Author Archives: Erin Duffy

This Angel on My Chest: a Book Review

Posted by Erin Duffy, Public Relations Manager for issue 4.2 and CNF Editor for issue 4.1

2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize winner Leslie Pietrzyk

2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize winner Leslie Pietrzyk

It might be somewhat hyperbolic to suggest that Leslie Pietrzyk’s newest collection defies literary classification, but there are few, if any, categories into which it seamlessly fits. This Angel On My Chest is a collection of unrelated short fiction pieces that read like a cohesive novel, and each story borrows so heavily from Pietrzyk’s personal experiences that it’s impossible to tell fact from fiction. It’s an oddball of a book that nevertheless elicits myriad emotions from the reader. Though at times emotionally draining, each piece – the whole book, in fact – is a masterwork of craft and an utterly raw exploration of grief. Continue reading

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Reread / Regret

Posted by Dan Pugh, Poetry reader for issue 4.2

inbox-unsendYou know that distinct feeling of saying something you immediately regret? The present act of speaking becomes a present tense emergency. Your own fumbled phrase floats forward in garish block letters; you fruitlessly grasp for their serifs. There’s this massive, obnoxious speech bubble hovering adjacent to your own errant mouth and grinning from within it, is a statement you don’t believe in. How did this happen? Things were fine a moment ago! Everyone was chatting and laughing and effortlessly improvising a moment ago! Yet, this moment you’re in a fragile stasis of self-realization: it’s too late to bite your tongue, and your foot’s blocking access anyway. Might as well put on your most endearing shame-face and brace yourself as the room gets a chance to notice you said that. Continue reading

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Interview with Gandy Dancer 4.2 Featured Artist Lei Peng Gan

Posted by Arden Zavitz, Art Editor for issue 4.2

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Untitled, Lei Peng Gan

One of the best parts of reading Gandy Dancer is viewing the visual art. The primary purpose of a literary journal is to provide literature to its audience. However, when visual art is included it can enhance the experience.

For Gandy Dancer 4.2 we were thrilled to feature Lei Peng Gan, who majors in painting at SUNY Plattsburgh. Lei Peng Gan is a painter as well as a print maker. Gan’s beautiful and diverse artwork exemplifies what we hope the entire journal does. To dig a little deeper into the mind of Lei and her creative process, I asked the following questions… Continue reading

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Launching Gandy Dancer’s Newest Issue

Posted by Holly Gilbert, fiction reader for issue 4.2

In Managing Editors Courtney and Christie’s introduction to issue 4.2 of Gandy Dancer, they contemplate all we have to celebrate, from the joy of reading works from fellow SUNY students to our ever-expanding knowledge and appreciation for literature and art in all forms. On the morning of May 11th, friends of Gandy Dancer took this message of celebration to heart by joining us in launching our newest issue.

The Hunt Room in the MacVittie College Union was abuzz with conversation as staff members, contributors, family, and friends trickled in for the party. Attendees were greeted with steaming trays of bacon and eggs and silver platters of pastries, free pins and pencils, and the chance to nab their very own Gandy Dancer tote bag (all the better for sneaking those leftover pastries back home). The main attraction, of course, were the gorgeous print copies of Gandy Dancer issue 4.2; eager readers were already delving into its pages.

We were graced with readings from many of our contributors as this issue’s stunning visual art pieces were projected in the front of the room. The poetry was fascinating to hear in each author’s voice, and emphasized how differently a piece can be approached by each reader. Excerpts from “Frontierland,” “Amorphous Children,” and “Sonder” also drew partygoers in, showcasing the strengths of our variety of fiction and creative nonfiction selections. We offer gratitude to those contributors who could share with us at the launch party, and lament only that there were so many more pieces we wish we could have heard.

Our gathering was filled with people proudly donning their Gandy Dancer tees and pins, enjoying the warmth of both coffee and company, and, best of all, celebrating the literary accomplishments of students throughout the greater SUNY system. We urge you to explore our newest issue of Gandy Dancer (you can purchase your very own print copy to hold, love, and cry into!) and share in this celebration with us, even if you had to miss out on the festivities. Scramble up some of your own eggs, crack open your brand new copy of Gandy Dancer issue 4.2, and know that by immersing yourself in the talent of our contributors, you are partying with us in spirit.

 

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In Defense of Nonfiction

Posted by Jeremy A. Jackson, CNF reader for issue 4.2

CreativeNonfictionGandy Dancer consistently receives less creative nonfiction than any other genre, and 4.2 was no different. We received very few CNF submissions and accepted even fewer—though this issue has more than several (2.2 had only 2 pieces). This fact kind of baffled my mind, because CNF has for several years been my wheelhouse, my muse, my favorite genre. It is a genre that allows the writer to expunge from themselves a story that may have been eating away at them; most of my own writing is research-based CNF, the blending of my two great passions, academic and creative writing. I often find that creative nonfiction pieces are some of the rawest pieces of work—the submissions this semester, as scant as they were, dealt with themes of death, mental illness, growing up, and deep-rooted societal issues. Why, then, are there so few SUNY CNF writers? Why are there less than 20 fully-funded creative nonfiction MFA programs in the entire country?

