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The Kenyon Review Newsletter September 2009

KR Reading Period Begins September 15

Covers Photo

The Kenyon Review will begin accepting submissions through its online submissions site on September 15, 2009 and the submissions period will continue through January 15, 2010. Short fiction, poetry, drama, essays, and translations will be accepted for both the magazine and KROnline from a single pool of submissions. KR Editor David Lynn writes:

Reading submissions is the most important work that we do. We receive thousands of submissions over the course of our reading period, and we give each of them careful consideration. Our standards are high. We ask, “Does this poem or story or essay offer surprise and delight? Does it seem fresh, necessary, startling? Does the author—young or not so young, someone of established distinction or a talent as yet undiscovered—display a mastery of language, especially as necessary to this particular piece?”

What we publish in print in The Kenyon Review, on the one hand, and electronically in KROnline, on the other, will be different in tone and timeliness, and will probably speak to different audiences as well. Nevertheless, it’s our mission to offer a great variety of literature all held to the highest of standards.

How does this process of evaluation work? KR’s offices are in Gambier, Ohio, a lovely wooded village, but very far from any graduate program in creative writing which would allow us to draw readers from among the advanced students and faculty. Instead, we have a tree of readers, beginning with our Kenyon Review Associates, who are themselves carefully selected from a highly competitive pool of student applicants. Before the Associates even begin to read new work, they spend time with our editors, discussing the skill and the art of evaluating stories and poems and essays that are fresh, sometimes rough, but very different from what they usually find in their textbooks for classes.

As part of this training process, we work together through a number of samples. Once they are assigned a set of manuscripts, Associates work in teams of two, and if one reader feels a manuscript warrants further consideration, it will be passed up to a higher branch of the tree, where one of our consulting editors will evaluate it in turn. All of this sharing, collaboration, and discussion is aided by our online submission process—it would be almost impossible were we still slinging about shipping boxes full of paper manuscripts.

The point here is not merely that we pay individual attention to the precious creations of writers from around the world. We do so because we know that amidst these thousands of unsolicited submissions lie the gems that will make up the bulk of The Kenyon Review and KROnline. It’s the labor necessary to fulfill our mission. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

Click here to enter the submissions site

Grodd Poetry Prize

The sixth annual Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers will begin accepting entries in November. The prize, which is open to high school sophomores and juniors throughout the world, is juried by David Baker, KR‘s poetry editor.

More than 600 entries were received last year, with the winner, Felicity Sheehy of New York, receiving a full scholarship to KR’s popular Young Writers summer workshop. The top two runners-up received partial scholarships to attend the summer workshop, and all three poets will be published in the Fall issue of The Kenyon Review.

Students are invited to submit one poem via an online program beginning November 1. Visit KR‘s Web site for a link to the contest submission page at that time. The contest will close on November 30.

High school teachers are encouraged to pass along this information to sophomores and juniors.

From the KR Blog

Barding it Up in County Sligo


August 24th, 2009 — Kim McMullen

It takes two Nobel Laureates to pry me loose from Knox County in high summer. After the grading, report writing, rituals and workshops that close one academic year sometime in June, and late August when it all starts up again, there is a peaceful hiatus of reading and writing during which the day’s greatest challenge comes when I amble down to the garden in midmorning to see if tomato hornworms have found my row of heirlooms yet. But then I learned it was the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Yeats International Summer School, and like that stolen child, I was lured away into another world.

