Tanya Coke is a civil rights lawyer and writer. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Root, and USA Today. She is currently working on a graphic novel about race and suburban motherhood.
Your essay “Brother Love” reads not only as a heartfelt meditation on how familial ties can be rekindled, but also as an intricate, personal account of your family history over time. How did you navigate weaving the personal with the historical? How did you determine which moments in your life to highlight in your narrative?
That’s a good question. I didn’t write an outline or give much thought to structure. For me, it was a little like reviewing the tape of a home movie and picking the most emotionally laden scenes in a story that traverses 40 years. Or maybe squinting at a landscape to make an impressionist painting and trying to capture the most vivid things in the frame. Like the moment when my father told my sisters and me that we had a nine-month-old brother. The moment when he first handed this scrawny baby to me. The way it made me feel both special and grown up when my father took me to jazz club with him, when I was 14. The look of grief on my brother’s face at 17, when he was a pallbearer at our dad’s funeral. Or the joy on his other dad’s face, when he danced to a brace of Indian drummers on Shawn’s wedding day. Those became the touchstones for the essay.
Selected by Major Jackson as the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize winner for his sophomore collection, Club Icarus, and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow, Matt Miller published Tender the River this year with Texas Review Press. He is the winner of the 2019 Nimrod International Review’s Pablo Neruda Prize and has published poems in the Harvard Review, The Rumpus, and SouthwestReview. Miller also wrote The Wounded for the Water and Cameo Diner: Poems. He currently teaches at Phillips Exeter Academy.
In this interview conducted by Kerrin McCadden, you’ll find a poet engaged in an exploration of rivers as national symbols of disparity, dispossession, hope, and boundaries. The meaning of “being from somewhere,” or “home” is thoroughly examined in Miller’s responses, as it is in his poetry. McCadden’s inquiry ignites the discussion until it becomes a lesson on craft, self-reflection, the history of a place, and the biography of a country as told by a poet who can make cobblestone and metal dance, who can teach us how to listen when memory tries to speak.
Hold the Mirror up to Nature: An Interview with Matt Miller
Talking to Richard Ford, the 76-year-old author of The Sportswriter, Independence Day, and Between Them, provides some hope, a feeling of being somewhat consoled. The great Southern writer is considered and insightful, with that courtly Mississippi inflection. Evoking his classic A Multitude of Sins, Ford’s latest short story collection Sorry for Your Trouble proves he still has gas in the tank.
Richard Ford is the author of the New York Times bestseller Canada. His story collections include the bestseller Let Me Be Frank with You, and Rock Springs. His novel Wildlife was adapted into a 2018 film of the same name. He is winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Prix Femina in France, the 2019 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, and the Princess of Asturias Award in Spain. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, he now lives in Boothbay, Maine, with his wife, Kristina Ford. Sorry for Your Trouble is out now from Ecco.
During the days leading up to President Biden’s inauguration, Ford and Alexander Bisley discussed sport, place, process and America’s future.
Sometimes I forget what a chapbook is for. Sometimes I think it’s the demo tape that hopes to precede the real album. Sometimes I think it’s the resting place for early work, work often promising, but ultimately unfinished.
It Requires a Kind of Surrender: An Interview with Ananda Lima
Frances Richey is the author of two poetry collections: The Warrior (Viking Penguin 2008), The Burning Point (White Pine Press 2004), and the chapbook, Voices of the Guard (Clackamas Community College 2010). She teaches an on-going poetry writing class at Himan Brown Senior Program at the 92nd Street Y in NYC, and she is the poetry editor for upstreet Literary Magazine. She was poetry editor for Bellevue Literary Review from 2004-2008. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from: The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, Plume, Gulf Coast, Salmagundi, Salamander, Blackbird, River Styx, and Woman’s Day, and her poems have been featured on NPR, PBS NewsHour and Verse Daily. Most recently she was a finalist for The National Poetry Series for her manuscript, “On The Way Here.” She lives in New York City.
David Moloneyworked in the Hillsborough County Department of Corrections, New Hampshire, from 2007 to 2011. He received a BA in English and creative writing from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he now teaches. He lives north of Boston with his family.
On October 21st, 2020, Editor in chief Jennifer Acker moderated a brief reading and conversation between acclaimed poets Tess Taylor and Dana Levin on the importance of place, resiliency, and writing during the pandemic. The virtual event, which served as a fundraiser to celebrate The Common’s 10th publishing year and launch the place-based magazine into its second decade, was streamed live via Left Bank Books in St. Louis. Below is a transcript of the discussion that followed the readings.
Pandemic Poets: A Conversation with Tess Taylor and Dana Levin
A. Kendra Greene began her museum career marrying text to the exhibition wall, painstakingly, character by character, each vinyl letter trembling at the point of a bonefolder. She became an essayist during a Fulbright fellowship in South Korea, finished her MFA at the University of Iowa as a Jacob K. Javits Fellow, and then convinced the Dallas Museum of Art they needed a writer-in-residence. She is a guest artist at the Nasher Sculpture Center and a Library Innovation Lab Fellow at Harvard University. Her first book,The Museum of Whales You Will Never See, will be published by Penguin Books.
When I met with Alison Entrekin for this interview, the first thing I noticed was all the books she carried with her: fat dictionaries, field guides on botany, one on the birds of northeastern Brazil—the type of book generally known only to birdwatchers and ornithologists—not to mention a copy of Dylan Thomas’s 1954 radio drama, Under Milk Wood. I thought, only in the hands of a translator, an obsessive sort of word junkie like Alison, could such an assortment of books assemble.
We sat down to discuss her work in a coffee shop/bookstore in Santos, Brazil. As we made small talk, Alison, almost in passing, nodded toward the bookshelf above us lined with guidebooks on Brazil for gringo tourists. She explained that she had translated many of these guidebooks into English, a long time ago. She told me this, it seemed, neither to emphasize the extent of her work, which is no doubt impressive, nor to boast—and there is much to brag about—but in a self-reflective sort of manner, more to herself, as if surprised by how far she has come, from translating tourist guidebooks to now being the most sought after English translator of Brazilian literature. Her long list of translations includes works like City of God by Paulo Lins, Cristovão Tezza’s The Eternal Son, Chico Buarque’s Budapest, Clarice Lispector’s Near to the Wild Heart, and Blood-Drenched Beard by Daniel Galera.
Playing Frankenstein: An Interview with Alison Entrekin