About the Cover
Our cover design features a detail of a painting by Ellen Priest titled Jazz: Edward Simon’s Venezuelan Suite #9 ©2006, Ellen Priest. The complete image may be viewed on the back cover. Papers, oil, flashe, pencil, MSA Gel, 42″x 42″.
Like The Kenyon Review’s Winter 2014 cover, this work is inspired by Simon’s second movement, Caracas, described by him as an “intricately syncopated [Venezuelan] merengue in 5/8 time.” This is the third in the Ellen Priest series that celebrates our 75th anniversary year.
A careful look at the cover reveals that Priest’s images are not flat. In fact, they might be better described as layered relief constructions—using papers of varying weights, superimposed, cut away, painted with translucent oil or opaque flashe. Images move and reconfigure like the melodies and rhythms in a jazz composition, fluent improvisation anchored by carefully composed harmonies and beats.
Priest explains, “Today my artwork balances directly on the border between painting and sculpture. I push hard on two pairs of opposing concepts—reality and illusion, and 3-D and 2-D—in all combinations. My goal is to set up a vibrant dialogue between imaginary deep space in my pictures and their immediate presence as physical objects. Both are equally real to me, the movement between them carrying the joy and energy I feel.”
More of her work may be viewed online at www.ellenpriest.com.
Not so very long ago publishing a literary journal was a rather lonely enterprise. Every three months one launched a new issue into a great maw of silence. Oh, we’d get a rare letter with comment or critique. But generally our mail consisted of plastic tubs from the postal service, brimming with submissions clad mostly in manila.
Every decade or so, it’s true, we’d send out a survey of our readers, mostly because potential funders wanted to know who might actually be reading. It surely was pleasant to receive their replies, affirming that yes, indeed, someone was turning our pages after all.
As we all know, however, today the world walks at a quicker clip. So after only six years we sent out a new survey this last autumn, this time reaching out both to subscribers to The Kenyon Review and to those who read KROnline and our other electronic publications.
We thought an inducement might be necessary to persuade busy people to spend a few moments answering our questions, whether in print or on a screen. So we designed a handsome tote bag, one for each responder, at least until supplies ran out. But, we wondered, how many should we actually produce? Based on earlier surveys we figured four hundred or so would do the trick. Perhaps we’d be sending out three-quarters of them, with the rest remaining for gifts and sweet gestures.
Imagine my surprise when, within the first twelve hours of sending an email asking readers for their thoughts, we received some twelve hundred completed surveys. Quickly we ordered more bags, and a few days on ordered more again, saving some for those bound by the more leisurely pace of the post office. Finally we could afford no more. I was very relieved not to receive complaints from those who remained bagless.
They’re good-looking bags, no doubt. But what’s come clear to me, especially after those inducements ran out, is that our readers like to be asked their opinions of what we do. The results make for interesting reading as well.
For example, our readers enjoy poetry and fiction in almost equal measure. That’s unusual; in the general public a preference for fiction is widespread. Nonfiction is very popular among KR and KRO’s readers as well, if not quite to the same degree.
Those who visit our Web site are also most enthusiastic about these traditional genres, but significant numbers also enjoy the KR blog, the book reviews and micro-interviews, and increasingly the podcasts and other audio content that is of more recent vintage among our selections. And a significant percentage of those who receive our Weekend Reads e-mails, nearly 50 percent, follow the link every week or two to read the full story or poem. Indeed, the popularity of that feature has been striking from the start nearly a year and a half ago.
Not surprisingly, our online readers are somewhat younger in general than print subscribers, but not to the degree one might think. About 60 percent of those who filled out electronic surveys are under forty-five, while it’s a little over 30 percent for those who answered the survey in the mail. That said, some 55 percent of our total audience is under forty-five years old, which I find heartening. We have worked very hard to cultivate a younger audience in order to create serious readers for generations to come.
I am writing on this topic here to affirm that we do indeed reach out to our readers, seeking to know what you think and would like to see and, whether there are nifty tote bags to send or not, paying attention to your responses. So my warm thanks to those among you who have already completed the survey. More information will be available in our monthly newsletter and on our Web site at kenyonreview.org. If you haven’t had the chance to comment or make suggestions, please feel free to visit kenyonreview.org at this link to add your thoughts: http://www.kenyonreview.org/contact/.
—D. H. L.