Introductions to Selected Authors & Their Collections


Mary Jo Bang, 1946-  . American Author.

Finding Aid for the Mary Jo Bang Papers [MSS154]

Photograph by Matt Valentine

Mary Jo Bang (October 22, 1946 – ) is an American poet.  Born in Waynesville, Missouri, Bang grew up in Ferguson and graduated from McCluer High School. She received a BA and an MA in Sociology from Northwestern University, a BA in photography from the Polytechnic of Central London, and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University.

Bang is the author of several books of poems, including Apology for Want (1997), which received the Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize and the 1998 Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award; Louise in Love (2001); The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans (2001); The Eye Like a Strange Balloon (2004); Elegy (2007), which won both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award; and The Bride of E (2009); Inferno (2012); and The Last Two Seconds (2015).

Bang has received numerous honors and awards for her work, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Bellagio Foundation, and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. She has received a “Discovery”/The Nation award, a Pushcart Prize, and her poems have been included in multiple editions of The Best American Poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous periodicals, including New Republic, Yale Review, Boston Review, Paris Review, Columbia, Denver Quarterly, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, Nation, Notre Dame Review, Paris Review, Tin House, New Yorker, and New American Writing.

Bang was the poetry co-editor of the Boston Review from 1995 to 2005, and is currently a professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

Collection Description
The Mary Jo Bang Papers consists largely of her own manuscript materials, including drafts of individual poems, book reviews, essays, introductions and translations, as well as editorial material toward her published and unpublished books. Also included are personal journals, college work, artwork, printed materials and ephemera. A substantial amount of personal and business correspondence is present, primarily with friends, family, editors, students, and colleagues in the literary community. Finally, the Bang Papers include a large assortment of material relating Bang’s work outside of writing including editorial work for the Boston Review, teaching, conferences and readings, consolations and advisory boards, fellowships, residencies, exhibitions, and photography.


Samuel Beckett, 1906-1989. Irish Author.

Finding Aid for the Samuel Beckett Papers [MSS008]
Finding Aid for the Samuel Beckett Ephemera [VMF014]
Finding Aid for the Samuel Beckett Posters [VMF233]
Finding Aid for the Rick Cluchey Collection of Waiting for Godot Materials [VMF237]
Finding Aid for the Ruby Cohn Papers [MSS028]
Beckett correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50
The Beckett Circle (external link)
Samuel Beckett: Digital Manuscript Project (external link)

beckettSamuel Beckett was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, who lived in France for the most of his adult life. Writing in English and French, Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humor. His best-known play, Waiting for Godot (1953) is a comic study of philosophical uncertainty, and, like much of his work, focuses on the absurdity of human existence. Beckett graduated from Dublin’s Trinity College in 1927 and settled in Paris, where he worked with James Joyce and published short stories and the novel Murphy (1938). During World War II, he joined the French Resistance and was eventually forced to leave Paris, but after the war he returned and wrote most of his important works, including the prose trilogy Molloy (1951), Malone Dies (Malone Meurt, 1951) and The Unnamable (L’Innommable, 1953), and the play Endgame (Fin de Partie, 1957). Never exactly mainstream, Beckett is nonetheless considered one of the most important European writers of the 20th century for his influence on modern literature and for his ability to impress, shock and confound.

Collection Description
The Samuel Beckett Papers consists of manuscripts of much of the work Beckett produced during the 1960’s. Among the highlights of the Samuel Beckett Papers are the set of 16 drafts for the story “Bing.” As well as extensive groups of drafts for short pose pieces such as “Assez,” “Le Depeupler,” and “Imagination morte imaginez;” the heavily revised galley proof of the Olympia Press edition of Watt; and the successive drafts for Play/Comedie.

The Samuel Beckett Papers also contains the correspondence between the bookseller, Henry Wenning, and Beckett, which spans 1960-1971. Wenning and Beckett developed a close friendship out of their initial business relationship. Their correspondence deals with a range of matters, from negotiations regarding the sale of manuscripts, Beckett’s remarks on works in progress, his opinions of various productions of his plays, to more personal comments concerning his attitude toward his work or toward life. Together with the other manuscript materials in the Beckett Papers, this correspondence comprises a valuable record of some of the most productive years in the life of a leading 20th-century novelist and playwright.


Robert Creeley, 1926-2005. American Author.

Finding Aid for the Robert Creeley Papers [MSS031]
Creeley correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50

creeleyRobert Creeley (May 21, 1926 – March 30, 2005) was an American poet and author of more than sixty books. He is usually associated with the Black Mountain poets, though his verse aesthetic diverged from that school. He entered Harvard University in 1943, but left to serve in the American Field Service in Burma and India in 1944-1945. He returned to Harvard in 1946, but eventually took his BA from Black Mountain College in 1955, teaching some courses there as well.

