All posts tagged: interview

This Way Back: An Interview with Joanna Eleftheriou

CAMERON FINCH interviews JOANNA ELEFTHERIOU

Headshot of Janna Eleftheriou

This Way Back (West Virginia University Press, 2020) is Joanna Eleftheriou’s first book. She is currently an assistant professor of English at Christopher Newport University and a faculty member of the Writing Workshops in Greece. Dividing her time between Greece and New York, Eleftheriou’s work can also be found in Apalachee Review and Arts and Letters. 

Most artists struggle with the role of responsibility and their art. Does art have a responsibility? In this insightful interview with Cameron Finch, Joanna Eleftheriou provides readers with a mini-manual on how to engage in the dialectic of identity, confront the privilege of choosing an identity, and how writers prioritize discovery. If you’re looking for advice on how to begin an essay, or a way to honor your wounds, this interview is an excellent starting point. Eleftheriou’s focus on freedom and all of its incarnations is a valuable canvas for artists who might find themselves at an impasse. “We deserve to see ourselves in art,” says Eleftheriou. Indeed, says The Common.

This Way Back: An Interview with Joanna Eleftheriou
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Writers on Writing: Tanya Coke

This interview is the seventh in a new series, Writers on Writing, which focuses on craft and process. The series is part of The Common’s 10th anniversary celebration.

Read Coke’s Issue 19 essay, “Brother Love.”

 

Headshot of Tanya Coke

 

Tanya Coke is a civil rights lawyer and writer. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Root, and USA Today. She is currently working on a graphic novel about race and suburban motherhood.

 

 

 

 

Your essay “Brother Love” reads not only as a heartfelt meditation on how familial ties can be rekindled, but also as an intricate, personal account of your family history over time. How did you navigate weaving the personal with the historical? How did you determine which moments in your life to highlight in your narrative?

That’s a good question. I didn’t write an outline or give much thought to structure. For me, it was a little like reviewing the tape of a home movie and picking the most emotionally laden scenes in a story that traverses 40 years. Or maybe squinting at a landscape to make an impressionist painting and trying to capture the most vivid things in the frame. Like the moment when my father told my sisters and me that we had a nine-month-old brother. The moment when he first handed this scrawny baby to me. The way it made me feel both special and grown up when my father took me to jazz club with him, when I was 14. The look of grief on my brother’s face at 17, when he was a pallbearer at our dad’s funeral. Or the joy on his other dad’s face, when he danced to a brace of Indian drummers on Shawn’s wedding day. Those became the touchstones for the essay.

Writers on Writing: Tanya Coke
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Hold the Mirror up to Nature: An Interview with Matt Miller

KERRIN MCCADDEN interviews MATT MILLER

Matt Miller headshot

Selected by Major Jackson as the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize winner for his sophomore collection, Club Icarus, and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow, Matt Miller published Tender the River this year with Texas Review Press. He is the winner of the 2019 Nimrod International Review’s Pablo Neruda Prize and has published poems in the Harvard Review, The Rumpus, and SouthwestReview. Miller also wrote The Wounded for the Water and Cameo Diner: Poems. He currently teaches at Phillips Exeter Academy.

In this interview conducted by Kerrin McCadden, you’ll find a poet engaged in an exploration of rivers as national symbols of disparity, dispossession, hope, and boundaries. The meaning of “being from somewhere,” or “home” is thoroughly examined in Miller’s responses, as it is in his poetry. McCadden’s inquiry ignites the discussion until it becomes a lesson on craft, self-reflection, the history of a place, and the biography of a country as told by a poet who can make cobblestone and metal dance, who can teach us how to listen when memory tries to speak.
 


Hold the Mirror up to Nature: An Interview with Matt Miller
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11 Questions with Richard Ford

ALEXANDER BISLEY interviews RICHARD FORD

headshot of Richard Ford

Talking to Richard Ford, the 76-year-old author of The SportswriterIndependence Day, and Between Them, provides some hope, a feeling of being somewhat consoled. The great Southern writer is considered and insightful, with that courtly Mississippi inflection. Evoking his classic A Multitude of Sins, Ford’s latest short story collection Sorry for Your Trouble proves he still has gas in the tank.

