Welcome to the tenth issue of Gandy Dancer. If you are reading this, we’ve completed our second (and last) semester as managing editors, and we’re on our way out into the post-graduation world. Right now, we might be up to our eyelids in champagne, or waxing poetic over the golden years of our college days, or screaming into a hole in the ground while Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York” plays and the camera pulls away.
We’ll try not to get too sappy. That being said, graduating means reflecting about what we are leaving behind, and what lies ahead. Rising to the surface of these thoughts are the simple, slim volumes of Gandy Dancer we’ve helped bring into the world. Each issue of Gandy is a record of time and memory: days or years of experiences and thoughts turned into stories, essays, poetry, paintings, sculptures, and photos. Months of reading, editing, combing through hundreds of carefully-crafted works of art, selecting what we think is the best creative work from across the State University of New York system.
Working with Gandy Dancer for two semesters, we’ve come to appreciate the privilege of the unwavering support of SUNY Geneseo’s English Department—especially our patient and resourceful secretary Michele Feeley, and the Parry family, whose generous patronage allows us to honor the most accomplished essay published in Gandy Dancer during the 2016-2017 academic year. Ultimately, Gandy Dancer is the work of a family of students, faculty, and staff, who are beginning or following through on lifelong commitments to the arts and the written word.
That family, of course, extends to you, our contributors and our readers. In our last letter to you, we underscored the fact that a literary journal, especially Gandy, is a gathering place. Our goal is to act as a community for writers and readers across the state—a place to share our thoughts, our concerns, our ambitions, our fears, our lives as writers and people. Throughout the year, we’ve noticed that this idea of a journal as a gathering place, while powerful, is also passive, and doesn’t do justice to the art and writing in this issue. How can it, when to make art you must not be passive, must not simply gather, but experience, take from reality, and create something of it? How can it, when our moment in history is so shrouded with confusion, isolation, austerity, and war? Gandy Dancer is a printed gathering place, yes, but we would like to take it further; we propose this journal as a place of concentrated witness.
Over our two years in Gandy Dancer, we’ve seen the concerns of the work, and the priorities of the staff selecting it, shift deeper into explorations of the ever-growing tensions and conflicts of ordinary life. In this issue, we come face to face with the difficult truth—the sorrow—of life in America. In Nathan Lipps’ poem “Ablutions in the Dark,” we experience the slow and lonely pain of age, coupled with the cycle of Spring, the cruelty of April. Sarah Steil’s “Steadying” is a second person story that draws you into the developing relationship between a damaged mother and her daughter. Jasmine Cui’s “Apologia,” an essay on the cruelty of chance, unflinchingly portrays a family’s struggle with disability and alcoholism. Peggy Wen’s exquisite, contemplative paintings and sketches bring us into quotidian, abandoned domestic spaces, and into the gaze of resolute, yet isolated women. While this issue succeeds in confronting dark truths, there are lighter shades to explore, such as Chloe Forsell’s “Fifteen Ways of Looking at a Privy,” which is as much a meditation on presence as it is a history: a momentary glance from an outhouse in the woods into our ability to imagine the future. In addition to the compelling work included in this issue of Gandy Dancer, we are happy to announce that the Parry award for nonfiction this year goes to Maya Bergamasco for “Absolute Pitch,” published in 5.1. In this careful portrait, the author reflects on the relationship with her mother and its legacy in the author’s life.
This volume’s published works highlight the value of the persistence of the arts. In this place of witness, these student artists create a place to work together to understand ourselves and our current reality. With great pleasure and gratitude, we present to you these thoughtful, accomplished pieces. We hope they speak to you, and compel you to witness, record, reflect, and continue to share with us.
Evan Goldstein & Oliver Diaz