Why We Chose It
By Abigail Wadsworth Serfass, Managing Editor
On “Forty Days in the Desert” by R.T. Jamison
“Why we chose it” is, perhaps, a disingenuous title for this essay series. The only person who ultimately chooses the work that is published in The Kenyon Review and KROnline is our editor, David Lynn. The rest of us, from student readers to contributing editors to fiction and poetry editors, simply pass submissions along for consideration. We decide whether a story or a poem has moved us or surprised us or delighted us, and then we pass it up the line. “Forty Days in the Desert” by R.T. Jamison provides a good example of the route a piece of fiction can take from entering our submission system to appearing on the printed page.
Kenyon Review Young Writers:
An exercise in identity and growth
By Sarah Miller, Summer Programs Intern
Not too long after successfully surviving your teens, those years can seem a lifetime away. Many who have crossed the threshold find it difficult to recall their teens, especially with any sort of positivity. But today I invite you to be brave, to step back into your teenage self and imagine the excitement two hundred high school students are feeling this summer about the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop. For students interested in reflection—on the self and on the world—the supportive network of fellow writers and the safe environment created in the rural haven of Gambier fosters a beautiful summer escape.
Note: To celebrate the 75th anniversary of KR, we asked a group of established and emergent authors to write a short essay, a credo, stating their core beliefs about writing and literature. In doing so, we pay tribute to John Crowe Ransom, who in the late 1940s commissioned a set of credos about critical practice from public intellectuals of the day. Throughout the 2014 year, this newsletter brings you a contemporary credo published in KRO as well as a classic credo from the archives. Enjoy!
The Kenyon Review Credos: Necessity and Truth
by Elliott Holt
“How did I live so long without reading this book?” a student recently asked me about James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. The best stories should provoke that sort of response. Good fiction feels essential.
I often say that I love fiction that feels “necessary and true.” By necessary, I mean stories that read as if they must be told. They are powered by a sense of urgency. They are not trivial or facile, but plumb the depths of human experience.
An original Kenyon Review Credo
The Kenyon Review, Winter 1951, Vol. XIII, No. 1
The Humanist Critic
by Douglas Bush
It may be hoped that all students of literature endorse, in theory at least, all scholarly and critical means and methods that contribute to understanding, from technical bibliography to aesthetic contemplation. Obviously talents do not come in a plenary shower, and most of us can only row a skiff, not an eight-oared shell. But it is important, for the harmonious well-being of literary studies, that all students,
whatever line they themselves follow, should recognize the value of other methods and not condemn them out of hand as wrong-headed and futile. . . . Criticism has of late years been elevated from the essential but humble role of acolyte to priestly sanctity and authority, and it is always well to remember that most of the greatest writings we have were composed in periods when scholarship and criticism were either unborn or unweaned.
Their Aim is Just Off
I always want things to go a bit wrong. I like the song that has to be restarted, the joke that has to be retold. . . . My favorite moment in The Cantos comes near the end, when, after fifty-plus years of working on the poem, Pound writes, “I cannot make it cohere.” My favorite moment in David Kirby’s “Scarlet Ribbons” also comes near the end: “Whoops, wrong poem!”
A Micro-Interview with Rickey Laurentiis
Laurentiis’ poem “Lord and Chariot” appears in the Summer 2014 issue of The Kenyon Review
Is there a story behind your KR poem “Lord and Chariot”?
When I was writing the poem I was conscious of a lesson I had learned from Toni Morrison—or, at least, a lesson I attribute to Morrison—which is to write, for myself, what I want to read. To be brief: I needed to see some sort of black queer (male) dynamic set within American (and I mean that in the widest sense, not just the United States, but any and all of the Americas) slavery. . . . This is one poem—one piece of writing—in a larger project I’m working on toward reclaiming my brothers (and sisters) of a different desire who have been—for political, social or religious reasons—deliberately erased. I don’t say that the stories are all sweet or, exactly, comforting (as I think “Lord and Chariot” suggests) but they are our stories all the same.
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