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The Kenyon Review Newsletter July 2009

KR Introduces New Anthology

Readings for Writers

The Kenyon Review is delighted to announce the publication of a new anthology, Readings for Writers, intended to inspire and stimulate writers, not to mention provide plenty of surprise and delight to readers as well!

Contributors include Allen Tate, Dylan Thomas, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, W.H. Auden, Flannery O’Connor, James Wright, John Berryman, Don DeLillo, Annie Dillard, Lewis Hyde, Pablo Neruda, Alice Hoffman, Carl Phillips, Mahmoud Darwish, Eavan Boland, Roger Rosenblatt, Githa Hariharan, and many more.

In his introduction to the new volume, KR Editor David Lynn writes:

Readings for Writers is a very different creature from your usual anthology. Yes, everything here has appeared in The Kenyon Review sometime during the past seventy years. That should establish literary merit, aside from the fame of many of the featured authors. But a different principle of selection comes into play: choosing stories, poems, and essays from across the decades to provoke lively responses from writers today, to inspire and challenge.

Because the volume has been arranged chronologically, it is also an interesting testament to the evolution of The Kenyon Review’s aesthetic over seven decades. This reflects and reveals, not just the changing tastes of a series of editors, but also the changing nature of our society. You may notice that authors in the early years were largely white and largely male, and the prosody of the poetry tended, generally, to be formal in structure. To be sure, recent issues of The Kenyon Review have featured plenty of white males and formal poetry as well, but far less exclusively so. The writing, I warrant, is every bit as masterful. Skeptical? Have a look at “The Clipping” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.

As the selections here are intended to inspire active response—pen to paper, fingers to keyboard—we have left out literature that might afford different kinds of pleasure. For example, The Kenyon Review was long renowned for its literary criticism, but though many of those articles remain fascinating, they are not featured in this particular volume. Likewise, I have tried to offer a deliberate medley of forms, strategies, and techniques, and the selections tend to be somewhat shorter than might have been the case in an anthology with a different purpose.
—D. H. L.

To purchase a copy of Readings for Writers or for a full list of authors included in the anthology please click here.

Writers Workshop

Workshop Wrap-up

Gambier, Ohio has been fondly called “the world’s perfect environment for writing.” Participants in this year’s Writers Workshop, held June 20-27, 2009, agreed. Nearly seventy writers came to Kenyon to work with instructors David Baker and Carl Phillips in poetry, Geeta Kothari, Lee Martin and Nancy Zafris in fiction and Rebecca McClanahan in literary nonfiction. This year’s Peter Taylor fellows included Jason Gray, Jason Sack, and Jennifer Grotz for poetry; Derek Askey, Amos Magliocco, and Nicola Dixon in fiction; and Jessica Handler in literary nonfiction.

Daily workshops were held each morning, with an emphasis on creating new work while on campus. Optional seminars on humor and publishing tips were offered in the afternoons as well as movie screenings to study point of view. Readings by instructors, fellows, and participants were held each evening.
Kristan Hoffman, a fiction writer, reflected on her experience over the week: “One thing to note is that the KRWW is different from many other writing workshops and conferences. It’s not about schmoozing. Yes, you’ll meet and “network” with the KR staff and the various workshop teachers (who are all published, respected writers and poets) but there are no agents, no editors, no pitch sessions. You don’t bring stories that you want to work on. The KRWW is about understanding and improving your instincts and process as a writer. You will produce a new (short) piece every day. If you can take the guidance and critiques, you will improve.”

The next Kenyon Review Writers Workshop will be held June 19-26, 2010. More information about instructors and classes will be online in October. Online applications will open in early January, 2010. Admissions decisions are made on a rolling basis, and class sizes are limited, so please apply early if you want to participate.

Read the rest of Kristan Hoffman’s blog posts about the Writers Workshop by clicking here.

From KROnlineMerle Drown

Anniversary Cards

Before moving my mother to the nursing home, I sorted the personal stuff with her. I did it without my brothers because I knew they wouldn’t want anything. When we were nearly finished, Ma pointed to the wooden jewelry box with the cameo carved on the lid. I swallowed, thinking she wanted to pick out the jewelry to wear in her coffin. (Only daughter always brought these duties to me.) She lifted the tray to reveal not pearls and gold but a packet of cards, tied with common string. For a moment I thought they were my letters, sent over the years from a thousand miles away. Then I saw they bore no stamp.

Her speaking fractured and faded, Ma wiggled her fingers, catching light on nails I’d polished. The paper was dry, like her skin if I forgot to grease her up. I worried the knot, old and tight, until Ma’s clipping fingers showed me to cut the string. Not bothering with scissors, I bit through the knot and caught the cards as they cascaded into my lap.

Ma poked me to hurry. Anniversary cards, the kind you buy at the drugstore, but not the big ones, not the ones with ribbons or embossed flowers she might like. I opened the first, started to read the verse, then went straight to the signature.

Ronald Appleton

No “love,” no “Ron,” which she usually called him, or “Appy,” which she’d say in a tender moment or from the kitchen floor so he wouldn’t kick her again.

