All posts tagged: May 2024

Losing the Daphne

By JESSICA E. JOHNSON

It was neither ice nor heat. That is, not one single ice storm and not one single heat wave. The relentless strangeness of weather left the Daphne this way, budded around the edge but dead in the center. She will probably not last another hot summer.

Daphne is a Daphne odora “Marginata.” The cultivar “Marginata” indicates glossy leaves that sport a pale, bright edge. It was the odora though—the sweet, pink mid-winter scent reminiscent of Fruit Loops—that made us want her in the first place, and tend to her, and carry her with us from one house to another, that made us prop her up when she grew heavy and underplant her with special varieties of bleeding heart and black mondo grass that would best show her off, that made us love and root for her, over and over.

Losing the Daphne
Read more...

Fallmore

By LAURA NAGLE 

Mairéad knows what she will say if her husband asks why she has been filling their eldest daughter’s bowl to the brim with porridge at every meal while taking less than a full serving for herself. She will talk about how much she hates oats, has always hated everything about them: the thick smell of the fields when the rain has been too heavy, the ache in her left hip each day of the harvest, the gluey texture of oatmeal porridge, the taste of it like dirty air, the way it sticks in her throat when she tries to swallow it.

She imagines Thomas’s response. It’s by God’s grace we’ve oats again, she can almost hear him saying. God’s grace there’s enough for the likes of us after the livestock are fed. This time last year, all they could get was Indian meal, and the whole village was sick for the better part of a week before the women figured out how to prepare it properly.

Fallmore
Read more...

Poetry as an Ethnographic Tool: Leah Zani interviews Adrie Kusserow

headshots of adrie and zanie

 

ADRIE KUSSEROW and LEAH ZANI are a rare sort: trained cultural anthropologists and poets, anthro-poets. The two met while Adrie was judging the Ethnographic Poetry Prize, the world’s only prize for poetry written by anthropologists. Shortly after, they began working together on the editorial team of Anthropology and Humanism, one of the few peer-reviewed academic journals that accepts poetry.

In this interview, Leah Zani connects with Kusserow about her latest memoir, The Trauma Mantras: A Memoir in Prose Poems (Duke University Press, 2024), a collection of prose poems based on Kusserow’s experiences with refugee communities and humanitarian projects in Nepal, India, Bhutan, Uganda, South Sudan, and the United States.  In this conversation, they discuss the lyricism of suffering and the role of poetry in enriching deep anthropological understandings of place.

Poetry as an Ethnographic Tool: Leah Zani interviews Adrie Kusserow
Read more...

Friday Reads: May 2024

Just last week, we at The Common launched our flowery spring issue! Issue 27 features a special portfolio of Arabic stories from Chad, Eritrea, and South Sudan; vibrant paintings by Eritrean artist Michael Adonai; and poetry and prose from all over the world on history and memory, queerness and desire, and the small and large rebellions that shape our lives. In conjunction with the release of the issue, we are bringing back our Friday Reads book recommendation column, so you can learn what books have been inspiring our contributors this spring. Keep reading to hear from Issue 27’s Matthew Lippman, Michelle Lewis, and Kevin Dean!

Friday Reads: May 2024
Read more...

The Fish Market

By ESTHER KARIN MNGODO
Translated from the Swahili by JAY BOSS RUBIN

Piece appears below in English and the original Swahili.  

 

Translator’s Note

I was drawn to “Soko la Samaki” by its rich variety of registers, and by its use of the second-person point of view, which in my experience is not so common in Swahili literature. I was also taken by the story’s close attention to class and gender dynamics, and the role of language, indeed languages, in interactions between men and women of different backgrounds and social standings. In my initial draft, I retained quite a bit of Swahili. As I began to revise, in consultation with both colleagues and the author, I was encouraged to seek out English that corresponds to not just Swahili meanings but Swahili cadences, especially when they play a role in one character trying to convince or gain entry into the world of another. The version here contains less Swahili than my earlier drafts, but the Swahili that is retained is more intentional. Of the handful of authors whose work I have been so fortunate to translate, my author-translator relationship with Esther Karin Mngodo has been, by far, the most interactive. In addition to drawing my attention to rhythm, Esther helped me comprehend some of the story’s slang and proverbial language, and she offered invaluable feedback and suggestions on how to render specific moments in English. Going back and forth in our comments in the margins of a shared doc, often when it was morning for me and evening for her, I felt like I was getting to collaborate with an author, editor, and fellow translator all at once. For that, and for the story itself, I am enormously grateful.

—Jay Boss Rubin

The Fish Market
Read more...

Salamisim

By CHARISSE BALDORIA

A sepia-tone image showing a young girl with a ribbon in her hair smiling next to a piano, one hand affectionately resting on the edge of the lid. The wall above is adorned with elephants.

Photo courtesy of author.


Manila, Philippines

In the lanai’s half-light, a softened sun to my left and amber on the keys, I played the piano for my father who did not know the names of notes. I-bitin mo, he said in Tagalog, shrouded in incandescent glow as I shifted from one chord to the next, a nine-year-old on the cusp of competition learning how to cadence. And so, I slowed into suspension, this bitin near the end of the phrase—and all stakes hung in the balance like the last inhale of a life or the final somersault before the thunder of disappointment or applause.

Salamisim
Read more...