Unveiling Quadrangle: A Conversation with Nicole Kuhn, Editor-in-Chief

By Nathan Ress

Assistant Features Editor

In a quest for more information on what is arguably the premier event in the Canisius literary and arts community, I journeyed to the top of the student center, and found my way into the Quadrangle club room. The room itself is guarded by a green door with faux wood grain finish and in the window hangs a whimsically fitting hand-drawn sign proclaiming “Quadrangle.”

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A part of the Quadrangle staff

 

Inside I found Nicole Kuhn, halfway through an Iggy’s chicken wrap sitting on a large green couch, and watching “Friends.” The couch was one of five or six pieces of furniture tastefully crammed into the room, giving it a confined homeliness not found in many club
rooms. The walls were adorned with photos and art pieces from previous magazines, and past editions lined a low shelf, sixty-four years of tradition neatly arranged in two rows.

I settled down into a chair opposite Nicole, allowed her to finish her fries, and started up my recorder. We began:

NR: I’m here live with Nicole Kuhn…

(laughter)

NR: So, sitting down with Nicole, how’re you doing?

NK: I’m nervous.

NR: You’re nervous, that’s okay.

NK: That’s off the record… Everything is off the record unless I say.

(laughter)

NR: So we’re here today to talk about Quadrangle. We have the unveiling coming up—‘tis the season, one could say. So, what is Quadrangle?

NK: Quadrangle is Canisius’ literary and arts magazine. We’re in our 64th year, which I think is pretty rad. We publish student and faculty works of poetry, prose, short fiction, short non-fiction, playwriting, photography, painting, drawing, sculpting—pretty much any literary or visual arts piece that you want to send to us, we want to take a look at, and possibly publish in our magazine.

NR: Great. Okay, so we have this unveiling coming up for the magazine. When is the unveiling? What can we expect from the event? What can we expect from the magazine this year?

NK: So, the unveiling is Tuesday, April 26, at 6:00pm in Grupp Fireside Lounge. We can expect… You can expect… I already know what to expect, so…  (laughter) It’s gonna be a great event. Obviously the magazine will be there for the first time. You know, it’s the first place to see this year’s edition. And then, we’re gonna feature all the visual pieces of the magazine, they’ll be printed out and around the room for people to look at before they sit down, then the formal program will start at six o’clock and we will give an introductory note about the magazine and how it came to be, this year specifically. We’ll talk about the staff, and then we’ll talk about the work, and what’s in there. It’s a pretty diverse collection this year. People will give readings, if they did an arts piece they’ll talk about their inspiration and why they chose to take their photograph or craft their piece. And then after that we’ll announce the new editor, or editors-in-chief. And then we’ll all hang out and look at the magazine, which was printed on FSC-certified paper, meaning all the materials come from eco-friendly sources, and then we’ll eat cake. The cake’s gonna be great! It’s a full sheet cake this year, which we didn’t do last year and we ran out. So, we’re on the ball with cake this year.

NR: Okay, so we’ve got cake, we’ve got arts, we’ve got speakers, we’ve got fun. Is this open for everyone?

NK: Yup. Free, open to the public, bring your friends, bring your family, bring your dog—no, don’t bring your dog. (laughter)

NR: And the magazine itself will be presented there. How much can you talk about that? I know it’s pretty secret…

NK: Sure, I mean it’s definitely under wraps to a certain extent—that is the point of an unveiling, to unveil, one might say. But we’ve thought again about texture and shape this year, as far as the physical holding of the book in your hands goes.

NR: Can you speak to that? Can you reveal..?

NK: I can’t give away too much. I will say…It’s never been done before.

NR: Okay!

NK: That’s all.

NR: You heard it here first! (laughter) So you’ve got this great event, and you’ve got this great piece. Why is it important for the arts to have a strong presence here at Canisius College?