“Ronald?” I said. “Appleton?”

She allowed tears to come down. I’d put her teeth in, so her mouth looked full.

On the envelope’s upper right, in faded pencil, she’d written 10th. I read the 20th, 25th, 30th, 40th, 50th, all signed Ronald Appleton. When I finished, she’d stopped crying.

He’d died after the 50th, seventeen years ago.

Ma’s hand on my wrist, still strong, her voice harsh, mean, “Don’t show boys.”

I, the girl, was to keep her hurt.

Mean myself, I showed the cards to my brothers as soon as they arrived, but in the kitchen where Ma couldn’t hear.

KROnline is the online version of The Kenyon Review. New fiction, essays, poetry, and reviews are published on a biweekly basis. Check back often to read some of the most cutting edge material you’ll find anywhere on the web. Click here to see our latest offering.

NEA Grant Supports KR’s Big Read

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced a $10,000 grant for The Kenyon Review in partnership with the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County to spur a public reading and discussion program centered on Louise Erdrich’s novel Love Medicine. Erdrich will receive the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement in New York City on November 5 and will deliver the keynote address at the Kenyon Review Literary Festival in Gambier, Ohio on November 7.

The NEA grant will fund a month-long series of reading-related events in Knox County. The Big Read grant provides for the free distribution of Love Medicine and related materials starting at a kick-off event in September at the Mount Vernon farmers market on the town square. At least 300 books will be given away to readers who may then join discussions in local bookstores and libraries and online.

“I think the most important thing is that it allows us to build on the literary festival that we’ve had the last couple of years, and a principal component of that has been to reach into the community and inspire literary reading,” said KR editor David Lynn. “The Big Read allows us to do this in a much more sustained and ambitious way, working with more schools and libraries, increasing the community investment in what is already a great event.”

Coordinated by the KR staff, the literary festival has for two years sponsored Knox Reads, a community-wide reading and discussion program that has featured the books of previous literary achievement award winners Margaret Atwood and Richard Ford.

The Big Read grant will help expand the program into Knox County schools. Students in local high schools will read the novel and teachers will be joined by Kenyon faculty and KR writers in discussing the book. Kenyon students will work with teachers at local elementary schools in writing workshops based on Erdrich’s children’s books.

Other events planned for the KR Literary Festival include a theatrical adaptation of Love Medicine, a film series, and writing workshops.

The NEA launched the Big Read initiative in 2006 to restore reading to its vital role at the center of American culture. About 400 communities have engaged in Big Read projects, tapping into an NEA library of thirty selected works, including Love Medicine.

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest.

From the Archives

Every reader of poetry knows that there are thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird, but summer plays its own changes on our senses. Wallace Stevens’ poem “Variations on a Summer Day,” reprinted in KR’s new anthology, Readings for Writers, first appeared in winter (KR Winter 1940, Vol. II, No. 1), but that now seems strangely appropriate for this improvisation on time and mind. To read it on a hot July night is to feel the air around you go suddenly cold in the rush of time’s passing away. “The moon follows the sun,” Stevens writes, “like a French / Translation of a Russian poet.” We offer you this poem, then, both as a celebration of summer and a poignant reminder of how quickly it’s gone.

Variations on a Summer Day


Say of the gulls that they are flying
In light blue air over dark blue sea.


A music more than a breath, but less
Than the wind, sub-music like sub-speech,
A repetition of unconscious things,
Letters of rock and water, words
Of the visible elements and of ours.


The rocks of the cliffs are the heads of dogs
That turn into fishes and leap
Into the sea.


Star over Monhegan, Atlantic star,
Lantern without a bearer, you drift,
You, too, are drifting, in spite of your course;
Unless in the darkness, brightly-crowned
You are the will, if there is a will,
Or the portent of a will that was,
One of the portents of the will that was.


The leaves of the sea are shaken and shaken.
There was a tree that was a father.
We sat beneath it and sang our songs.


It is cold to be forever young,
To come to tragic shores and flow,
In sapphire, round the sun-bleached stones,
Being, for old men, time of their time.


One sparrow is worth a thousand gulls,
When it sings. The gull sits on chimney-tops.
He mocks the guineas, challenges
The crow, inciting various modes.
The sparrow requites one, without intent.


An exercise in viewing the world.
On the motive! But one looks at the sea
As one improvises, on the piano.


This cloudy world, by aid of land and sea,
Night and day, wind and quiet, produces
More nights, more days, more clouds, more worlds.


To change nature, not merely to change ideas,

To escape from the body, so to feel
Those feelings that the body balks,
The feelings of the natures round us here:
As a boat feels when it cuts blue water.


Now, the timothy at Pemaquid
That rolled in heat is silver tipped
And cold. The moon follows the sun like a French
Translation of a Russian poet.


Everywhere the spruce trees bury soldiers:
Hugh March: a sergeant, a red coat, killed,
With his men, beyond the barbican.
Everywhere spruce trees bury spruce trees.


Cover the sea with the sand rose. Fill

The sky with the radiantiana
Of spray. Let all the salt be gone.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.


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