From 1951 to 1955, Creeley and his first wife, Ann, lived on the Spanish island of Mallorca. There they started Divers Press and published works by Paul Blackburn, Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, and others. Creeley wrote about half of his published prose while living on the island, including a short story collection, The Gold Diggers, and a novel, The Island. He traveled between Mallorca and his teaching position at Black Mountain College in 1954 and 1955. They also saw to the printing of some issues of Origin andBlack Mountain Review on Mallorca because the printing costs were significantly lower there.

Creeley received an MA from the University of New Mexico in 1960. He began his academic career by teaching at the prestigious Albuquerque Academy starting in around 1958 until about 1960 or 1961. Afterward, he wandered about a bit before settling into the English faculty of “Black Mountain II” at the University at Buffalo in 1967. He would stay at this post until 2003, when he received a post at Brown University. At the time of his death, he was in residence with the Lannan Foundation in Marfa, Texas.

Creeley first received fame in 1962 from his poetry collection For Love. It was hard for many readers and critics to immediately understand Creeley’s reputation as an innovative poet, for his innovations were often very subtle; even harder for some to imagine that his work lived up to the Black Mountain tenet—which he articulated to Charles Olson in their correspondence, and which Olson popularized in his essay “Projective Verse,” — that “form is never more than an extension of content,” for his poems were often written in couplet, triplet, and quatrain stanzas that break into and out of rhyme as happenstance appears to dictate.

Collection Description
The Robert Creeley Papers consists largely of correspondence, spanning 1945-1968, bulking 1963-1968, including letters from Charles Olson, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, W.S.Merwin, Witter Bynner, Louis Zukofsky, Henry Rago, Fred Eckman, and correspondence among Creeley, Walter Hamady and Henry Wenning. The collection also includes a number of worksheets, drafts, and notes towards poems, essays, articles, and reviews such as The Charm, Divisions & Other Early Poems, Eight, The Finger, For Joel, For Love,The Island, Pieces, Seven, Words. The Creeley Papers also include works by others, personal papers, and clippings.

James Dickey, 1923-1996. American Author.

Finding Aid for the James Dickey Papers [MSS035]
Dickey correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50

dickeyJames Dickey was an American author and poet whose work brought him international recognition as well as innumerable awards. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Dickey’s urban Southern roots are clearly evident throughout his poetry. Dickey began his college education at Clemson University, but left at the outbreak of World War II to enlist in the United States Army Air Force. His experiences as a fighter pilot provided him with subject matter for some of his best known poems. Dickey subsequently completed both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Vanderbilt University where among his teachers was the critic Monroe K. Spears who was influential in directing Dickey’s interest toward poetry.

James Dickey began writing poetry in 1947, but turned to writing full-time only in 1960 when his first book, Into the Stone and Other Poems, was published. Prior to this, Dickey had worked as a college instructor and as a highly successful advertising executive. In 1966, Dickey was awarded the National Book Award for his second poetry collection, Buckdancer’s Choice. He received international acclaim for his 1970 novel and 1972 screenplay, Deliverance. He is the author of more than 17 books of poems and 12 books of prose.

Collection Description
The James Dickey Papers include a correspondence file, spanning 1954 to 1970, consisting of nearly 1000 letters from literary figures, publishers, editors, and friends. Letters from literary notables are often accompanied by their poetry manuscripts. The bulk of the collection consists of Dickey’s own manuscript drafts of poems, essays, reviews, translations and addresses. Proof of Dickey’s meticulous craftsmanship is found in his heavily revised poetry manuscripts, many of which have undergone such pronounced change that the initial worksheet is unrecognizable from the final version. The Dickey Papers also include editorial matter toward all of his books of poetry prior to 1970, as well as a collection of informal monologue published that same year as Self-Interviews.

Stanley Elkin, 1930-1995. American Author.

Finding Aid for the Stanley Elkin Papers [MSS039]
Elkin correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50

elkinStanley Lawrence Elkin (May 11, 1930 – May 31, 1995) was an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Elkin was born in Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in Chicago. He did both his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, receiving a bachelor’s degree in English in 1952 and a Ph.D. in 1961 for his dissertation on William Faulkner. He was a member of the English faculty at Washington University in St. Louis from 1960 until his death, and battled multiple sclerosis for most of his adult life.

During his career, Elkin published ten novels, two volumes of novellas, two books of short stories, a collection of essays, and one (unproduced) screenplay. His extravagant, satirical fiction revolves around American consumerism, popular culture, and male-female relationships, which is portrayed in innumerable darkly comic variations. Characters and especially prose style take full precedence over plot. His language is extravagant and exuberant, baroque and flowery, taking fantastic flight from his characters’ endless patter.