NK: I think it’s important that the arts have a strong presence everywhere, first of all. But I think featuring arts here means that we’re featuring what it means for people on this campus to be human, and what it means to understand more about the human experience, which is what art does for us and what art gives us. And so, by putting this magazine out there and by taking these works that people have written or have captured with a camera or with a pencil or with a pen or whatever and publishing them, we’re giving them a space in time and physical existence, which is important. That’s saying that this work deserves to be here and what these artists have grappled with in their pieces deserves to have a place to be recognized, and that says to the people whose works are being featured that what they think about the world, and what they think about themselves, and what they think about how they interact with other people, is important. I think that’s the goal with art, right? To interact, and to think about community, and to think about how we’re all connected. Not to get too cliché, but I mean, it’s true.

(A lull in the conversation as NR reads his notes.)

NR: Okay, obviously this is a process; this doesn’t happen overnight. Can you speak to that from the earliest days of this edition’s inception, to the unveiling. What’s gone into it, what’ve you done? What have various members done? How does this all come about?

NK: The planning and the process begins the day after the unveiling. So, the day after our unveiling this year, Deanna, the secretary of the English department, will schedule the date for next year’s unveiling. And from there she’ll be in contact with the next editor-in-chief, and that person or those people will start planning what they want the magazine to look like and what goals they want to accomplish with the magazine in terms of theme, or presence on campus, and those things. So I thought all summer about what we might want this year’s book to look like, what kind of inspirations we would pull on from other literary magazines, thinking about what other college campuses do, and what other independent, more nationally renowned magazines do, which is all cool to look at.

NR: So this is all part of a larger literary tradition and community?

NK: Oh yeah. And Quadrangle is kinda lucky because we are backed by the school, so as long as our Undergraduate Student Association has money, we’ll have money. So we don’t have to stress about the possibility of not having the income to produce a magazine, which is a real stressor for a lot of other independent magazines. We don’t have that, which means we are afforded the ability to do something different, and to maybe take some kind of risk every year. You know, do something grabbing or different.

NR: You’re able to make it the best it can be every year?

NK: Right, yeah, because we have the means to do that. And from there it’s all about finding designers, and coordinating with the staff to make it all come together.

NR: Okay, so that leads into the next question. Who’s involved? How do you get involved? Where can we start?

NK: Anyone can be involved, honestly. It depends on what kind of capacity you are committed to being involved. My policy this year was that anyone can be on staff. And then from there we work on what experience you have with literary or artistic pieces in terms of workshopping, deciding what pieces are at the level they need to be at in order to be published. But certainly everyone is welcome to be a part of the greater experience. You know, we always get a great designer, or in this case we have two great designers from the DMA department, and Professor Ben Dunkle helps us out a lot with that. So this year we have Jon Fitzsimmons, and Rachel Peck who are two seniors from the DMA department.  Then we have a great staff, which includes people you might know, like Darby Ratliff, and Elizabeth Sawka, and Kate Light. Those are some of the more well-known people, and then we have people who you may not know, like Keera MacDonald, Natalie Medina, and Jack Cryan. So it’s a good mix of people, from all places.

NR: So you don’t have to be an English majoring student to be involved?

NK: No. Definitely not. It helps. I will say that, because we’re a little more familiar with workshopping and similar processes. But that doesn’t mean that no one else has those experiences, and you’re certainly welcome to learn about those things too.

NR: Okay, so it’s not only a magazine, but also a chance for the individual staff members to grow and maybe learn something new.

NK: Definitely, yes.

NR: Why should someone submit, or be a part of this magazine?

NK: I think it’s a chance to be part of something much bigger than yourself, and it’s a chance to show and to feature not only your own work, but also to have your work appear alongside other people’s work. Everything’s chosen so carefully, even the order of the pieces and the design. It’s all chosen so carefully. It’s all put in there to tell such a specific story, both individually and as a whole. I think to be part of that is such an opportunity, you know, to be a part of a bigger story.

NR: So you’ve told me personally about this—that you saw Quadrangle from afar, so to speak, before coming to Canisius.

NK: (laughing) Yes.

