At the end of most semesters, you can find us celebrating the launch of Gandy Dancer in the College Union at Geneseo. We have food and drink. Guests can hear contributors read their work in person, purchase the new issue or a Gandy Dancer T-shirt, coffee mug, or baseball hat. Sometimes we have live music or a raffle, but we always have fun.
This semester, we’re all spread out across the state, hunkered down at home, but we still want to celebrate the new issue, the hard work of putting it together—especially after we went to remote learning—the artists and writers from across SUNY who entrusted us with their work. You can view it below, on our YouTube channel, or with the current issue.
As always, you can purchase an issue here or view it online at gandydancer.org.
We hope you’ll enjoy the work you see and hear.
Many thanks to Allison Brown, Michele Feeley, Dr. Rob Doggett, and the Parry family. Thanks also to the contributors for sharing their work and to the creative writing and art instructors in whose classrooms this work was encouraged to bloom.
The Gandy Dancer staff
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In early March of 2020, SUNY Geneseo alumna Erin Kae visited to hold the school’s first literary forum of the semester. There, she readGrasp This Salt, her chapbook that explores the story of Susan Smith, the woman who drowned her two young sons in 1995. During the literary forum, Kae discussed her inspiration for the chapbook. The event happened when Kae was only a few years old, which has allowed her to take an unbiased approach as she learned more about Susan Smith, the horrific event, and the incessant news coverage which followed.
As a current Geneseo student, I found it really interesting to hear Kae speak not only about her experience in writing a chapbook, but also about her life as a Geneseo student. When Kae had visited my poetry workshop the morning before the literary forum, she talked to us students about how some of her published poems started in classes like ours. As a creative writing major at SUNY Geneseo, it was really inspiring to see a published author talk about the same classes we were in and the professors we study under who helped her get to where she is now.
As a poet, I’m always looking for inspiration from other writers. I search for words, images, and techniques that I can borrow and make my own. So when I recently found myself in a writing rut, I dove into the poetry section of Barnes & Noble. Once I discovered Sylvia Plath’s poetry, I quickly noticed how it was riddled with enticing lines. Pen in hand, I jotted down every word or phrase that caught my eye. By the time I was finished, I’d read her poetry collections “Ariel” and “The Colossus” in their entirety. As a whole, her poems have melancholy tones, including “Morning Star,” which was written for her daughter, Frieda. Her stanzas are relatively short and her poems rarely exceed three pages. Plath tended to personify nature in her writing. She writes, “whoever heard a sunset yowl like that,” “let the stars Plummet to their dark address” (“Magi”), “the moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary,” (“Purdah”), and “by day, only the topsoil heaves” (“The Colossus”) are all great examples of this technique.
I also noticed that she used the following words/phrases in more than one poem:
On October 21st, SUNY Geneseo hosted its second Literary Forum Reading of the semester wherein Professor Lytton Smith introduced Aisha Sharif, a Cave Canem fellow and Pushcart Prize recipient, to read from her debut poetry collection, To Keep from Undressing. Given Sharif is an African American Muslim woman who was raised in Bible Belt, the collection tackles the issues closest to Sharif—that is, identities and the intersection of said identities. She, both in the collection and in the reading, outlines the strange spaces she’s occupied as a result of being both African American and Muslim. (To hear more about this from the poet herself, check out her interview with The Kansas City Star.)
Sharif’s reading felt, at times, like a TED Talk; she showed family photographs and told childhood stories in between poems, making her story and consequent poetry feel all the more tangible. She sang a haunting song when she read a deeply emotional poem about a boy ripping off her hijab on the school bus, and I mean that literally—she sang the poem, and it was striking. That same evocative, lingering hum comes through in her work even without her singing it, though; there’s a profound sense of simultaneous pain and pride in Sharif’s reflections on her identity and, too, in the life-long pursuit, both in its wins and its loses, of that identity.
Posted by Nicole Callahan, GD Fiction Reader for 7.1
Ask any writer about their writing from high school and their general reactions are likely to be the same: embarrassment. As a general rule of thumb, working in any creative field is a never-ending, slow upward climb that can make the experience of looking back either gratifying or mortifying (and sometimes both). My different experiences working on literary magazines have taught me similar lessons about being an editor.
