The Common brings you a special two-part series as a preview to Tesserae: Poetry Of Community – A Reading & Celebration Of Immigrants & New Americans, coming up on Sunday, April 22 3:30–5pm at The Parlor Room in Northampton, MA; free admission.
Part One – featuring poems by Kirun Kapur, María Luisa Arroyo, and Ocean Vuong.
Nanjing, the furnace of the Yangtse, is a city so big it swallows. I can stroll through the streets and brush by anyone, but a weight presses on me like a singular, enveloping fog that never leaves. Men gather outside my apartment building and smoke in the afternoon. On some days a neighbor calls the Chengguan—the Urban Management Enforcement. They arrive in their white van and white hats and chase the smokers off. The smokers flee like carrion birds shooed away.
In The Common office, we’re getting so excited for the work we’ll be publishing, both in print and online, in 2018. But it seems only fitting to give one last nod to the fantastic pieces that we brought out in 2017. Below is a list of our most-read pieces of the year: the poems, essays, interviews, and art that made 2017 our biggest year yet for web traffic from around the world! We hope you’ll have a look, if you haven’t already, and see why this work struck a chord with readers this year.
Emily EverettThe Common’s 10 Most-Read Pieces of 2017
“This is what I live for: friendship and the things of the spirit.” Alberto de Lacerda often repeated this refrain to his friends. Friendship meant kinship, connection, and community. The things of the spirit were poetry, literature, art, dance—the myriad expressions of the spiritual and transcendent Alberto sought, and lived by, his whole life.
Such values perhaps couldn’t lead to anything but an intercontinental life.
Current city or town: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
How long have you lived here: A year and nine months
Three words to describe the climate: Hot to scorching
Best time of year to visit? November through March. The temperature is in the 60s or 70s, sunbathing on the beach becomes possible and the city finally starts buzzing with outdoor dining and with arts and culture, including Art Dubai, Dubai Design Week and the Dubai International Film Festival.
I found myself holding the rear hooves of an upside-down, dead deer while a large, gray wolf paced a few feet away. It was a clear and cold afternoon, ten degrees above zero under a bright Minnesotan sun. We watched the wolf and the wolf watched us. Peggy turned and walked back to a truck piled high with roadkill. A dead calf, donated by a local farmer, peered out from among the tangle of wild limbs. A live rat terrier perched on top of the pile like a conquering queen. She licked at frozen blood.
I was with this wolf, and this woman, and this dog, because I was fixated on the wolf as a cultural symbol of villainy, of evil. I was writing a paper for an academic conference. Peggy reached her arm in among the bodies. “You know,” she called over her shoulder, “after all these years, we still prefer Chicago Cutlery®.” Her arm reappeared with a green-handled chef’s knife.
Buds that flower on the vanilla vines in the morning must be pollinated before dusk by human hands, or they will wilt and die and drop to the rain-mudded ground of this slash in a hillside overlooking the sea. Tobisoa, his small fingers perfect for the task, uses a toothpick to lift the rostellum, then presses the exposed anther against the stigma.
It is only appropriate that I have no memory of my first journey to Siliguri—I have no memory of my journey to this world either. I make this equivalence without sentimentality—I have lived here, in this small sub-Himalayan Indian town, for most of my life. And even when I haven’t, I’ve been aware of its grainy centripetal force. I was three—I trust my parents, particularly my statistician father, on this. My brother was one—which means he didn’t actually exist, except in the laps of our parents. Three days after arriving from Balurghat, I left home.
From April 2017 to July 2017, poet, writer, collagist, and teacher Sebastian Matthews and I carried on a long-running conversation, which you will find excerpted below. It is high time to hear from this provocative and engaging poet who, after surviving a head-on collision with his wife and son in the car with him, went into relative literary and social seclusion for several years. While the newest book discloses the private life of trauma and the body, forthcoming projects concern Matthews’ public takes on race, culture, and identity. Always stretching to disclose what others would keep hidden is part of what makes his widening body of work both engaging and authentic.