About the Cover
Our cover design by Nanette Black features Satiric Dancer, Paris, 1926 by photographer André Kertész (1894-1985). The Hungarian-born Kertész quietly influenced the development of photojournalism and the art of photography, serving as a mentor to the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa. In 1925, Kertész moved to Paris where his pioneering vision soon brought him great success, defining the shape of photojournalism in Europe. During the next eleven years, Kertész built an extraordinary body of work, influenced by and influencing the many artists with whom he interacted in Paris between the wars. Kertész moved to New York in 1936. Unable to return to Europe after the outbreak of World War II, he worked at House & Garden magazine in 1947 where he languished for fifteen years—his “lost years”—creating architectural photographs. In 1962, Kertész broke his magazine contract to pursue his art. For the next twenty-three years, he reestablished himself as a major figure in fine art photography. By the time of his death, Kertész’s work was honored by artists and photographers, collected by major museums and galleries and studied by scholars.
Noel Bourcier, in the book Kertész (55) (Phaidon Press), describes Satiric Dancer: “The cabaret dancer Magda Foorstner, visiting sculptor Istvan Beothy, poses in her stage costume. Kertész took only three photographs: two on the sofa (in the other one, Magda is sitting) and one standing in the entrance. When he asked the dancer to think of Beothy’s sculpture, she twisted herself into a harmonious contortion.”
Photo and biographical information courtesy of Estate of André Kertész © 2006.
How should success be recalibrated when initial goals have been fulfilled and yet the world continues its rapid change on all sides?
That was the task faced by trustees of The Kenyon Review at an extraordinary retreat in Gambier last summer. After all, over the last decade and more they have brought the Review from the brink of oblivion to financial stability. The fame of our writing programs for high school students and adults, in Gambier, in Italy, and beyond, is spreading rapidly. At the same time, however, reports abound that fewer and fewer people are reading literature for pleasure. How, all things considered, are we to define a fresh set of goals to pursue in the decade to come?
One trustee, Peter White, recalled a short conversation he’d had with the eminent poet and scholar John Hollander at a KR dinner in New York several years earlier. He’d put it to John: “Why does The Kenyon Review matter?”
Quoth he in response: “To keep the flame alive!”
A murmur danced around the table as this tale was recounted. Yes, that would be it. The mission of The Kenyon Review going forward would be to keep the flame of literature alive.
Such a goal, expansive to be sure, naturally includes the challenge of seeking always to improve this journal, to expand its readership, to strengthen its resources. It encourages us to develop new methods as well. None of us has any doubt that the future of literary publishing will go hand in hand with technological advancements, and our Web site, kenyonreview.org, will play an ever more creative and prominent role.
The new mission, however, also allows us to bring our writing and reading programs, especially for high school students, from a kind of auxiliary sideline to a more central status. Through them we will be nurturing new generations of readers—an audience for KR, of course, but also a good in and of itself, as well as for those young people themselves. Nothing we do may turn out to be more important.
That there are many, many young people already passionate about literature I can assure you. Another KR annual program that offers ample evidence is the Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers. In our last issue, Winter 2006, we published the marvelous winning poems from 2005, and on the back cover we correctly identified the Grodd Prize. Elsewhere, however, we mistakenly referred to it as formerly known, the Kenyon Review Poetry Prize for Young Writers. Such oversights, despite our best efforts, do occasionally happen. When this one was called to my attention, I immediately apologized to Patricia Grodd and to her husband, Michael Stone, who had established an endowment to support the prize in her honor. Typically, and not at all to my surprise, both were gracious and understanding. As far as they were concerned, that put an end to the matter.
So why offer this public apology and draw further attention to our error? Well, the error itself was public, mislabeling a contest that is attracting submissions from ever more students. (I know this because I am even now reading through the outstanding finalists for 2006, selected by the Kenyon Review associates from more than eleven hundred entries. The winners can be found on our Web site, kenyonreview.org.)
More important, perhaps, this gives me a chance to affirm that the generosity of the donors amounts to more than a passing gesture. They care, passionately, about both literature and educating young people. Because of their support, each year the prize winner receives a full scholarship to attend the Young Writers program for two weeks, in addition to publication in KR. A signal way, it seems to me, to turn the new language of our mission, keeping the flame alive, into meaningful reality.
—David H. Lynn