Finding the extraordinary in the common has long been the mission of literature. Inspired by this, and the role of the town common, a public gathering place for the display and exchange of ideas, The Common seeks to deepen our individual and collective sense of place through bold, engaging literature and art. The magazine publishes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and images (online and in print) that invoke a modern sense of place, real or imagined; from deserts to teeming ports; from Winnipeg to Beijing; from Earth to the Moon: literature and art powerful enough to reach from there to here.
In our hectic and sometimes alienating world, themes of place provoke us to reflect on our situations and both comfort and fascinate us. Sense of place is not provincial or old fashioned. It is a characteristic of great literature from all ages around the world. It is, simply, the feeling of being transported, of “being there.”
Recognizing the classroom as that other vital gathering space for the display and exchange of ideas, The Common has developed an initiative to bring literature and art with a modern sense of place to students across a variety of disciplines and from the high school to graduate-level. The Common in the Classroom offers students discounted subscriptions and the opportunity to engage not only with contemporary works, but also with the editors and authors behind those works. Print and digital subscription options are available, with genre-specific anthologies coming soon. Sample lesson plans, podcasts and author interviews offer students and teachers a variety of pathways, detours, and endpoints for classroom discussions.
It is our hope that engaging with The Common will enrich students’ knowledge of domestic and global languages, histories, and literatures, while developing their critical thinking, close reading, and rigorous analytic writing skills, and inspiring their own creative expression. Engaging with authors and editors through the lens of a contemporary literary magazine also encourages students to think of themselves in the roles of authors, editors, and publishers. Or to paraphrase instructor Julian Zabalbeascoa:
“By communing with the works found in The Common and entering into another’s consciousness, students are able to reflect upon their own stories of change and new beginnings, of leaving home and those friendships that helped shape and fortify them so that they could venture into the unknown. The Common returns them to this, makes them more aware of this moment and of the role of place in their lives. It deepens this experience, enriches it, and—ideally—makes them more here now.”
Our latest, 10th issue features new fiction from Maine, Nigeria, and a corporate high-rise; essays exploring the personal and the historical in Siena and Nantucket; poetry from American, Caribbean, and Chinese voices; and images harkening from the 17th century and projecting into the next millennium. Ours is a small community with far-reaching ideas. Based at Amherst College in Western Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley, we’re a place of farmers, professors, immigrants, liberals, conservatives, dairy cows, tobacco plants, strip malls, and Victorian and Brutalist architecture. From this vantage point, The Common fosters regional creative spirit while stitching together a national and international community, publishing literature and art from around the world, and bringing readers into a common space.