By Victoria Ungvarsky
In 1939, Gordon Keith Chalmers, then-president of Kenyon, provided funds for a literary magazine. He hoped the new magazine would keep a finger on the pulse of current writing and foster a new literary community for the College. Seventy-five years later, the Kenyon Review still strives to achieve Chalmers’ goal. This academic year marks the yearlong celebration of the past artistic achievements of the Review, while looking to the future to perpetuate the longevity of this storied magazine.
The 75th Anniversary Celebration kicked off last Saturday with a reading, as part of the Inauguration festivities for President Sean Decatur. Open to the community, this event showcased work published in the Review ﾗ featuring famous authors such as Flannery O’Connor, Sylvia Plath, Woody Allen and Kenyon alumnus Robert Lowell ’40 ﾗ and read by students and faculty. Each reading was supplemented by a PowerPoint, featuring the cover of the Kenyon Review issue from which the work was taken. This added a dimension of context as well as intimacy for the audience, as it set each piece in its specific time.
Some of the readings incited laughter, such as Writer-in-Residence P.F. Kluge’s reading of “I Pass the Arctic Circle,” by Olav Hauge ﾗ a short poem about growing older. Others had a more somber tone, as in senior Natalie Staples’ reading of “The Beekeeper’s Daughter” by Sylvia Plath. This poem examines the frigid separation between a father and a daughter. Visiting Assistant Professor of English Andy Grace ’01 read a particularly poignant passage from Thomas Pynchon’s short story “Entropy” about the disparity of modern culture.
The student readers also included Grace Molloy ’14, Aaron Stone ’14, Maggie Rosenthal ’14, Aaron Lynn ’14, Busola Olukoya ’15 and Jessica Lieberman ’14. Faculty also included Professor of English Jennifer Clarvoe, Assistant Professor of English Thomas Hawks, Professor of Drama Jonathan Tazewell and Professor of Religious Studies Royal Rhodes.
In its 75th year, the Kenyon Review has goals to gain new readership and keep evolving.
“We’re in the process of redesigning the magazine to make it more attractive and less intimidating. That’s a big part of what we’re doing,” Professor of English and Review editor David Lynn said. “We’re keeping it alive. And not just [as] an artifact that no one reads.”
One of the current goals is to continue community outreach, further integrating the Review into the Gambier community, Lynn said.
“We have a real community now. It’s not just a publication that goes out in to the world and is famous in the world, though that’s still true. The emphasis is on making it special here,” Lynn said.
This reading certainly held to the Review’s goal. The readings were poignant, yet not just in their delivery. Authors of literature are in danger of dehumanization. They become names, rather than people who carefully constructed every line. Linking famous authors to familiar faces in the community makes their work tangible and far more personal.
The event was subtitled “the bonds of a literary community.” And indeed, the Kenyon Review pays proper homage to its past 75 years, and presents great potential for the next 75.
The next installment of the 75th anniversary celebration, the Kenyon Review literary festival, will take place the weekend of Nov. 9.
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