Richard Ford is the author of the New York Times bestseller Canada. His story collections include the bestseller Let Me Be Frank with You, and Rock Springs. His novel Wildlife was adapted into a 2018 film of the same name. He is winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Prix Femina in France, the 2019 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, and the Princess of Asturias Award in Spain. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, he now lives in Boothbay, Maine, with his wife, Kristina Ford. Sorry for Your Trouble is out now from Ecco.

During the days leading up to President Biden’s inauguration, Ford and Alexander Bisley discussed sport, place, process and America’s future.
 

11 Questions with Richard Ford
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Writers on Writing: Frances Richey

This interview is the sixth in a new series, Writers on Writing, which focuses on craft and process. The series is part of The Common’s 10th anniversary celebration.

Read Richey’s March 2020 Poetry Feature

 

Frances Richey headshotFrances Richey is the author of two poetry collections: The Warrior (Viking Penguin 2008), The Burning Point (White Pine Press 2004), and the chapbook, Voices of the Guard (Clackamas Community College 2010). She teaches an on-going poetry writing class at Himan Brown Senior Program at the 92nd Street Y in NYC, and she is the poetry editor for upstreet Literary Magazine. She was poetry editor for Bellevue Literary Review from 2004-2008. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from: The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, Plume, Gulf Coast, Salmagundi, Salamander, Blackbird, River Styx, and Woman’s Day, and her poems have been featured on NPR, PBS NewsHour and Verse Daily. Most recently she was a finalist for The National Poetry Series for her manuscript, “On The Way Here.” She lives in New York City.

 

 

Writers on Writing: Frances Richey
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Playing Frankenstein: An Interview with Alison Entrekin

HEATH WING interviews ALISON ENTREKIN

Image of Alison Entrekin

When I met with Alison Entrekin for this interview, the first thing I noticed was all the books she carried with her: fat dictionaries, field guides on botany, one on the birds of northeastern Brazil—the type of book generally known only to birdwatchers and ornithologists—not to mention a copy of Dylan Thomas’s 1954 radio drama, Under Milk Wood. I thought, only in the hands of a translator, an obsessive sort of word junkie like Alison, could such an assortment of books assemble.

We sat down to discuss her work in a coffee shop/bookstore in Santos, Brazil. As we made small talk, Alison, almost in passing, nodded toward the bookshelf above us lined with guidebooks on Brazil for gringo tourists. She explained that she had translated many of these guidebooks into English, a long time ago. She told me this, it seemed, neither to emphasize the extent of her work, which is no doubt impressive, nor to boast—and there is much to brag about—but in a self-reflective sort of manner, more to herself, as if surprised by how far she has come, from translating tourist guidebooks to now being the most sought after English translator of Brazilian literature. Her long list of translations includes works like City of God by Paulo Lins, Cristovão Tezza’s The Eternal Son, Chico Buarque’s Budapest, Clarice Lispector’s Near to the Wild Heart, and Blood-Drenched Beard by Daniel Galera.

Playing Frankenstein: An Interview with Alison Entrekin
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Ask a Local with Joaquim Arena: Praia, Cape Verde Islands

With JOAQUIM ARENA, translated by JETHRO SOUTAR

Image of Lighthouse, Praia, Cape Verde

Joaquim Arena was born in Cape Verde in 1964 and emigrated with his family to Portugal aged 5. He went on to study law and work as a journalist and musician in Lisbon. He is currently the Culture and Communications Advisor to the President of Cape Verde. He has written two novels (The Truth About Chindo Luz and Where Turtles Fly), one novella (A Lighthouse in the Desert) and a hybrid work that mixes biography, fiction, travel writing and history: Debaixo da Nossa Pele – Uma.

Ask a Local with Joaquim Arena: Praia, Cape Verde Islands
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Ask a Local with José Pinto de Sá: Maputo, Mozambique

With JOSÉ PINTO DE SÁ, translated by Jethro Soutar

José is a contributor to our Luso portfolio coming out in the fall issue.

maputo ask a local

Your name: José Pinto de Sá

Current city or town: Maputo, Mozambique

How long have you lived here: Seventy years, albeit with periods spent abroad as a political refugee or for family reasons

Three words to describe the climate: Tropical, hot and humid

Best time of year to visit? Between May and July, when the humidity and rainfall drops considerably and the average temperature is about 20 degrees Celsius, with a few daily fluctuations

1) The most striking physical features of this city/town are . . .

