Striving Towards Empathy: Why Diversity in Lit Matters

By Amy Sterne

A few weeks ago I finished reading The Empathy Exams, a recently released collection of essays by Leslie Jamison.  Like most great books, certain portions of it kept popping into my head long after I had sadly soaked up the last sentence.  In the opening essay that bears the same name as the collection, Jamison recalls her experiences working as a medical actor.  In her position, she acts as a patient and evaluates the level of empathy of the medical students while they pretend to treat her.  While this is simply the premise for Jamison’s deeper exploration into physical and emotional pain and the ways that we share that pain with others, I couldn’t help thinking, would I pass an empathy exam?
    
Scientific studies show that many of the same areas in our brain that are active when we are in pain are also active when someone we care about is in pain. Being empathetic towards those that we love comes naturally to us. We see a close friend or family member emotionally wrecked, or physically suffering, or over-the-moon joyful and we share those feelings.  However, when we witness the suffering of someone that we don’t already love, that we don’t know, that perhaps we feel we don’t even understand, empathy becomes more difficult.  I think as imperfect people, it is normal for us to err on the side of apathy rather than empathy. Apathy is the easier of the two actions, but certainly not the most helpful.
    
I started thinking about how we can fight those apathetic tendencies and engender empathy in ourselves and others, particularly when it is the most difficult. How can we use empathy to grow? I think one of the answers lies in diversity.  When we expose ourselves to unique and interesting voices, we hear people who on the surface seem completely different from us. Sometimes these stories challenge and overcome our prejudices. Sometimes these stories give us a context for someone’s actions that give us a deeper understanding of a whole situation. The more we listen to these stories, the more we understand the individual pain and our shared humanity. Stories connect us, and those connections become the building blocks for empathy. Roslyn Bresnick-Perry, the author of Leaving for America, said, “It’s hard to hate someone whose story you know.”  Sharing stories, telling ours and listening to others, not only creates empathy but also diminishes hate.
    
I like to think that while Duende’s mission statement is to give a voice to underrepresented groups in today’s literary scene, what we are really doing is helping to spread empathy around to those that need it most. This is not to say that certain people deserve more empathy than others, but that the stories that come from groups that are underrepresented in the literary community simply are not seen. Their voices are valuable, they have the ability to bring depth and breadth and texture to our ever-expanding understanding of what it means to be human. Without a platform those voices can only reach so far.
    
I think the other way that we can create empathy is by pushing ourselves in the direction of it. Jamison says it more eloquently than I could near the end of The Empathy Exams, "Empathy [is] a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It's made of exertion, that dowdier cousin of impulse . . .The act of choosing simply means we've committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations. . .

This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always rise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work. I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones."
    
Let’s make it our intention to self-evaluate and strive in the direction of empathy instead of apathy. Let’s be grateful for the diverse stories in the world today, learn as much as we can from them, and allow them to move us to celebrate our similarities rather than our differences.
    
    
   

Reinvigorating Your Writing Practice for the New Year

By Catherine Chambers

I don’t know about you, friend, but 2014 was a trial by fire for my loved ones and me. I’m sorry to say that I went weeks without picking up a book, without writing down a single word. However, in the midst of post-holiday wintertime blues, I find there is nothing more comforting than a story, read or told. The question is: why is it so difficult to keep it up during hard times? For creative types (a generally sensitive bunch), the littlest thing can set us off. I once didn’t read an assignment for a week because there was snow outside and my kitchen was dirty. To be honest, this year, my writing suffered, but I’m determined to change that.

Personally, I think people aim too high when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. My motto: Keep it Simple. Setting realistic goals you can accomplish will feel much better than drinking kale juice every day for a month only to go on a donut binge. If I can overcome cleaning a three-day-old crusted-over crock-pot, you can overcome too! We can do it together in three easy steps.     

Step 1: Practice.

From writing, to yoga, to business analysis, everything we do as humans takes practice. Make writing (even if it’s an especially witty grocery list or a diary entry) a part of your life every day. To take an example from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, sitting down to write your magnum opus after a hiatus is like saying, “I can go for a run today because I stretched last week.” I’ve been particularly bad about this one lately. The stress of moving, finances, the holidays, its all added up. 2015 will be about overcoming my outer problems and easing the pain with writing every day. Granted, sometimes sitting down to write will be a pain, but as one of my fellow editors pointed out, sometimes art is hard.

