All posts tagged: Poetry Feature

Tesserae Poetry Feature: Part Two

The Common brings you a special two-part series as a preview to Tesserae: Poetry of CommunityA Reading & Celebration of Immigrants & New Americans, coming up on Sunday, April 22 3:30–5pm at The Parlor Room in Northampton, MA; free admission. You can view Part One of the series here.

Part Two – featuring poems by Tamiko Beyer, Leslie Marie Aguilar, and Oliver de la Paz.

Tesserae Flyer

Julia PikeTesserae Poetry Feature: Part Two

Tesserae Poetry Feature: Part One

The Common brings you a special two-part series as a preview to Tesserae: Poetry Of CommunityA Reading & Celebration Of Immigrants & New Americans, coming up on Sunday, April 22 3:30–5pm at The Parlor Room in Northampton, MA; free admission.

Part One – featuring poems by Kirun Kapur, María Luisa Arroyo, and Ocean Vuong.

tesserae flyer

Julia PikeTesserae Poetry Feature: Part One

March 2018 Poetry Feature: Print Preview

In March we welcome three poets new to our pages; all three have work forthcoming in the print journal, as well.


Zero Slave Teeth

On the radio I hear about George Washington’s teeth.
A guest says what do you think his teeth were and a host
says wood. I’ve read about Waterloo teeth, how we prowled
battlefields, plucked teeth from young French corpses,
wired them up to make fresh rich people mouths.
I figure we’re about to learn the founding father’s teeth
were from his soldiers. But it’s worse than that: slave teeth.
I post this on Facebook, asking what might the reparations
be for having your teeth pulled, having to see your teeth
every day in your owner’s stupid mouth. Melodie posts a comic
from The Oatmeal: this is old news, the slave teeth thing, also
that people LOSE THEIR MINDS denying it.  She posts
the comic and we watch the losing of minds unfold.
He had a wooden tooth (teeth). . . zero slave teeth,
some stranger says, calls me stupid cunt on my dad’s page.
My DAD. Zero slave teeth.  No innocents on death row.  No
lynchings, not all men. Everybody crying rape, not all slave
owners were bad. Sally Hemmings? In love. Three hots
and a cot.  Must be nice! FREEDOM FREEDOM USA!

Three-time Pushcart prize winner Jill McDonough is the recipient of Lannan, NEA, Cullman Center, and Stegner fellowships.  Her most recent book is
Reaper (Alice James, 2017); Here All Night, her fifth collection, is forthcoming from Alice James Books.  She teaches in the MFA program at UMass-Boston and directs 24PearlStreet, the Fine Arts Work Center online.



The Home Makers 

They ran in the night
three adults, three kids
What did you bring with you?
Potato sacks for warmth
Matches? No, no matches
nothing easier to spot
than a flame

The village burned. Inside them
pillars collapsed, bodies
got scorched, apples cooked
on tree branches. They knocked on
the first door they found
No one there seemed surprised
We were expecting you

Within the next few days
they looked for survivors
the teenage girl who ran by their house
a bullet lodged in her neck
yelling, hide!
the old man who happened to be sorting
potatoes in the cellar

Anyone else, I ask
Also a couple that went into the woods
to make love. Both men had families
little kids
Kids make it hard to escape
How do you explain to a baby
Stay quiet, you’ll get us all killed

They went back
First to bury the dead
Then for more mundane things
their kitchen garden, intact for the most part
the cellar with potatoes, jars
of jelly and moonshine, coarse peasant jewelry
buried in the yard

The beehives burnt down
The fruit trees were ruined
But the stone foundation, the water well
some iron tools from the shed –
those they could use
They moved back and started
making it a home again

The large brick oven endured
a blackened lung, the body that housed it gone
They started building walls to enclose it
Our home, it’s barely visible, their mother would say
walls and roof thin as a membrane
under an egg shell

But if you stay quiet
you will feel it forming
a soft explosion in slow motion
a rippling fire
ripping through your ribcage
folding you in

Oksana Maksymchuk writes and translates poetry. Her writing appeared in 
Words Without Borders, Poetry International, Modern Poetry in Translation, Los Angeles Review of Books, New Orleans Review, Salamander, Cimarron Reviewand elsewhere. She won first place in the 2004 Richmond Lattimore and in 2014 Joseph Brodsky-Stephen Spender translation competitions. Most recently, she co-edited Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine (Academic Studies Press, 2017). Maksymchuk teaches philosophy at the University of Arkansas.




