Join The Common‘s team on March 27th at 7pm EDT for our 2024 Festival of Debut Authors, an evening devoted to emerging talents! This free virtual celebration will highlight poets and prose writers Felice Belle, Jordan Escobar, Irina Hrinoschi, amika elfendi, Nina Perrotta, and Shanna Tan.
The Festival of Debut Authors is an annual Zoom celebration of emerging authors who’ve published in The Common. Previous awardees Jennifer Shyue and Farah Ali will host the evening of featured readings by some of The Common’s most dynamic emerging writers. Come to discover fresh voices and support the magazine’s mission to publish and pay emerging writers.
This year, we’ll also be drawing 3 names from the audience for an open mic! If you opt in, and your name is drawn, you can join our authors and read from any work, published or unpublished, for up to 3 minutes.
Each summer the cadets of Maine Maritime Academy put to sea with a crew of instructors aboard their eponymous training ship, State of Maine. Here, like medical students at a teaching hospital, they set about practicing the skills of their aspirational careers on a live patient—navigating, steering, chipping paint, avoiding collisions, and tending to a diesel plant whose thundering mass fills a room large enough for basketball. Everything is big on a ship like this, which sleeps 350 people and needs 30 feet of ocean just to stay afloat. In tanks below the living spaces there are 3,300 long tons of fuel and 770 tons of potable water. The anchors weigh 5 tons each, set out on chains with links fourteen inches across. An old Navy ship built for speed, not baggage, the State of Maine is slim and pointy at her ends, like a canoe. In a calm sea she moves with almost no feeling of displacement, just a low white-noise rumble of engines and the shoosh of water sliding by.
The summer after her senior year, Naomi flew to Indonesia with nineteen other Americans and signed a pledge to immerse herself in Bahasa for three months. She stayed in Malang, a city known for its temperate climate and waterfalls, and spent each day at the local college, learning to speak and read and write, piecing together the world again molecule by molecule. It felt like a second childhood, or like being reincarnated. Mountain was gunung. Friend was teman.
Jangan malu, her tutor would say, when Naomi hesitated. Jangan malu. Don’t be shy. In the evenings, she sent emails to her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend, who was doing a summer internship at a law firm in Houston. He seemed to require a full legal brief explaining his wrongness for her. Apart from that, she was immersed.
This piece is excerpted from Who Is the City For? Architecture, Equity, and the Public Realm in Chicago by Blair Kamin ’79, a guest at Amherst College’s LitFest 2024.Registerfor this exciting celebration of Amherst’s literary legacy and life.
Looking back on nearly thirty years of architecture criticism at the Chicago Tribune, I realize that I have borne witness to a dramatic transformation of Chicago, from a declining industrial colossus to a dynamic yet deeply troubled postindustrial powerhouse, whose favored emblem is a jellybean-shaped sculpture of highly polished steel. The mirrorlike surface of that sculpture, officially titled Cloud Gate but widely known as “the Bean,” reflects the striking skyline of the city’s ever-growing downtown, now home to $10 million condominiums, Michelin-starred restaurants, and an elegant promenade that rims the once badly polluted Chicago River. But the Bean does not reflect the reality of a very different Chicago. That Chicago, though not without distinguished buildings and untapped economic potential, is also a place of weed-strewn vacant lots, empty storefronts, and unceasing gun violence. Indeed, Cloud Gate may be the ultimate shiny, distracting object. While the 2020 census revealed that Chicago’s population grew by nearly 2 percent during the previous decade, to 2.7 million, the dramatic disconnect between the two Chicagos prompts the question: Is this a good city, a just city? Absolutely not. Which prompts a second query: Can those responsible for building the city advance the fortunes of neighborhoods devastated by decades of discrimination, disinvestment, and deindustrialization? On that crucial matter, the jury is still out.
This poem appears originally in Which Way Was North, published by Louisiana State University Press. Poet Anne Pierson Wiese will be a guest at Amherst College’s LitFest 2024. Register for this exciting celebration of Amherst’s literary legacy and life.
This piece is excerpted from The Healing Stage: Black Women, Incarceration, and the Art of Transformation by Lisa Biggs ’93, a guest at Amherst College’s LitFest 2024.Registerfor this exciting celebration of Amherst’s literary legacy and life.
Stage healing as a practice of self-repair is generated and sustained by women behind bars in collaboration with the volunteer theater artists who direct their drama clubs. The term is deeply indebted to Cara Page and the Kindred Healing Justice Collective, who characterized healing justice as “how we can holistically respond to and intervene in generational trauma and violence … to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds.” This “active intervention,” writes Prentiss Hemphill, makes listening to and collaborating with people who are “imagining transformative responses to harm” other than “feeding Black incarceration” foundational, not only to healing work but also to Black community organizing—in their case, specifically the Black Lives Matter movement.25 Healing justice recognizes that locating alternative, noncarceral responses to harmdoing requires finding ways to “develop and to honor practitioners of many different disciplines and modalities with capacities and skills to be with trauma, who know themselves well enough to navigate the complex terrain of emotion and guide others towards change.”26
This piece originally appeared in The Atlantic. Journalist Ed Yong will be a guest at Amherst College’s LitFest 2024. Register for this exciting celebration of Amherst’s literary legacy and life.
Alexis Misko’s health has improved enough that, once a month, she can leave her house for a few hours. First, she needs to build up her energy by lying in a dark room for the better part of two days, doing little more than listening to audiobooks. Then she needs a driver, a quiet destination where she can lie down, and days of rest to recover afterward. The brief outdoor joy “never quite feels like enough,” she told me, but it’s so much more than what she managed in her first year of long COVID, when she couldn’t sit upright for more than an hour or stand for more than 10 minutes. Now, at least, she can watch TV on the same day she takes a shower.
One day in 2008, after not writing for almost 10 years, JENNIFER MARTELLI searched “poetry workshops on the North Shore of Massachusetts.” She signed up for the first “hit” that came up, a Sacred Poetry workshop led by JENNIFER JEAN at the now-defunct Cornerstone Books in Salem, Massachusetts. Both Jennifers bonded over poetry, parenthood, and publishing—and a great friendship was formed! They continue to write together, travel together (because Jennifer Martelli is afraid to drive over bridges, Jennifer Jean takes the wheel), and share their work.
In this interview, Jennifer Jean asked Martelli about her latest collection, TheQueen of Queens, which explores the political and emotional zeitgeist of the present by probing the past in a lyrical, smart, and singular voice. Jennifer Martelli’s poetry is the self-deprecating inheritor of Sylvia Plath and Marie Howe.
No One Wore Pearls Anymore: Jennifer Jean interviews Jennifer Martelli
The city as a character in its own right is a frequent device in otherwise disparate novels. In Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion (1987), a water-shimmering, pleasure-seeking Venice forms the fabric of the female protagonist’s life. Andrei Bely’s modernist tour-de-force Petersburg (1916), following a long tradition in Russian literature, portrays this city as both the site and driver of the action. For the navel-gazing narrator of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (1913-1927), Paris and other locations in France are integral sources of his copious memories. The commonality among such city-infused works is the reputation of said cities: world-renowned and possessed of their own symbolic capital and literary mythology. The associations are not always positive—writers often portray big cities as dirty, oppressive, even demonic—but the cities historically portrayed in literature are famed embodiments of grandeur and stature.