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Stay Sweet: Season 4 in Review

Peach Mag's Season 4 Yearbook, the last in our yearbook series, is out now. Below is EiC Rachelle Toarmino's editor's note recapping our fourth season, the milestone of operating for four years, and the direction in which we're headed.

The senior year of Peach Mag is over and the last chapter of our Yearbook series is here—and, the way it always is for grads, it feels like everything and nothing has changed. Four years ago, when we were conspiring to create a space for emerging writers in Buffalo and beyond, I could not have imagined the friendships, partnerships, and surprises that awaited us. Looking back on our first full spin around whatever sun—summery Season 1, autumnal Season 2, wintry Season 3, and primaveral Season 4—it’s incredible to think about the growth and change we’ve experienced, but it also feels like we’re just starting out. And I hope we’ll always feel that way.

Heading into Season 5, we plan to use this time to reflect on what’s worked, what needs fixing or a refresh, and where we can do more or do better. But right now, as with yearbooks past, we want all the focus to be on our incredible contributors, partners, friends, and readers. As always, and on behalf of the whole team at Peach: Thank you for reading.

This year we published the outstanding work of another hundred of emerging writers and artists at our online journal—work that humbles me in its power, tenderness, and curiosity. Because of these contributions, which inform all of our other projects and programs, Peach appeared on Entropy’s Best Presses, Magazines, Publishers list for the second year in a row. We were also a finalist for the Whiting Award—the first year we were eligible to apply.

We started Season 4 by introducting a creative partnership with our friends at Rise Collaborative, a news and entertainment platform covering lifestyle, culture, and positive change in Western New York. In a time when independent arts coverage is disappearing from our hometown of Buffalo (our beloved previous partner The Public, where our weekly micro-reviews column Peach Picks appeared, shuttered in mid-2019), Rise has stepped up in a big way. Together, we launched a video series that highlighted the region’s poets and Peach contributors reading in various neighborhoods throughout Buffalo. And in the winter, to continue our tradition of an annual holiday bash co-presented with another arts group, our teams collaborated on Cupid’s Rejects, an anti-Valentine’s Day party with comedy, music, dancing, and more at Thin Man Brewery in Buffalo. The evening saw more than a hundred guests gather for a literary spin on Dear Diary, where locals got on stage to read awkward journal entries, poems, stories, and letters from their adolescence, as well as a DJ set by Lil Gab. (Remember parties?)

The performances that made up this year’s Episodes Reading Series were truly ones for the books. We were stoked to partner with our friends at Triangle House to present s04e01 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, where visiting readers Elissa Washuta, Rachel Rabbit White, and Monika Woods joined local poet Julianne Neely, visual artist Cassie Elsaesser, and Peach Seed Julia Beck. We also got to work with the folks at Burchfield Penney Art Center and bring Season 4’s Covers Night to the gallery’s annual Stay Gold festival. And after the pandemic disrupted our plans for more IRL events, we moved our final Episode of the season online, tapping on performers from the Peach community unrestricted by geographic place—Ivanna Baranova, Brad Casey, Sasha Debevec-McKenney, jamie hood, Fargo Tbakhi, and zach blackwood—and reaching readers who previously hadn’t been able to access our series live.

Like many of you, though, the pandemic has reminded us of the irreplaceable magic and intimacy of live events. One of our favorites from the past year was Writers for Migrant Justice, where we joined forces with the editors of Ghost City Press and Coffin Bell Journal to respond to a call from national organizers Anni Liu, Christopher Soto, Jan-Henry Gray, and Javier Zamora for literary communities around the country to organize benefit readings in response to the current administration’s increasingly cruel and unjust immigration policies. Our event featured an open mic marathon, micro book fair, and basket raffle. More than 40 Buffalo-based poets, writers, and performers volunteered to read their work while representatives from nearly 20 publishers, bookstores, and literary organizations participated in the book fair or donated to the basket raffle. Together, we raised $1,090 for Immigrant Families Together.

Following last year’s conversation surrounding responsibility in publishing, which contributed to the publication of With You: Withdrawn Poetry of the #MeToo Movement, this year Peach committed to ongoing financial transparency and participation in the broader dialogue about where money in publishing goes, why independent publishers disappear, and what equity in publishing could look like. We memorialized the explanation of our finances on our website and will continue to update our community as our situation changes. We called for financial support for the first time by launching a Patreon, the success of which has made our continued presence possible.

In the spring we sponsored our third annual Peach Gold in Poetry, judged this year by cultural icon ALOK. ALOK’s work as a writer, performance artist, community builder, and LGBTQ advocate continues to be precisely what we fuck with. We were grateful to them for selecting powerful poems by Kayleb Rae Candrilli, Alicia Mireles Christoff, and Alexis Aceves Garcia for the Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards.

We recognized that the disappearance of Peach Picks was a loss for us personally, for our community of readers, and for the writers and small presses that we were able to spotlight. Our new series Favorite Books feels like a natural but exciting evolution—carrying on the spirit of Peach Picks but with a new perspective and room for so many more people to share the platform. Favorite Books, curated by former contributor and newcomer to the masthead Sebastian Castillo, gives contributors and friends an opportunity to talk about their favorite reads.

It’s no secret that, for me, the end of this chapter is poignant because Season 5 will be the first without my two beloved cofounders, Matthew Bookin and Bre Kiblin, who have moved on from Peach. Matthew and Bre will always have a place at Peach and in my heart, and I’ll never be able to say properly how grateful I am for their creativity, friendship, and support. It’s additionally bittersweet to say goodbye to RE Katz and C. C. Camuglia, who brought incredible energy and impeccable taste to the team—but who are already embarking on exciting new projects. We’re going to look forward to future collaborations. The Peach team is growing, though, and we’ve been able to reshuffle responsibilities to open up space for new ideas and new ways of engaging with our community. This year we welcomed poetry editors Aeon Ginsburg, Kelly Xio, Sennah Yee; essays editor Rax King; outreach coordinator D. Arthur; Peach Seed Julia Beck; and guest fiction editors Janet McNally and Richard Chiem. The pages that follow are their story, too.

While we’re bummed that this is the finale of our Yearbook series, we’re proud of these anthologies and view their discontinuation as a graduation of sorts. We continue to look forward to reading and writing with all of you. As always, we have only big plans.


Rachelle Toarmino

Editor in Chief


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