Interviews

Poetry-Making as Empathy Play: An Interview with Oliver de la Paz

CAMERON FINCH interviews OLIVER DE LA PAZ

Headshot of Oliver de la PazOliver de la Paz is the author of five collections of poetry, including his latest book, The Boy in the Labyrinth (University of Akron Press, 2019). His work has been published or is forthcoming in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Tin House, The Common, The Southern Review, and Poetry Northwest. He is a founding member of Kundiman and now serves as co-chair of Kundiman’s advisory board. He teaches at the College of the Holy Cross and in the Low-Residency MFA Program at Pacific Lutheran University.

Cameron Finch spoke with Oliver about mythic metaphors, the problem with story problems, empathy in the digital era, and the role of poetry in the endless exploration of ourselves.

Poetry-Making as Empathy Play: An Interview with Oliver de la Paz
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Ask a Local: Glenn Diaz, Manila, The Philippines

With GLENN DIAZ

Manila streets

Plaza Lacson in Sta Cruz, Manila. Photo by Glenn Diaz

Name: Glenn Diaz

Current city or town: Manila, The Philippines

How long have you lived here: 30 years

Three words to describe the climate: Hot, humid, often-dystopic

Best time of year to visit? Probably beginning October, when the amihan (trade winds) arrives, to March just before the onset of summer.

Ask a Local: Glenn Diaz, Manila, The Philippines
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I Am the Fire Starter: an Interview with Haidar Haidar

HISHAM BUSTANI interviews HAIDAR HAIDAR

Translated by RAED RAFEI

Haidar Haidar Headshot

Nothing parallels the effect left by the nightmarish atmospheres in the writings of Haidar Haidar. His novels and stories drill deep into our illusory serenity: a serenity we often use to trick ourselves into continuing our lives even when surrounded by death, destruction and injustice. Despite changing times, Haidar has not been defeated by censorship—either imposed by others or himself. He has kept a fierce, critical distance from all sides: the dictatorship of the ruling regime in his country of Syria; the dictatorship of public taste and “conventions”; the oppression of dogmatic ideology and the ruling party; the tyranny of power derived from religion. The literary “School of Haidar Haidar” is not dystopian but one that considers our reality to be far more miserable than any dystopia. Art is realized through the transformation of this reality from inside out, and by directly confronting decay with creative and avant-garde writing forms.

Haidar Haidar was born in the village of Hussein al-Baher on the Syrian coast. He taught Arabic in Annaba, Algeria, then settled in Beirut where he worked in publishing. At the start of the Lebanese civil war he joined the Palestinian resistance movement—when the resistance left Beirut in 1982, he moved to Cyprus to work as a Culture Editor of Al Mawqef al-Arabi (The Arab Stance) and Sawt al Bilad (The Voice of the Homeland). In 1985, Haidar Haidar returned to his hometown, and has remained there since. He has written seventeen books of fiction, short fiction, essay, and biography. His short story “The Silence of Fire” appears in Issue 17 of The Common.

Hisham Bustani, Arabic Fiction Editor of The Common, spoke with Haidar this year about nightmare visions, Palestinian resistance, the migrations that have carried Haidar “through deserts, cities and seas” back to childhood, and “boldness… always boldness.” This interview is translated from the Arabic by Raed Rafei.

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I Am the Fire Starter: an Interview with Haidar Haidar
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Ask a Local: Aimée Baker, Plattsburgh, New York

With AIMÉE BAKER

Image of lake and sky

Your name: Aimée Baker

Current city or town: Plattsburgh, NY

How long have you lived here: Technically in Plattsburgh itself, 1 year. In the surrounding area, 30 years.

Three words to describe the climate: Bitterly cold, snowy

Best time of year to visit? Unless you can handle extreme cold, winter and second winter (also known as spring) may not be the best choice. We often get down to -20 to -30 wind chills here. The best time to come is during the fall when the hills and mountains turn red and gold with the changing leaves.

Ask a Local: Aimée Baker, Plattsburgh, New York
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“I Hope I’m Not a Moth”: Lindsay Wong on Coming of Age Through Memoir

MARNI BERGER interviews LINDSAY WONG

wong headshot

Lindsay Wong’s debut memoir The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2018) was shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, selected for the 2019 edition of Canada Reads (where it was defended by fashion personality Joe Zee), longlisted for the Leacock Medal for humor, and awarded the Hubert Evans Nonfiction Prize. Wong holds a BFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and an MFA in literary nonfiction from Columbia University. Her short stories and nonfiction have appeared in Apogee Journal, No Tokens, Ricepaper, and The Fiddlehead, and she has earned residencies from The Studios of Key West, Caldera Arts, and the Historic Joy Kogawa House, to name a few.

In this interview, long-time friends Marni Berger and Lindsay Wong span Portland, Maine and Vancouver, British Columbia via the beauty of the internet (as they have for the better part of a decade). They cover topics from sleeping on a mattress beside your grandmother during Hurricane Sandy to visiting your mother’s haunted playground in Hong Kong; and from avoiding self-promotion on social media to coming of age while writing a memoir.

 

“I Hope I’m Not a Moth”: Lindsay Wong on Coming of Age Through Memoir
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Theorizing Delight: An Interview with Ross Gay 

JENNIFER ACKER and CURTIS BAUER interview ROSS GAY

headshot of ross gay sitting in a garden

Ross Gay is the author of the poetry collections Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award and a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Books Critics Circle Award, Bringing the Shovel Down, and Against WhichIn February he published his first book of prose, The Book of Delights. At the 2019 AWP Conference in Portland, OR, The Common’s editor in chief, Jennifer Acker, and Translations Editor, Curtis Bauer, sat down with Ross over lunch to talk about his latest book, which has led him to realize his life’s work.   

  

JA: It seems to me that your two recent books, the Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude and The Book of Delights, were written in a similar vein and in a similar spirit, even just from the titles. One of the things they’re both doing is thematically trying to draw attention to joy and delight. I wonder if they were consciously part of the same project, different outlets for similar impulse? 

Theorizing Delight: An Interview with Ross Gay 
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Living Under Siege: An Interview with Feroz Rather

NEHA KIRPAL interviews FEROZ RATHER

Feroz Rather HeadshotFeroz Rather is a PhD student in Creative Writing at Florida State University. His work has been published in such journals as The Millions, The Rumpus, and The Southeast Review, and his debut novel, The Night of Broken Glass, was released by Harper Collins India this year. Through a series of interconnected stories, in which the same characters move in and out, the novel-in-stories describes the horrors of violence in Kashmir today. Read an excerpt online here.

Via email, Neha Kirpal spoke with Rather about Kashmir, V.S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas (“Isn’t that an extraordinary achievement?”), survival, and Rather’s social role as a Kashmiri Muslim writer (“The only responsibility the writer has is to find his own true voice”).

Living Under Siege: An Interview with Feroz Rather
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Ask a Local: Bina Shah, Karachi, Pakistan

With BINA SHAH

chair

 

Your name: Bina Shah

Current city or town: Karachi, Pakistan

How long have you lived here: 35 years 

Three words to describe the climate: Hot, humid, dusty

Best time of year to visit? November through March. The weather drops to about 75-80° F and it’s just magnificent.

Ask a Local: Bina Shah, Karachi, Pakistan
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