“Of the world, weather swept, with which
one shares the century.”
The things with which we share the century: George Oppen may have had a specific sense of the world in mind (or he had everything in mind?) when writing those lines, but I’ve come to think of these words as a polestar, something by which to sail the ship. Everything beautiful and abominable about the last 100 years that we have to share with the world, all that has happened that we have to rectify, make sense of, understand, live with, celebrate, make art out of, or forget, or remember–this is what Oppen meant, I think, by “share.” Consequences have their own aesthetic sensibilities, and these sensibilities can periodically be guiding pleasures in a brain’s circuitry–we are hard-wired for cause-and-effect, for the give and take, for the startling pleasure of surprise when the outcome is unknown, but also the harder pleasure of perseverance when the outcome is already known, and we push forward against the knowledge anyway.
Oppen also means “share” as in what is happening right now, in this particular world, in this particular moment, the infinite worlds and centuries we are all simultaneously living. In mine: the oaks across the street ornamented in morning birds as I’m typing, each going off like they are brokers trying to buy and sell the sun to each other. Lilacs on the end of their run in the back yard, bursting purple like blueberries popping in a hot skillet. My son gently tapping the wall behind me, telling a story about “Dark Vader” to himself as he wakes up. In this smaller sense–in my life–it’s been such a pleasure to share a tiny slice of the century I am living with The Kenyon Review. Such a pleasure over the past six years to live a life surrounded by words that I love so much and that do the work of sharing the century with the world, both the diamonds and the warts of it. I’ll be leaving my post at KR on July 1st, heading on to a new position as executive director at the University of Arizona Poetry Center. It’s a huge and exciting opportunity, and I am thrilled to join the staff and community in Tucson and continue the work there of celebrating and advocating for poetry and poets.
But I’m equally sad to leave the incredible staff and trustees and volunteers here at KR. We’ve done a lot of great work over the past six years, in the Gerard Manley Hopkins mode of “sheer plod makes plough down sillion / Shine.” I am grateful for having had this chance to grow, for the learning opportunities, for the company of such talent and wisdom that are in abundance here. We’ve creatively solved some publishing problems, improved how we do our work, launched some exciting new projects, hosted some tremendous writers, and made lots of sillion shine over the past six years, even on the days that there was a lot of sheer plodding.
We’ve also had some tremendous work to publish. To all of our submitters and authors–thank you so much. It doesn’t matter how nice your layout and design are if you aren’t publishing really great work, and we’ve been able to consistently do that, in print and online. More than that–we’ve had such tremendous submissions to consider, to discover something that we didn’t expect, to find a writer that we didn’t know–and these discoveries have been a sincere pleasure, every time. Much of the work of an arts organization like KR is stewardship–KR is a thing that will go on, thankfully, long after all of us are done working for it, submitting to it, reading it. It’s bigger than any particular editorship or staff or generation of writers. I’ve been lucky to have had a chance to be a steward here.
I am excited to continue to share this century with the world, in a new corner of it. This is last call for me here. See you in Tucson.