Step 2: Stop Caring About What Everyone Thinks.

Trust yourself when it comes to your work. Not everything you write is a gem, but what matters is getting it out. If you don’t get your work onto the page, how are you supposed to pick through it to see what can get shined up?

Another of my favorite Goldberg-isms is, “You should listen to what people say. Take in what they say… Then make your own decision. It is your [writing] and your voice.” Personally, I struggle a great deal with putting my writing out in the world whether for peers to read, submitting for publication, or even just letting my partner take a glance at it. It’s like sending my child go off to kindergarten only to worry about bullies taking her lunch money.

People have opinions and they love to share them, but it doesn’t mean you have to listen. The same thing goes for your ego. Don’t listen to that jerk, either. The societal anxieties you picked up as a child, the need to please and be perfect, none of that has a place in your writing practice. Writing is not a good profession for prideful people. Rejection letters paper our inbox, we work mundane jobs to pay the bills, but we press on. Always press on.

Step 3: Be Present.

This is important. Take deep breaths. Go out barefoot in the snow just to see what it feels like. Document every little thing that you see and love and feel. Observe your world as it’s happening to you. Pull an Anne Lamott and carry an index card in your back pocket in case of emergency poetry. Say yes to reinvigorating your writing practice one day at a time. If you skip a day or two, don’t beat yourself up, just get back to it and write. Truth is, in creating you will find your solace.

No Silent Night

By Jørn Earl Otte

The holidays, however you may define them, will soon be upon us, and for too many in America, they will be spending those holidays in the shadows of grief and loss. Where I live, in the heart of Appalachia, while the tree-covered mountains have long since lost the robust colors of autumn, the houses throughout my neighborhood are covered in glittering lights, and as the old song says, “in the air, there’s a feeling of Christmas.”

Like many writers that I respect and admire, for me, there is a feeling in the air that has very little to do with the so-called joy of the season. Depression encroaches upon the heart of the melancholic writer as much as the eggnog, and turkey, and gift-giving seem to do. For those who suffer through this dark time, the anxiety, sadness, and grief they must deal with comes from a variety of places – memories of loved ones who died too soon, struggles with illnesses, divorce, financial difficulty, or a myriad of other issues. I have experienced depression through the holidays for many of those reasons, and in other years I have celebrated, and enjoyed the positive feelings synonymous with this time of year.

This year, however, I am faced with a depression that comes from a different place. It comes from a growing anger, sadness, frustration, and bewilderment I have at the way my country is treating its own citizens of color. As a white male who is perfectly aware that I come from a place of privilege, I feel the need to speak up, and acknowledge that my country is sick, and I am sick with it, and I don’t know the cure.

The written word is what I know, and it is all that I know, and it has brought me comfort before during the darkest times. So what to do? Some of the people who are near and dear to my heart don’t have the same kinds of conversations with their children as I have with mine. I have a 15-year-old daughter and a nearly 10-year-old son. Never once have I had to tell them how to behave if confronted by an armed police officer. But people I love have to coach their children in ways that I can’t imagine, and then they have to pray every single day that their child will make it home alive.  

So again I ask, what to do? At times, I feel helpless, but I also know that I am privileged to have the opportunity to make a choice – I can either speak up, or I can be silent. Thankfully, I am both a writer, and an editor on the staff of a progressive literary magazine so I can speak up in multiple ways.

Writer and blogger Nancy Arroyo Ruffin wrote on her website recently that “Everyone agrees that there is injustice going on, and while some protest or burn down businesses to release their rage— as an artist, as a writer, I do the only thing I know how. I write. I read. I try and educate myself and others and then I write some more. My art is the only weapon I have. My words are how I fight back because in the end my words are all I have.”

I have suffered some of the worst that depression can bring – I have drowned the thoughts in alcohol, I have laughed in the eye of the storm, I have wrestled with the Almighty, and I have stared down the demons who wished me to end it all. In the end, I have found the most solace in the written word – both my own, and the works of others. Ruffin is spot-on. I can only use words to fight this battle. Whether they are the words of others (William Styron’s Darkness Visible, which chronicles his descent into the darkest worlds of depression, helped me come to a greater understanding of my own battle) or my own words, words are all I have.