The light and the sea breeze. The city is built on a red sandstone headland that sticks out, at an average height of 80 meters, into Delagoa Bay, where five rivers from the savannah reach the sea. Up the coast to the east are beaches as far as the eye can see, while to the south the bay is home to an important port, one that is vital to southern Africa’s hinterland. Opposite the city, across the bay, are the Katembe lowlands, now connected to Maputo by the largest suspension bridge in Africa.

2) Historical context in broad strokes and the moments in which you feel this history . . .

Like hermit crabs, different inhabitants have occupied the conch shell of Maputo since the Portuguese first built the city in the late nineteenth century. Back then, the colonists lived in the Cement neighborhoods on the upper side overlooking the bay, in streets bordered by crimson acacias and jacarandas and with pretty houses surrounded by gardens. The black population, meanwhile, inhabited the Reeds,” living in huts made from reeds and sheet metal, with no roads, or electricity, or drinking water, or sewage, or garbage collection etc… After 45 years of independence, this shocking state of affairs has barely changed. A scandalously rich black elite now occupies the Cement, while ordinary Matupenses live in poverty in periphery neighborhoods that grow exponentially due to a rural exodus caused by war. The Maputo metropolitan area has a population of around three million people and the vast majority live in these periphery neighborhoods.

3) Local political debates frequently seem to center on . . . 

The most recent government corruption scandals. The degree of corruption is ridiculously high at every level of Mozambican society, from cabinet ministers to police patrols. The other hot topic is the worsening political-military situation in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. The region, home to the largest deposits of natural gas in the southern hemisphere, has suffered a number of terrorist attacks from alleged Islamist insurgents since 2017. The conflict, which has already caused over a thousand deaths and the displacement of 250,000 people, is well on its way to degenerating into a large-scale war and the government is clearly incapable of containing the situation.

4) Local/regional vocabulary or food?

The day-to-day lingo of Maputo is a mixture of Portuguese (the country’s official language), English (the language of business and a by-product of having a powerful neighbor in South Africa) and two Bantu languages, XiRonga and XiChangana, which are both spoken in the south of Mozambique. This linguistic variety, allied to the harmonious co-existence, in ethnic and religious terms, of Africans, Asians and Europeans, gives the city a heavy sense of Indian Ocean cosmopolitism.

5) The stereotype of the people who live here and what this stereotype misses . . .

Resilience is perhaps the easiest characteristic to attribute to Maputenses given the manifold difficulties they make do with and overcome simply to survive. Mozambique is 180th out of 189 on the United Nations Human Development Index. From precarious housing in shanty towns that flood whenever it rains to public transport that treats them like cattle, life is not easy for most citizens of Maputo. To keep on smiling after all the years of colonial oppression and the successive wars, droughts, floods and epidemics that have plagued the country since independence, shows that we Maputenses are possessed of immense stoicism and an undefeatable sense of humor.

 

José Pinto de Sá is a Mozambican writer, playwright and journalist. His short stories have been published in Mozambique, Portugal, Brazil, France, Belgium and, now, the United States.

Jethro Soutar is a translator of Spanish and Portuguese. He has a particular focus on works from Africa and has translated novels from Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Cape Verde. He is also editor of Dedalus Africa and a co-founder of Ragpicker Press. Originally from Sheffield in the UK, he now lives in Lisbon, Portugal.

Photo by José Pinto de Sá.

Ask a Local with José Pinto de Sá: Maputo, Mozambique
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Free Expression Under Tyranny: an Interview with Colette Bahna

RAED RAFEI interviews COLETTE BAHNA.
Translated from the Arabic by Raed Rafei.


Pharaohs, Distorted Body Parts, and Eclectic Symbolism 

From her home in Syria, Colette Bahna has been producing short stories, novels, plays, television scripts, and journalism since the 1980s. Despite the raging war in her home country, Bahna remains tenaciously attached to staying there. 

Bahna’s writing is infused with symbolism: ancient Egyptian history, biblical stories, and folk tales all allow her to write about life under despotism. With dark and piercing irony, she manages to go beyond the confines of the Syrian experience to compose timeless stories about injustice, tyranny, freedom, and love. 

Lebanese journalist, translator, and filmmaker Raed Rafei spoke with Bahna about her short story و/Waw, which appears in Issue No.17 of The Common; interconnectedness in her texts; writing during times of oppression; and her decision to remain in Syria.

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Free Expression Under Tyranny: an Interview with Colette Bahna
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