In this conversation-in-correspondence, TALIA LAKSHMI KOLLURI and VAUHINI VARA discuss Vauhini’s electrifying collection, This Is Salvaged, and its themes of connection, the evolution of the self, and the incomprehensible nature of grief. Kolluri and Vara explore craft, how work evolves over time, and the ways time infuses stories with emotional depth.
This Is Salvaged: Vauhini Vara in conversation with Talia Lakshmi Kolluri
This feature is part of our print and online portfolio of writing from the immigrant farmworker community. Read more online or in Issue 26.
The early life of Juan Felipe Herrera (b. 1948), the U.S. Poet Laureate emeritus, was shaped by the farmworker’s cycle of seasonal work. His poetry, rich in Mexican pop culture, distills a unique music. He is the author of Akrilica (1989), Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream (1999), and 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007 (2007), among other books. In this dialogue with Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor at Amherst College and the editor of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature, which took place in Los Angeles, California on April 19, 2023, he reflects on his formative experiences as a poet defined by an itinerant childhood.
Farmworker Days: Ilan Stavans in Conversation with Juan Felipe Herrera
ANDERS CARLSON-WEE‘s Disease of Kings showcases a mastery of tone and voice, an uncanny ability to talk to you (reader) like a friend and confidant, while telling you the hardest truths— truths that might actually change your life, truths the world doesn’t necessarily want you to know. These poems are urgent without being demanding, confessional without being sensational, and indirectly lead us to reconsider the nuances of relationships, how our lives are structured, and ultimately the big questions of what matters most. Disease of Kings tells a fierce, uncompromising narrative, yet also manages to be deeply vulnerable and do away with pretense and artifice, embracing a primal need to “Lay It Bare,” as one of the poems is aptly titled.
JOY BAGLIO sat down with Anders to discuss Disease of Kings, touching on his impulse toward narrative, crafting vivid imagery, honing voice, and more.
Lay It Bare: Joy Baglio Interviews Anders Carlson-Wee
Photos L-R courtesy of Manuel Muñoz and Lindsay France/Cornell University.
Acclaimed writers MANUEL MUÑOZ and HELENA MARÍA VIRAMONTES met almost three decades ago: Muñoz was obtaining his MFA in Creative Writing from Cornell University, and Viramontes was his mentor. Many novels and story collections later, the pair are still close friends. They sat down recently to talk, for the first time, specifically about their roots in farmwork. They discussed the poor working conditions and hardships, but also the ways that farmworkers find love and joy in their families. As writers, they connected over the desire to honor the wholeness and complexity of these lives in their work.
Beyond Their Labor: Manuel Muñoz and Helena María Viramontes on Writing the Lives of Farmworkers
JANE SATTERFIELD and ROSANNA YOUNG OH—poets who met at the 2023 Poetry by the Sea Global conference in Madison, CT—connected via email between Baltimore and New York City, and reflected on the power of inherited narratives, their shared fandom of Jane Eyre, sustaining creativity, and Rosanna’s newest collection, The Corrected Version.
The Magnetic Pull of Place: An Interview with Rosanna Young Oh
After thirty-six hours of travel, VALERIA LUISELLI arrived at Amherst College LitFest on a freezing Saturday night just in time to speak with The Common’s editor-in-chief JENNIFER ACKER. Their conversation explored the capacity of memory to shape geography, the relationship between language and home, and the architecture of a book. Luiselli also spoke with honesty and ardor about her research in and around the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and her experience as a legal translator for refugees, experiences informing her acclaimed novel Lost Children Archive. This interview is an edited and condensed version of the live conversation; read more about LitFest, and watch a video of the full conversation online.
Let Me Open the Window: Valeria Luiselli in conversation with Jennifer Acker at LitFest 2023
JOANNE McFARLAND is an artist, poet, and curator whose work centers on the intersection of language and visual representation. Her newest collection, Pullman (Grid Books, 2023), is a brilliant and singular exploration of form and artistic disciplines that examines themes of labor, creativity, eroticism, and love, engaging and interacting with events in the American past as they relate to the state of being human today. By exploring the history of the Pullman car porters of the late 19th-century railroads, McFarland’s poems and integrative collages explore historical sources, entries from the Black Almanac of 1972, lyrics created by McFarland’s own father—a songwriter for Aretha Franklin—and vintage French magazines.In this interview, MAKENNA GOODMAN connected with McFarland about Pullman and the broader scope of her artistic work. McFarland asks us to consider our relationship to the erotic, to our delight, to the sensual experience of being alive, to our drive to make music from a moan, to adhere ripped pages into re-imagined dresses, to reconsider the past as a way out of pain.
Creativity as the Opposite of Violence: Makenna Goodman Interviews JoAnne McFarland
SARA FREEMAN‘s arresting, lyrically economical Tides has been generating buzz from the likes of Time Magazine, The New York Times, and Lit Hub since it was released last year. The Guardian calls this fragmentary, feminist novel “an experimental study in grief.” But what does it mean to write a feminist novel, these days, and to dwell in your characters’ grief? And how do experimental writing forms intersect with feminism?
MELODY NIXON sat down with Freeman, her graduate-school colleague, to discuss Tides; its liminal setting; what it’s like when we hear our characters’ voices in our heads; the ways that novels might ruin our lives; and the anxiety “of near-constant potential narrative collapse” that Freeman navigated while writing this extraordinary debut.
Sentences Worth Keeping: Melody Nixon Interviews Sara Freeman
MILO MUISE’s recent collection, TL;DR, was selected by Hanif Abdurraqib as the winner of the 2021 Newfound Prose Prize. In this interview, RAGE HEZEKIAH and Milo Muise connected about humor, punctuation, and how environment shapes who we become.
Embodying a Permissive Playfulness: Rage Hezekiah interviews Milo Muise
Ted Conover began reporting his latest book, Cheap Land Colorado, in May of 2017, in a scenic and unforgiving stretch of the San Luis Valley known locally as the Flats. He tells the story of a diverse cast of off-grid homesteaders, struggling to bootstrap a life on the rural margins. Conover was first introduced to the locals as a volunteer for a nonprofit called La Puente. Under the tutelage of a military vet named Matt Little, he went door to door offering help with basic necessities like food and firewood. Over the course of the next five years he became a regular fixture in the valley, splitting time between a rented trailer parked on the property of a local family (the Grubers) and his adopted home of New York City where he teaches in the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Eventually, Conover bought his own parcel in the Valley, haggling down from twenty to fifteen-thousand dollars. When we spoke by phone in December, he said, “I’m probably not the only writer in New York on a crowded subway car who sometimes misses the place they grew up.”
The Challenge of First Impressions: Lisa Wells Interviews Ted Conover