As a writer, editor, and most importantly, as a teacher, I consider myself to be in the business of wonder. Just drawing breath astonishes me—I envision the rigor of capillary action, the pumping of lungs and the humming of blood, the bewildering beauty of this befuddling machine we call a body. Same as watching a leaf drop from a windy bough. Or falling in love—for this is when the clouds become our natural home.

My mission in life is to experience wonder every day; if I don’t feel as if radiant energy were coursing through me as the evening spans into deepest night, then the loss haunts me as I drift into the dreamspeaking world. I believe in the magic and mystery of literature and art, which is why I write, why I teach, and why I joyfully edit this magazine.

The students at SVA increase my capacity for wonder: to see the more green students find their way to clear and concise expression after so many fumbles and blunders, and to watch the more seasoned as they confidently and amply ply their chosen trade, is to own the exquisite knowledge that no matter how murky and cynical the present, there are those among the young who are willing to take up the fight to summon the authentic, right-seeing vision, to have their say in their own fashion, and to revel in their own power as they acquire their voices.

In this new issue of The Match Factory, you will find voices so fearless they could make even the stars afraid. Take Cat Duffy’s seeming deft tip of the hat to Martha Rosler’s brilliant feminist parody Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975) or Jennifer Rostowsky’s “Perfume,” whose dancing-prancing atmospherics sing to the Roman poet Ovid and his concerns. Ellah Stanborough’s luminous “by the inconstant moon” devotes a wise voice to love’s necessary illusions, which are pared away by the knife of time. Iain McDonald’s “Rungs” is a balletic exploration of the fleeting fall we all must one day suffer through, either swift or slow as we are shifted into the next panel of our storybook lives. Melody Sakura’s “Soft Loving” evokes the earthy exuberance of Neruda’s peerless poetry, and t.g.’s  “sonido y silencio” is a touching revelation of what it feels like to stand at the crossroads of identity—to exist at the nexus of sound and silence.  “Sublime Connections” is a swim in an anxious stream of consciousness, while Sydney Brey’s magically titled poem dares to recall a summer as if seen through the Polaroids of a photographer like William Eggleston.

If you seek to warm yourself on the embers of empathy, then read Carlos Vela Castillo’s “All of the Lights,” a personal reflection that tugs apart the loose strings that tie together the U.S.’s ill-conceived immigration policies (which effectively snip the ties that bind families); or read Amy Nicklin’s sharply observed study of a fraught mother-daughter relationship. If you care to delve into fantasy, then check out Rachel Heller’s tale of a harrowing round of sorceress’s chess played for high stakes, and eavesdrop on the world of a crow in Nikki Conero’s story, who plays its own game of death while set high above the rabble.

Tom Yoannidis, winner of two first prizes in this year’s writing contest, gives us a smart and incisive review of photographer Stephen Shore’s current exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and Marisa Wedlock sensitively writes about A Fantastic Woman, directed by Sebastián Lelio.

The talented feature artist of this issue, photographer Alexa Frankelis, guides us down the secret stairway into the classic nighttime of the soul, where one feels a shimmering as if at the brink of death.

And, as always, you will discover cartoons hilariously drawn by t.g., a surefire artist to keep your eye on.

Finally, congratulations to all of the contest winners of the Sixth Annual Writing Contest! The dedication you pour into the craft of writing is emboldening for any instructor of the written arts, and I am particularly struck by the breadth of imagination and wisdom falling away from such young minds.

Thank you to Colin Goldberg, for his aesthetic expertise, and his kind patience as he waits for me to churn out what I hope is worthwhile prose. Thank you as well to Maryhelen Hendricks, acting chair of the Humanities & Sciences Department at SVA, for trusting me with the keys to this golden vehicle, and Laurie Johenning and Susan Kim, without whom no task finds it completion at SVA. And, lastly, appreciation must be expressed for the judges of the Sixth Annual Writing Contest, whose critical acumen and open-heartedness made for an interesting selection of winners.

The spring semester has come to its melancholy conclusion, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that I will meet fresh and excited faces in the fall. I look at myself as a shepherd of wild and unruly voices that hustle and fly and sluice and flow and learn to ultimately howl in their own unique tongues beneath a night sky dazzled by the gods of astronomy.  The students make it all worthwhile. Have a great summer everyone!

Artwork by Featured Artist Alexa Frankelis