Interviews

Some Voice Has Spoken: an interview with Kirun Kapur

ISABEL MEYERS interviews KIRUN KAPURkirun kapur headshotKirun Kapur is a poet, teacher, poetry editor at The Drum, and author of the collection Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist. Kapur’s debut volume, which grapples with themes of borders, religion, and feminism, feels more relevant by the day since its release in 2015.

Last fall, Kapur taught at Amherst College. She recently spoke to former student Isabel Meyers about Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist; the intersection of personal and political history; girlhood; family as a sense of place; and trusting the poem’s voice.

Isabel MeyersSome Voice Has Spoken: an interview with Kirun Kapur
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Ask a Local: Anzhelina Polonskaya, Frankfurt, Germany

With ANZHELINA POLONSKAYA

Frankfurt city skyline along the River Main

Your name: Anzhelina Polonskaya

Current city or town: Frankfurt

How long have you lived here: 2 years

Three words to describe the climate: windy in winter

Best time of year to visit?: spring, summer


1) The most striking physical features of this city/town are
. . . The skylines and the River Main. Frankfurt was destroyed during the second war, and the skylines give a “fresh air” to the city. Of course, I cannot compare the city to New York or Chicago, but I think the modern architecture makes Frankfurt unique, if we are talking about Germany in general, and fits in general the composition of the city. Everything is around the River Main: holidays, boats, sports, cafes and walkways.

Sunna JuhnAsk a Local: Anzhelina Polonskaya, Frankfurt, Germany
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Our Quest for Safety: an interview with Jill Eisenstadt

JULIA PIKE interviews JILL EISENSTADT

Jill Eisenstadt at the beach

Jill Eisenstadt by Beowulf Sheehan

Jill Eisenstadt’s latest book, Swell, was released to acclaim in June—Rolling Stone called it “the literary comeback of the year,”—thirty years after her debut novel with the same setting, From Rockaway.

In Swell, Eisenstadt tells the story of the Glassmans, a family of four who relocate from Tribeca to Rockaway, New York, in the aftermath of 9/11. The house they move into, like the Glassmans themselves, comes with a fraught history; their confrontation with this past reaches a crescendo that will make readers rethink what it means to love thy neighbor.

In this month’s interview, editorial assistant Julia Pike and Eisenstadt discuss marginalized communities, emotional truth, and the author’s return to Rockaway.

Debbie WenOur Quest for Safety: an interview with Jill Eisenstadt
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Ask a Local: Kayla Rae Whitaker, Louisville, Kentucky

With Kayla Rae Whitaker

Louisville bridge

How long have you lived here: One year. Still feels very new.

Three words to describe the climate:
Because it’s July, humid – on some days, the air feels like drinking cotton. In the winters, damp. But in the fall – particularly the long falls – and the spring, it feels forgiving.

Best time of year to visit? NOT DERBY. May is a beautiful time in Kentucky, but Derby snarls Louisville traffic in the worst possible way. I say this as a newcomer to the city (while I wrote about Louisville, I had never lived there until this year). It only took one Derby weekend for me to see some of the most ridiculous displays of driving I’ve ever seen. Early summer is a good bet. Fall’s nice too.

Flavia MartinezAsk a Local: Kayla Rae Whitaker, Louisville, Kentucky
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The Personal (Essay) is Not Dead: an interview with Mensah Demary

MELODY NIXON interviews MENSAH DEMARY

Mensah Demary headshot

Mensah Demary as an editor is most known for his work with Catapult Nonfiction, and more recently, Black Balloon. But Mensah Demary the writer is a force to be reckoned with. The Common published his essay “Blood and Every Beat” in our most recent issue, No. 13. In this month’s Q&A, Interviews Editor Melody Nixon talks with Demary about audience and desire, creative partnerships, “getting out of his own way,” and why the personal essay is not dead (“the idea is absurd”).

 

Isabel MeyersThe Personal (Essay) is Not Dead: an interview with Mensah Demary
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Gestured to and not yet quite: an interview with Muriel Leung

SARETTA MORGAN interviews MURIEL LEUNG

Muriel Leung Headshot

In this month’s interview, Saretta Morgan talks with poet, editor, and academic Muriel Leung about her poetry collection Bone Confetti; queer love; how loss can activate political consciousness; Hortense Spillers; and writing in a state of transition. Bone Confetti was released by Noemi Press in 2016.

Flavia MartinezGestured to and not yet quite: an interview with Muriel Leung
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History is Not Over: An Interview with Viet Thanh Nguyen

ALEXANDER BISLEY interviews VIET THANH NGUYEN

Viet Thanh Nguyen Headshot

Author Viet Thanh Nguyen is on a hot streak. Since winning a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for The Sympathizer, his nonfiction collection Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War and this year’s short-story collection The Refugees have amassed acclaim. In an ultimately uplifting conversation with Alexander Bisley, Nguyen discussed America’s obligation to help Syrian refugees, writers’ political responsibilities, and why the past’s traumas endure.

Julia PikeHistory is Not Over: An Interview with Viet Thanh Nguyen
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The Female Writer is Political: an Interview with Oddný Eir

MELODY NIXON interviews ODDNY EIR

Oddny Eir

In this month’s interview, Melody Nixon speaks with Icelandic author Oddný Eir about feminism and writing, folklore, and tyranny. Eir’s latest book of auto-fiction, Land of Love and Ruins, is a work of diaristic essay, lyric collage, and rumination. Collaborator Björk describes Eir as “a true pioneer.” Eir appeared this week in New York City’s PEN World Voices Festival on Gender and Power.

Julia PikeThe Female Writer is Political: an Interview with Oddný Eir
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Nationalism and Contemporary American Literature: An Interview with Aleksandar Hemon

NAYEREH DOOSTI interviews ALEKSANDAR HEMON

Aleksandar Hemon is the author of the novel The Lazarus Project, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, of which Junot Diaz said: “Incandescent. When your eyes close, the power of this novel, of Hemon’s colossal talent, remains.” Hemon has also written three books of short stories: The Question of BrunoNowhere Man, which was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Love and Obstacles. His autobiography The Book of My Lives, was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Hemon was the recipient of a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship and a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation. Born in Sarajevo, Hemon visited Chicago in 1992, intending to stay for a matter of months. While he was there, Sarajevo came under siege, and he was unable to return home. He now lives in Chicago with his family.

A week after the release of the January 27 executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” The Common’s editorial assistant Nayereh Doosti talked with Hemon in the library of the Lord Jeffery Inn during his visit to Amherst College. Their shared perspective—growing up outside the U.S.—and the ban’s direct effect on Doosti guided the conversation toward the intersection of politics and literature.

DoostiNationalism and Contemporary American Literature: An Interview with Aleksandar Hemon
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