- Editor's Notes
Our mission at the Kenyon Review is to discover, support, and publish promising new voices alongside the many distinguished authors we regularly feature in our pages. By new I mean young and often unpublished authors, of course, as well as those from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds—communities that previously haven't been granted any voice at all in the larger literary world. But new can also extend to those writers who, for whatever reason, simply haven't been submitting work to us on their own. Perhaps they see KR as intimidating. Or worse, perhaps they believe our doors are not welcoming to them.
Over the next year, as I prepare to step aside as editor, I've invited a variety of talented guest editors to broaden our editorial reach. They will solicit writers they admire across the country, enticing them to contribute to our pages and to KROnline as well. In this issue, for example, the brilliant and witty Natalie Shapero, serving as the first of these guest editors, has assembled a wide range of stunning poetry. We also feature here the winners of this year's Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize—talk about new and exciting!—as well as some memorable prose. I know you'll be dazzled—as I am.
In the months ahead these creative efforts will be shared in different genres by innovative writers and widely honored editors such as Jaquira Díaz, Solmaz Sharif, Angie Cruz, and Reginald Dwayne Betts. In addition, the renowned Rita Dove and John Kinsella are serving as guest editors for the entire November/December 2019 issue, devoted to the timely issue of literary activism. And once again David Baker, our distinguished poetry editor, will gather a compelling collection of eco-poetry for May/June 2020. [End Page 1]
One of my common refrains has been that we live in a golden age, at least concerning literary affairs. We might identify an explosion of writing programs across the last few decades, from elementary and high schools through college, MFA, and even PhDs in creative writing. They have trained and encouraged thousands upon thousands of eager and indeed accomplished authors. I firmly believe—and the burgeoning submissions queue here at the Kenyon Review bears witness—that more superb literature is being created today than ever before.
Perhaps equally important in terms of said goldenness, the act of writing stories and poems and essays is not quite so very solitary as fifty years ago when I first sat in the library with a No. 2 pencil and a spiral notebook. Yes, of course, one usually engages in the actual labor of composition while alone. But it's now so easy—so encouraged—to share one's creations within summer or weekend workshops, as well as those many school programs, and with friends across the infinite reach of the Internet, that there's a healthy sense of shared enterprise.
Each spring as well, writers in their ever-waxing thousands flock to one city or another to attend a national conference hosted by the Associated Writers and Writing Programs. Hundreds of panels are on offer about teaching and publishing and how to get a job. At the conference's annual book fair, many participants browse their way through a vast sea of booths and tables. The big draw, however, may simply be the joyful chance to catch up over a meal or drinks with old friends and to glory in this nationwide community of shared dreams and labor.
Yes, yes, I know. Despite a parallel sprouting of new journals and other venues, many online and some not, one result of the great increase in the number of those penning stories, poems, and essays is that competition for publication is fiercer than ever. Making one's way into print or pixels has never been harder.
But forgive me for responding with another mantra, perhaps the most important in my quiver: the only reason to pursue a career as an author of literature is to do the writing. If you're in it principally for fame and fortune, that way lies madness. [End Page 2]