to death, the young poet wrote,
    though these in the seminar’s steadfast room
appear to want little or none of it,
    however coddlingly the professor prods.
They are the poet’s age at death, or almost,
    but do not find “relatable” these words
composed by one who knew his passion hopeless—
    especially the sleepless Eremite,
belonging to another world and time,
    and even his fair love’s ripening breast
conjures only suspect looks, withering stares,
    or now and then a tolerating nod.
Of course, they must assume their own bright stars
          will rise aloft some digital empyrean

The Lesson




Sundays I’d walk down the hill toward the green four o’clock
   dark beginning like a rumor—
always she was leaning over the counter, head tipped toward
   a tiny phone,
her husband turning the pages of a 
Daily Mail like a man
    whose suspicions of human nature were 
    being fed fresh evidence.
Stale fryer fat, ale, black and tans in the fridge.
They knew I’d be there before the match started.
You alright yeah 
Every Sunday a matinee I attended for three years
as volcanoes exploded
and she died,
white slipped into my beard
wars began and others ended.
Each Sunday the words gathering new weight 
as words do when you repeat them.
You alright 
I didn’t know but by halftime if I wasn’t too pissed
I’d walk home in the furred darkness before the beer wore off
and a sudden gust of wind could blow cold air on my heart.


Ars/Ours: A Question


Trash Mask

Los Angeles, CA

There is comfort in a lack of context, dishes on the floor, jewelry on a peg board, grand piano next to an abandoned plastic phlebotomy practice arm. All the parts of the world shuffled and randomly dealt amongst rooms. A sort of magic trick, skinned in dust, connecting all things to a singular body—the auction house. I remember finding a large bowl of teeth.

Ars/Ours: A Question

Connection, Collaboration, and Community: An Interview with Kirin Makker and Sejal Shah


“I am a reliable witness to my own experience”—a line from Lacy Crawford’s Notes on a Silencing—has become a refrain in Sejal Shah and Kirin Makker’s friendship. They met in 2020, just before the pandemic began, drawn to each other in part by similar experiences of betrayal at the hands of two institutions that often give legitimacy and legibility to women—marriage and academia—and by their longing to forge new forms of intimacy, learning, and support all their own. For Makker and Shah, conversation is a generative force for affirmation and transformation. This interview fuses several conversations conducted virtually with Abbey Frederick during the spring of 2021, in which they discuss making connections outside conventional routes, collaborating across distances, and creating space as women artists for ourselves and for one another. 

Connection, Collaboration, and Community: An Interview with Kirin Makker and Sejal Shah

Fire of Love: A Review



Fire of Love Poster

You don’t expect a documentary about volcanos to begin in freezing temperatures, but in the first scenes of Sara Dosa’s enthralling new feature, Fire of Love, married volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft struggle to free a jeep mired in icy slush. Farther down the road is a fiery pool of molten lava. Much later in the film, they trudge through the gray ash of a recently erupted Mount St. Helens, a setting that looks cold even though it is baking hot. Both landscapes seem unreal, even with Maurice and Katia in the frame. Their footage is so remarkable that I would have watched a 90-minute slide show of their photographs. Fire of Love is much more than that, but the film and photo archive is at the heart of the story, and it’s where Dosa looks for clues as she tells the story of the Kraffts’ career, one that was inseparable from their romantic partnership.

Fire of Love: A Review

Translation: Poems by Juan de Dios García


Translated from the Spanish by CORY STOCKWELL

Poems appear below in both English and Spanish.


Translator’s Note

Moments are the most intimate of entities. If I had to distill Juan de Dios García’s already vast body of work into a single line, a single thought, it would be this one. The relevance will be clear for the two poems published by The Common, site-specific prose poems taken from a longer series all having to do with places in García’s native Cartagena, Spain. It is a commonplace that poems capture moments, but how to achieve this at a time when places come more and more to resemble one another, and moments, as a result, seemingly lose their attachments to specific sites? For García, the answer does not lie in the obvious gesture, which would be to try to arrest the site in time—to describe it in detail, to focus on its qualities and characteristics, to insist on its uniqueness. On the contrary: what defines a site, for García, is a sort of double insistence, an insistence on two claims that seem—but only seem—to contradict one another: anything could happen at this site; this could only happen at this site. When writing of a poetry reading at the Mister Witt Café in the poem of this name, García is undoubtedly recalling a specific evening, a specific reading, a specific poet who has entered into an almost rapturous state. And yet everything is entirely different for me when, the next day, in the wake of this poet who is at once elusive and resolutely public, I have my morning coffee at this very café, not inside (in the décor that would seem to evoke a certain Chinese pavilion in Lisbon) but on the terrace, or rather—since there is no terrace to speak of, only sleek tiles that blend into the tiles that make up the street of this coastal city in which all distinctions between inside and outside become untenable—at a table placed almost haphazardly near the door. The same goes for the Parque de la Rosa, through which I stroll later that day, under an unfortunate wide-brimmed hat: there is no strange woman who sees me cry, who strokes my skin and sees in me things that I cannot see myself; there is, however, a small black dog who hurtles toward me unthreateningly, playfully, veering off at the last minute toward a young couple whose scent he has picked up. It almost goes without saying that to translate these poems—to pass through the haunts of this poet—is in no way to betray them, but simply to add another layer to what they have already expressed, another moment to the moment they give forth; it is to locate a meaning that can only belong to these places and can only be completely different from all the meanings that came before. Moments, for Juan de Dios García, are the most extimate of entities.

— Cory Stockwell

Translation: Poems by Juan de Dios García

The Common Awarded 2022 Amazon Literary Partnership Grant

Amazon Literary Partnership Logo

We are pleased to announce that The Common has been selected as a 2022 Literary Magazine Fund Grant Recipient, awarded by the Amazon Literary Partnership Literary Magazine Fund in conjunction with the Community of Literary Magazines & Presses. Since 2017, funding from the Amazon Literary Partnership has helped further The Common’s mission of publishing and promoting emerging and diverse authors who deepen our individual and collective sense of place.   

The Common Awarded 2022 Amazon Literary Partnership Grant

Art is Always a Verb: An Interview with Joseph O’Neill & Chigozie Obioma


Joseph O’Neill and Chigozie Obioma

In celebration of Art Omi’s 30th anniversary, DW Gibson connected with residency alumni to dive into different aspects of their work and process. When presented with the opportunity to interview Joseph O’Neill and Chigozie Obioma, Gibson was eager to talk with them about the importance of place in their fiction because the settings of their novels and stories feel so acutely important. Whether it’s New York in O’Neill’s Netherland, Dubai in The Dog, or the village of Akure in Obioma’s The Fishermen, the landscapes of these novels are always front and center and, in some ways, steering the storytelling. In this conversation, O’Neill and Obioma bring to light how a sense of place does—and doesn’t—play a part in their process, and how the settings we choose as writers relate back to our own identities. This interview is a collaboration between The Common and Writers OMI. 

Art is Always a Verb: An Interview with Joseph O’Neill & Chigozie Obioma