About the Cover
Our cover design by Nanette Black features a silver gelatin photograph by Ron Guidry entitled Sand Dunes, Death Valley, CA, taken in 1999. Guidry, who works with medium- and large-format cameras, has exhibited his work in Louisiana and throughout the United States. His work can be viewed online at absolutearts.com.
How much is a fine story worth? What monetary value does a superb poem possess? How much—and this is the inexorable point—should authors be paid for their long, solitary work?
These are neither new nor simple questions, but they certainly are vexed. As much skill and labor and inspiration goes into a literary creation as into, say, a more visual work of art, a sculpture or painting, that can be collected. It may well reach a larger audience than will come to a gallery. A commercial magazine—one of the handful that remains—can offer several thousand dollars for a story. But another piece of equal merit by the same author will earn next to nothing, or nothing, from a small journal. Even The Kenyon Review, while struggling toward financial stability, has been able to offer only fifteen dollars per page for poetry and ten dollars per page for prose in recent years.
Bite your tongue. It’s not fair, but fairness has nothing to do with it.
It’s clear, of course, that writers don’t go into this line of work for the big bucks. They know full well that years must be spent honing their craft before even modest rewards arrive. A fiction writer may serve an apprenticeship of sorts by fashioning short stories (all the while harboring a fantasy of blockbusters and screenplays down the road). But poets, even the best poets, daren’t delude themselves in this particular way. A different sense of reward must suffice. But shouldn’t there be some financial reward as well?
One of the most significant changes in the arts over the past fifty years has been the growth of institutional support for writers and other artists. Instead of holding unrelated day jobs in banks or insurance companies (though certainly some still do), many authors today hold academic positions that support them while they write. Indeed, their promotion in the academy often depends on generating vitae with lists of publications that otherwise have earned them little beyond the price of a meal or two.
I’m pleased to say that the trustees of The Kenyon Review have designated increasing payments to authors as the biggest single priority for the next several years. This is a direct result of their leadership in creating financial stability for this magazine and in pursuing an aggressive endowment campaign, so that such initiatives as paying authors more can be addressed. Starting with this current issue, poets will receive forty dollars per page, authors of prose thirty dollars. Surely a significant increase, but still not a lot—not what stories and poems may warrant or authors deserve. Yet it is a meaningful first step. And only a first step.
This is not entirely a matter of altruism, naturally. The trustees believe—as do I—that paying authors more will be another tool in making KR a better magazine, one that more and more readers turn to for the best new writing from around the world. That’s the goal I’ve been pursuing for ten years, and intend to continue.
—David H. Lynn