Always bordering on the outlandish, Elkin’s work did not receive the popular reception given that of many of his peers. It was, however, greeted enthusiastically by critics and reviewers and brought him numerous literary awards, including a National Book Critics Circle Award for George Mills (1983) and for Mrs. Ted Bliss (1995).

Collection Description
The Stanley Elkin Papers consist primarily of Elkin’s own manuscripts, including, his plays, filmscripts, essays, and stories, with the bulk of the material being manuscripts and editorial matter toward his novels. Elkin’s manuscripts include all stages of his drafts, from autograph notes written on university exam books to word processor diskettes. Also included in the Elkin Papers are an extensive general and professional correspondence, manuscripts by other authors, teaching materials, and his own college literary papers.

Raymond Federman, 1928-2009. French-American Author.

Finding Aid for the Raymond Federman Papers [MSS044]
Federman correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50

federmanRaymond Federman (May 15, 1928 – October 6, 2009) was a French–American novelist and academic, known also for poetry, essays, translations, and criticism. He was a writer in the experimental style, one that sought to deconstruct traditional prose. This type of writing is quite prevalent in his bookDouble or Nothing, in which the linear narrative of the story has been broken down and restructured so as to be nearly incoherent. Words are also often arranged on pages to resemble images or to suggest repetitious themes.

Federman was born in Montrouge, France, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1947. After serving in the U.S. Army in Korea and Japan from 1951 to 1954, he studied at Columbia University under the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1957. He did his graduate studies at U.C.L.A., receiving his M.A. in 1958, and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature in 1963, with his doctoral dissertation on Samuel Beckett.

He taught in the French Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara from 1959 to 1964, and in the French Department at The State University of New York at Buffalo from 1964 to 1973, and as a fiction writer in the English Department at SUNY-Buffalo from 1973 to 1999. He was promoted to the rank of Distinguished Professor in 1990, and in 1992, appointed to the Melodia E. Jones Chair of Literature, where he served until retiring in July 1999. In 2000, he was appointed as Distinguished Emeritus Professor.

Federman died of cancer at the age of 81 and in May 2010, his final new English novel, SHHH: The Story of a Childhood, was released by Starcherone Press.

Collection Description
The Raymond Federman Collection includes extensive draft and proof materials toward Federman’s books including Double or Nothing, Amer Eldorado, Aunt Rachel’s Fur, and Shhh. Also, materials relating to his critical work on Samuel Beckett, short stories, poems, essays, extensive correspondence, unpublished works, reel-to-reel audio recordings, student dissertations and teaching materials, clippings and other ephemera, and photographs.

Donald Finkel, 1929-2008. American Author.

Finding Aid for the Donald Finkel Papers [MSS045]
Finkel correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50

finkelDonald Finkel was an American poet best known for his unorthodox styles. Finkel wrote his poetry in free verse, juxtaposing different subjects against each other. Some of his poetry was extremely lengthy, with single pieces filling a volume. He strayed from abstraction and used common language in his writing. Finkel would interlace his poetry with sections taken from a wide range of works, including the writings of authors including Lenny Bruce, Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, Albert Camus and Franz Kafka.

Born in New York, Finkel attended Columbia University, where he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1952 and a master’s degree in English in 1953. Most of his teaching career has been at Washington University where he helped develop the Writers’ Program with his wife, Constance Urdang, but he has also taught at the University of Iowa, Bard College, and Bennington College. Finkel was the poet-in-residence emeritus at Washington University until his death.

Some of Finkel’s best-known poems include Answer Back (1968) about Mammoth Cave, Adequate Earth (1972) book of poems about Antarctica, and his 1987 work The Wake of the Electron (1987) which was inspired by the story of sailor Donald Crowhurst, who died in 1969 while competing in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. Finkel was sent to Antarctica in 1968, as part of a scientific expedition sponsored by the National Science Foundation to send artists to Antarctica. The subject appeared in his 1978 book, Endurance: An Antarctic Idyll.

The 14 books of poetry and other works he published include Simeon (1964), A Joyful Noise (1966), The Garbage Wars (1970), A Mote in Heaven’s Eye (1975), Endurance: An Antarctic Idyll (1978), Going Under (1978), What Manner of Beast (1981) and Not So the Chairs: Selected and New Poems (2003). He translated A Splintered Mirror: Chinese Poetry From the Democracy Movement with Carolyn Kizer, which was published in 1991.

Collection Description
The Donald Finkel Papers include his extensive research materials, journals, notes, and heavily revised manuscripts. A large collection of editorial matter toward all of his books and a small, yet revealing professional correspondence with editors and literary colleagues completes the Finkel Papers.

William Gaddis, 1922-1998. American Author.

