All posts tagged: Poetry Feature

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
purl, pounce, pronounce & preen the sourceless
flourish of your sundry selves, unseamed
anima, antiphonal
                           ensembling in simul-
taneous tumult the babbling
Earth’s eternal tongues;
                                                   O airy
Yggdrasil, within whose watery limbs
climbs the burgeoning current
of birdsong indistinguishable—
wren-trickle, thrush’s trill,
aria of orioles
dissolved in the dawn chorus
but intimated tributaries
               voicings of a universal
dialect, a will
gone malleable & migratory
raptured in translation, diaspora
becoming at a stroke
diapason; O
Ouroboros, origin-&-end,
in Bacchic spring come thundering
down the escarpment’s scree & skim
littering the valley
with erratics, scattered limbs
of a glacial language éxtant only in
lacunae, contour,
kettle, esker drift,
congregated relics
where a village went; what crook
denotes you truly, what
wandering wand divines
your secular in-saecula-
saeculorum sign:
your mouth’s green myth
pressed to the ocean’s ear,
your mountain tale in touch
with some ridiculous sublime
that slips like the gopher soul into its hole

surfacing into the world of time:


2.  The Valley of Lost Names

Think of a time our own names conjure
nothing but a body of unbroken water

(Moon over Quabbin.  Body of bottled light
poured across the body of the water,

something far, at the surface—finned or feathered?
rolling in distress—)

at dawn the sudden, trumpeting eagle

The drowned towns, four-square, hymned in stave & stanza,
swallowed walls on walls of song, each stone a tongue

where the salmon canter over the meadow baffle dam
& small-mouthed bass hosanna . . .

Too deeply now for any to remember
so why does it seem important to remember

when we will ourselves, these fluent selves, like water
subsumed in greater water be impossible to remember

to distinguish the veins in the hand that worked the lathe
wove the straw, rippled at morning into a gesture of love or praise

or clipped the dewy lilac from its stem
or turned the fieldstone into the sunken wall

of a cellar hole, the jam jars lined within
the vagrant bittersweet unwinds among

when the shore recedes (in the twinkling of an eye)
the tombs stick out like knees.

Deep in a time that is no longer time
but the greater dissolutions of the water

within whose workings ever unspool our names
as it were (as it will be) upon a ghostly bobbin . . .


3.  Questions for a Disincorporation

                          “to undo, separate or dissolve from a body”

                          Dana, MA; Prescott, MA; Greenwich, MA; Enfield, MA:  April 28, 1938

A solitary grebe
filling itself, in reflection,
into a globe—

Where does the body go?
                                                                                      Is it the same

as the wind in the trees
                                                                       the wind in the highest limbs

that sweeps them uniformly like the necks of swans
swimming in consort
                                                   so they seem in time

with a music it is impossible to hear
from this distance
                                                                       (we are very far)

—as in a silent film, the couples dancing,
the sweeping of light & limbs across the floor
as across the water’s surface, in reflection,
when the wind lifts
& the glacier of a cloud pulls over
& the mares’ tails fly
like tribes, nomadic tongues, erratic stars?

the bodies of lost deer
lie littering the ice.

The human graves, carved up & carted
to the minted cemetery on the hill.

The summer fields, under the frozen surface . . .

(Something of us remains  Something of us shall not suffer
to be changed)

In spring, when the small birds come
back to the north meadow & the eagle-fretted bones
rise from the ice

                                                                       across the breaking floes

as it were upon another shore

where does the body, through the fields of other bodies,



4.  Atlantis

About that country there’s not much left to say.
Blue sun, far off, a watery vein
in the cloud belt.  The solid earth itself

unremarkable:  familiar ruins
littered with standing stones our people
had lost the ability to decipher.

How deeply had we slept?  Beneath the jellyfish
umbels of evergreens, each one a dream,
and the effervescent stars, cold currents

tugged at our thoughts like tapestries
unraveling into war.  All spring
the nightingale perched on the green volcano’s lip.

The rats had abandoned the temples.
My mind was a voyage hungering to happen.


