Jennifer Jean speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her poem “California,” which appears in The Common online, in a special portfolio of writing from the Lusosphere (Portugal and its colonial and linguistic diaspora). Jean talks about writing this poem to be in conversation with Joni Mitchell’s song of the same title, and how music works its way into much of her poetry, in both rhythm and language. She also discusses writing her new poetry collection Object Lesson which centers on trauma, and co-translating poems by Iraqi women poets with an Arabic translator.
Deborah Lindsay Williams speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her essay “‘You Like to Have Some Cup of Tea?’ and Other Questions About Complicity and Place,” which appears in Issue 20 of The Common magazine. In this conversation, Williams talks about living and writing in Abu Dhabi, traveling to South Africa with her family, and how narrow the western view of these places can be, often simplifying very complex issues of racial hierarchy, economics, culture, and history. She also discusses her novel-in-progress, The Corset and the Veil, based on the life of Lady Hester Stanhope, who fled England in 1809 in search of alternatives to her life as an impoverished aristocrat.
For years, I have tried to describe the light: the dry, dry gold; the purple peaks of our horizon; the long-armed valleys sliding off the peaks. Craters tinseled after frost, glaciers before the recent years of drought. Late-afternoon glow over brown dirt walls, valley floors blasting green with sugar, and the black volcanic rock of the single mountain without snow. Light like liquid gold against the brown, radiant gold drizzled across the ridges.
And then I try to name a lack of light, the mist that isn’t gray and isn’t white and isn’t rain. Light through fog, light instead of fog, fog instead of light. The sparkle of dew along a leaf, even when it seems there isn’t any light at all. Light, and not-light, that you can get lost in. Light that misleads you, leads you on. The flicker of a flashlight through tent walls.
I am not pleased. Paint is dripping down my hoof and the colors are muddled together. I shouldn’t complain. I agreed to it, of course.
Hafiz is putting together a zoo. And he asked me to be the zebra.
“You’re a very good donkey, habibi,” he told me three days ago, “but the border is closed, and everyone says prices for using the smuggling tunnels have gone up. I can’t afford the zebra in Damascus, and the one in Cairo is twice that price.” He gestured wildly, scattering my oats. What a waste.
I don’t know much about borders, but I would do anything for Hafiz. He is more than a father to me.
Fátima Policarpo speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her essay “Her Borders Become Her,” which appears in Issue 20 of The Common magazine. In this conversation, Policarpo talks about creating an essay that includes elements of ghost stories, using language barriers and rich settings to set up complicated dynamics between family members who bully, and are later bullied in turn. She also discusses her current manuscript, a longer work incorporating many of the ideas and themes explored in this essay, and about her work teaching writing and literature with a focus on human rights education.
Podcast: Fátima Policarpo on “Her Borders Become Her”
Writer and translator Edgar Garbelotto speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about his short story “A Fourteen-Hour Lesson in Theosophy,” which appears in Issue 20 of The Common magazine. The story imagines the final hours of author Clarice Lispector’s life. In this conversation, Garbelotto talks about the process of fictionalizing a real person and bringing her to life in the streets of Rio. Garbelotto also discusses the experience of writing and translating in English, which is his second language, and the way that experience has changed his approach to writing original work. Portuguese is a more playful, allegorical language than English, Garbelotto says, and he’s learned to approach each language differently.
Podcast: Edgar Garbelotto on “A Fourteen-Hour Lesson in Theosophy”
Casey Walker speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about his short story “Vigilância,” which appears in Issue 20 of The Common magazine. In this conversation, Walker talks about writing World War II-era Lisbon through the eyes of a police informer who trades in secrets. Walker also discusses the complex nature of complicity in his novel Last Days in Shanghai, and the historical and personal background behind his current project Mexicali, a new novel set in the Mexican-American borderlands.
Katherine Vaz speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her short story “The Treasure Hunt of August Dias,” which appears in Issue 20 of The Common magazine. In this conversation, Vaz talks about her long career of writing novels and short stories about Portuguese and Portuguese-American characters and their rich, complex communities. She also discusses her current project, a heavily researched historical novel about Portuguese immigrants set during the Civil War.
Podcast: Katherine Vaz on “The Treasure Hunt of August Dias”
Bina Shah speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her short story “Weeds and Flowers,” which appears in Issue 19 of The Common magazine. In this conversation, Shah talks about how the people she observes and encounters in her life in Karachi, Pakistan, inspire her work in fiction. She also discusses her 2018 feminist dystopian novel Before She Sleeps, and the sequel she’s working on now, in addition to her work as a journalist.