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.
The rows of crops are avenues. The days succeeding like a shuffled deck in the deliberate hands of a dealer. The man speaks: Kid, you got a girl? The kid answers: Of course. Their wrists are strong. Their fingers are agile, sure under the bruising sun that browns and leathers their skin.
The house in Hewer was three stories, much larger than they needed, and full of odd vacancies, as though the Jenkinses, from whom Paul and his wife were subletting, had planned to be away much longer than a single semester. But the kitchen cupboards were stocked, and in the basement, alongside the usual clutter, stood a huge upright refrigerator housing a billion frosted bottles of beer, to which Paul helped himself while instructing the babies, “This is an IPA, this is a, this is a porter, this is a stout, which means it’s very dark….” The babies, on the basement floor, were checking it all out. Meanwhile, upstairs, Olive was in eager flight, scouting around, poking her head into the mudroom and the garage and the second-floor sunroom, full of hard, happy intent. “Holy!” she purred, from the top of the stairs.
I’m the kind of guy who when there’s a problem, I like to get on it. I don’t like the problem to get me, I like to get it. When there’s a problem, I face it—I don’t let it faze me. You could say I like to faze it. I like to face my problems and take care of them, I don’t let them take care of me.
What if I told you some of the most enlightened women I knew in youth took to the beach and spread oil across their shining décolletage in order to receive the divine? To place themselves in the present and in the path of nature, gazing for hours at an uninterrupted horizon?
Think of Buddhist monks in Tibet sitting cross-legged and naked in the wild, practicing g tummo, the art of inner fire, drying wet sheets on their bodies, melting snow with their minds. It is a matter of radiance and belief, harnessing the power of breath.
Whether you’ve already read Issue 14 twice or you’ve been stealing guilty glances at the untouched copy on your night stand, enjoy a little bonus content from our Issue 14 contributors! This month, our recommendations probe the supposed linear formation of our lives by questioning how we conceptualize our tasks, societies, and time itself. Poetic, comedic, and tragic, these reads shed light on contradictory forces often taken for granted.
Don’t miss The Common’s annual author postcard auction! Bid for a chance to win a postcard from your favorite writer, handwritten for yourself or a person of your choice. A wonderful keepsake, just in time for the holidays!
The auction will run from 8 a.m. EST on November 20 to 6 p.m. EST onDecember 10, 2017. This year’s participants include Junot Díaz, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie, and Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), among others. Click here for more information about the auction.
All proceeds will go toward The Common’s programs. These include publishing emerging writers, mentoring students in our Literary Publishing Internship Program, and connecting with students around the world through The Common in the Classroom.
Someone else, handing him leftover pizza, told me his name just the other day. As if it makes any difference whatsoever, my knowing his name, having watched him wander the neighborhood for at least two years now. Commercial rents are too ridiculous even for Café Corner: he’s been bedding down on the sidewalk fronting one side or the other of the former Figaro since the beginning of 2016. You’ve probably seen him yourself. He is harder to look at than some, a disfiguring cyst sprouting from his filthy forehead like a monster’s evil eye.
That was the summer a sperm whale drifted sick into the bay, washed up dead at Mount Martha, and there were many terrible jokes about fertility. It was the summer that all the best cartoons went off the air, swapped for Gulf War broadcasts in infrared snippets, and your mother started saying things like I used to be pretty, you know? Christ, I used to be brave. But you thought brave was not crying when the neighbor girl dug her sharp red fingernails into your arm, until the skin broke and bled, and she cried out herself in disgust. You were still dumb enough to think that was winning.