As I write these notes, it’s midsummer in Gambier. A cool, rainy year so far, but our green and lovely village is teeming with writers. Hundreds of high school students have arrived from across the nation and the world for the twenty-fifth year of our KR Young Writers program. Adults of all ages fill workshops in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and book arts. Our newest program, a creative writing workshop for high school teachers, is flourishing in its third year, bursting with energy and passion and generative sparks. Next year we’ll feature another new venture in Nature Writing—in multiple genres and with scientific engagement included.
What all these programs share is a concentration on writing here and now, on generating new work—not on polishing pieces essentially completed long before arrival. Each day sees intensive sharing, reading aloud, launching new projects for the next session. Our intention is that all of these writers (once recovered from the exhaustion) will bear back into the world momentum and motivation and discipline enough to carry them far into the rest of the year.
As editors, however, we ask different questions. How well does this poem work? Does it offer surprise and delight enough that it belongs in our pages? Does the drama in this story take a tack that’s new and different from others recently accepted? Am I even able to say no, or does this essay simply shoulder its way into the lineup?—sometimes it feels that way.
Although I brought the Young Writers program along with me to the Kenyon Review two decades ago, it and the other workshops that have blossomed since are now truly central to the mission of what has become a literary arts organization. We no longer simply produce a literary journal, not even one that has vastly expanded its reach through digital as well as print publications. We nurture writers and writing. We read every one of the ninety-two hundred submissions received last year, hunting always for the unexpected treasure, a story or poem written by a little-known or as yet unpublished author. As in this issue, we publish them alongside the work of longstanding contributors, such as Joyce Carol Oates and David Wojahn. And just past this note you’ll find poems by high school writers of dazzling promise, the winner and runners-up of the Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize.
Together, these students and adults, these poets and storytellers, these writers, make up part of the larger Kenyon Review community that means so very much to me. Reading and writing and even editing are less solitary activities than they used to be. We are all in it together, and this shared sense of struggle toward meaning is worth all the world.
—D. H. L.
On the Cover
Collage by Rick Landesberg