Senior Readings: An Exploration of Past and Future

Posted by Maya Bergamasco, Poetry reader for issue 4.2

Here in Geneseo, spring is not only a time to lounge on the campus green or celebrate the return of famed Geneseo sunsets. For English students, spring heralds the annual senior readings, where every graduating senior in the creative writing program reads their work for their peers, professors, and family. For me, this is a bittersweet time. As I listen to my peers share their poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and hear their plans for the future, I am both excited and saddened. Excited that they will do such amazing things: become a teacher, earn an MFA in creative writing, or join the world of publishing. Yet, I am saddened that I will no longer laugh with them in class, or receive their feedback in workshop, or simply have the privilege to read rough drafts fresh from their thoughts. The seniors, too, seem to share this bittersweet feeling.

The Divers, Paris, 1930 by George Hoyningen-Huene

The Divers, Paris, 1930 by George Hoyningen-Huene

Many of the pieces were about nostalgia; how after past loss or hardship we must pick ourselves up and move on. Christine Davis’ nonfiction essay “Onliness” tackles the challenges of growing up as an only child. Similarly, Katie Bockino’s fiction story “Bruises” follows two childhood friends faced with a terrible choice that changes their relationship forever.

Instead of dwelling on the past, some writers wrote about how overcoming challenges in our past makes us ever more hopeful for the future. Erin Duffy, our current Public Relations head for Gandy Dancer, read her piece “Grounded,” which marks the anti-climactic life of a young woman recently laid off from her exciting job as a Pan Am stewardess. Gandy Dancer’s own fiction reader Klarisa Loft shared her fiction story “Pretty Girl,” of a young woman who falls on hard times and reluctantly turns to her former nighttime hobby of drag racing to support herself and her younger siblings.

A couple of the senior poets approached nostalgia in a different, yet equally interesting way. Both Savannah Skinner, and current Gandy Dancer managing editor Christy Agrawal, read poems that evoked childhood in all its joy and flaws. Savannah lends youth to her poetry through the presence of her four sisters. Her poetry is at once ethereal and pastoral with its forest and wildlife imagery as well as its setting in and around home. Christy’s poetry recalls childhood in a more tactile manner by incorporating anatomy; her poems also carry tinges of longing and loneliness mixed with a confident, yet pensive voice.

It was such a treat to listen to these writers share their work! To my delight, I recognized several of the pieces as final forms of drafts I had workshopped in past classes. It was awesome to hear the revised versions, both to see what new things were added, and to re-live passages I had enjoyed that were kept after editing. As a fellow creative writing major, witnessing their revision process gave me insight as to how I can revise my own work. Additionally, attending this year’s senior readings made my own, future senior reading less daunting.

I highly encourage you to congratulate all of the creative writing seniors on their hard work. We have the honor of publishing “Onliness” by Christine Davis and “A Guide to Recognizing Your Ghost” by Savannah Skinner in the forthcoming issue of Gandy Dancer. This issue will be the perfect summer read, regardless of whether you dwell in the past or the future!

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