A Review of "Death of Art" by Chris Campanioni

by Catherine Chambers

From the cover: “Death of Art dissects post-capitalist, post-Internet, post-death culture; our ability and affinity to be both disembodied and tethered to technology, allowing us to be in several places at once and nowhere at all.”

Cuban-American writer Chris Campanioni’s forthcoming book, Death of Art, is billed as non-fiction, but serves as much more. A dancey mashup of poetry and hybrid prose reminiscent of Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Death of Art is a genre-bending glimpse into what feels like Campanioni’s private diary. We open on Campanioni cutting his face out of every fashion editorial bearing his likeness with the help of a stranger, and “stranger” is also the word I would use for the way the book progresses.

“The greatest characters I’ve invented are the ones I know by heart.”

Identity, Tinder, family, celebrity, Brooklyn: nothing is off-limits in Campanioni’s essays as he talks about growing up with hurricanes (“Storm Season”), being told not to get too tan lest he look too Latino to get cast in something (“Self-Interested Glimpses”), and looking at modern life through the lens of someone who identifies as an “artist.” As Campanioni continually questions his own journey, so the reader questions their own.

Campanioni is a meandering, unreliable narrator who facilitates the reader’s journey down the rabbit hole of his prose at breakneck, forgetting-to-breathe speed: you can’t wait to feel the ground under your feet again. He lets go of your hand before an unlit set of steps and lets you stumble as you feel inexplicably guilty about the Instagram notification that draws your attention away from the page. As Campanioni questions himself, it’s everything you don’t really want to hear. He takes the cliché of “Who am I?” and massages it into “Who am I pretending to be? Who am I as an artist in a world that seems to be waging a war on art? What even is art anymore? What is identity anymore?”

“Who hasn’t ever asked themselves: Am I a monster?
Who hasn’t ever asked themselves: Or is this what it feels like for everyone?”

The collection is marked by Campanioni’s signature mastery of the line, shameless sensuality, and abiding love of 90210. By the end of Death of Art, you feel like you have read something terribly important. You can’t seem to pin down why it’s sitting so heavy in your belly, or even the specific words that so moved you, but you know you can’t continue to move through the world the way you have been; you know something has to change.

Death of Art by Chris Campanioni
C&R Press 2016
$19.00 Paperback, 218 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-936196-60-9

Check out Chris’ piece in Duende Issue 3, "Love Stories From The Twentieth Century Caught On Film."  

Pre-order Death of Art.


by Catherine Chambers

There has been a lot going on at Duende lately. I was so humbled to be a part of the first-ever WriteFest conference in Houston, Texas, along with some of our friends old and new; go check out NANOfiction, Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Art, Nat. Brut, Crab Fat Magazine, and Clarkesworld Magazine, to name a few. My fabulous senior editor Amy Sterne and I ate too many tacos. We also got to give a reading at Alabama Song alongside our faculty advisor M.A. Vizsolyi and the effervescent Houston poet Ronnie Yates. I gave a sneak peek of our upcoming Prison Writing Feature, which you can read in its entirety right here on the site April 2nd, 2016.

Miss us at WriteFest? If you will be at the AWP Conference in Los Angeles next weekend (March 30th – Aprl 2nd), you can come see managing editor Tyler Woodsmall, faculty advisor M.A. Vizsolyi, and Goddard BFA student Sergio Bettencourt-Urbina at table 818. They will have Duende swag as well as information on Goddard College’s low-residency model, and the postcards officially announcing our next feature, EXODUS:

Duende seeks poetry, prose, hybrid work, and visual art from the hearts and minds of those who are displaced; those without a home or those who have lost one; those who are crossing borders both tangible and not; those who are immigrant, refugee, first generation, or emigrant; those who are homesick; those who haven’t looked back. Submit work starting May 2016.

As the spring BFA residency approaches, I find myself already homesick for this little journal that could. I am on the brink of my final semester at Goddard, when it seems like just yesterday we were reading for issue two and I became poetry editor because I said, “Give me the job no one else wants to do.” By the time I graduate, I will have seen Duende through three issues and most of two features. I have pulled all-nighters and shed tears and put mimosas into coffee cups on conference calls so that no one would be able to tell. I am so proud of all the work this publication has done and will do, and thank you to every person who has submitted work, to our contributors, to all the current and former staff, to our support system among the Goddard faculty and administrators, to the Gunst foundation. We couldn't do it without you. 

Taking the Torch: My New Role & Duende Updates

by M.A. Vizsolyi

It is with honor, excitement and a little trepidation that I take over the role as faculty advisor for Duende.  When I say “trepidation,” I speak only to the challenge of maintaining what is one of the best undergraduate, student-run journals available. It’s important to note, however, the huge support I received from the continuing editors this semester, particularly senior editor Amy Sterne and managing editor Catherine Chambers, as well as my colleague and former Duende advisor, Wendy Call, and program director, Janet Sylvester.  

Wendy Call helped begin the journal over a year ago, and, for those of us who’ve ever undertaken such a task will attest to, it was a tireless effort.  It was Wendy’s work ethic, meticulous attention to detail and generosity that brought the journal the success it has garnered thus far.  Wendy, I know that I speak for all of the past and current editors when I say, thank you.  You will be missed by all of us. 

This is another reason that stepping into this position has been so hard—I have brilliant shoes to fill.  I’ve realized that I could never do that, of course.  I need to act as advisor in my own way, while maintaining the organization of the journal. 

One of the first steps I took this semester was to reaffirm my role as advisor, not editor.  It is the students who edit this wonderful journal, and readers should be aware of the kind of work that they do each semester.  With a record-level of submissions and page-views last semester, that work can be a lot, all of which is unpaid.  So, thank you Quinten, Catherine, Amy, Tyler, Cara, Jay and Sérgio.  Your work is important. 

I want to briefly highlight a major change that is taking place for Duende, beginning this semester.  We are changing our production schedule to one issue per year, with our next full issue (Issue #4) coming out early in the fall of next year.  In the spring, we will release a special feature-issue of the journal.  Our first feature issue will be released this spring.  The reason for this change is simple. All of our editors are full-time students, and many of our editors also hold down full-time jobs.  As an editor, it can be tricky to find the balance between editorial work, creative work and other life circumstances.  The hope is that this change will support a healthy balance between each of those.  Plus, that means our editors can spend more quality time with your submissions!  We are currently reading submissions for Issue #4, and we will begin reading submissions for our next feature issue this spring.  

Most of what you’ve come to expect from Duende will remain the same, however—edgy writing from authors in a global community, great art, and monthly spotlights featuring our diverse community of writers.  

Duende remains true, too, to its mission statement. We stay “committed to having a majority of the writers and artists in our journal come from groups that are underrepresented in today’s U.S. literary ecosystem.”  

All of this is to say, that there’s much to be excited about over here at Duende.  

Thank you to our authors, readers and the Goddard College community for your support.

Over It: One Editor's Brush With Ignorance

by Catherine Chambers

“That's what is always fascinating about racism - how it is allowed, if not encouraged, to flourish freely in public spaces, the way racism and bigotry are so often unquestioned.” – Roxane Gay

Like any self-respecting literary type, I do a great deal of my work in coffee shops. It gets me out of the house, shakes up my scenery, and I can stay steadily caffeinated until whatever I’m working on is finished. On a recent trip home to Texas, I was working in one such establishment when an elderly man asked me what I was working on, typing away like that.

I love this part of conversations. I love telling people about Duende’s mission, about the act of handing a literary microphone to those who may not normally get one, about the hard work of the volunteer editing staff to diversify the literary landscape. If you saw me or any other Duende staff member at AWP, you can attest to how excited we are about the work we are doing. It never occurred to me that someone might not be excited about the prospect of diversity.

When I explained Duende’s mission to this man, an older white man whom we will call Bob, he frowned at me. “So you wouldn’t publish my writing,” he said curtly.

“Not necessarily,” I said, still feeling good-natured. In the past, Duende has published some amazing work from cisgendered straight white males.  “We publish quality work, always, but we are working towards diversifying indie lit. There are lots of other places you could have your work published. For some people, like incarcerated writers or undergraduates, it might be much harder."

It was as if Bob didn't hear me. “So if I was a dyke,” he barreled on, now having exited my good graces, “And I sent in a shit poem, you’d publish it.”

I took a deep breath. “That’s not what I said.”

“You’re discriminating me,” he said, louder now, pointing a finger at me from the armchair where he sat.

