One of the advantages of our new format—fewer pages and more frequent publication—is a greater flexibility and the opportunity to be more adventurous. In this issue of the Kenyon Review we flex those muscles for the first time, offering a special section devoted to poems that share ecological themes and concerns. EcoPoetry as it’s been dubbed.
Assembled—cultivated, as it were—and introduced by our poetry editor, David Baker, these poems are varied and various. Some were solicited, and others arrived in the natural sluice of submissions. One thing they all share, however, directly or indirectly, is a sense of urgency. Poets have been writing about nature since the beginning of time, of course. But never before has nature itself felt any less than permanent or perpetual: changing always and always remaining the same.
As we know, in our own generation widespread threats, more permanent change, and growing devastation are expanding across the natural world. Some may argue about the pace of decline or specific unfoldings, but we’ve little doubt about rising seas or epic extinctions, about a bleak horizon drawing ever closer. Hence the urgency and the timeliness of these poems. You will find them remarkable.
Nor is this a one-off. The Kenyon Review’s engagement with the ecological world and with science more generally will increase in coming years. Writing about science—by scientists on their own work and by other writers on scientific topics—is a challenging area we intend to explore more fully. Indeed, I’m interested in expanding the categories of literary writing beyond the often constrained arenas of much fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry we see today, to include ecology and science more broadly, as well as travel, history, and so on.
In coming months we intend to embrace other areas of prose or poetic exploration that aspire to literary achievement. Thus we’ll be seeking to redefine just what it means to be literary in our contemporary world—and in doing so reestablish roots with great authors of the near and distant past who brought their ambitions for understanding and expression to an all but infinite variety of topics.
—D. H. L.
On the Cover
Illustration by Elvis Swift.