Ben Bulben

Headlined by Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Michael Longley, and Bernard O’Donaghue (and nearly every other Irish poet of note), and Helen Vendler, Roy Foster, Warwick Gould, and Liz Cullingford (and nearly every other Yeats scholar of note), this year’s summer school was a poetry geek’s dream camp. With two seventy-minute lectures, two poetry readings, and a two-hour seminar every day, not to mention performances, excursions, and exhibits stretching over two weeks, the school is part scholarly conference, part poetry marathon, part book launch, part ceilidhe, and a wee bit revival meeting, as we renew the Yeatsian creed. The pace is daunting, and that’s not considering the “Social Club” that convenes in one pub or another every night after the last reading is over. But it’s the achingly beautiful landscape of Sligo and the warmth, generosity, and indefatigable labor of the people of Sligo that make this unlike any academic gathering I have ever attended. Dazed from jetlag and the three-hour drive north from Shannon, sniffing the air for the first scent of peat smoke, I drove along the N4 through Ballysadare—the village where Yeats met the old woman who taught him the song upon which he based “Down by the Salley Garden”—only to crest one last hill and have the great plane of Sligo open out before me, held to the east by Ben Bulben and to the west by Knocknarea with Queen Maeve’s cairn at its summit and the Atlantic glowing just beyond. Clearly I had come away.

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In Defense of Teaching: What can be learned in a creative writing class?

Poems Out LoudThis month, we’re reaching out to our friends at Poems Out Loud, where KR Poetry Editor David Baker recently posted this reflection on his experiences teaching in this year’s KR Writers Workshop:

August 26th, 2009 — David Baker

I start this column for Poems Out Loud on Day Four of the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, held for eight days each late June in sleepy Gambier, Ohio. This year six of us teacher-writers are working with ten or eleven students apiece, with sections in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Typically we offer two special sections for new writers of poetry and fiction. We have all come from our homes, families, and jobs to sit in little rooms with each other and talk about our chosen genre—to write it, inspect it, study its history, retool our drafts. What, I asked my group, brought them here?

“I have been in a rut, and I want to be shaken up so I can write something new and different.”

“I work alone and want a community of writers who know what it’s life.”

“A chevrolet.” (There’s one in every group.)


Among my group are two teachers, an ex-teacher, ex-public-service worker electrician-apprentice, a bookseller, laid-off journalist, editor with a Manhattan publisher, freelance journalist, librarian, pre-med undergrad. Some have no formal literary training while a couple have MFAs; a few have been to other summer conferences and a few to this one before, sometimes for several summers. A distinguishing feature of the KR workshop is that we write here and workshop what we write, rather than workshop material written beforehand. That is, the participants write a new piece each day (and night) for the following day’s workshop. It’s exhausting and thrilling.

It’s also a recent phenomenon, the summer writing workshop, and seems to me to run parallel to the growth of writing programs in universities. Mark McGurl’s new book, The Program Era, is an analysis of this recent phenomenon, and Louis Menand—in a recent New Yorker—is an analysis of McGurl’s analysis. There are now, reports Menand, more than 150 creative-writing MFA-granting universities in this country. This does not count PhD’s in creative writing or MA’s with a creative emphasis.

It seems to me that English departments in universities have seen creative writing as one of the few areas of expansion—a growth industry—in the past three decades, along with various flavors of composition and critical theory. Writing programs express and often (but certainly not always) fulfill a genuine need for community and companionship, as well as formal study, for aspiring writers. I also suspect that writing programs have grown in proportion to the numbers of students driven out of literary studies by the sneer, the arrogant self-importance of theory.

Still, I hear and sometimes share some fundamental objections. Creative-writing programs and workshops are a commodification of the art. They attempt to express or enact something that is finally and importantly solitary. They water down our sensibilities, as they corrupt the notion of individual style. You simply can’t teach vision, so you can’t teach creative writing.

Well, can you?

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The KR Family Tree

KR contributor Lori Ostlund will receive a 2009 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, which is given annually to six women writers who demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers.

Lori Ostlund’s first collection of stories, The Bigness of the World, won the 2008 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and will be published by the University of Georgia Press in fall 2009. Her stories have appeared in New England Review, Bellingham Review, Georgia Review, and The Kenyon Review.

