Readings for Writers, an anthology from the Kenyon Review

412 pages, $18.95 (plus shipping and handling)

Introduction by KR Editor David H. Lynn

Readings for Writers is a very different creature from your usual anthology. Yes, everything here has appeared in The Kenyon Review sometime during the past seventy years. That should establish literary merit, aside from the fame of many of the featured authors. But a different principle of selection comes into play: choosing stories, poems, and essays from across the decades to provoke lively responses from writers today, to inspire and challenge.

In truth, we have been creating a more informal version of this reader each summer for our writing workshops. The Kenyon Review Young Writers program, for example, isn’t about forcefeeding proper English grammar into high school students, nor perfecting the five-paragraph essay, nor earning a high grade. Although we offer students the chance to write in many different genres, it isn’t about genres either. It’s about writing in response to something. And the prompts our young writers respond to are literary. With the treasure trove of the KR archive at hand, why turn elsewhere for material? For nearly twenty years, then, we have published a special anthology to be used in these workshops.

So now we have decided to publish this larger, handsome volume for a larger, and I’m quite sure equally handsome, audience. I don’t imagine most readers sitting down and working their way through, beginning to end, though that would certainly be a treat. Rather, I’d suggest you pick and browse and choose. There’s plenty of delight to be had, plenty of ready inspiration.

One of the miracles of great literature, of course, is that it can be both timeless and yet forever fresh. Read Flannery O’Connor’s story “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” and see what I mean.

Still, because the volume has been arranged chronologically, it is also an interesting testament to the evolution of The Kenyon Review’s aesthetic over seven decades. This reflects and reveals, not just the changing tastes of a series of editors, but also the changing nature of our society. You may notice that authors in the early years were largely white and largely male, and the prosody of the poetry tended, generally, to be formal in structure. Among them we include poems by John Crowe Ransom, the great poet and critic who founded the Review in 1939. Though not published in KR, his work and presence here seem important.

To be sure, recent issues of The Kenyon Review have featured plenty of white males and formal poetry as well, but far less exclusively so. The writing, I warrant, is every bit as masterful. Skeptical? Have a look at “The Clipping” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.

Because the selections here are intended to inspire active response—pen to paper, fingers to keyboard—we have left out literature that might afford different kinds of pleasure. For example, The Kenyon Review was long renowned for its literary criticism, but though many of those articles remain fascinating, they are not featured in this particular volume. Likewise, I have tried to offer a deliberate medley of forms, strategies, and techniques, and the selections tend to be somewhat shorter than might have been the case in an anthology with a different purpose.

Just as the success of our writing programs is the result of inspired teamwork—and an exceptionally great team—so, too, this volume reflects the creative efforts of many souls, among them David Baker, Elizabeth Forman, Loretta Godfrey, W. David Hall, Geeta Kothari, Marlene Landefeld, Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, Michael Matros, Tyler Meier, John Pickard, Anna Duke Reach, Abigail Wadsworth Serfass, Thomas Stamp, G. C. Waldrep, and Nancy Zafris. Of them I am proud. To them I am grateful.
—D. H. L.

