In conjunction with The Poetry Coalition’s March 2019 joint programming exploring the theme “What Is It, Then, Between Us?: Poetry & Democracy,” The Common presents four weekly features this month, each addressing and extending this national—and international—conversation.
We at The Common are proud to announce our nominations for the 2018 Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, an accolade bestowed upon small-press writers for works of outstanding writing and literary talent. Each of our nominations represents this culmination of talent and ingenuity alongside the celebration of a daring and modern sense of place.
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.
There is a sister whose voice is gentle as a lullaby. A lulling. Even when angered she won’t yell. A particular upbringing that eschews the loud, though such a woman can be found embracing those whose voices swell in the streets. Perhaps less saintliness than a vicarious expression of her own rage? Frustrations? Drawing the brawler, the harsh and violent close. The softness
Over the past year Vievee Francis has received well-deserved recognition for her latest collection, Forest Primeval, which won both the 2016 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the 2017 Kingsley Tufts Award. Her previous book, Horse in the Dark, won the Cave Canem Northwestern University Poetry Prize for a second collection, and her first, Blue-Tail Fly, preceded a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. Since the publication of Forest Primeval, Francis has been working on a fourth collection, and at The Common we’ve had the honor and the pleasure of presenting some of her new poems: “On Leaving the Mountains and Coming to the City I Thought I Left For Good” and “The Beauty of Boys Is” appear in Issue 13, Spring 2017, and “This Morning I Miss Such Devotion” is forthcoming in Issue 14, Fall 2017. Here is “’Moan Soft Like You Wanted Somebody Terrible,’” our Poetry Feature for the month of June.
Without the backdrop of leaves and scat,
the possum playing possum, its mate
the same. Without the tip of the road,
its black pitch wound like a widow’s wail
through the wet trees. Consider the undergrowth
On Leaving the Mountains and Coming to the City I Thought I Left For Good
that they are not men,
that they have not settled into their beards and
remorse, their crow’s feet and givens.
There is not yet an investment in houses
settling onto their foundations, hair, or
yesterday. The boy senses his time is precarious,