Amherst, MA, September 17, 2020 — The Common, the award-winning literary journal based at Amherst College, is a recipient of a grant from The Literary Arts Emergency Fund, which provides aid to nonprofit literary arts organizations, magazines, and presses that have experienced severe financial losses due to COVID-19. The fund, launched and administered by the Academy of American Poets, the Community of Literary Magazine & Presses (CLMP), and the National Book Foundation, will be distributing more than $3.5 million to literary organizations and publications across the country.
Leaders of the three national literary organizations—Jennifer Benka, Mary Gannon, and Lisa Lucas—united to raise funds and establish the Literary Arts Emergency Fund in response to the lack of institutional support for the nonprofit organizations and publishers that sustain literary culture in the U.S. by presenting poets and writers at events and by publishing and distributing thousands of poems, stories, and essays in books, magazines, and through open online archives.
The Common Receives $10,000 Grant from The Literary Arts Emergency Fund
The archetypal creation story of Latin America, the Popol Vuh began as a Maya oral tradition millennia ago. In the mid-sixteenth century, as indigenous cultures across the continent were being threatened with destruction by European conquest and Christianity, it was written down in verse by members of the K’iche’ nobility in what is today Guatemala. In 1701, that text was translated into Spanish by a Dominican friar and ethnographer before vanishing mysteriously.
In the living room of my parents’ home in Tripoli, Lebanon, an elaborate family tree is displayed in a golden frame. It is a constant reminder of a fatalistic vision of life’s ultimate purpose: reproduction. Males are depicted as branches; females as leaves. The thriving of the tree relies on branches like mine. A single man who bears no new branches or leaves could condemn an entire lineage to an end.
Pharaohs, Distorted Body Parts, and Eclectic Symbolism
From her home in Syria, Colette Bahna has been producing short stories, novels, plays, television scripts, and journalism since the 1980s. Despite the raging war in her home country, Bahna remains tenaciously attached to staying there.
Bahna’s writing is infused with symbolism: ancient Egyptian history, biblical stories, and folk tales all allow her to write about life under despotism. With dark and piercing irony, she manages to go beyond the confines of the Syrian experience to compose timeless stories about injustice, tyranny, freedom, and love.
Lebanese journalist, translator, and filmmaker Raed Rafei spoke with Bahna about her short story “و/Waw,” which appears in Issue No.17 of The Common; interconnectedness in her texts; writing during times of oppression; and her decision to remain in Syria.
Free Expression Under Tyranny: an Interview with Colette Bahna
The Interviews Editor organizes and edits a monthly interview feature for The Common Online. (Examples of recent interviews can be found here or here.) Additional interviews may be coordinated by TC’s central editorial team, in consultation with the Interviews Editor. A biannual honorarium is available for this position.
The Common is Hiring: Be Our Next Interviews Editor
It’s not as though the military fiction canon ignores social commentary; books like Slaughterhouse-Five and Catch-22 certainly have a lot to say. But while many celebrated works in the genre feature criticisms of war and the armed services, water & power is the first of them I’ve encountered whose critiques discuss the racism, sexism, and homophobia running rampant in military culture. (At least in Navy culture, which the book focuses on.) The most climactic moments are not just battles and bombings—they’re also things like the Tailhook Scandal, a three-day symposium after which eighty-three women and seven men reported sexual misconduct. “A group of up to two hundred men who lined the corridor outside the hospitality suites around 10:30 each night” engaged in behaviors ranging from “consensual pats on the breasts and buttocks to violent grabbing, groping, clothes-stripping, and other assaultive behavior.” Steven Dunn, a Black West Virginia native, experienced Navy culture close up during his ten years of service.
Here in Ann Arbor, unable to travel, I am missing the Greek balcony, a private and public space: it’s neither in nor out but something in between. Poet Alicia E. Stallings, who lives in Athens, notes on Twitter: “Very Athenian neighbor quarrel tonight: we fired up the grill in the yard to pretend like it was a Friday, but it turns out lady upstairs had just done her laundry. Words were had.” (It was indeed Friday, but what is Friday anymore, anyway?) When I write her about this, laughing, she adds that the woman also menacingly suggests she might water her plants while Alicia’s husband works on his laptop below.
In the early weeks of quarantine, from balconies in Athens, friends filmed videos of their neighbors clapping for health care workers. On Easter, when Athens is often eerily quiet, as many Athenians return to their home villages, say, or travel to an island, the quarantined city’s balconies shone bright with candles.
Issue 20 of The Common will be here this fall. Subscribe by September 30 to find this hot pink celebration in your mailbox! In addition to the global, place-based stories, essays, and poems you’re used to reading in The Common, this issue also includes a portfolio of writing from and about the Lusosphere: Portugal’s colonial and linguistic diaspora. You’ll find works in English and in translation, and explore Lisbon, Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Mozambique, and even Luso-American families and communities here in the States. 1 year subscriptions start at $12.
In this month’s Friday Reads, we’re hearing from our volunteer readers, who consider submissions for print and online publication. Their book recommendations range from poetry collections to recent novel debuts and Flannery O’Connor short stories revisited through the lens of anti-racism. Read on for new quarantine entertainment and keep an eye out for a second round of recommendations from our volunteer readers, out later this fall.
Recommendations: Thin Girls by Diana Clarke; Shiner by Maggie Nelson; Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor; Cherry by Nico Walker, Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano.