Duende Launches; The People Approve

By Kate Weiss

“I think it's the most impressive undergraduate journal right now.”

—Michael Vizsolyi, poet, Goddard College Faculty, and Starworks Fellow. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Margie, 6x6, Slice magazine, and Sixth Finch.


“Oh my gosh, it’s a beautiful design. Can’t wait to read these works and drool over the artwork.”

—Deborah Miranda, poet, Native Studies Scholar, author of several award-winning books, including Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir


“Wow, editors!  It just gets better and better.”

—Janet Sylvester, poet, Director of Goddard College’s BFA Program in Creative Writing


“The launch [of Duende] is a very special accomplishment…Once again my congratulations to all but we cannot let it stop there.” 

—Robert Kenny, Interim President of Goddard College

We did it. We launched Issue One. Over the past eighteen months there have been long days and late nights. The Duende staff has grown and changed. Editors have moved across the country or on to other adventures. Collaborating across time zones we have worked to assemble a sort of digital scaffolding to not only build issue one, but promote the continued growth of Duende. Sometimes together, meeting in a cottage in central Vermont and sometimes apart, in our own respective cities, we built this thing. And during its construction we have learned so much. The words we speak, write to each other in communication, and those we have chosen to publish come from deep reflection.

During this process, we have come to understand what it means to be literary gatekeepers. We will continue to consider the gifts and responsibilities we have in this position of empowerment. Duende is no longer just an idea or a mission about diversity and voice. It no longer exists solely as faces illuminated by the glow of laptops, lonely hours spent reading submissions, and fixing comma splices. Duende is now a thing in the world. Our mischievous, elusive Duende holds digital space.

The words we speak, write to each other in communication, and those we have chosen to publish come from deep reflection.

We have been able to publish work we are proud of and cannot thank each of our contributors enough—even those we did not publish—for sharing their work with us. For those writers, poets, and artists whom we did publish, we are honored to have built a home for your work. Because of your submissions we have been able to fulfill our mission to publish work from an array of voices ranging form Affrilachian poets to Cave Canem fellows to members of the LGBTQ community. There is so much richness in the tapestry of lit and art to discover. We have only just begun!  

On to Issue Two.


Creating the Unknowable Future: The Birth of Duende

by Amy Cain

This past summer I spent a lot of time playing Minecraft with a seven-year-old. For those unfamiliar, it’s a game that situates the player in a 3D world where virtually anything can be constructed out of large, textured cubes. In general, I loathe video games and do what I can to keep my nanny charge, Bruno, from playing them (despite the fact that it would make me a terrible nanny, I also think video games are just boring). But Minecraft is entirely different.

There are a variety of modes to the game; Bruno and I always choose the creative mode and set our world to "peaceful." This means that the only point of playing is to create. Naturally, as a person who spends most of my free time creating and/or cultivating, I am delighted by this. There is an excitement associated with building something out of nothing, with realizing ideas, and it's like nothing else.

Recently, I read an essay by Javier Marías called “Seven Reasons Not to Write Novels and Only One Reason to Write Them.” Use your imagination and you can probably guess at some of his reasons not to write novels—but Marías's only reason in support of writing gave me the shivers because it gets at the very excitement I’m talking about. He writes, “[Fiction] offers us a possible future reality. And although it has nothing to do with personal immortality, it means that for every novelist there is the possibility—infinitesimal, but still a possibility—that what he is writing is both shaping and might even become the future he will never see.”

It is, perhaps, a stretch to extend this idea to the playing of Minecraft, but it’s certainly not a stretch to apply it to the creation of Duende. Over the past year, BFA students at Goddard College have been working tirelessly on Duende; together, we imagined this journal into existence. Together, we voted on potential names, design choices, and literary allegiances. Together, we decided it was vital that this journal be a true representation of the U.S. literary ecosystem, and we committed to intentionally reaching-out to underrepresented groups in the hopes of creating the literary future we want to see.

There are thousands of fledgling literary journals in the world. Harkening back, for a moment, to Marías's observations about novel-writing, he says, “There are too many of them. … It is, then, a commonplace activity, one that is, in theory, within the grasp of anyone who learned to write at school.” The same thing can be said about literary journals. Making them is not hard, and with the internet as a tool (long live net neutrality!), just about anybody with access to a computer, a working knowledge of Wordpress and a little extra time can do it.

But as we, the Duende editors, made choices about which writers and artists to include in our inaugural issue (and we had SO many wonderful submissions that it was difficult to choose), we understood that the poems, stories, visual art pieces, and collaborations were going to reflect not only our mission, but the unknowable future. We are incredibly pleased with the writers and artists who appear in this first issue. They deserve to be here, and we feel honored to have been even the smallest stepping stone in their journey through the literary landscape; their pride is our pride.

In the end, playing Minecraft probably won’t change the shape of the world around me, but an attitude of possibility will. That’s why, in deciding which voices must be heard, which ideas are important, we are, right now, taking part in a discussion that is both happening and hasn’t happened yet. This is the magic inherent to creation. We make something. We put it into the world. And we have no idea at all what will develop next.

To MFA or Not to MFA: The Question That's Still on Every Writer's Mind

by Cameron Price

Okay, so education (and just being alive) requires a lot of money. With this in mind, why would one invest in a degree that guarantees absolutely no promise of a job on the other side?

To begin, let’s just assume that you have reached the point where you know that you NEED to be a writer and that no other calling under the moon could possibly satisfy you. If this is the case– and is it for anyone 100% of the time?– then why go into debt for a two year degree when you could just, well, write? There are many strongly differing opinions on the matter.

Writer and poet Donald Hall, former Poet Laureate of the United States in 2006, is one of the most outspoken critics of the MFA degree, and he has some good points. In his essay “Poetry and Ambition,” he writes: “The workshop schools us to produce the McPoem, which is ‘a mold in plaster, / Made with no loss of time,’ with no waste of effort, with no strenuous questioning as to merit. If we attend a workshop we must bring something to class or we do not contribute.”

McPoem? Harsh. But this critique comes from Hall’s experience of seeing too many programs churn out writers who have merely been trained to mimic what has gone before them. He argues in his essay that writers must have ambition of the right sort– the kind in which the “petty ego” is sacrificed in service to the poem (or narrative) itself. More often than not, Hall feels that MFA programs encourage the opposite and are not cultivating the proper literary immersion, independence of thought, and true ambition needed to write innovative literature.

I agree that one gets what they put into an MFA. Or into anything, really. The writer must already exist inside the writer if that inner-writer is to be developed and coaxed out...if that makes any sense. In short, an MFA isn't going to make you a better writer. YOU are going to make you a better writer only if you work, research, learn, live, and (most importantly) write.

These things can happen in an MFA program, contrary to Hall’s belief. Poet Arielle Greenberg believes that, if treated in the right way, the MFA can act as a supportive green house environment for budding writers. Greenberg writes, “I’d be thrilled if we lived in a nation—like some others in the world—where people gathered in local cafes and plazas to recite great verse and breathe it in, but the truth is, in America, this happens primarily in the classrooms and reading series and conferences and living rooms of MFA students, alumni, and faculty—and for this we should be thankful" (from "A [Slightly Qualified] Defense of MFA Programs: 6 Benefits of Graduate School"). Greenberg illuminates the benefits of the MFA program, which range from cultivating community, teaching the student what and how to read, and finding one's voice and unique set of values.

Both of these writers provide potential students with nuggets of wisdom. I think it’s safe to say that pursuing an MFA is an individual decision– especially if you know that an MFA isn’t going to make you a better writer. The more appropriate question would be: what is going to grow you best? Despite opposing views on whether to get an MFA, I think one thing can be agreed upon: you need to write in order to be a writer, MFA or not. So stop surfing the web and go do it!

Graduating With a BFA

by Alexis Lounsbury

In my final residency at Goddard College, which was the weekend of my Spring 2014 graduation, I walked around campus in a haze. It seemed surreal that after worrying over study plans semester after semester, that was not the case this time. I tried to take in the smell of the rain on the grass, or how the quiet of the Pratt Library made me feel more in tune with what I was reading. There was a hum all over campus that seemed to feed the starving creative beast in me. Then, on that fateful Sunday afternoon, I clutched the hand of a good friend and fellow graduate as we walked into the Haybarn Theater for the last time, performing “With a Little Help from My Friends." It was a perfect choice, far better than my half-serious idea of walking in to "The Imperial March" from Star Wars.

As a student sitting in on previous graduation ceremonies, I would listen to the advisors explain the involved, professional senior projects of their students, and thought how impossible they seemed to be. I was plagued by insecurity--some graduates seemed to have produced over five hundred pages of work. They had stood before their peers all weekend, giving eloquent graduation presentations, and now they stood up to be erudite and thank everyone who had a hand in supporting them along the way. It didn't seem possible to my pre-graduation self, as I only had a seed of an idea of what I may end up with for my senior project. By the time I stood up to make my own speech, bumbling through tears, I understood how much work had really gone into it, but also what I was walking away with.

Receiving your BFA in Creative Writing at Goddard means that you have taken the seed of an idea and created a finished project. You've had the opportunity to learn theory while simultaneously learning how to work alone, something that can be difficult to become comfortable with, but you have mastered it. Throughout your undergrad, you have likely heard the phrase “trust the process” so much it's become an inside joke, but you have shown that you understand the creative process. More impressively, you have shown how you fit inside that process. What works for you? Writing in the morning or at night? In a cafe or in a closet with a desk from Wal-Mart, which you spent four hours assembling? You figured out your genre, but also how to research. You learned how to keep a deadline, and to become an expert in using criticism constructively.

From where I stand now, having been in the “real” world for a few months (it's the exact same as the previous world I was living in), my job is to tell you the most important resource you are graduating with: your fellow graduates. The incredible, talented group with whom you are graduating will never cease to amaze you, so make a concerted effort to keep these people in your life. They are entering the same difficult waters, armed with exactly what you have. They will be indispensable in many things, such as keeping your sanity in a difficult economy, entering the world of writing, navigating grad school, and the unfortunate possibility of moving back in with your parents. But chief among the reasons to stay in touch with your fellow graduates is to keep Goddard in your life.

James Baldwin, We Celebrate You

by Lauren Wingate

Today would have been the 90th birthday of American essayist, novelist, and poet James Baldwin. To celebrate this, many schools are introducing his writing for the first time into their classrooms, challenging the idea that youth are unable to handle his language and frank discussions about race, sex, and gender. The New York Live Arts: Live Ideas Festival has declared its second annual celebration "The Year of Baldwin," in which they will dedicate the whole of their five-day festival to the works of Baldwin. This will include the premier of Nothing Personal, a play based on the novel written in collaboration with Richard Avedon.

James Baldwin, NYC 1975 // Photo by Anthony Barboza

James Baldwin, NYC 1975 // Photo by Anthony Barboza

It is with deep intentionality that Baldwin’s literary voice is resurfacing. We find ourselves in a time in which the conversations about and understandings of race, gender, and sexuality have become destitute, especially in classrooms, due to the misguided belief that we live in a post racial, non-biased society. Educators, both inside and outside of the classroom, are encouraging us all to acknowledge the ways that we are separate in order to move forward in honoring our likeness.

I discovered Baldwin in high school. I admit it was his name that first caught my ears. Being part of a youth-driven spoken word community, I heard the names of several thought-changing people of color without knowing too much about them. I took it upon myself to research these people, and Baldwin's name came up so often that I had to investigate. The first quote I highlighted was found in his collection of essays, The Fire Next Time:

"You were born into a society, which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity. Wherever you have turned… in your short time on this earth, you have been told where you could go and what you could do (and how you could do it) and where you could live and whom you could marry. I know your countrymen do not agree with me about this, and I hear them saying, “you exaggerate.” They do not know Harlem, and I do. So do you. Take no one’s word for anything, including mine -- but trust your experience." (8-9)

This passage spoke directly to the internal struggles I was faced with--ideas of truth as they related to personal versus social views of reality. Baldwin’s voice became a subtle soundtrack to my learning. He provided me with determination, and held me in a continuum of historical presence that I needed in order to attune my action to my intention in the world.

It is this insight that he still offers us. Thank you, and happy birthday, James Baldwin.

Reading as a Means to Clearer Prose

by Fawn McManigal

We writers hear the recommendation all the time: read everything you can get your hands on, then read some more. Maybe you’ve also been advised to read outside the genre in which you write: articles, obituaries, recipes, stats. Read! Read! Read! I agree. Read the works of others. But don’t forget to read your own work--out loud, in front of a group of peers.

If you’re the type of person who reads aloud during revision, congratulations. Hearing our words permits us to see the language on the page more clearly. This practice of reading to ourselves, however, does not afford the same level of care and precision that occurs when we anticipate reading that same piece to an audience.

This truth became clear when I was asked to read one of my essays at a reception for the journal in which it had been published. During mock readings of this piece, I was surprised by the number of times I stopped reading because something disrupted the story’s flow. Several sentences required that I move a clause, add or remove a comma, or insert a more suitable word--all to a piece that I, and the editor of the journal, had considered finished. Had I edited in this way prior to submission, the essay would have been tighter.

Though the act of reading your work in front of your peers may be terrifying, it won’t ruin you. For those feeling hesitant, try to start simply. Select a venue where authors are limited to roughly five minutes of reading time. It takes about two minutes to read one page of prose aloud. Choose a piece or number of poems you think you can read, without rushing, in the specified amount of time. Then practice. Time yourself. If you don’t finish in time, edit the work to fit or choose another piece. Practice some more. Then go rock your reading. Afterward, you’ll want to do it again.

