About the Cover
Our cover design by Nanette Black features Christer
Strömholm’s Paris 1962, an image published in
Imprints by Christer Strömholm: The Hasselblad Award 1997
(Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg, Sweden, 1998). As Gunilla Knape,
director of the Hasselblad Center, wrote in the foreword of the
catalogue, “Since the 1950s Christer Strömholm has been
one of the leading photographers in Scandinavia and after the Second
World War he was the first one to establish himself inter-nationally.
. . . Strömholm’s images have since that time contributed strongly
to the development of photography as an independent art form in
I am delighted to announce that Beth Ann Fennelly’s
first book of poems, The Room of Everywhere, has been selected
by David Baker as the winner of the inaugural Kenyon Review Prize
in Poetry for a first book, to be published in early 2002 by Zoo
Press. Readers will quickly note, I’m sure, that Ms. Fennelly’s
work also appears on page one as this issue’s New Voices feature.
Fortuitous as this may be, we’ve not stacked the deck. The New Voices
selection was made well over a year ago, as we worked with Robert
Hass to develop his commentary (page 28). David Baker received manuscripts
this past spring, from which he independently chose Beth Ann Fennelly’s
from dozens of submissions. The power, wit, and virtuosity briefly
glimpsed in this issue of KR are confirmed by the strengths
of her forthcoming book. Congratulations to her on both counts.
We may see 2001, it turns out, as a “Year of Dialogue
among Civilizations,” as declared by the United Nations General
Assembly. “I see . . . dialogue as a chance for people of different
cultures and traditions to get to know each other better, whether
they live on opposite sides of the world or on the same street,”
says Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Even before discovering that the U. N. had signified
2001 as a year for special attempts at fostering international communication,
I had been wrestling with some of the practical problems of such
endeavors. The Kenyon Review‘s Nobel issue, Spring 2001,
was a challenge unlike any we’d tackled before. Not only was there
less than a year, from March 2000, to plan the issue, solicit authors,
select and edit submissions, and produce the magazine, we were also
collaborating with two organizations in different countries, Stand
magazine in England and the Nobel Museum in Sweden, not to mention
authors, their agents, translators, estates, and archives on every
continent save Antarctica. Fortunately—and this need not have
been the case—the three editors were in general accord: we
knew what we wanted to achieve and shared similar tastes and standards.
In retrospect, I’ve indulged more than one deep sigh of relief.
I have also recently taken part in two other programs,
both more directly connected to the U. N. initiative on dialogue.
The first was an “International Celebration of World Poetry Day”
in Greece, sponsored by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and the
European Cultural Centre of Delphi, in cooperation with UNESCO.
Not one to pass on such an opportunity, I traveled first to Athens
with John Kinsella, Australian poet and KR‘s international
editor, and Ron Sharp, John Crowe Ransom Professor of English at
Kenyon College. Athens has certainly become more of an international
city, though I’m not at all sure that’s a good thing—billboards
out of control, Western/ Japanese electronics everywhere, American
cigarettes. (Noticeably absent was the blaring of horns at traffic
lights—there must be a new and welcome law.)
Athens, however, was in many ways a disappointment.
Not the city itself, of course. How can one be disappointed in the
Acropolis or the Plaka? But a failure of organization—indeed,
nearly an entire lack of organization—meant that little real
conversation was possible. Surrounded by extraordinary authors from
around the globe, we found little opportunity to mix, except through
happenstance. What a great opportunity lost. I’m simply not going
to continue my training for the 2004 Olympics.
From Athens we bused to Delphi, and Delphi is
worth most any travail. The European Cultural Centre there arranged
a much more substantial program. Yet the three of us, along with
American Jorie Graham and South African Peter Sacks, were bushwhacked
(perhaps we’d been unduly naive) by an anti-Americanism manifested
as anti-English-languagism. The hostility arose from French-speaking
delegations as well as others from Finland to Greece itself.
Now I happen to think that the sprawl of English
as a lingua franca across the globe is a serious and often troubling
issue. I am sympathetic to threatened local or regional dialects,
whether among Native Americans or Australian aborigines or in the
Italian boot. But I am also aware of how English serves as a unifying
alternative in India, as only one example: people in southern states
such as Tamil Nadu or Andra Pradesh insist on learning English in
addition to their local languages, not only so that they can take
part more easily in international commerce, but also to resist political
pressures from the Hindi-speaking north. In other words, English
plays many roles around the world, and the issues are complicated.
What frustrated me in Delphi was the blithe smugness with which
the supposed global hegemony of English was woven into a straw target
and shot at. Another opportunity for true dialogue missed.
Less than a week later, John Kinsella and I traveled
to New York for a “Dialogue among Civilizations through Poetry”
conference. This time editors were brought in to help shape the
program, and to explore better ways of sharing what we do. The challenges
are immense, of course. Not least among them is translation. How
can a magazine in one language reach audiences in many others? The
mirroring aspect has to do with bringing writers from different
cultures and languages into a single magazine: finding worthy translations
that meet the standards of The Kenyon Review is, in my experience,
the single hardest editorial task I face. Such a translation must,
in the first place, be working from an original text of significant
literary value. But it’s not enough simply to produce a dictionary-perfect
version. The translation itself must work as vibrant literature
on its own. The translator, in other words, must be a true artist
The first day of the conference, then, was
given over largely to introductions and to sharing what we do with
magazines in different countries, cultures, and languages. John
Kinsella and I also expressed some discomfort with the whole notion
of “civilization” as structuring the conversation, even though that
was dictated by the declaration of the General Assembly. Still,
“civilization” always resonates with its opposite, the savage or
uncivilized, and the history of such hierarchical judgments is deeply
tainted. Dialogue across different cultures is a more worthy goal.
If 2001 helps nurture such efforts among the arts, literature, and
even little magazines such as ours, it will be an important step
that may lead both to greater understanding and larger audiences
around the world in years to come. Indeed, such a noble goal is
worthy of all the enthusiasm and passion we can put forth.
—David H. Lynn