Things are finally warming up here in Western Mass: old snow banks are melting and fuzzy buds are popping up on the trees. Our spring issue—which features a portfolio of stunning fiction from Kuwait, apocalyptic poetry, a Ramadan romance, and a story about a dog in a Texas barrio—launches in just a few short weeks. If you’re wondering where these writers get their inspiration, look no further than this round of Friday Reads.
At first, it seems simple to outline the role of place in poems by Reina María Rodríguez. She began writing poetry in Havana, Cuba, a city that permeates much of her work. She grew up in a building on Ánimas Street, not far from the ocean, in a neighborhood of modest means. Eventually she and her partner built a tiny apartment on that same building’s roof out of largely recycled materials, and there they ran a historic, open-air cultural salon in the 1990s. Today Rodríguez remains interested in everyday life, in the realities accessible to inhabitants moving through the city streets. Alongside her explorations of the present, she incorporates memories from her neighborhood into many poems.
We are excited to announce that the Pushcart Prize’s contributing editors have nominated eight pieces from The Common‘s 2020 publications, in print and online! The Pushcart Prize celebrates outstanding works of literature produced by small-press writers; each of these nominations are exceptional works of art that take fresh and memorable perspectives on the modern sense of place. Congratulations to our amazing contributors!
Say Chicken Little was right, that the sky is falling. What I want to know is, will the moon fall too? Will it bounce softly like swiss cheese, or will it crumble like a stale cookie? Do skies bruise? Do they ache? And is the sky a metaphor for all the ills and evils of the world? A testament to how the earth can only hold so much pain and grief? But why would God send a chicken? Would you listen to a chicken? Is the chicken a metaphor for Jesus? Did the Bible mention this and somehow I missed it? Is this because in 6th grade my teacher made me promise Jesus my virginity in a gift basket? Actually, if the sky falls,
When he comes in, you wish you had been killed. Not your brother.
The rusted scent of the metal chair you’re on reminds you of the smell of his blood on your hands, chest, and hair: sweetly pungent with a strong hint of iron.
You start hearing his choked gurgles, see the blood spouting from his mouth. Smelling again the gunpowder-laced air between your body and his. The gurgling stops, his eyes close, and alarm strikes your throat numb, temporarily freezing your screams. His body begins to tremble, violently.
The oldest boys in the neighborhood—“bullies,” as our Egyptian neighbors would say—chased that boy… chased me.
I’d long been obsessed with watching Egyptian TV shows and films, sneaking into the cinema to see them because in our house it was forbidden… “forbidden, boy, to go there.ˮ According to my mother, grandmother, and the other women in the neighborhood, screens are the devil’s handiwork: they corrupt good boys and girls. Of course, they’re poor women, without an ounce of luck.
Not many of us knew Sharif. He had been gone from the village for more than thirty years, and the few times his name came up, the person in question would glance around and lower their voice almost to a whisper. Men’s heads would cluster together in brief and hasty conference. And should his father, Sheikh Abdennabi Wadd Saleh, appear at the head of the alley and walk their way, or his mother, Hagga Amina Bint Suleiman, approach the store, they would fall silent or change the conversation.
We’ve got a very busy April ahead of us – can you join us at an event? We’ll be sharing our work, our expertise, and our brand new Issue 15 contributors with the world!
Juniper Literary Festival
April 7, 1:45-2:45pm, UMASS Amherst – The Common will be hosting a panel discussion at UMass’s Juniper Literary Festival alongside editors from renowned western Massachusetts literary magazines jubilat, Meridians,and The Massachusetts Review to discuss what they’re looking for, how to submit to literary magazines, and the behind-the-scenes editorial process. Bring your questions! Then swing by the Book Fair to buy discounted copies of The Common. Click here for more info on the event!
Easthampton Book Fest
April 14, 12-5pm, Eastworks Building, Easthampton – The Common will be participating in the Easthampton Book Fest; come find us in the Literary Marketplace! We’ll be selling discounted issues, answering questions, and maybe giving out a few freebies, too. Check out the bookfest website here!
Tesserae: Poetry in Community
April 22, 3:30-5pm, The Parlor Room, Northampton – Northampton’s Poet Laureate, Amy Dryansky, will host a special event on behalf of several local agencies that work to welcome and support immigrants and new Americans in the community. The event, Tesserae: Poetry in Community, will feature readings by award-winning poets Leslie Marie Aguilar, Maria Luisa Arroyo, Tamiko Beyer, Kirun Kapur, Oliver de la Paz and Ocean Vuong. As a sponsor of Tesserae, The Common will be posting an online feature of these poets on our website, so stay tuned! For more information on the venue, click here, and for full details about the event, click here.
Issue 15 NYC Launch Party
April 26, 6:30-8pm, Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, NYC – Join The Common to celebrate our Spring Issue 15 Launch, featuring readings by Liz Arnold, Emma Copley Eisenberg, and translator Lissie Jaquette, followed by a discussion with editor in chief Jennifer Acker. The event is free and open to the public, so make sure to stop by! Find all the event details here.