Bloomsday, Revisited

By Kori Waring

June 16th was Bloomsday, the only internationally celebrated holiday honoring one particular work of art: James Joyce’s Ulysses. One hundred and ten years to the day after Joyce’s novel takes place, literary nerds of a certain breed congregated in cities across the world to dress up like this:

And do things like this:


And eat this for lunch:

gorgonzola sandwich, burgundy

In belated celebration of Bloomsday, I want to share a list I compiled—in a totally normal, non-obsessive way—of portmanteau words (i.e. words made by combining two or more words) that James Joyce invented for the third chapter of Ulysses (“Proteus”). For equally normal, non-obsessive reasons, I’ve organized them not alphabetically, but by parts of speech, and can tell you that of the sixty-four invented portmanteaux I counted, 55% are adjectives, 39% are nouns, 3% are verbs, and 3% are adverbs. Also, because there were so many adjectives, I broke those down by their constituent parts of speech too. Y’know. Like you do.


(noun+participle) noun:

“…strandentwining cable of all flesh” 
“…whiteheaped corn”
“…whitemaned seahorses”
“…skeweyed Walter”
“…chalkscrawled backdoors”
“…bloodbeaked prows” 
“…peacocktwittering lashes”
“…milkoozing fruits”
“…fourworded wavespeech”
“…allwombing tomb”

(noun+adjective) noun: 
“…hundredheaded rabble”
“…froggreen wormwood”
“…saucestained plates”
“…gumheavy serpentplants”
“…windraw face”

(adjective/adverb+participle) noun: 
“…lowskimming gull”
“…seawardpointed ears”
“…longlashed eyes”

(verb+adverb) noun
“…pushedback chairs”
“…turnedup trousers”

(noun+noun) noun:
“…whiterose ivory”





3+ word adjectives: 




Do I have opinions about the effect these words create in “Proteus”? I do. Would those opinions take up more space than is reasonable for a blog post? They would. You don’t need me, though. Read Ulysses and decide for yourself. It has a reputation for being a tough read, and it’s true that you have to be willing to let some allusions fly over your head, but mostly Ulysses requires one thing: forget everything you know about reading fiction, and let the book teach you how to read it. I promise it’s worth the effort. James Joyce will blow your mind.

I’ll end with a quote. Stephen Dedalus thinks this in a self-deprecating way in “Proteus,” but I think in an odd, Joycean way it does a pretty good job of capturing why we read literature, and certainly why you should read Ulysses:

“When one reads these strange pages of one long gone one feels that one is at one with one who once…”


Happy Bloomsday, internet.

Why Net Neutrality Matters

by Kate Weiss

Service providers (or ISPs) don’t discriminate between bits of data--this is one of the basic building blocks of the internet. No matter where the data is coming from or what website you are looking at, the data going to your computer is treated the same by your internet service provider. So whether you are watching Netflix or checking to see if a book is available at your local library, the company you pay to bring the internet to your house treats each search the same.

Until very recently, ISPs have treated data like phone companies do. There are no priority phone lines. Everyone, from individuals to telemarketing companies, uses the same wires. So no matter whom you are calling, the data is treated equally, so if the phone line is not busy, you are put through. It has always been that way with the internet, too. Whether you are watching a TV show, checking your Comcast email, or reading the newest issue of Duende, your ISP treats the data equally. This is how the internet works. It is how Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the internet, believes it should work[1]. There are no priority lines.

Now, though, Verizon and Comcast—which are quickly becoming our only options for bringing internet into our homes—want to charge their customers differently for different types of data, and charge businesses more to use the priority line. Giant companies that can afford the priority line will be in first line, gaining priority access to the screens of internet-users, while self-published journals, blogs, and websites will all be at risk waiting in the second line.

If our phone lines worked the way Verizon and Comcast want the internet to work, with a priority line for companies who can afford it, and a second line for everyone else, big companies would get priority. In a January 2011 column on Locus Online, Cory Doctorow makes a great analogy that I am going to adopt here: imagine calling your favorite indie bookstore to see if they have a book on hand, but instead of the line ringing at the bookstore, you hear a robotic female voice say, “Between the Covers has not paid for priority service. Please press 1 to be immediately connected to an Amazon sales reparative, or hold for 5 minutes while we connect you to Between the Covers.”

Amazon, in this theoretical example, has paid the phone company to be in the priority line whenever you try to call your local bookstore. But phone lines don’t actually work this way and never have. This is because they are treated and legislated as a public utility. The advocators for net neutrality argue that the internet should also be treated like a public utility, and that no one, not even wealthy companies, can pay to have priority for their data.

Cory Doctorow explains what is at stake here, and it is everything:

“Here’s something every creator, every free speech advocate, every copyright maximalist and every copyfighter should agree on: allowing the channels to audiences to be cornered by a handful of incumbents is bad news for all of us….This is the big fight for us – the fight over who gets to decide who will be heard and how.”

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23205244