Editors’ Note

Hi everyone, welcome to Common Place.

Today, Hannah admired the spring snow and felt happy to make breakfast with a friend.

Today, Scout returned home from Housatonic, Massachusetts where she wrote and slept. She enjoyed the rare opportunity to use a dishwasher.

Today, Samira is at a park next to a cafe, wondering about the ramifications of choice, and eating a quiche.

Hannah, Samira, and Scout met in a common place: a communal house in Berkeley, California of which we were each, for varying lengths of time, residents. How lucky we are to have overlapped in this lifetime! While Common Place emerges out of many shared poetic interests and desires, it is also, importantly, a testament to the very literal common place at the origin of our friendship. Poetry became possible under these shared conditions. And poetry continues to enable the re-creation of such conditions. Even at our present-day distances from one another: in Iowa City, Iowa, Oakland, California, and Northampton, Massachusetts.

Our first summer together was characterized by the rhythms of domestic life. We washed pots and weeded the garden. We bleached disgusting mounds of communal towels. We played basketball and read aloud. We made hundreds of dinners. We slept. Poetry happened, too. Discreetly, in our rooms, and in collaboration. Despite the occasional isolation of poetic work, the commonplace happenings and chores of everyday life remained primary. In “Poet Dilemma,” Hannah Brooks-Motl writes,

        Do I want seconds
        I want to write a great poem
                  Here just falling asleep

These happenings are often mundane, but are not without imagination. We might risk a simple misconception in naming our publication Common Place. The principle we hope to adhere to in editing Common Place is not, in fact, one that privileges realism over invention. As Riley Jones writes in her essay on Fernanda Laguna and Cecelia Pavón’s Belleza y Felicidad: Selected Writings, “poetry is not only a tool for mapping encounters with life, but imagining it.” Everyday life includes the imagination, constituting its own kind of commonplace, while also transforming the materials of our world. In Kami Enzie’s “Fall Afternoon,” life’s materials enter the mind and, subsequently, verse:

In a dream I was a washing machine.
In a nonfiction article, a Megalosaurus,
naked in a dirt hole. Nestle beside me.
My Dyson V8 Motorhead, my Seventh Generation,
my Purex power. The pages turn read
inside the book as you move under me.
Never exit. Please, please.

“Fall Afternoon” gathers the common things that live beside us and transforms them, without displacing these objects from their material context. Like Enzie’s poetics, in Common Place, we want to dream up new ways of looking, living, and relating to the ordinary. Or, to engage the old ways. Those are part of poetry’s present, too.

We hope that Common Place might become an abundant home for poets who want to talk across forms, places, and ideas. A shared resting place for all kinds of daily invention. Violet Spurlock’s “Notebook 15” so dreamily captures the essence of this endeavor. Engaging the poetics of both Lyn Hejinian and Bernadette Mayer, “Notebook 15” enumerates a calendar year in poetry. The line comes to constitute the day as much as the day offers an occasion for the line. Poetry and poetics co-emerge, assembling a discourse:

Most forms of inner strength are rarely found in human speech
My “body” leads me back to bed
I dream of a poem that convenes people who don’t exist

It is our belief that the co-emergence of poetry and poetics is not an occasional side-effect of writing in verse, but is an inherent quality of living and thinking with poetry. We want to document the many kinds of knowledge that get-made, and constantly, in poetry’s nexus: arguments, emails, dreams, the excitement of reading, the boredom of reading, writing secretly while at work… all of this commonplace “stuff” is essential poetic epistemology.

An especially important part of this nexus is conversation. Poetry allows and necessitates lively correspondence. In Gabrielle Octavia Rucker’s piece on Edgar Garcia’s Boundary Loot, she writes:


        The other night I had a dream that we were in conversation… Our conversation was introductory. I was telling you how I came to find your work.

In this epistolary form, a dreamed conversation with Garcia becomes actual. Rucker brings unconscious experience into reality, sustaining correspondence between poets, and between sleeping and waking.

By engaging our dreams, our friends, and “quotidian” experience, we also necessarily engage the wider conditions of our lives and planet. Rucker again: “language becomes a psychic outpost where the ancient rites of initiation, death and prophecy articulate.” Nothing ordinary is neutral. Common Place exists in a world equally characterized by evil—consciously or unconsciously, poems mediate this persistent violence. Our writing must recognize the emergency of the present, a present located in a long history of colonialism and empire.

How can we document the material conditions of our lives while maintaining an awareness of the “common” moment which, for many, is crushing and cruel? How can we live, write, and think in a way that responds to violence and death, that remains loyal to real revolutionary impulses, movements, and thinking? We must connect fully with the present. We cannot dissociate from history.

As a small publication, and as individuals, we support a free Palestine. We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, their resistance, and their struggle for liberation. Common Place will uphold the guidelines of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). As noted by Writers Against the War on Gaza (WAWOG):

“A commitment to PACBI is effectively a direct action against the ideological and institutional scaffolding of Israel's regime of occupation, settler-colonialism, and apartheid against the Palestinian people. As individual artists, writers, culture workers, and academics, organizing on behalf of PACBI means working iteratively and incrementally to cultivate international pressure on Israel. The aims and guidelines of BDS should be ‘the floor, not the ceiling’ of our efforts to support Palestinian self-determination and freedom from violence.”

This is literary work, as well as daily work. And sometimes, the two become one. Writing enters the world we already live in, offering, at its best, a commitment to shared and continuous survival. “We want the poetry of life,” Percy Shelley writes in “A Defence of Poetry.” And we really do.

Thank you to the writers who have so generously shared their work. And thank you for reading! We’re so excited and grateful for our common place.

P.S. Thank you to Hannah’s sister, Lily, for her help with the website! We love our sisters.