Being a part of the staff of Duende during this time of year, I have found another weapon in this battle, and that is the wonderful opportunity to read amazing works from writers spanning the globe and representing such beauty and diversity that I can scarcely take it all in. But I will take it in, and then I will share it with the world in the virtual pages of Duende. For I have taken a solemn vow around a table of my peers in a small building in a remote college campus – to help make a literary magazine that reflects “the true beauty and diversity of the U.S. literary ecosystem.”

I am reminded of the words of the German Protestant pastor and anti-Nazi activist Martin Niemöller, who wrote, “In Germany, they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist; And then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist; And then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew; And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”

So as an editor and writer, I speak. I hope that my words and my choices can make some small millimeter of awareness and change in this violent American landscape. I hope that my fellow privileged white brothers and sisters will take a moment to reflect upon what is happening to our black and brown countrymen, and then, on the Holy Silent Night, lift up a silent prayer to whomever they believe hears such things, and then raise a loud voice to the people in power who can enact meaningful change.

Despite my growing frustration and anger at the country I live in, despite my sadness and fear for my brothers and sisters who have more melanin in their skin than I do, and despite the depression that has constantly and consistently for multiple reasons afflicted me each and every winter – dammit, I still love Christmas. And perhaps what I love about it most of all is the fact that it reminds me, at the most basic level, that we are to love one another. As a father, I love my children and can help them to be better members of society by raising them to love people of all colors, creeds, sexual orientations, religions, and so forth. As a writer, I can speak out about atrocities that are a disease in my country. As an editor, I can make a conscious effort to showcase the talents of people who are otherwise marginalized in the literary landscape. As a human being, I can give hugs, I can share food, and I can shout for joy and shout in protest. What I cannot do, what I must never do, is be silent, no matter how holy the occasion.

Duende Selects 2014 Pushcart Nominees

Wendy Call
BFA Faculty and Literary Journal Advisor

In a year of blood and anguish in Ayotzinapa, Damascus, Ferguson, Gaza, Marysville, and so many other places, what is the point of another tiny, upstart literary journal? I have asked myself that question more than once during the twenty months I’ve worked with Goddard BFA students to create a new, student-edited journal.

Our BFA students have a clear answer: raising voices. The voices of Duende weave a narrative of our world today, in all its heart-breaking splendor. Here are just a few examples from our debut issue:

“She wonders and worries often about our civilization and whether or not we will survive acid rain, the holes in the ozone, the melting polar ice caps and what has happened to all those poor, poor bees. Don’t worry about her….”
    ~ Bianca Spriggs, “Mixed Media in the Age of Anthropocene” (poem)

“Can a sign be plaintive? I think it can. It was the way she tipped the letters for please that did it, each plastic piece perfectly aligned, leaning slightly to the right.”
    ~ Robin Koman, “The Secret Letters” (short story)
 
“This skin is the cry of black wolves,
burned tires and broken beer bottles,
the sea of Moses stripped down the middle,
mocha-skinned mothers lugging bodies”
    ~ Nadia Alexis, “Black Soliloquy” (poem)

“[E]ach loss brings up previous losses, each bout of grief awakens dormant sadness. And I hold my breath; brace myself to absorb the impact because the grief of my children will always be mine.”
    ~ Goddard BFA alumna Seema Reza, “Places Temporarily Submerged” (hybrid prose)

Through the work of these writers, and the thirty-one other writers and visual artists who generously contributed to Duende this fall, our journal lives its mission: “Duende aspires to represent the true beauty and diversity of the U.S. literary ecosystem. A majority of the writers and artists in our journal come from groups that are underrepresented. That is to say, most of the work we publish will be from writers and artists who are queer, of color, differently abled, immigrant, working class, youth, elder, and /or otherwise from communities that are too often overlooked by literary gatekeepers.”