5.  Poem with Any End

When all this All doth pass from age to age—

this City on a Hill, its golden dome
and cupolas a quiet sea floor,
the crabbed, neurotic streets still disentangling
obsessive thirst, obsessive westwardness . . .

what is a city without

Rome, its spidered aqueducts
bearing the bounty of barbaric springs
down mountaining arches, a song in the valley

                                                                          sempiternal waters

over the sunken ponds & soapstone quarry,
the Dipper rising with inscrutable stars
over the village where they made the bobbins

to slip down dark, infernal aqueducts
(like shades to slake the high, titanic thirst
of Boston)
                        to Boston.

album cover
Purchase The Crossing CD here

Todd Hearon is the author of two volumes of poems, Strange Land (Southern Illinois University Press, 2010), winner of the Crab Orchard Poetry Series Open Competition, and No Other Gods (Salmon Poetry, 2015). He’s the recipient of a PEN/New England “Discovery” Award, the Friends of Literature Prize (Poetry magazine and The Poetry Foundation), the Campbell Corner Prize (Sarah Lawrence College), The Rumi Prize (Arts & Letters) and served, most recently, as the Dartmouth Poet-in-Residence at the Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire. He lives and teaches in Exeter, New Hampshire.

Composer Gregory W. Brown’s works have been performed across the United States and Europe—most notably in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City, Cadogan Hall in London, and the Kleine Zaal of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. His commissions for vocal ensemble New York Polyphony have been heard on American Public Media’s Performance Today, BBC Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, Kansas Public Radio, and Danish National Radio; his Missa Charles Darwin received its European debut in March 2013 at the Dinosaur Hall of Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde. Brown’s 2015 CD of original choral and vocal works—Moonstrung Air—was Q2’s Album of the Week for Feb 16th, noting that “[Brown’s] command of transcendent sound is constant…the pieces ring like higher-power-bells, those of science, faith and the human voice.”

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

September 2017 Poetry Feature

This month The Common brings you a selection from the anthology WORDS FOR WAR, NEW POEMS FROM UKRAINE, edited by Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky, forthcoming next month from Academic Studies Press.

The armed conflict in the east of Ukraine brought about an emergence of a distinctive trend in contemporary Ukrainian poetry: the poetry of war. Directly and indirectly, the poems collected in this volume engage with the events and experiences of war, reflecting on the themes of alienation, loss, dislocation, and disability; as well as justice, heroism, courage, resilience, generosity, and forgiveness. In addressing these themes, the poems also raise questions about art, politics, citizenship, and moral responsibility. The anthology brings together some of the most compelling poetic voices from different regions of Ukraine. Young and old, female and male, somber and ironic, tragic and playful, filled with extraordinary terror and ordinary human delights, the voices recreate the human sounds of war in its tragic complexity.

ANASTASIA AFANASIEVA  |  “Can there be poetry after:”

BORYS HUMENYUK  |  “Our platoon commander is a strange fellow”

ALEKSANDR KABANOV  |  “He came first wearing a t-shirt inscribed ‘Je suis Christ,’”


LYUDMYLA KHERSONSKA  |  “When a country of — overall — nice people”

SERHIY ZHADAN  |  “Third Year into the War”

Flavia MartinezSeptember 2017 Poetry Feature

August 2017 Poetry Feature

This month we welcome back long-time contributor to The Common, John Matthias. His poems previously published by the magazine can be found here.

John Matthias has published some thirty-five books of poetry, translation, scholarship, criticism, and collaboration. He taught for many years at the University of Notre Dame and is a Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge. Until 2012 he was poetry editor of Notre Dame Review, and is now Editor at Large. Shearsman published his Collected Poems in three volumes in 2011, 2012, and 2013. More recently, they have published a new volume of poems, Complayntes for Doctor Neuro, and a collection of memoirs and literary essays, At Large (both 2016). His most recent book is a collaboration with printmaker Jean Dibble and critic Robert Archambeau, Revolutions (Dos Madres, 2017).  Two collections of critical essays have been published on Matthias’s work, Word Play Place, edited by Robert Archambeau, and The Salt Companion to John Matthias, edited by Joe Francis Doerr. “Prynne and a Petoskey Stone” is part of a new book now taking shape, which will be called Acoustic Shadows.

Isabel MeyersAugust 2017 Poetry Feature

July 2017 Poetry Feature

This month we welcome back one of the most crucial and distinctive Anglophone poets, Lawrence Joseph, whose sixth collection, So Where Are We?, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in August. “In One Day’s Annals” appears in this book, as does “In That City, in Those Circles,” first published in issue #10 of The Common. Joseph is also the author of two books of prose, the genre-defying Lawyerland (FSG), as well as The Game Changed: Essays and Other Prose, from the University of Michigan Press’s Poets on Poetry Series, which presents Joseph’s estimable talents as an essayist and critic.

Isabel MeyersJuly 2017 Poetry Feature