The inaugural issue of The Christendom Review is dedicated to the memory of Smith Kirkpatrick, writer, teacher, and friend. He was born outside Paris, Arkansas on November 28, 1922 in the same bed in which he passed away on June 6, 2008 at his home in Gainesville, Florida. A former merchant seaman and United States Naval Aviator, he flew torpedo planes and served in both World War II and Korea. Smith, known to some of his students as “Kirk,” attended the University of Florida in the mid-1950s and entered The Writing Program, where he studied under novelist and critic Andrew Lytle, who established it in 1948. Smith taught fiction writing at The University of Florida beginning in the early 1960s, eventually becoming Director of The Florida Writing Program in the 1970s. Among Smith’s accomplishments at UF was founding The Florida Writers’ Conference. The annual week-long symposium attracted participants from across the country and brought to campus such noted literary figures as John Crowe Ransom, Peter Taylor, Andrew Lytle, Madison Jones, Ken Kesey, Chaim Potok, John Knowles, John Ciardi, Richard Eberhart, and others. In addition, book editors and literary agents were invited so that students who were ready to publish might find notice. Smith’s published work includes a novel, The Sun’s Gold, an essay on Eudora Welty’s “Powerhouse,” and several stories, including his finest, “Silence,” which was included in the Winter 1968 issue of The Southern Review, edited by Lewis P. Simpson, and reprinted here with permission. Several of Smith’s former students have contributed essays and articles on their personal memories of him in a special feature of this issue of The Christendom Review. Smith Kirkpatrick is survived by his two daughters, Anna Marie and Katie Kirkpatrick, and by two grandchildren.
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The editors would like to extend their thanks to all the contributors who made this first issue possible, especially to those former students and colleagues of Smith whose memories will keep his alive. Many, perhaps most, readers did not know him, but we believe that if you give the reminiscences here collected a fair chance, you might wish that you had. They come from many different individual perspectives, but in the end from only one: our gratitude for his guidance, and our love for the man.
All the writers found herein vary greatly in age, experience, areas of interest, and public recognition. We have prize-winning novelist and short story writer Merrill Joan Gerber, who studied with Smith in the fifties and sixties, and whose memory of him could not be printed here because it will be appearing in the Spring issue of The Sewanee Review. But she has kindly tendered one of those prize-winning stories much, we hope, to your enjoyment. On the other hand, we offer a cultural essay by Paul Cella, who has published widely both online and in print, but who has not yet managed to climb out of his twenties. Another young emerging voice is poet Olivia Bustion. We have poet, storyteller and Hollywood screenwriter William Mickelberry, who also happens to be a painter. Lydia McGrew is a philosopher and homeschooling mom. Rumor has it that she’s about five feet tall with a brain the size of Alaska. Her husband’s also a philosopher, so we’d like not to be in the room when an argument breaks out. They write books with titles like Internalism and Epistemology: The Architecture of Reason. But if you’d like to argue about the resurrection of Christ, they can do that too. Marion Montgomery, should need no introduction. Professor Emeritus of English at The University of Georgia, he has published three novels, The Wandering of Desire, Darrell, and Fugitive, along with many books on the central error of modernity, anthropocentrism, using the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, Joseph Pieper, Etienne Gilson, Eric Voegelin, and others. His most famous is his trilogy, Why Hawthorne was Melancholy, Why Poe Drank Liquor, and Why Flannery O’Connor Stayed Home. Sterling Watson is an accomplished novelist and director of the Creative Writing Program at Eckerd College. Ashley Mace Havird is a short story writer, poet, and Pushcart Prize Anthology nominee. One of John Morefield ‘s stories appeared in Story magazine's volume of Prize College Stories of 1964. Thomas DeFreitas is an obscure New England poet who (astoundingly) wants to keep it that way. We even have an ex-Anglican priest, who would no doubt see the appeal in Thomas’ humility.
The list goes on, of course (see the contributors’ page). We simply wish for all readers that they find somewhere in these pages a place of rest, a point of insight or exhilaration, a sign of hope and grace, some encouragement that the life of letters, and of all art, still has a message to bear in the bloodstream of our society; and that, in the hands of good men and women, it might yet remain one of the higher gestures of love for our fellows.
Most of all, at this moment, we want to express our gratitude to Anna Marie and Katie, Smith’s daughters, for granting us permission to publish his little masterpiece of a story, “Silence,” in The Christendom Review.