Today I’m your age when you first saw my careful chin,
my freckles in your Sunday school class,
when you took my hand from my father’s, tickled me.
Did I laugh then,
as you promised me your salvation?
Can you believe I still feel your fingers sear
the soft of my thigh when I sit in class, in church.
Do you believe I still go to church?
I’m sitting in bed where a woman has chosen to sleep
beside me, whom I’ve told I’m slow to kindle
within me what I would not have burn
so close to what you left.
Do you see her temple
rest against my leg? Listen, how cavernous
her breath, how vast we are,
how little room for anything else.
Watch how she touches me, the nail of her little finger
brushing my thigh.
How she absolves me of your sin.
Soon I’ll wake her. Soon her hands. Her lips.
I woke to write a bitter poem, but look, Peter, look where I am.

History of My Godlessness

Small one, holding a bull frog
in a Tennessee summer night,

how well you worship & despair—
your friends around you

listening to pop Christian music
& mystified beyond your reach.

Then the lightning bugs,
which you only knew

through books & movies, spring up
about you, a grist of doubt

& hum.

This is the scene:

the air thick & humid
settles like moss at your throat—

you lean back onto the asphalt
& set the frog above your head

like a crown. You can’t see the stars
for the thunderheads, but the bugs

descend like a righteous plague.
Your friends flee, fragments

of holy— holy— holy— skip
like rabid hares after them. Rejoice,

child, you could not have followed.
Lift your hands & receive this kingdom.

Be literal. Be devoured by light.

John Allen Taylor
s first chapbook,
Unmonstrous, is forthcoming from YesYes Books in spring 2019. His poems are published in RHINO, Nashville Review, Muzzle, The Journal, Pleiades, and other places. He serves as Ploughshares’s senior poetry reader, he coordinates the writing center at the University of Michigan – Dearborn, and he brews very strong kombucha. Say hello @johna_taylor.


Julia PikeMarch 2018 Poetry Feature: Print Preview

February 2018 Poetry Feature



“I have made
an elegy for myself it
is true”

                        Geoffrey Hill, i.m., 1932 – 2016

1.  The Meeting of the Waters

Sempiternal waters, sing-
ly sing, gush glottal-less & all
onomatopoetical your
triphthong’s liquid pluraling
through rock & ruck & rill

Julia PikeFebruary 2018 Poetry Feature

January 2018 Poetry Feature

This month we welcome poets new to our pages: JESSICA LANAY and MARLIN M. JENKINS



Beverly Jefferson Meets Red Peter at The Russian Tea Room

“[…] as uniformly as is the preference of the Oranootan for the black women over those of his own species.” — Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

“It is now nearly five years since I was an ape, a short space of time, perhaps, according to the calendar…” — Red Peter, from “A Report to an Academy” by Franz Kafka

Red Peter, it is so nice to meet you—I mean, you have to know how awful online dating can be. My father set us up—I think, based on your preferences in women, he thought we would have a lot in common. I must admit, I was excited to come to this restaurant. It is an excellent choice; the banana pudding is fabulous—the best in the city. I too love frequenting Paris, although I missed your performances with Hagenbeck. He also brought the world Otta Benga, did he not? I believe Mr. Benga resided in the same state where my father wrote his Notes. You are such a kind gentleman, compared to others. Here, let me adjust your bowtie; you’ve learned to be more human than most. Now, tell me, in your report to an academy, did you address your desires? Your dating preferences? Is the preference of the oranootan, in fact, for the black woman over his own species? Red Peter, my father would be very happy to hear about this date, if your preference is as such—I mean, for a woman like myself.

Emma CroweJanuary 2018 Poetry Feature

December 2017 Poetry Feature

Three poems by ALBERTO de LACERDA, Transnational Spirit
Translations and introduction by SCOTT LAUGHLIN

“This is what I live for: friendship and the things of the spirit.” Alberto de Lacerda often repeated this refrain to his friends. Friendship meant kinship, connection, and community. The things of the spirit were poetry, literature, art, dance—the myriad expressions of the spiritual and transcendent Alberto sought, and lived by, his whole life.

Such values perhaps couldn’t lead to anything but an intercontinental life.

Emily EverettDecember 2017 Poetry Feature

November 2017 Poetry Feature

Repair Manuals: A Brief Interview with Sebastian Matthews


From April 2017 to July 2017, poet, writer, collagist, and teacher Sebastian Matthews and I carried on a long-running conversation, which you will find excerpted below. It is high time to hear from this provocative and engaging poet who, after surviving a head-on collision with his wife and son in the car with him, went into relative literary and social seclusion for several years. While the newest book discloses the private life of trauma and the body, forthcoming projects concern Matthews’ public takes on race, culture, and identity. Always stretching to disclose what others would keep hidden is part of what makes his widening body of work both engaging and authentic.

Sunna JuhnNovember 2017 Poetry Feature

October 2017 Poetry Feature

This October, we’re celebrating fall with new work from four of our contributors.


Becoming A Rice Pot

She held the rice pot too
close to her bosom each time
she had to take a cup of it.
Once she would take as
much, she would keep back
a fistful. She never wanted
the rice pot to be empty.
Keeping back, she told me
years later, is restraint. When
you make a good home,
remember, holding back
a little every time will
save you the magic.
When he called me last
summer, I wanted to hold
back a little of myself, but
a sudden gust of Kalbaisakhi
changed the conversation.

