In this interview, VIRGINIA KONCHAN talks with NATHAN McCLAIN about his second full-length collection, Previously Owned. Touching on process and craft, literary influence, racial justice, and faith, this rich conversation celebrates the range of McClain’s poetry and the sense of history and place in his work.
Finding One’s Way Through Bewilderment: Virginia Konchan interviews Nathan McClain
In Arisa White’s lyrical memoir, Who’s Your Daddy, she writes of her father’s absence throughout her coming-of-age in tender, genre-bending poems. July Westhale and Arisa White, former teaching colleagues and Bay Area community, approached this interview in an epistolary way, discussing form, family, voice, and taking up space on the page.
Permission to Dream Forth: An Interview with Arisa White
Tina Cane’s Year of the Murder Hornet was published in spring of 2022 by Veliz Books. In this interview, Tina discusses her new collection with Matt Miller. Threaded through by grit and lyrical beauty, the book weaves survival, strength, and hope out of this pitched moment of American politics, the Coronavirus pandemic, and popular culture.
“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
Viet Thanh Nguyen visited Amherst College in February 2022 in the joint roles of Presidential Scholar and LitFest headliner. In his live conversation with The Common’s editor-in-chief Jennifer Acker, he deployed humor and refreshing honesty to discuss his path to publishing his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer and its best-selling sequel The Committed. The conversation touched on the complexities of Vietnamese diasporic identity as well as his desire to expand the world of literature to encompass critical thought, breaking through the traditional literary bubble to allow for politics, history, and more. This interview is a collaboration between The Common and Amherst College’s LitFest and is an edited and condensed version of the live conversation.
Belonging Is a Complicated Thing: An Interview with Viet Thanh Nguyen
Mónica Gomery’s forthcoming collection, Might Kindred, was the winner of the 2021 Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. The book inhabits a variegated landscape, exploring the nature of home as a first-generation American. In the conversation that follows, Gomery and Handler discuss ancestry, identity, intimacy, and the liminal spaces between.
Poetry as Homeland: An Interview with Mónica Gomery
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
Abeer Khshiboon’s short story, “The Stranger” is featured in Issue 23’s portfolio of stories from Palestine. Here, Abeer and translator Nashwa Gowanlock discuss the story’s inspiration and the context in which its events unfold.
Words We Use to Talk About Home: An Interview with Abeer Khshiboon, author of “The Stranger”
One of the best things about interviewing the poet, professor, and novelist DeMisty D. Bellinger, Ph.D., is how she drops a book recommendation into every answer. Another is the transparent manner in which she speaks of her work: her writing is so intentional that the scenes and characters seem to crawl inside the reader and live there. Once seen, the characters in Bellinger’s debut novel cannot be unseen. Released on April 19, 2022, by Unnamed Press, New to Liberty tells the stories of Sissily, Nella, and Greta, three lives sewn together by Dust Bowl-era Kansas, tragedy, and their own longings. Amy Reardon and DeMisty Bellinger spoke via phone and discussed whose experience gets centered in literature, how to give voice to the unvoiced, and Bellinger’s desire to write from questions to figure out how the world works.
New to Liberty: A Conversation with DeMisty D. Bellinger
In conversation, they go by Breezy. When Michael Mercurio and Brionne Janae spoke via Zoom, Breezy was at home in Brooklyn, and Michael was in Northampton, Massachusetts. Though Michael had known Breezy’s work for several years through their publications in Ploughshares, Waxwing, Frontier Poetry Review, The Sun, The Rumpus, and The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, they hadn’t met until they worked together on a program for the Tell It Slant Poetry Festival, cohosted by the Faraday Publishing Company and Black Writers Read. Here, they talk about musicality, authenticity, and the importance of bringing voice to what might be left unsaid. (Please note this interview discusses childhood sexual abuse and trauma.)
The Healing Nature of Truth: An Interview with Brionne Janae