Duende’s student editors are proud to nominate six works of poetry and prose from our debut issue for Pushcart Prizes:

Nadia Alexis’s poem “Black Soliloquy” ~ for its awe-inspiring rawness
Ellen Hagan’s poem “Grits” ~ for our editors’ collective “hell, yes!”
Robin Koman’s short story “The Secret Letters” ~ for its elegant pacing and satisfying resolution
Seema Reza’s hybrid prose piece for “Places Temporarily Submerged” ~ for its strong, evocative metaphors
Bianca Spriggs’s poem “Mixed Media in the Age of Anthropocene” ~ for its emotion and resonant sensory detail
Anastacia Tolbert’s short story “Alice” ~ for a killer opening and stylish friction that stays strong right to the end

Congratulations to these six writers!

We are thankful to all our contributing writers and visual artists for manifesting the spirit of Duende. As we read the more than seven hundred submissions we’ve received for Spring 2015, we’re grateful for the opportunity to connect with socially engaged literature and art from across the country and around the world.

 

This is Art; This is Hard

By Ilana Wilson

All art has one thing in common: it’s hard. Art comes from a place of inspiration, from an unexplained impulse to create, from a feeling that this is important. As a writer, my stories are
woven from threads of myself. Often they are beautiful, messy, and heartbreaking. And yet, despite all the emotional vulnerability and knowledge of craft that goes into creating my art, that is still not the hardest part.

When a friend recently congratulated me on the publication of my short story in a literary magazine Geek Force 5, I laughed and said, “It’s no big deal. I’ve made about three dollars.” Her response was, “Yeah. Get used to that.”

Most artists are poor, or struggling. Some may live out of shopping carts or sleep in subway
stations. Others may have a roof over their head, but still live in tears. The weeping and penniless artist is a stereotype, I know, but sometimes it feels all too real. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt the need to explain to strangers why I am getting a creative writing degree, why I may be working in restaurants until I am 50 years old to pay off these student loans. “Don’t worry,” I say to people. “I know I won’t make money writing novels. Maybe I’ll go into editing.”

I figured out something crucial to my life in the past few months. Editing is hard. I am a co-­fiction
editor for Duende, and it is up to me to give the art I am reading proper consideration, to find jewels among mountains of rock. But was my published story really a jewel? I know what it’s like
to be on the other side of this screen, uploading onto submittable.com, stomach twisting with
anxiety at the thought of yet another rejection. As an editor, I am always thinking about the fact
that no matter what I think of a story, to the person who wrote it, it is important. It is art. And I
have been given a huge responsibility.

Of course there are some editors out there who are not artists, or who are in it for the paycheck,
who edit purely scientific jargon or business postings, who simply have a love of diction and
punctuation. I think many, however, are like me. They love the art of words, and that means that in addition to working with someone else’s work, helping get it out there in the world, they create material of their own. The people who work on literary magazines are almost always writers themselves, and so are the people who read them. This is what we do. We read, we write, and we do our best to get our work and others’ out into the world.

Money and art don’t necessarily go hand-­in-­hand. The odd part about this is just how expensive art can be. Getting a degree takes quite a lot of money, creating the art itself takes big bites out of paychecks, and publishing and promotion takes everything from volunteer labor, to fundraising, to grants, to straight up begging. And yet, aside from those few celebrity cases, it does not make money. In fact, it might not even get readers.

If something is a work of art, even if it is still the rock and not the polished jewel, how much money it makes does not equal its real value. I will repeat that in case you didn’t get it; I find
myself forgetting all the time. Profit does not equal value! My first royalties check was $1.56, and I framed it. Value is also not determined by Amazon ratings, Goodreads reviews, or the number of book clubs reading your work. No amount of anything determines the value of art. And that is why it is so hard. How do you sell something that doesn’t and can’t have a real numeric value, but costs so much to make?

Since the first American magazine containing literature was published in 1741, lit mags have
steadily grown in popularity. During this blossoming internet­-age, journals are springing to life
constantly, and all fighting to survive. There is a reason most of these magazines are solely digital. Because of the strains in financial resources, it is most difficult to maintain print magazines, and print books.

Duende has embraced the noisy world of the internet. Every issue is free to view on our beautiful website. We are all about giving. Look, we have this new, brilliant piece of work for you! Read it right here. We make nothing off of you clicking that link or reading those words. But, we are not the only ones giving. The writers gave us their art to publish. Giving away art is something anyone who creates it wants to do, even though it doesn’t pay the bills.

