On the Hunt for the Best Front-to-Back Issue of The Kenyon Review, Ever

The bids are in for the best single front-to-back issue of the old series, and the competition is heated! Kudos to Grant Johnson, Kate Kremer and Hannah Withers for souring the stacks of back run issues, sizing up the 60s, 50s, and 40s, respectively, and choosing what they identified as the best issue of each decade. After the jump you can find quotes and the tables of contents for each issue. You can visit the full post of each finalist issue as a link that leads off each section. Think it over, and be sure to visit our facebook page and vote! Grant, Kate and Hannah will continue the quest with the three decades of the new series next, and we’ll square off old versus new in a showdown of literary greatness in the coming months.


The contenders for best of the old:

Spring 1943: A real humdinger. Here is the table of contents:

Hannah points to these choice lines as indicative of this issue’s status:

“All this amounts to the life of a man, these things he tells, his pride in saying them, his honest power.” (Jean Garrigue “Mr. Haszka”)

“the patient bares his arm at dawn
to suck the blood’s tranfusing glow
And then when all the blood is gone
(For the Day of Jubilo)

Salt serum stays his arteries
Sly tide threading the rib of sand
Till his lost being dries and cries
For that unspeakable salt land
Beyond the Day of Jubilo.” (Allen Tate, “Jublio”)

“There is only one way to conquer the monster: you must eat it, bones, blood, skin, pelt, and gristle. And even then the monster is not dead, for it lives in you, is assimilated into you, and you are different, and somewhat monstrous yourself, for having eaten it.” (Robert Penn Warren “Pure and Impure Poetry”)

Summer 1956: Golden. Here’s the table of contents:

Kate picks these choice lines as great-making:

“The first day of Creation
All things, love, alone were,
Darkness the lonely creature;
Clove us then Love with good light
For two can be together,
And partly we were bright
Each other so to look on.” (W.S. Merwin “The Nine Days of Creation”)

“The beauty of a bouquet of flowers; the puddle in the lower parts of our being
Out of which loves drinks; that on a sunny day, if we listen, we might hear
Gathering the offertory beneath a hollow ringing in its steeple.” (Theodore Holmes “A Prayer for Rain”)

Autumn 1960: Flannery and Sylvia. Enough said. Here’s the table of contents:


Grant picks these two heavyweight authors as what makes this issue tops. Here’s a bit of each:

“In burrows narrow as a finger, solitary bees
Keep house among the grasses. Kneeling down
I set my eye to a hole-mouth and meet an eye
Round, green, disconsolate as a tear.
Father, bridegroom, in this Easter egg
Under the coronal of sugar roses

The queen bee marries the winter of your year.” (Sylvia Plath, “The Beekeeper’s Daughter”)

“Thomas loved his mother. He loved her because it was his nature to do so, but there were times when he could not endure her love for him. There were times when it became nothing but pure idiot mystery and he sensed about him forces, invisible currents entirely out of his control. She proceeded always from the tritest of considerations–it was a nice thing to do–into the most foolhardy engagements with the devil, whom, or course, she never recognized.” (Flannery O’Connor, “The Comforts of Home”)

Okay people–there you have it. Time to vote! Do it on the KR facebook page.


About the Program

The Kenyon Review Associates Program provides Kenyon students with valuable experience in literary editing, publishing, and programming. KR Associates work closely with Kenyon Review staff, gaining valuable experience in a number of editing, publishing, and programming areas including manuscript evaluation, publicity and marketing, copy editing, developing web site and social media content, outreach programming, event planning and promotion, and other creative and editorial projects

KR Associates attend regular seminars conducted by Kenyon Review editorial staff, visiting readers, and publishing industry professionals. These seminars cover a wide range of topics including editorial philosophy, evaluation of submissions, print and electronic production, marketing, and design.

KR Associates enjoy also enjoy exclusive access to visiting writers and speakers, free issues of The Kenyon Review, and valuable work experience and employment references.

This program is made possible through an initiative of the Kenyon Review, part of the mission of which is to contribute to the enrichment of the academic, cultural, and artistic life of the Kenyon College community.

Requirements and Expectations

  • Submission Evaluation: All Associates are required to read and evaluate eight Kenyon Review submissions per week. Associates who are not able to complete their weekly submission assignments for more than two weeks in a row may not be allowed to continue in the program.
  • Trainings and Seminars: In-person attendance is mandatory at all trainings and seminars. We plan on scheduling six to eight seminars per semester, and most will take place on Thursdays during common hour.
  • Literary Engagement: Associates are expected to participate in literary events on campus and throughout the local community.

Application Details

The application deadline for the 2023-24 program has passed. Applications for the 2024-25 program will open in the fall of 2024. Please check back then for more details.

Questions? Please contact Tory Weber for more information.