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  • Randall Jarrell The Winter’s Tale (1939)
  • Allen Tate The Trout Map (1939)
  • Dylan Thomas Poem (1939)
  • Wallace Stevens Variations on a Summer Day (1940)
  • Marianne Moore What Are Years; A Glass-Ribbed Nest (1940)
  • John Berryman The Imaginary Jew (1945)
  • Muriel Rukeyser Eyes of Night-Time (1947)
  • W. H. Auden The Duet (1947)
  • Theodore Roethke A Light Breather (1950)
  • Helen Forman Ophelia (1951)
  • Randall Jarrell The Black Swan (1951)
  • Flannery O’Connor The Life You Save May Be Your Own (1953)
  • Konstantinos Kavaphes Waiting for the Barbarians (1955)
    (Translated by Richmond Lattimore)
  • W. S. Merwin The Nine Days of Creation (1956)
  • James Wright All the Beautiful Are Blameless (1958)
  • James Dickey Awaiting the Swimmer (1959)
  • Thomas Pynchon Entropy (1960)
  • Sylvia Plath The Beekeeper’s Daughter (1960)
  • William Stafford Adults Only (1960)
  • Robert Lowell Saturday Night in the Village; The Infinite (1961)
  • Nadine Gordimer Message in a Bottle (1962)
  • John Berryman Three Dream Songs (1964)
  • V. S. Naipaul The Baker’s Story (1964)
  • Don DeLillo Coming Sun. Mon. Tues. (1966)
  • John Crowe Ransom Winter Remembered; Janet Waking 1969)
  • Robert Hass Picking Blackberries with a Friend Who Has Been Reading Jacques Lacan (1979)
  • Annie Dillard Observations and Experiments in Natural History (1990)
  • Annie Sprinkle Section 4 of Andrea Dwarkin’s Anti-pornography Civil Rights Law Cut Up with a Paragraph from Screw Magazine (1990)
  • Abby Frucht Steps Out (1990)
  • Ron Smith Learner’s Permit on Skyline Drive (1990)
  • Judith Berke Old Eight-by-Ten Glossy (1990)
  • Lewis Hyde The Freedom to Talk Dirt (1990)
  • Susan Hahn Susan Hahn (1991)
  • James Harms ‘When You Wish upon a Star that Turns into a Plane’ (1991)
  • Brigit Pegeen Kelly Dead Doe: I (1991)
  • Colleen J. McElroy A Little Traveling Music (1991)
  • Terese Svoboda I Dreamt He Fell Three Floors and Lived (1995)
  • Rebecca McClanahan To the Absent Wife of the Beautiful Poet at the Writers’ Conference (1996)
  • Allison Joseph Barbie’s Little Sister (1996)
  • Baron Wormser My Wife Asks Me Why I Keep Photographs in a Drawer (1997)
  • Billy Collins The Night House (1998)
  • Jeffrey Harrison Horseshoe Contest (1999)
  • Virgil Suárez Arroz (1999)
  • Nancy Zafris Stealing the Llama Farm (1999)
  • Daniel Mark Epstein Magic for Houdini (2001)
  • Linda Gregerson Cranes on the Seashore (2001)
  • Czeslaw Milosz To Robert Lowell (2001) (Translated by the author and Robert Hass)
  • Pablo Neruda The Widower’s Tango (2001) (Translated by Lewis Hyde)
  • Wislawa Szymborska Cat in an Empty Apartment (2001) (Translated by Vuyelwa Carlin and Sylwester Cygan)
  • Ted Kooser Sixty-first Birthday; Walking on Tiptoe; Praying Hands (2002)
  • W. S. Merwin Under the Day (2002)
  • Charles Wyatt From The Spirit Autobiography of S. M. Jones (2003)
  • Thomas Glave Interview with the Not-Poem (2003)
  • P. F. Kluge My Private Germany (2003)
  • Marvin Bell Epithalamium (2004)
  • Alice Hoffman The Witch of Truro (2004)
  • Samantha Simpson Generations: An Excerpt from Novella (2004)
  • Joanna Goodman Beginning with a Line from NPR (2005)
  • Brad Kessler One Reader’s Digest: Toward a Gastronomic Theory of Literature (2005)
  • Carl Phillips Radiance Versus Ordinary Light (2005)
  • Mahmoud Darwish Don’t Write History as Poetry (2005) (Translated by Fady Joudah)
  • Bei Dao The Rose of Time (2005)
  • Red Hawk The Idea of Crocodiles (2005)
  • Reginald Shepherd Kinds of Camouflage (2006)
  • Cathy Song Cloud Moving Hands (2006)
  • Eamon Grennan Night (2006)
  • Don Lee A Preference for Native Tongue (2006)
  • Holly Goddard Jones Life Expectancy (2007)
  • Fady Joudah Ladies and Gentlemen (2007)
  • Patrick Tobin Cake (2007)
  • G. C. Waldrep Bergson’s Arrow (2007)
  • Eavan Boland To Memory (2007)
  • Campbell McGrath September 11 (2007)
  • Atar Hadari Why the Dead Have Lives (2007)
  • Dolen Perkins-Valdez The Clipping (2007)
  • Lori White Postcards from the Road (2007)
  • Roger Rosenblatt The Writer’s Wife (2007)
  • Colleen Kinder One Bright Case of Idiopathic Cranofacial Erythema (2008)
  • Brian Doyle No (2008)
  • Michelle Richmond A Life in Pods (2008)
  • Githa Hariharan Diablo Baby (2008)
  • Cara Blue Adams I Met Loss the Other Day (2009)

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Please contact us at 740-427-5208 to order your copy of Readings for Writers.

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