Book Giveaway at Mount Vernon Farmers’ Market Kicks Off KR’s Big Read

Louise Erdrich

KR will launch this year’s Big Read Knox County by giving away copies of Louise Erdrich’s novel Love Medicine on Saturday, Sept. 12 during the Mount Vernon Farmers’ Market.*

The book giveaway sets the stage for a series of public events and discussions about the novel throughout the community leading up to the Kenyon Review Literary Festival in Gambier in November. Erdrich will receive the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement in New York City on Nov. 5 and will deliver the keynote address at the literary festival at Kenyon on Nov. 7.

KR readers are invited to read along with us and join our Online Book Discussion moderated by editor David Lynn and associate editor Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky. The discussion will begin September 28th and conclude on October 30th. Follow the discussion thread at www.kenyonreview.org.

A $10,000 Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts provides for the free distribution of the book. Love Medicine is an account of the lives of Native Americans on a fictional North Dakota reservation, published in 1984 and later revised.

Coordinated by Kenyon Review staff, the literary festival initiated Knox Reads, a community-wide reading and discussion program in 2007. The Big Read grant helps expand the Knox Reads program into Knox County schools. Nearly two-hundred students at local high schools will read the novel and local teachers will be joined by Kenyon faculty and Kenyon Review writers for book discussions. Kenyon students will work with teachers at elementary schools in writing workshops based on children’s books by Erdrich.

*Limit one copy per family. Rain location: ThePlace@TheWoodward, 111 South Main Street.

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.

KR Hosts Reading in NYC

Community Bookstore

Join us for a reading by KR Poetry editor David Baker and fiction contributor Thomas Glave at The Community Bookstore in Park Slope, Brooklyn on Tuesday, September 22nd at 7pm.

David BakerDavid Baker has published several volumes of poetry, including Never-Ending Birds (W. W. Norton, 2009), Treatise on Touch: Selected Poems (Arc Publications, 2007), Midwest Eclogue (W. W. Norton, 2005), Changeable Thunder (University of Arkansas, 2001), and The Truth about Small Towns (1998). Baker is also the author of three books of criticism: Radiant Lyre: Essays on Lyric Poetry (Graywolf, 2007), Heresy and the Ideal: On Contemporary Poetry (University of Arkansas, 2000), and Meter in English: A Critical Engagement (1996). Among Baker’s awards are fellowships and prizes from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Ohio Arts Council, Poetry Society of America, Society of Midland Authors, and the Pushcart Foundation. He is currently a Professor of English and the Thomas B. Fordham Chair of Creative Writing at Denison University, a faculty member in the M.F.A. program for writers at Warren Wilson College, and Poetry Editor of The Kenyon Review.

Thomas GlaveThomas Glave grew up in the Bronx as well as Kingston, Jamaica where he helped found the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays. His works include two collections of fiction (The Torturer’s Wife, and Whose Song? and Other Stories), a book of essays (Words To Our Now: Imagination and Dissent), and an anthology (Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles). Among his awards are an O. Henry Prize for fiction and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fine Arts Center in Provincetown. In 2000 he was named a “Writer on the Verge” by The Village Voice. He is currently an associate professor of English at SUNY-Binghamton.

From KROnlineErin Stalcup


“We are suspenders of disbelief, easily enchanted by possibility, addicted to wonder. So whatever measure of faith we harbor in the fallibility of gravity may, like our faith in so many things, be sustained not by facts or lack of facts as much as by the sheer strength of our longing for it to be so.” —Jon Mooallem

I longed to fall in love in the way of the cinema, fairy tales, tall tales and great novels of all time—I had faith it would happen to me someday, any day now.

He dressed like a banker but didn’t stand like one. I wore skirts every day. We didn’t always ride the elevator together, but often. If we were waiting for it side by side, when it arrived he would hold the door, let me walk in first as if he’d opened that door, as if he had drawn aside a velvet curtain to a box seat at the opera. I’d walk to the corner and he’d stand in front of me, let me see his back. He wore well-cut suits I could sense the texture of just by looking—I didn’t touch, for a long time. The elevator floor pushed against our feet and our feet pushed downwards, driven by a force that felt like it was coming from above, but wasn’t, instead drawn down from the center of the earth that wanted us to return to where we came from, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Our feet were pulled downwards and the floor of the elevator pushed upwards and it pushed harder so we rose.

