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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,

Since 2012, Gandy Dancer’s mission has been to forge connections between writers and artists, and in times of isolation and disrupted daily life, reading these submissions certainly made us feel entertained and less alone. We have continued the production of our literary journal online due to COVID-19. We introduced new staff members to the journal, met in our editorial groups via Zoom and Google Suites, and crafted the layout on WordPress. Despite technical challenges, such as lagging Internets and learning how to use new programs, we were able to put together an exceptional journal.

This year, the first of a new decade, has featured a number of unfortunate and some eye-opening events, from the COVID-19 pandemic, to the Black Lives Matter movement, to the 2020 Presidential Election. Kailey Maher’s sculpture of toilet paper, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” speaks to the hardships of this fiercely divided time. As much as the events of this year have divided us, they have also led us to seek connection through art and literature. For some, creativity has been the most promising way to cope with such uncertainty, while others have found it harder than ever to find inspiration. We are grateful to those who submitted their art and allowed us glimpses of how they have coped.

In many of the pieces collected here you will note a desire to return to the past. In some work, this may include the past before COVID-19, the past before the current political climate; in other pieces, one sees a longing for childhood. Mick McMahon’s essay “Petrichor” explores how such longing lives in our senses and oftentimes demands a resurfacing. For McMahon, petrichor is “the memory of standing next to my grandmother on her porch, watching the rain fall as we sipped cups of tea. That is my home—that is my petrichor.” This essay made us think of our own petrichors that remind us of home. In Julia Grunes’ story “Sunny Days,” the protagonist Edgar longs for a time before his family has put him in a nursing home. We sympathized with Edgar and his longing to relive old memories, especially since we’ve been put into isolations of our own. 

There is also, running through these pages, a current of anger and frustration, a desire for change. In Isabella Higgin’s “June,” the speaker expresses her frustration with America’s lack of change to her deceased father. She says, “I am in lock step with people / who have had more than enough, who have had 400 years / of lies to know to call this country’s bluff.” Reading “June,” we feel this anger and sadness. Winosha Steele, too, highlights the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement throughout her art, including “Ms. Bojangles” on our cover and “Tether,” a portrait of a Black woman wearing a noose as an earring and a chain around her neck. These paintings remind us of a history the country tries to make us forget, though the pain is ongoing for many. As much as “Tether” is in conversation with the Black Lives Matter movement, it also speaks to the idea of gender and autonomy—or a lack thereof. 

In her essay about place and memory, Kathryn Waring explores the use of video mapping. In “Searching for 360, she writes, “I am searching for a 360 that doesn’t exist, a medium that lets me tell a story that’s not in fragments. What I don’t understand is that a photo, even in 360, is just a stage. Behind every door there is a loaded gun; a crashed spaceship; a person casting a shadow. The most interesting part of a story is always just out of frame.” Each piece within this journal tells its own story. You will find stories here which explore identity, loss, the past, and change. We are grateful to the artists and writers who have shared their stories and hope they will help you to feel less isolated in this new and alien world. 



Sara Devoe and Rebecca Williamson

December 2020

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