One of my best writing friends, Katie Waring, also happens to be a Gandy Dancer Alumna, a former creative nonfiction editor, a former Managing Editor, and an Advisory Editor for issues 4.1 and 4.2. She is also the person who singlehandedly inspired my love for creative nonfiction, and in thinking and musing for this post (which started just with the title, “In Defense of Nonfiction”), I got to pick her brain a bit about CNF. She began our conversation with a passage from Brian Oliu’s new essay “Kilometer Zero”.

An essay, in its purest form, is an attempt: it is in the word, ‘essais’–as Montaigne put it, ‘to try’–a concept that I find myself returning to over and over again, not just in my writing, but in my life: all of our existence is, in fact, an attempt: we have no idea of the proper way to do anything, but we have some guidelines that we have to adhere by–we have a general amount of base notes that we have put our trust into–that these elements of truth will guide us toward something complete.

She went on to expound upon how spectacularly important creative nonfiction is; it’s probably the fastest-growing of the three primary creative genres, with more and more people picking up memoirs and historical biographies every year. However, in many circles, creative nonfiction is, as Katie said, considered “navel gazing,” a self-serving experiment where a writer goes on for pages about how great/tortured/brilliant he or she is. This is rarely, if ever, the case, however, for published works. Memoirs are more often than not intense, revealing looks into the lives of incredibly interesting people (this is, of course, coming from a person who believes everyone is interesting) who, through the power of their own voices, are able to elicit in their audiences a visceral appreciation of these lives—from Katie: “I’m drawn to writing nonfiction because it allows me to process what’s happening in my own life and contextualize it within what’s happening in the world around us. And I’m drawn to essayists that do the same in their writing—that take something personal, and connect it to something larger than just themselves.”

All of that being said, why does Gandy Dancer need a contest like the one Katie ran when she was managing editor in order to garner more CNF submissions? Katie, again, said it better than I probably would be able to: “Because not every school teaches it. Because I think English departments are less willing to hire professors who specialize in nonfiction to teach it. Because sometimes people, especially young or new writers, are afraid to write it—and then when they do, they’re afraid to submit it for publication. Because writing creative nonfiction means making yourself vulnerable on the page in a way that doesn’t happen in any other genre. And because essayists have to own up to that vulnerability in order to be published.”

My own most recent CNF piece was a very powerful, painful essay about my mental illness, which took me a very long time and a lot of edits to get right, and even then, I struggled with letting others see it. But I did, and it was well-received and actually garnered accolades from the Geneseo Writing Contest. Above all of that, however, was the importance of the catharsis that came with putting fingers to keys and writing something true to who I am, telling a story that is grounded in my own experiences and trials and tribulations. A creative nonfiction piece becomes a new way to see the world, as the writing of something from one’s past or the past of humankind reminds us that no matter “how separate our bodies and lives and cultures might be, we’re not all that different—that we’re all just striving to put an order to the chaos,” as Katie tells me.

That is ultimately the importance of CNF, and why I encourage every writer reading this to try his or her hand at a little Nonfiction.

 

(Special thanks to Katie Waring, my friend and CNF muse. Your input, as always, was invaluable.)

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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.

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An Interview with Michael Sheehan

Posted by Katherine Jerabeck, Fiction reader for issue 4.2

Are you an English major, or aspiring writer, sick of future accountants telling you that you will never get a job? Fear not, Geneseo alumni and accomplished writer, Michael Sheehan, is here to prove that you can do what you love and make a living. Michael Sheehan graduated from Geneseo with an English (creative writing) degree, and is the author of Proposals for the Recovery of the Apparently Drowned and editor-in-chief of REAL literary journal. I spoke with Michael to find out some of his background on how he made his way from Geneseo to where he is now. Continue reading

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Real World Geneseo and the Power of Student Performance

Posted by Kyle Frink, Poetry reader for issue 4.2

Mariposa Fernandez at the McVittie Union Ballroom during All- College Hour January 20th

Mariposa Fernandez at the McVittie Union Ballroom during All- College Hour January 20th

In mid-January of this year several students participated in the Real World Geneseo class taught by Professor Becky Glass, Executive Assistant to the President, and Mrs. Fatima Rodriguez, the Assistant Dean of Students, Multicultural Programs & Services. Even at a school where the majority of students are white, it’s important to note that there are people dedicated to providing resources and support for those who are marginalized and/or underrepresented. The four-day class focused on intersectionality, and the heart of it was a writing seminar lead by Mariposa Fernandez. Fernandez is a Puerto Rican author, poet, and performance artist born and raised in the Bronx. She is the author of Born Bronxeña: Poems on Identity, Love & Survival (2001), and has been featured on the HBO series Habla Ya! and in the HBO documentary Americanos: Latino Life in the United States. She lives in New York City. She, along with Dr. Broomfield, Assistant Professor of Dance Studies, prompted the students to divulge their inner most feelings and share intimate stories about their backgrounds. Some of these students weren’t writers, or familiar with creative nonfiction, and had not ever shared these stories before.