And then one day as we lifted through the levels of a building he looked up, into the mirrored ceiling, and I did too, and we saw each other, our faces framed by the tops of many heads, the ceiling a goldenish metal so that our faces were lit, glazed. We smiled.

I got off the elevator first, as I always did, and as I stepped around him I drew my hand across his back. We were both
wearing heavy golden rings, then.

I always said the number for my floor, seventeen please, and one day he didn’t push the button. We sailed up while the others exited, and then we were on the top floor. The doors slid open, he walked out and into the corner office. I followed. He shut the rich mahogany door without windows so no one from the office could see inside. Two walls were glass overlooking the city, we could be seen by others in the other towers if they picked this window to look into out of all the hundreds of windows. He lifted me onto his desk, lifted my skirt around my waist, ran his thumb inside the top of my thigh-high hose, said, “Nice,” knelt before me. And before he knew my name I was moaning. Before I opened my eyes he was standing and inside of me, and when I wrapped my legs around him I felt like I was tumbling, like we were spiraling up and away. He yelled himself into me and when we opened our eyes we were up against the ceiling. His papers, pens, phone, computer, briefcase, briefs, printer, chair, desk, staplers, post-it notes, paperclips, thumbtacks, books, bookends, newspapers were spinning slowly around us, as if in a decelerated tornado. Everyone everywhere was screaming. We looked into the windows of the other towers and it was as if someone had shaken all the seventy-eight story compartmentalized snow globes, people and their objects hovered in the air, slowly swooned and swayed and lifted and lowered as if on the moon . . .

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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.

Readings for Writers

Readings for Writers

Still haven’t purchased your copy of Readings for Writers, the new anthology from The Kenyon Review? Do so today!

The Readings for Writers anthology is curated by Kenyon Review editors and staff to inspire and stimulate writers, not to mention provide plenty of surprise and delight to readers as well!

Contributors include such luminaries as 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.

Bulk purchasing discounts available. Please call 740-427-5208 for more information.

Enjoy W. H. Auden’s “The Duet” from the contents:

The Duet

  • All winter long the huge sad lady
  • Sang to her warm house of the heart betrayed: —
    • Love lies delirious and a-dying;
  • The purlieus are shaken by his sharp cry.
    • But back across the fret dividing
  • His wildernesses from her floral side
    • All winter long a scrunty beggar
  • With one glass eye and one hickory leg,
    • Stumping about half-drunk through stony
  • Ravines and over dead volcanic cones,
    • Refused her tragic hurt, declaring
  • A happy passion to the freezing air,
    • Turning his barrel-organ, playing
  • Lanterloo my lovely, my First-of-May.
    • Louder on nights when in cold glory
  • The full moon made its meditative tour,
    • To big chords from her black grand piano
  • She sang the disappointment and the fear
    • For all her lawns and orchards:— Slowly
  • The spreading ache bechills the rampant glow
    • Of fortune-hunting blood; Time conjures
  • The moskered ancestral tower to plunge
    • From its fastidious cornice down to
  • The pigsties far below; the oaks turn brown;
    • The cute little botts of the sailors
  • Are snapped up by the sea. But to her gale
    • Of sorrow from the moonstruck darkness
  • The ragged runagate opposed his spark,
    • For still his scrannel music-making
  • In tipsy joy across the gliddered lake,
    • Praising for all the rocks and craters
  • The green refreshments of the watered state,
    • Cried nonsense to her large repining:
  • The windows have opened; a royal wine
    • Is poured out for the subtle pudding
  • Light industry is humming in the wood;
    • The bluebirds bless us from the fences;
  • We know the time and where to find our friends.
  • To purchase a copy of Readings for Writers or for a full list of authors included in the anthology please click here.

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