Author of
whorelight (Hawakal, Aug 2017), Linda Ashok is the 2017 Charles Wallace India Fellow in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Chichester, UK. Her poems and reviews have appeared in several publications, online and in print, including The McNeese Review, Friends Journal, Axolotl, Skylight 47, Vinyl, The Big Bridge Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poets, Mascara Literary Review, The Rumpus, Stirring – A Sundress Publication, Expound, and others. Linda is the Founder/President of RædLeaf Foundation for Poetry & Allied Arts and sponsors the annual RL Poetry Award (since 2013). More at:




Costa Rica

A metal-throated hummingbird
tucks through a crack in the bus window.
We duck and dodge, rough our hands
through our clothes when we feel him.
We watch as he murmurs through the air,
but we don’t yet love the beautiful bird.
It’s only when the animal flies into Lucite,
and falls like a bullet casing onto the floor
that we claim him as our beloved thing.
A woman kneels to cup our bird, and we hold
our breath when his wings begin to blur.
It’s natural to love impossible things.
The bird swoops and flutters, hovers
like the Holy Spirit above our heads.


Make Believe

As children, my cousin and I once
dug into the side of our mountain,

a terrible brown work.
That morning we’d made the cold walk

to the hospital and watched
his mother for a long time.

She was unchained from her machines,
shrinking into ordinary.

It was our first death,
and we looked at our small hands.

But no, my cousin insisted,
these are not our hands,

they are bear hands.
And we walked to our mountain,

shaped our cave:
one meter, two meters, three.

We bears were making a home.
We roared, and shook off our human bones,

until angels howled like dogs
in the valley below.

Jacob Shores-Argüello is a Costa Rican American poet and fiction writer. His second book Paraíso was selected for the inaugural CantoMundo Poetry Prize and will be coming out in December 2017. Jacob is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, the Dzanc Books ILP International Literature Award, The Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship in Provincetown, the Djerassi Resident Artist’s Fellowship, and the Amy Clampitt residency in Lenox, MA. His work appears in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, and The Oxford American.




I was so dumb. I thought your suffering was something I could solve, or at least push out of sight,
like the dead falcon we found in the forest and carried back home under steel-blue night to bury.

I thought death was a story we’d tell ourselves later, and laugh. Instead, you stopped sharing
things with me, except the poems, which I didn’t even know you’d been writing. I was your only

reader. That summer in the High Peaks your drafts piled up on the picnic table under a paper-weight,
edges shimmering in the wind like long, silver wings. You were newly thirteen. I was half-way

through eleven. I began to write back. I thought we could live together this way, side by side,
not speaking, watching ink run like waves across the page. How could we have known

what the water would do, that the depth pressure would pull us apart, that time would come
towards us like a motorboat, soundless, amorphous. That love is an agony we have to enter alone.

Catherine Pond lives in Los Angeles where she is a ​Ph.D. student at the University of Southern California. She is Assistant Director of the NY State Summer Writers Institute and co-founder of the online literary magazine Two Peach (with Julia Anna Morrison). Her poems and essays have appeared in over 30 magazines, including Narrative, Boston Review, and the LA Review of Books.




There’s nothing else like it, my father says. He has spent his life
admiring this light, photographing the long tubes
of glass. All heated by hand torches, and cannon, ribbon
and crossfire burners. Bent into symbols
by men like himself, then filled with noble gases. And so I have
come to treasure the red wings of flying stallions
above the highway, the blue trim of diners. The holiness
of a movie theatre marquee, in the hours
after a storm. We sit on the hood of his car, let it wash our faces.



Through the dark lattice of the earpiece, the voice of my mother
falters as she tells me she’ll enjoy the racehorses
unless she finds out she’s dying. But she has been dying
all of her life, a leaf bronzing in the wind
like a miracle small enough for a child. I feel around for nickels
in the coin slot, add my thumbprint to the clouds
of oil on the faceplate. I tell her everything will be okay
and watch the raindrops zigzag down the
plastic windows. A bus rumbles to a stop and I say I have to go.



My father seated at the upright piano, his hands fluttering
like injured birds over the keys. He’s singing
a hymn about redemption, the terrible sweetness of
dying, his bare feet pumping the brass
pedals like he’s weaving the notes on a floor loom. I look
out the window, the last light jagged and red
behind the mountains. He folds down the fallboard
and turns to ask what I thought. Snow
begins to gather on the sill and I do my best to assure him.

Zack Strait is pursuing his Ph.D. at Florida State University. His work has recently appeared in Ploughshares and is forthcoming in Poetry.

Debbie WenOctober 2017 Poetry Feature