In mid-January of this year several students participated in the Real World Geneseo class taught by

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Jenny Soudachanh, Liz Boateng, Seung Yun Kim, Nana Boakye, Momo (Jawad) Tazari, and Skyler Susnick during the performance February 28th.

Professor Becky Glass, Executive Assistant to the President, and Mrs. Fatima Rodriguez, the Assistant Dean of Students, Multicultural Programs & Services. Even at a school where the majority of students are white, it’s important to note that there are people dedicated to providing resources and support for those who are marginalized and/or underrepresented. The four-day class focused on intersectionality, and the heart of it was a writing seminar lead by Mariposa Fernandez. Fernandez is a Puerto Rican author, poet, and performance artist born and raised in the Bronx. She is the author of Born Bronxeña: Poems on Identity, Love & Survival (2001), and has been featured on the HBO series Habla Ya! and in the HBO documentary Americanos: Latino Life in the United States. She lives in New York City. She, along with Dr. Broomfield, Assistant Professor of Dance Studies, prompted the students to divulge their inner most feelings and share intimate stories about their backgrounds. Some of these students weren’t writers, or familiar with creative nonfiction, and had not ever shared these stories before.

The script to the full New Vistas performance is archived in the Theatre department. Video recordings of the performance can be purchased for $25. I went and saw it twice. The powerful message Geneseo’s student artists have to share is more than meaningful; it’s their everyday reality. This performance says, “This is who we are. We are proud. We demand respect. We are the voices of this generation. We are the change.”

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A Brief Reflection

Posted by Kyle Frink, Poetry reader for issue 4.2

Now that the final publishing of Gandy Dancer 4.2 is coming to a close, I wanted to take the opportunity to find out a little about the published authors’ thoughts and feelings. I had the privilege of asking a couple questions to authors currently published in Gandy Dancer. Mainly concerned with how it felt to be published, I asked Sarah Steil ’17, and Sarah Simon ’17 (both from Geneseo) about their first reactions to being published and to reflect on their writing process. I found the responses differ a widely between each person. Sarah Steil said of being published, “I mean it’s really exciting, right? Like that means a group of people read something I wrote and thought it was meaningful in some way.” However, Sarah feels like now that her piece is out in the world, she doesn’t have another chance to fix or change it. “It’s exciting to see your name in print, but you never get feedback for it so I just hope someone reads it.” Knowing Sarah personally, it is quite plain to see how hard on herself she can be. While Sarah’s story, “Flickering,” is fiction, she prefers to write nonfiction. “I feel like writing nonfiction is more satisfying, because when I finish a piece it’s exciting because it’s done, but also satisfying because I’ve figured something out through writing it.” Sarah uses nonfiction to put the complex and ever-changing puzzle pieces of her life together in a way she can understand.

We had a very interesting piece of poetry come through our submissions list, one that at first caused wrinkled brows and took some time to discuss. This poetry submission included images as well as a sporadic change in format. Sarah Simon’s “Cingulum” was accepted into the latest edition, providing a unique perspective on depression. She says “‘Cingulum,’ the poem I submitted, is personal. It discusses and plays with the idea of clinical depression. The imagery and literal images (photos are part of it) expound on these ideas, which often halt me my in my tracks yet keep me going. If that poem was chosen, maybe it stopped someone for a little while too, and in a way that makes you realize that you must keep going.” Sarah Simon looks forward to the Gandy Dancer launch part on May 11th at 9:00 AM in the College Union Hunt Room. “I was so pumped to hear about getting published; I know the editors really consider submissions… I’m planning on reading my poem there. I hope to have a similar effect on the audience at the launch party, using my voice and material.”

We are delighted and very satisfied with the finished product and are looking forward to the launch party to debut the 4.2 edition!

 

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What We’re Reading: the Innovative [PANK] Literary Magazine

Posted by Alexandra Ciarcia, fiction reader for issue 4.2

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Cover art for the December 2015 issue of [PANK]

Amidst the literary journal renaissance that we live in today, Gandy Dancer finds grounding in examining other literary journals. From The Common to TriQuarterly, we have studied a plethora of literary journals, but the one that influenced our selection process the most is [PANK]. [PANK] was a favorite of Gandy Dancer for its innovative pieces, ones that could never be described as run-of-the-mill.

[PANK] is an online and print literary magazine, with a mission statement that reads, “[PANK] fosters access to emerging and experimental poetry and prose, publishing the brightest and most promising writers for the most adventurous readers.” Their search for innovation is displayed in their selected pieces and their overall aesthetic. We were very impressed with their November & December 2015 online edition. As they state in their submission process, [PANK] asks writers to “send us something that screams.” If you take a look at such pieces as “We Sad Girls” by Lindsey Reese or “Lavatory” by Diane Williams in the November & December 2015 edition, you’ll see what I mean.

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