My high school was very small, but our literary magazine, The Mast, had been around for decades. The club was run by our English teacher, Mr. Seffick, a patient soul who suffered alongside us on our creative journey.
One of the most obvious distinction between The Mast and Gandy Dancer is the disparity in resources. The Mast was lucky to hold a meeting of 10 members and submissions largely came from the staff. The class that produces Gandy Dancer is lucky to have 20+ students and can still feel under-staffed sometimes. The Mast did not use Adobe InDesign. Instead, we would physically lay out the magazine and then entrust the physical copy it to the two students who knew how to work Photoshop. Our online presence was nil simply because we didn’t have the time or understanding to create a good blog, though our technical squad did occasionally post videos calling for submissions. Continue reading →
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Posted by Elana Evenden, GD Creative Non-Fiction Reader for 7.1
In several of my English classes this semester, professors have raised this question: Will people continue to read poetry that hasn’t been assigned for a class? This question has me thinking that maybe poetry is a changing art form and accessible to readers in new ways. We’ve all been there in those sad, angst-filled teenage years where ‘no one understood you.’ What other way to get your feelings out than some sappy, crappy poetry? So, let us be honest, poetry has all made its way into our lives as a way to rant our feelings, reading assignments, or through music, rap or slam poetry. Therefore, can poetry ever truly die or just evolve?
People may no longer want to read the classics for fun, but poetry is available and expressed on a whole new medium in 2018. This being said, it may be sad for many seeing that poetry is not promoted the way it used to be. When one steps into Barnes and Noble, only the popular best sellers are up front. Poetry is normally pushed to a back corner in an unorganized way making stumbling across a good book of poetry almost impossible. Personally, I believe this goes hand in hand with the idea of big businesses. Independent bookstores are dying out, while larger scale bookstores are focused on making a name for the company more so than the literature available. Barnes and Noble is not what it used to be in this digital age. Perhaps the concept of holding a book has changed to people as kindles and iPhones are much more readily available than carrying around a book. Continue reading →
Posted by Gabrielle Esposito, GD Fiction Editor for 7.1
I identify as a fiction writer because I’m too self-conscious to write nonfiction, and I can’t write poetry because I don’t know when to shut up. I’ve found in the writing community that writers have preferred genres, and once that preference is identified, all the other genres disappear. Most of a writer’s hesitation comes from the fact that the three genres are very different. Continue reading →
In Kai Carlson-Wee’s RAIL, desperate yet autonomous speakers view the beautiful landscapes of western America from the vantage point of moving trains, and their journeys illustrate how U.S. capitalistic values destroy this same landscape and the human dreams within. The speakers in Carlson-Wee’s poems observe pollution, watch animals die, and smoke crystal meth; they embrace a lover, listen mournfully to the loon’s cry, and self-medicate with orange juice and oatmeal. There is at once a drive for existence in these speakers; “Her breath made me shake. / It was full of so much life. For the next / few days I could hear it in every word I said” (67), and yet, a fear of what this life holds: “We are held in a light so perfect it grows inconsistent. / Becomes like the windwheel cries on the prairie” (46). Continue reading →
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Posted by Olivia Martel Cockerham, GD Art Editor and Poetry Reader for 7.1
In her first book of poems, sociologist Eve L. Ewing takes the reader traveling through time. Beneath its stunning cover by Trinidadian artist Brianna McCarthy, Electric Arches reveals magic powers and “moon men,” machines that let you speak back into history and receive voices of the past. It traces the legacies of historic African American figures to the routine and daily struggle of black people facing abuse from police and civilians alike; the past and present of black America bleeding together and reaching, stretching out to hopeful tomorrows. Continue reading →
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Posted by Jennifer Taylor Johnson, GD Fiction Reader for 6.2
Whether your passion is writing and editing or you’re just looking for a class to fit your schedule in the fall, being a member of the Gandy Dancer team is not a decision you will regret. Joining the Gandy Dancer team is more than a grade on your transcript, it dedicating hard work and time into assembling the school’s literary journal and learning important life lessons along the way. Don’t believe me? Here are four lessons you will learn by being a reader for The Gandy Dancer. Continue reading →
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