A Conversation Led by the Kenyon Review Fellows
In the aftermath of the 2016 election, we are called to look more closely at our art, at what we make. As KR fellows, we felt the need to create a space at the Kenyon Review where we can address exactly what this administration represents—its threats to climate science, to public education, to health care, to criminal justice reform, to anyone already vulnerable and marginalized in our society—and consider how writing might somehow engage with resistance or change or survival. But perhaps more importantly, we are interested in creating a space for those whose work might not be explicitly or obviously political, but by speaking out of silenced experiences actually is so. . . .
Click here to read the entire introduction to this special feature.
[the ocean will take us one day]; Pride Month; All Beyoncés & Lucy Lius—; Sightlines
I grew up in Long Beach, California, one of the nation’s biggest ports and most diverse cities. But diversity alone does not preclude racism and racial isolation, and I was conscious from an early age about how I was being seen and not seen in the classroom and beyond.
I grew up in the 1980s, so I didn’t even have Mulan. I saw myself in glimpses—Claudia Kishi in The Babysitter’s Club, Kumiko in The Karate Kid Part II, The Joy Luck Club.
Two Poems From Dissolve
The mind’s wind
over pixilated heel bones
clasped to the nerve endings
of my fingers’ ghosts.
On White Noise and Better Care
Keith S. Wilson
I’ll take it as a windfall that in this pervasive and demoralizing news cycle, I’m still able to muster disgust at the title of Thomas Chatterton Williams’ recent piece in the New York Times: “How Ta-Nehisi Coates Gives Whiteness Power.” There is no recovering from a title this reckless, and while I will not blame the author for a title he may not have control over, what follows is a moral framework that asks us to consider the possibility that systemic injustice is both real and in the hands of the victim. I take it back. The title is his fault.
Warrior Song / Resist, Change, Survive: Learning to Sing
After Robert Pinsky
When our mothers had no water for themselves
we drank. When we had no bed, we mapped a plot
in the dirt. We had to lie in the dirt of your country.
When we had no money we worked.
When we had no license we walked.
When we had no strength our mind kept walking.
What Is the Role of Art Under Authoritarianism?
The NEA will likely be defunded this year. The budget of the NEA is a miniscule percentage of a trillion-dollar budget that includes an incredible amount of money for the military. It’s the military, or so has been the government’s standpoint, that defends democracy worldwide.
I remember going to school in Lexington Kentucky, the long bus trip in the gray rain, past the green fields, and the bus shuddering to a halt and starting back up as we stopped in front of some farmhouse or another and some other kid got on. That first year of school, and it was first grade, for then kindergarten was not yet a ubiquitous requirement, I was only four. Kentucky then had some draconian state law that any child who turned five in that year had to start the first grade, and I would turn five in December.
All Who Would Have Seen Us Dead
The stories I can’t write are complicated and sad. I could tell the stories I can’t write in lovely ways, ways you would remember and maybe learn from. I could be—would likely be—ostracized, disbelieved, and blacklisted because of these stories too.
Selective Perception of Disinformation
There is neither Langston Hughes nor Zora Neale Hurston, but then again, there is no Harlem Renaissance.
There is neither Inuit nor Hopi, but then again, there is no tribe.
There is no Aretha Franklin, but then again, there is no gospel (music).
How can there be corruption, when there is no economic violence?
There is neither Betty Freidan nor Jane Fonda, but then again, there is neither misogyny nor gynecology.
Elegy with a White Shirt / On “Elegy with a White Shirt”
Cynthia Dewi Oka
Elegy with a White Shirt
The way we waited for the year to end
made me think of walking backward under a mandrake
sky, cloth rough and hot with my own breath on my cheeks
as the hill began to resemble an eyelid,
the line of men in black, shields pressed side by side like a howl
spelled out, its lashes.
Brook Water Breaking Over Rocks
Afaa M. Weaver
It is not easy for a poet to stand inside his/her/their self/selves and speak truth to power, or to know what that power is. Reality has alternates in this digital age, alternates that are humiliating, and dehumanizing. For me consistency is in the reality of the soul, and the existence of a center, the decentered nature of which does not preclude the existence of a resting point in stillness, a precise blending of the real and the imaginative that lets the soul’s music resonate from the origin of stillness. I hang up from making my resistance calls to offices in Washington, electrified as I usually am, only to realize it is not easy to sustain prolonged movements of resistance.
The Most Hidden, The Most Quiet
The grass was trampled down on either side of the road. Or was it—July, we’d just moved to Ohio, how do I know what I remember? But there was grass, the deep green of late summer, as we drove back from the U-Haul place—you behind me with the truck and the pod of our possessions, what we’d packed in the Tucson heat before we came to our new home, with a downstairs and upstairs, with oversized windows and window panes. Out of the window of my new office, an oak tree. I got back to the house first and was waiting for you when it happened, the image of what I think I’d always known but not let myself remember, flashing up with no suggestion except for the fact that we’d moved here, closer, maybe, to where I’d grown up, with the trees, the grass, the river.
You Do Not Belong Here
A few years ago, during a summer in Puerto Rico, I went back to my old neighborhood, El Caserío Padre Rivera. When I was a girl, El Caserío, one of the island’s government housing projects, was a world of men, of violence. A world that at times wasn’t safe for women or girls. There were shootouts in the streets, fourteen-year-old boys carrying guns as they rode their bikes to the candy store just outside the walls. We watched a guy get stabbed right in front of our building once, watched the cops come in and raid places for drugs and guns. Outsiders were not welcome. Outsiders meant trouble.