Editor’s Notes & Cover Art

About the Cover

Our cover design by John Pickard features Young Farmers, 1914, by photographer August Sander (1876 – 1964).

After his training as a photographer, Sander began professional work, at first in Linz on the Danube and after 1911 in Cologne. Here he developed the idea for his famous work People of the 20th Century, which was conceived as 500-600 photographs, primarily of people from various social groups and professions.

Some of the portraits appeared in 1929 in the publication Face of our Time (in 1936 this was confiscated by the National Socialists).

The great importance of his work is recognized within the history of photography, especially in regard to its conceptual structure. With his precise and clear photography style, Sander is considered to be a precursor of the Neue Sachlichkeit.

Photo and biographical information courtesy of Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne, Germany.

Cover research by Nanette Black

Editor’s Notes

As I’ve discussed on other occasions, The Kenyon Review has seen its mission evolve in recent years. From the urgency of simple survival – which has been achieved thanks to the faith and generosity of friends, readers, and trustees – we emerged to find a literary world changing in remarkable ways. Media technology, especially the Internet, has, as we all know, been developing at dizzying speeds. It will surely shape how readers encounter stories, poems, essays – and everything else – in the years and decades to come. Speeding, too, according to a variety of reports (and personal observation), has been an apparent, alarming decline in younger people reading for pleasure. Some observers have greeted this trend as an approaching tsunami of disaster for literacy and literature.

Striving to keep the flame of literature alive.

That’s the new beacon by which we steer. There’s no single path, however. Of course, we’ll faithfully publish The Kenyon Review, handsome and durable, distinguished and timeless. And now we’ve launched KR Online and our other electronic initiatives.

But this column is actually about another side of our initiatives: the attempt to nurture both writing and a passion for reading in young and not-so-young alike through the KR workshops. And here the news is very good indeed.

It may well be true that young people are increasingly turning away from reading and writing for pleasure. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. When we created the first of our writing workshops for high-school students nearly twenty years ago, we struggled mightily to find twenty or twenty-two students willing to sign up. Selective? Of course we were selective: if she breathed, we snatched her up. (He? Hardly a whisper. I think we managed to lure two boys.) . . .

This summer I’m pleased to say that we’ll be running two full sessions of what has evolved into the Young Writers program. As planned, this enrollment will be the largest number of participants we’ve ever had. By March 1, however, over three hundred exceptionally talented and diverse students had applied from almost every state in the union and from overseas as well. We’ve been overwhelmed trying to choose. This is a good problem, on the one hand. On the other, saying no to so many terrific kids is hard and painful.

What’s responsible for the tremendous growth? It’s partly our curriculum, I believe, which stresses the interplay between the way we think and the way we write – that the two are always feeding, inspiring, shaping each other. There’s no grading either, nor any great concern with grammar or five-paragraph essays, lord help us. Young Writers is about writing and reading, and about communicating, and listening, and talking, and engaging the world and the world of ideas.

The young people who are here love this. They are subsumed and exhausted and invigorated, too, over the course of two weeks. And I can tell you with absolute certainty that they form friendships with the other creative kids about them that last for years and decades. I know because I’m still receiving notes and e-mail from them attesting to these friendships years and decades later.

The bad news is that we can’t, at least for now, create a third full session of the program. The instructors and program directors and RAs would rebel or collapse. The good news? Well, it’s those students. They are passionate. And they are committed. They’re not going to quit reading or writing anytime soon. True, we may find them reading and writing on a screen, rather than on the paper or pen we present them with in Gambier, but that worries me not at all.

They’re the flame. And it’s alive.

. . .

In the department of oversights and embarrassments, in my notes to the Winter 2008 issue of this magazine I failed to mention Nanette Black, KR‘s designer for some twenty years. With her exceptional talents, Nan has played a central role in the look of The Kenyon Review in every stage of its development. Indeed, she was the one who took up the challenge of financial necessity some fourteen years ago and developed the striking photographic covers which have become our signature. They remain so, even with the dramatic redesign of the current volume year. All of us at KR gladly affirm a debt to and an affection for Nanette Black.

—David H. Lynn

Back to top ↑

Sign up for Our Email Newsletter