NR: Can you talk about why you joined Quadrangle?  What are some of your favorite moments? Some memories from your involvement?

NK: Sure, so I’m from Syracuse, New York. I’d never heard about Canisius before I got something in the mail. So I found out about Canisius and I looked into the Creative Writing department, because I knew that’s what I wanted to study, and I came across something instantly about Quadrangle. I had never even heard of literary magazines before, I didn’t even know what they were. So, to suddenly see that we publish our own, that we do it all ourselves, completely student run, we do it all here, every year there’s a new one that comes out…I first saw it in its 61st year – like, 61 years! – of students putting out a book. A real book. That was pretty crazy to me. So the more I learned about Quadrangle, and the more I learned about the department, I decided I had to come to Canisius. I had to be involved with Quadrangle. I hoped someday to be editor-in-chief, which is pretty cool cause now I’m giving this interview. (laughter)

NR: And you’ve been on staff your entire career?

NK: I wasn’t my freshman year, just ‘cause, you know I had to work on getting acclimated to college life. But when I was a sophomore, I was like, ‘Listen, I need to do this thing.’ So I got in touch with Dr. Cochrane, and he set me up with the editors-in-chief that year who were great. It was Sam Cochrane, and Victoria Niedzielski. They were awesome, and they just welcomed me with super open arms. This leads to one of my favorite memories, which is: the first Quadrangle meeting I ever went to, which was with Sam and Victoria and the people they had already asked to be on staff, and it was under a tree! (laughter) Our first meeting was under a tree in the quad, and it was great! And I just knew at that point that these are the people I want to be around. This is the kind of community that I want to be involved in all the time. And I was, and I got to do that. So that was really cool.

NR: So you were welcomed into this tradition. And what are some of your hopes carrying forth this tradition? You know, for upcoming years, but specifically in your year as editor-in-chief. What are some of your dreams, your expectations—what’s good?

NK: I think my hope for Quadrangle, just generally speaking, would be for people to realize how awesome it is to be a part of something like this. Because you get such a specific, wonderful feeling when you see all the work that you put in turn into a physical representation. We put in so much time, and so much effort and we make so many careful considerations around people’s passions, and then all of a sudden at the end, there’s a real, actual book, to look at and to show people. To see it manifested in that way is a feeling that’s hard to describe, that’s for sure. It’s just great and it’s surreal, for sure. I want other people to have that feeling. I want people to say, ‘I did this. And it includes all these people. And we all worked hard to be a part of it. We all understand what an honor and what a privilege it is to be included in this. And here we all are, in this little space together forever.’  You know? And I think that’s really important and really cool. Because this is history. Like I said, this is the sixty-fourth year! There are sixty-four editions; there were sixty-four groups of people, sixty-four other staffs that have gone through this process, sixty-four editors-in-chief – and that’s awesome! To be a part of that, and to know that we get to keep doing that, and that other people get to also enter into this community and share such meaningful parts of themselves—I think that’s really cool.

NR: And each of those previous editions can be found in the library?

NK: At least some, on the bottom floor. They’re in the literary magazine section in that first nook to the left of the stairs, or earlier ones are in the archives.

NR: So you’ll be part of this piece of Canisius literary history forever?

NK: Yeah, for real. It’s great.

NR: One last time, we’ll come back to it, when is the unveiling? Where is it?

NK: It is Tuesday, April 26th in the Grupp Fireside Lounge at 6:00pm. Maybe I’ll even light the fireplace.

NR: There will be cake.

NK: There will be cake. A full sheet cake.

NR: A full sheet cake! Chocolate or vanilla?

NK: Uhhh, it’s like white cake with strawberries. “Strawberry Dream,” I think it’s called.

NR: The best kind.

NK: It’s gonna be great. And buttercream frosting. Who doesn’t like buttercream frosting?

NR: Cake. Readings. Fun times. Community. It’s gonna be awesome. Be there.

NK: Definitely be there.

NR: Thank you, Nicole.

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