The hardest part of being an artist is finding the courage and means to share that art with the world, with the hopes that others will appreciate it, and that one day, through your art you’ll find stability. The hardest part about being being an editor is being responsible for what happens to other people’s art once it is in your hands, and being the person to send those rejection letters we all detest receiving. And guys, this is important. Duende is a magnificent compilation of stories, poems, and visual pieces that when put together is itself a work of art, and that means it is hard. It takes a chunk of all of our souls to complete each issue, and it is well worth it.

 

Free Speech: Use It; Don't Lose It

By Kat Richardson

Twice a year, I cross an ocean and a continent to attend college. I travel more than 9,000 miles round-trip, and fly over hundreds of schools to get to Goddard College, in the remote hills of Vermont. This Fall, I land dead-center in the middle of a civil rights controversy when outgoing graduates choose Alumnus Mumia Abu-Jamal as their Commencement Speaker. Mumia was convicted of killing a Philadelphia Police Officer in 1981 and ordered to die, surviving nearly thirty years on death row until 2011 when his sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole.

I’m fascinated that the 2014 graduates have chosen Mumia to speak, and wonder first about logistics, until I learn he has already pre-recorded his words from prison. The possibility that people would try to stop his message from reaching us, doesn’t even occur to me, until news cameras show up. Suddenly, there are virtual death threats, bomb scares, and pressure from politicians and the Fraternal Order of Police to cancel Mumia’s speech. College officials reassure us that the graduation will happen, but some of the protocols have changed and with the added media presence, there’s something that just feels different on campus.

It’s graduation day and the joyous ceremony happens uninterrupted, three hours ahead of schedule.  A group of protestors assemble along the property line bordering the campus. Fortunately it’s a peaceful demonstration as I approach one of them. We begin a dialogue exchanging views and asking questions of one another. He thanks me for listening and I thank him for speaking up about what he feels strongly about. We acknowledge that we haven’t changed each other's opinions, but we know we were heard and there’s satisfaction in that. We shake hands two times before I walk away.  

Only two weeks later, in response to Mumia’s private speech for Goddard College, and a failed attempt to silence him, both the Senators and Representatives of Pennsylvania have introduced bills quickly voted upon, passed, and signed into law by the Governor, effective immediately.  It happened that fast. Bam. Bam. Bam!

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania criticizes these fast-tracked laws as “overbroad and vague and completely undermines the fundamental value of free speech found in the First Amendment of the federal constitution.”  In a letter requesting the Senate and Legislature to vote against it, the ACLU argues, “Both of these bills attempt to shut down public speech by people who are currently or formerly incarcerated by giving a victim, the district attorney, or the Attorney General the power to file a civil action against a person before the speech occurs if the conduct “perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim.” This is defined as “conduct which causes a temporary or permanent state of mental anguish.” No one seems to acknowledge how far-reaching these laws can get, yet Governor Tom Corbett signs them anyway.

The fact that these bills have so hastily and sloppily become law in Pennsylvania, motivates me to project my voice louder and farther, lest I lose my right by not using it. The First Amendment was created with great foresight to protect future generations from suffering at the hands of a corrupt government. Taking free speech away from prisoners is an incremental step towards taking it away from other marginalized groups, or whomever else those in power don’t want to be heard. This is dangerous. It’s important that we hear everyone! Blocking prisoners from this basic right creates an umbrella of censorship over us all.     

Peace officers sworn to protect us are the ones who have initiated these bills and protested against Mumia’s right to free speech and in a sense, censoring our rights, validates for me, the ongoing need to advocate for the importance of upholding First Amendment Rights for all. I didn’t know when I arrived at Goddard, that I would learn the importance of protecting and preserving our free speech from a death-row survivor or the Fraternal Order of Police. In my own self-sequestered by privilege existence, I had not heard of either one of them until this semester.

Students and inmates are known to be outspoken and prone to protest against the establishment, but only at Goddard have I encountered police protesting against students and an inmate giving a prerecorded speech.  Thank you Goddard College: our new interim President Bob Kenny, faculty, administration, and staff for embracing us 100% with your support and protection. You held strong in the heat of scathing public insults and personal threats. Your strength and support during this very odd attack on the school’s reputation and attempts to discredit faculty and embarrass students, reinforces how pleased I am that this is the institution from where I will earn my degree. And Mumia, thank you for your powerful voice, and for not being afraid to use it.

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.