On Tues. April 28, the Kenyon Review announced that acclaimed poet Nicole Terez Dutton would be the successor to David Lynn ’76 P’14 as the magazine’s 14th editor, and will take over the role on July 1.
Lynn has served as editor since 1994 and announced his plans to step down last May. His 26-year term has been the longest in the history of the Review and his legacy has left a lasting impact that Dutton hopes to continue. “I feel like the bar is high,” Dutton told the Collegian, “and it should be—that’s very much a trademark of the Review. And I think that is definitely something that needs to be sustained.”
Dutton has an MFA from Brown University and currently resides in Boston, where she teaches in the writing program at Emerson College. In addition to teaching, she is the managing editor of Transition Magazine and the Du Bois Review as well as the poetry editor of The Baffler. Her work has been featured in 32 Poems, Callaloo, Indiana Review, Ploughshares and Salt Hill Journal, and her collection of poetry If One of Us Should Fall won the 2011 Cave Canem Poetry Prize.
Dutton has always loved to write, but only realized recently how her knowledge could be expanded through a larger community of writers. “It took me a little while to find a community of writers in Boston, but when I did, I felt compelled to read more widely and to be more experimental with the work that I was producing,” Dutton said.
In her work at the Du Bois Review, Dutton became interested in curating the works of other artists and bringing them into the broader conversation. One of the main reasons why Dutton felt so drawn to becoming an editor was because she could bring attention to artists who she felt were underrepresented and left out of the spotlight.
“I love working with writers to help them finalize their vision and get the best possible version of their work into the world,” she said. “And then to try to figure out how to package it with other voices and other works so that the conversation is rich and dynamic.”
The Review is no stranger to Dutton, as she has been published multiple times in the magazine and has kept up with the work of Lynn and his team long before her decision to apply for this position. Additionally, one of her teachers, Carole Maso, served as a fiction editor at the Review for a period of time. “It has been long on my radar, a place that is so high quality and so prestigious and doing such consistently excellent work that I love,” Dutton said.
In addition to the Review, there are many aspects of the Kenyon community that excite Dutton. An Ohio native herself, Dutton visited the campus in February and was “overwhelmed by the kindness and the warmth” of its people.
“Everybody seemed so committed to being a part of a community. It felt like such a vibrant, dynamic space to operate within,” she said. “I learned about what everyone was doing and the work seemed really interesting, and everyone was firing on all cylinders, and [they were] really dedicated to making it a place where you can get work done.”
Dutton also discussed parts of Lynn’s work that she sees as essential to the Review and elements that she hopes to continue. “I feel like David has made a real pointed effort to be inclusive and to offer readers wide access to lots of different work, to bring readers into something that they may not have experienced before,” she said. “That is a beautiful tradition to honor and expand going forward.”
In his term as editor, Lynn helped the Review burgeon from a literary magazine into a robust organization. Because of Lynn, Kenyon is able to host the annual Kenyon Review Literary Festival, writing workshops and reading series. In addition, Lynn is responsible for the expansion of the Young Writers Workshop and the digital service KROnline.
While Lynn is stepping down as editor of the Review, he will still be part of the Kenyon community as a professor of English and a special assistant to President Decatur. However, he will miss working with students in his capacity as editor. “Students now come to Kenyon with passion and commitment as well as great talent,” Lynn wrote in an email to the Collegian. “Working with them, especially as KR associates, getting to know them personally and watching as they go out into the world and make successful lives for themselves is the great privilege and joy of my life.”
Lynn offers to help Dutton in any way she may need, but is confident in her capabilities and is excited to see what she will bring to the Review. “I am certain that she will continue to support the culture of community and creativity that has become a mark of the Kenyon Review, nurturing students, staff, faculty, and beyond,” he wrote.
Dutton looks forward to combining Lynn’s ideas with her own. She expressed an interest in advocating for an array of different voices while staying true to the distinguished editorial history of the magazine. “I definitely look forward to seeing not just who I love and who I can feature, but what other ways can we reify and expand the community so this is a space where we are inviting different possibilities into the journal,” she said.
Though the global pandemic has created a vast degree of uncertainty across America, Dutton told the Collegian that when she is not dancing or building Legos with her six-year-old son, literature has given her a sense of stability. “We’re in a beautiful moment right now that is the traffic of all of these beautiful minds and our ability to access them is unprecedented,” she said.
Dutton feels that in these uncertain times, literature has a more important role now than ever: a momentary form of escape and a way to express one’s emotions. “The pandemic does provide us another example of how literature becomes necessary and centering in troubled times,” she said. “People turn to literature for solace, clarity and guidance. So the role of the journal then becomes to bring language and song to others in a moment of global loss and uncertainty—as both balm and brightness—and also to inspire and support the writers who are doing this work.”