Category Archives: Front Matter

11.1 | Dear Readers

Not long before writing this introduction, the town of Geneseo was buffeted by both its first snowfall and many subsequent rainstorms, as if to say, “Wait a minute, winter isn’t here yet!” Through this confusing weather, the staff of Gandy Dancer trudged their way regardless of rain, snow, or shine, to work on our lovely magazine. We, your managing editors, both commend the determination of our staff and the courage of all writers and artists who submitted—there were many passionate discussions about what to publish this year!

Though COVID-19 appears to be slowly but surely releasing its hold on the local community, that hasn’t stopped the latest national and global news from troubling the minds of SUNY students. In this era of information technology, we encourage all to remain informed, but to also remember to breathe, reflect, and think about your own health and wellbeing. You may find that the works in this issue ask you to consider that perhaps the most meaningful change begins with the self.

In the prose we have collected, you will note a highlighted importance of personal growth fueled by human interaction. Aimee Maduro’s creative nonfiction piece “Drive” shows you how to find beauty in the world and solace in the people close to you, as she writes, “it was hard to know which direction was easier to look in; the heavy crescent and knowing winks in the sky, or the gentle hands beside me gripping the steering wheel.” Alternatively, Martin Dolan’s fiction story “Donato’s,” utilizes the rhythm of breathing, “One, two. One, two. One, two,” to center the story on the idea of prioritizing the self. Whichever you prefer, the potential for healing is multitudinous, and you will find many examples in this issue.

We encourage you to find solace in the people and writing that care for you, and to not forget that “people can be resting places / Soft places to land, to hang up your hat / And be washed of the day’s dust,” as Ashley Halm writes in her poem “Ode to a Cowboy.” We encourage you to let the poetry of Gandy Dancer remind you that you are allowed to begin the process of healing yourself, in spite of what is occurring all around us. We also hope that the work collected here reminds you that you are allowed to be angry about what is happening, just as Mollie McMullan’s poem “Lockdown Lockdown Lockdown” bleeds rage with the lines: “They think of mothers as expendable, / a mere body, / a husk bisected by birth, / a skin that can be shed.”

Themes of healing wrap around the prose, poetry, and art of this edition. The writers and artists featured recognize that this process is not easy. It does not happen all at once. Art, however, can be a start. And as we fall into the impenetrable cold of winter in New York, we hope that Gandy Dancer can act as a crackling fireplace, or at the very least a warm coat. May your reading bring you the feeling of being recognized that we felt while reading and allow for a healing process that continues into the new year.


Elizabeth Roos and Julia Grunes

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10.2 Dear Readers,

As we write this introduction, birds sing and the last chill (hopefully) melts from the windows. Springtime is tiptoeing in—except for the few wild days when it stomps around in bright yellow rain boots or disappears behind a winter cloud. And we, your managing editors, are trying to figure out how to say goodbye without being very, very sappy.

It’s a far cry from the early days of this semester. This winter, the Gandy Dancer staff set out to work on this spring issue with precaution, not sure what the semester would bring. COVID constantly reasserted itself even as maskless smiles were reintroduced. Snowstorms canceled classes, rainstorms brought floods, and yet, the weeks continued doggedly on. Sometimes, it feels like the only constant is uncertainty itself. In Western New York, springtime can fell a tree as easily as it softens the ground allowing for crocus, daffodils, tulips to bloom.

But while uncertainty continues to plague us (no pun intended), time has also brought new joy, surprising warmth, and unexpected community. Slowly, and then all at once, life adjusted to an almost-normal haze. College students braved the green in shorts, concerts and clubs found new life, and Gandy Dancer came together, our nineteenth issue.

We are proud to present the best that SUNY has to offer, pulling in excellent work from Albany, FIT, Purchase, Stony Brook, New Paltz, Oswego, Plattsburg, Fredonia, Potsdam, Binghamton, and, of course, Geneseo. Different genres harmonize to breathe life into themes of acceptance, parenthood, letting go of old hurts, and revival. Lidabel A. Avila’s poem “Where My Head Lays” invites us to remember the importance of growing past the trappings of old lives, while El J. Ayala’s “Dog Names” reminds us that life is a series of ups and downs, but with love and care, it’s so worth it. Digging deeper still, a poem by Allyson Voerg calls us to shed old shame to instead “stand straight within / my own self sovereignty.”

Throughout the issue, themes of rebirth climb to the surface like new saplings seeking sunlight. In this era, when the world is hoping COVID will soon be in the rearview mirror and peace is precarious, that rebirth can feel painful. It’s a struggle, discarding old comforts for the unfamiliar. And that’s why, at times like these, art is not only necessary, but a balm. Gandy Dancer hopes to be both and more—an atlas to understand old memories and a map to chart new paths, all at once.

It is our sincere hope that these thoughtful, engaging works provide something of substance to the uncertainty in your lives. With spring in the air and transformation around the corner, we want to say thank you for picking up (or clicking through) this issue. May your reading help release old habits, welcome new joys, or simply bring some needed comfort.

Your friends,

Maria Pawlak and Amina Diakite

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Dear Readers,


Normally we take time here to welcome you into the issue, and to tie the works within it together in a way that gives you some sense of the context of the journal and the value of our mission. The present being what it is, we feel an even more pressing urge to speak deep truths about literature, art, and life. It’s time to be profound. Please excuse us if we are not up to the task.

COVID-19 has transformed the context of our production and the daily context of all of our lives. The death toll in New York state alone has, at the time of writing this, surpassed 15,000. The struggles for all people, but especially the most vulnerable in our society, are severe. Given the transition to online education, the production of Gandy Dancer was different than it has ever been before. Due to the cancelation of our Visiting Writers series, you will note that this semester’s publication lacks our usual book review and author interview.

Luckily, technology has allowed us to stay connected enough to produce a journal we’re proud of, even in the wake of the unrest around us. Gandy Dancer’s mission is to connect readers, writers, and artists of all kinds across all SUNY schools. How timely. It’s easy to feel isolated in a time where we’re not in our classrooms, we’re not attending club meetings, and we’re not making art in the same way we were. But many of us are still making art.

Engaging with that art and literature feels equal parts impossible and necessary. We offer you this journal as a multipurpose tool. That is to say, we hope you will utilize this journal in whatever way, or ways, you need. Two purposes strike us as equally important. The first being escape, whether that be into the lives of characters and speakers, or into the words of a poem. We cannot, in good conscience, call Gandy Dancer a light read, but the contents of this issue are as engaging and vital as ever.

The second purpose we seek with this issue is one of reckoning. Through our “Remote Voices: Posts from the Pandemic” section, we want to invite you to face this moment through art. Why engage with challenging things during a challenging time? Maybe because when everything is terrible, sometimes it is just as relieving to cry as it is to laugh. Maybe because it is comforting to see you are not the only one who is angry and confused and worried. Find catharsis in the idea that, as Evan Goldstein puts it in his poem “Litany in April,” “your kindness was good, your anger / is good… and you were good.”

With that being said, we encourage you, to the very best of your ability, to continue making and enjoying art. Gandy Dancer exists as a lasting testament to the connections we have to each other, through the SUNY System, and beyond that, the connection we have to all people through our creative work. Maintain existing connections, make new connections when possible, and support one another endlessly. You are not alone in this.

Your friends,

Nicole Callahan & Natalie Hayes
April 2020


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