“Excuse me?” I asked, my heart rate picking up. I have self-diagnosed white knight syndrome combined with a temper, but I was trying to maintain my calm. Maybe he just didn’t understand. Hadn’t he seen the VIDA count?! Did he really think that he, as a white male, was being harmed by my publication choosing to address the work of underrepresented writers?

“Sweetheart, you’re very pretty, but you’re a bigot and a racist,” Bob informed me.

I realized this man couldn’t be reasoned with, so I simply shut my laptop and packed up my bag without another word to him. I stormed out to choruses of, Oh sweetheart, don’t be like that, and I was only kidding. I made it to my car before I burst into tears. 

I am a bi-racial female with skin privilege, so people sometimes raise an eyebrow when I tell them how important diversifying the literary world is to me. I am also a woman of small stature with big eyes and long hair. Men, especially older men, will write off my opinions, especially if they are strong. I am constantly called sweetheart, beautiful, darlin’, by men I don’t know.

You know what? I am over it. Like the people we are trying to give a voice with Duende, I am often unheard even though I am smart and I work hard. The world has cut me breaks, and it has not cut me breaks. So, Bob, you will not be getting one from me. What I will be doing is spreading our message no matter what you think, and continuing to work hard alongside a talented staff of editors to make Issue 3 a megaphone for writers from all over the world, writers of color, LGBTQ writers, student writers, incarcerated writers, and anyone else who gets as angry as I do that the world cuts men like Bob a break. 

Pegasus Reading Series

by Catherine Chambers

My little brother just turned twenty, which warranted a surprise visit to see my family. I have temporarily traded the cold rains of Denver for the warm, muggy rains of my hometown: Dallas, Texas. Over the past few years, my beloved Dallas has been experiencing an artistic facelift. Once a strictly business town, Dallas is now home to things like backyard Shakespeare, a huge burlesque population, Deep Vellum Publishing, and (luckily for me) a blossoming community of writers which includes organizations like WordSpace.

From their website: WordSpace is a non-profit literary organization that supports education and writers, connecting Dallas with the best of world literature. Founded in 1994, the organization hosts authors, readings, student workshops, concerts and salons to promote established and emerging artists who use imaginative language in traditional and experimental forms. Through diverse, multi-cultural programs, WordSpace enhances the development of language artists of all ages, facilitates communication throughout the literary community, and contributes to expanding the Dallas literary scene to the widest possible audience.

WordSpace has partnered with Kettle Arts, a Deep Ellum gallery, to create the Pegasus Reading Series. The reading I attended last night featured poets Tim Cloward, Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick, and Jenny Molberg, along with fiction writer Merritt Tierce. The art gallery was brightly lit but somehow intimate. All four authors were starkly different from each other, and yet with each one I found myself making that “mmph” sound of approval that those of us who have been to a few readings are familiar with. The work was engaging and heartfelt, and it made for a very pleasant evening. 

This reading series occurs monthly and includes and open mic after the featured readings. If you should ever find yourself in Dallas and in need of poetry and free wine, I would definitely recommend this event. 

Hosts/curators Robert Torres & Sebastian H. Paramo, with poetry editor Catherine Chambers

Hosts/curators Robert Torres & Sebastian H. Paramo, with poetry editor Catherine Chambers

Surrounded by the Love of the Literary: My First AWP Experience

By Jørn Otte

As the dust settles, the books are shelved, the business cards sorted through (who was that again?), and the jet lag lazily lingers, I sit and ponder over my first Association of Writers and Writing Publishers conference in Minneapolis, and what can be said of this unique literary experience.

Writers, readers, MFA programs, publishers, literary magazines, drag queens, booksellers, activists, panelists, recovering alcoholics, dog lovers, trendsetters, translation enthusiasts, poets, playwrights, prison writing publishers, Duendians, Goddardites, and thousands of other categories of people and uncategorizeable people attended this three-day-long event, and the positive energy in the rooms was palpable and contagious.

What did I learn? Plenty. Let’s start with my college and literary magazine.

Goddard College has a wider influence than I realized, and it was wonderful to meet alumni and former faculty who have gone on to great things – from people like Mark Doty, a Goddard alum and renowned poet and memoirist who won the National Book Award in 2008, to Doug Van Gundy, a Goddard alum and fellow West Virginia native who now at the low residency MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan, and was also a contestant on ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Alumni and former professors stopped by the Goddard table every day, recalling fond memories, sharing enthusiasm about our programs, and encouraging others to attend.

Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the AWP experience was the fact that many contributors to Duende stopped by our table to thank us for publishing them and to share their love of all things literary. From Harrison Candelaria Fletcher to Bianca Spriggs to Seema Reza and so many others, meeting our contributors face to face and sharing in mutual love of the written word was truly a wonderful experience. It was also nice to build an even deeper camaraderie with my fellow Duendians Amy Sterne and Catherine Chambers, as we represented our school and magazine.

Meeting famous authors is always a treat, and it was distinct pleasure to be able to sit down and talk with people like Nick Flynn and Karen Russell, both of whom, like so many other attendees, were gracious with their time and thoroughly engaging.

Being courted by MFA programs does a little something to stroke the ego as well, and while I won’t call out any names, I can say with complete sincerity that the fact that half-a-dozen graduate writing programs expressed a genuine interest in both my writing and in me as a person made me feel that this whole experience was equally surreal and grounding.

Panels of noted authors and publishers were also an integral part of the AWP experience, and none was more engaging that the Writers Write No Matter What panel, conducted by four wonderful writers: Wendy Call, Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Anastacia Tolbert and Sejal Shah.  This panel was actually workshop, and the productive writing that occurred in this space was unlike anything else I saw at AWP, and hearing from other attendees and panelists, I can confirm that this was a unique and engaging experience that ranked up there with the best panels AWP has ever had.

What more can be said? Being around 15,000 like-minded people – people who care about the written word, about publishing, education, poetry and prose – it is both an awe-inspiring and humbling experience. I am proud to be one of the managing co-editors of Duende, and I am honored to be a student of Goddard College. As a literary magazine and as an institution, we are setting a high standard of excellence, and it was evident at AWP in Minneapolis, just as it will be when I see all of you at AWP in Los Angeles in 2016!

Confessions of a Star-Struck Memoirist

By Catherine Chambers

As the 2015 Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference draws near, I’ve been reflecting on my experiences since I attended the 2014 conference in Seattle. In the past year, I found, applied to, and was accepted by Goddard College's BFA in Creative Writing program after a two-year break from school to work for a circus troupe in Dallas, Texas. I had my first piece of writing (incidentally, based on an encounter I had during the conference) published in a literary journal, moved to a new state, and chose the career of “writer” for myself.

Previously, writing had been a hobby for me, one that I enjoyed but didn’t feel that I was especially good at. I began to write memoir pieces about my experience in the circus, an abusive relationship, and my childhood, but I didn’t feel “legit” writing about these things. Everyone had these problems, I thought. Nothing made me any more special than the next memoirist who loved her mom and made some bad choices in the love department.

At this point, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Nicole Hardy, author of Confessions of a Latter-day Virgin: A Memoir. She, along with with Suzanne Morrison and Claire Dederer, presented a panel on humor in memoirs by women. It was the first panel I attended at #AWP14, and I was completely taken with all three women, Nicole Hardy especially.  After the panel, I was walking around with my two best friends (Hi Janice! Hi Jenna!) and we stopped at a booth about ten feet from Nicole. My friends urged me to go talk to her, but I was having a hard time with my words. I couldn't believe I could just walk up to her?!

I did eventually get up the courage, and Nicole gave me a hug. I asked her if I could ask for writing advice, and she said that I could ask her anything. My questions were: “What if my story is average compared to someone else’s? What if my experiences aren’t extraordinary?”

Her answer: “It doesn’t matter. All your experiences can be extraordinary. It’s not the quantity of stories you tell; it’s the quality of your storytelling.” From that moment, my perspective of my own writing shifted. I started taking steps to better myself as a storyteller, rather than worrying that my life wasn’t interesting enough to merit the title of “memoirist.” Following that illuminating experience, I found Goddard, I found confidence in my craft, and eventually, I found beauty in everyday experiences.   

I will be live-tweeting my #AWP15 experience as I represent Duende with Managing Editor Amy Sterne, Non-Fiction Editor Jørn Otte, and Faculty Advisor/Editor-in-Chief Wendy Call. Come by the Duende booth and take a selfie with us, talk writing with us, or come by just for a hug. Let's #MeetandTweet

We would especially love a photo-op with any of our contributors! See you in Minneapolis!

Follow @DuendeLiterary for updates from the journal, and @CatChamberz on Twitter and Instagram for Catherine’s live-tweets of #AWP15! #SharetheDuende