The radical correspondence of Walter Lowenfels

Washington University’s Department of  Special Collections holds an extensive cache of correspondence relating to Walter Lowenfels,  an anti-war activist, and one of his best known publications  “Where is Vietnam?”, an anthology of anti-war poetry assembled in the late 1960s.  The hundreds of letters Lowenfels exchanged with other prominent mid-century poets brings to light a rich literary social network, and the kinds of challenges activists and artists faced in their struggle to speak out against the war.

 

The correspondence also outlines the internal challenges the U.S. literary community faced, as poets warred with one another over their views on Vietnam. (click here for full transcript)

“Do you recall the story you told me about having included [e.e.] Cummings in your book, and then being forced to X him out because…he was for the war, or would have been.” Lowenfels to poet Robert Bly, June 11 1967.

Letter, Walter Lowenfels to Robert Bly, June 11 1967. Walter Lowenfels Papers, Series 2, Box 2, Folder 13.

Letter, Walter Lowenfels to Robert Bly, June 11 1967. Walter Lowenfels Papers, Series 2, Box 2, Folder 13.

About

Walter Lowenfels (May 10, 1897 – July 7, 1976) was an American poet and journalist. Born in New York City, Lowenfels graduated from a preparatory school in 1914, and served in the military during World War I, after which he began writing poetry.  He met Lillian Apotheker, who later co-edited several of the anthologies of poetry he edited, in 1924, and the couple married in 1926. Hhis most famous anthology was the 1967 Where is Vietnam?, a compilation of the poetic responses to the Vietnam War. He was active in the anti-Vietnam War peace movement, serving as the associate editor of the anti-war publication Dialog.

In total, he wrote more than two dozen books of poetry. He also wrote an autobiography, My Many Lives, the second half of which is published in The Portable Walter, an anthology of his writings.  Lowenfels personally gifted part of his personal papers to Washington University, and other parts of the collection were purchased in 1966-68 and in 2012.

Walter Lowenfels, from the the dust-jacket of his "Reality Prime". Lowenfels, Walter. Reality Prime: selected Poems. Edited with an introduction by Joel Lewis. Jersey City, N.J.: Talisman House, 1998.

Walter Lowenfels, from the the dust-jacket of Reality Prime.


This post is part of an occasional series, “Special Delivery – Letters from the WUSTL Archives and Special Collections.”

For more information about the letters and documents displayed here, or in general about Special Collections please contact us.

About the author

Lisa Lillie is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at Washington University in St. Louis.