On Thursday, Oct. 22, the Kenyon Writers’ Harvest took place over Zoom. Co-sponsored by the Kenyon Review, The Rural Cause and Sunset Press, the event brought students, professors and Kenyon Review staff together to listen to the newly published work of Kenyon alumni.
The Writers’ Harvest had been a tradition at Kenyon in previous years. It started in the fall of 1991 to benefit the charity Share Our Strength, though it had been on hiatus for a time. It was Kenyon alumna Claire Oleson ’19 who suggested the return of the event.
With 15% of Knox County’s 62,000 residents living in poverty, one goal of the Writers’ Harvest was to provide them with support. To this end, Sunset Press, co-led by Armiya “A” Shaikh ’21, allowed attendees to donate to United Way, which is currently tackling COVID-19 relief work for small businesses. Sunset Press raised $348 for United Way, exceeding expectations.
Professor of English Emerita Jennifer Clarvoe and Donald L. Rogan Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus Royal Rhodes, who have hosted prior Writers’ Harvests, gave short introductions at the beginning of the event. In addition to Olsen, alumni reading included Kelly Fordon ’89, Caitlin Horrocks ’02, Annette Covrigaru ’14, Allyson Young ’14, Celine Anelle-Rocha ’15 and Colin Ainsworth ’17.
Another goal of this Writers’ Harvest was to promote alumni books, poems and chapbooks released during the pandemic. “We’re lucky to have so many writers gather together from different places,” said Kirsten Reach, an editor for the Kenyon Review. “I hope that some Kenyon alumni and general audience members heard from writers they hadn’t heard from before.”
For Reach, a highlight of the event was seeing professors reconnect with their old students. Associate Professor of English Jené Schoenfeld and Associate Professor of English Sarah J. Heidt were among those in attendance. The Zoom chat filled with excited greetings from alumni thanking their professors for continuing to take interest in their former students’ writing.
After the event, Shaikh spoke enthusiastically about the potential for literature to impact the world outside of Kenyon. “I’m thinking about how we can use writing and reading and this literary community to embolden those who need it,” Shaikh said. “It’s an important part of being a literary citizen.”
Overall, the event was successful, both in supporting Knox County and bringing the Kenyon writing community a little closer together.
Books and chapbooks shared at the Writers’ Harvest will be available for sale through the Kenyon Review Bookshop, under the “Writers’ Harvest” section.