Finding Aid for the William Gaddis Papers [MSS049]
Finding Aid for the Richard Hazelton Papers [MSS131]
Finding Aid for the Hunter Low Papers [MSS132]
Finding Aid for the Charles Monaghan Papers [MSS076]
Finding Aid for the Steven Moore Collection of William Gaddis [MSS156]
Finding Aid for the Donald Oresman Papers [MSS130]
Gaddis correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50
The Gaddis Annotations (external site)

gaddisWilliam Thomas Gaddis, Jr. (December 29, 1922 – December 16, 1998) was an American novelist.  Born in New York City, Gaddis’ parents separated with he was three and he was subsequently raised in Massapequa (Long Island) by his mother. At age five, Gaddis was sent to Merricourt Boarding School in Berlin, Connecticut. He continued in private school until the eighth grade, after which he returned to Long Island to receive his diploma at Farmingdale High School in 1941. He entered Harvard in 1941 and famously wrote for the Harvard Lampoon (where he eventually served as President).  After leaving Harvard without a degree in 1945, Gaddis worked as a fact checker for The New Yorker, then spent five years traveling in Mexico, Central America, Spain, France, England, and North Africa, returning to the United States in 1951.

Gaddis’ first novel, The Recognitions, appeared in 1955. A lengthy, complex, and allusive work, it had to wait to find its audience. Newspaper reviewers considered it overly intellectual, overwritten. Gaddis then turned to public relations work and the making of documentary films to support himself and his family. In this role he worked for Pfizer, Eastman Kodak, IBM, and the United States Army, among others. He also received a National Institute of Arts and Letters grant, a Rockefeller grant, and two National Endowment for the Arts grants, all of which helped him write his second novel. In 1975, he published J R, a work even more difficult than The Recognitions, told almost entirely in dialogue, where it is sometimes difficult to determine which character is speaking. Critical opinion had caught up with him, and the book won the National Book Award for Fiction. Gaddis’ third novel Carpenter’s Gothic(1985) would be nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award, while his fourth novel,A Frolic of His Own (1994), would earn him a second National Book Award in 1995.

Gaddis died of prostate cancer, but not before creating his final work, Agapē Agape, which was published in 2002.  The Rush for Second Place, published at the same time, collected most of Gaddis’s previously published nonfiction.

Collection Description
The William Gaddis papers consist largely of his own manuscript material: manuscripts and source material toward his books, drafts of various stories, published and unpublished, as well as essays, reviews, interviews, and a miscellaneous assortment of notes and other materials. Also present is a substantial amount of personal and general correspondence, primarily with family, friends, and fans. In addition, there is a relatively large amount of correspondence to editors, translators, and publishers, as well as correspondence with his colleagues in the literary community.

Isabella Gardner, 1915-1981. American Author.

Finding Aid for the Isabella Gardner Papers [MSS050]
Gardner correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50

gardnerIn the poetically rich quarter century between 1950 and 1980, Isabella Gardner earned a wide-ranging and considerable reputation in poetry, her chosen vocation. Born on September 7, 1915, she was raised in Boston, one of six children of George Peabody and Rose Grosvenor Gardner. She was a cousin of poet Robert Lowell and was often confused with the other Isabella Stewart Gardner, the Boston art patron and collector, who was her great-great-aunt and godmother. At one time in her life she even lived in her godmother’s house, and, according to many, with her red hair and snub nose, she also looked like her.

Gardner’s education included the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, from 1931 to 1933, the Leighton Rollins School of Acting in East Hampton, New York, and in 1937, the Embassy School of Acting in London, England. For a few years she pursued an acting career, specializing in character roles “where her shy stutter would be less liable to obtrude.” After marriage and the birth of her children, she resumed the writing of poetry, which she had begun in her early teens and had given up because she believed herself to be “too facile” at the craft. Once renewed, however, her position as a poet-contemporary of such writers as Howard Shapiro, John Logan, Richard Eberhardt, John Frederick Nims, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, and Elizabeth Bishop was secured.

Although her output was comparatively slim (about 100 published poems), Gardner’s work appeared in such prestigious literary journals and magazines as Poetry, Partisan Review, Paris Review, the New Yorker, Nation, andAtlantic Monthly. There were five books of poetry: Birthdays from the Ocean(1955), Un Altra Infanzia (in Italy, 1959), The Looking Glass (1961), West of Childhood: Poems 1950-1965, and posthumously, The Collected Poems(1985). Her work was anthologized in, among others, A Pocket Book of Modern Verse (1955), Imagination’s Other Place (1955), Erotic Poetry (1963),Eight Lines and Under (1967), and Honey and the Gall (1967).

Sound and rhythm are crucial elements in Gardner’s poetry. She makes extensive use of rhyme, including internal rhyme and “near-rhyme,” and there is an exuberant musicality in her poems, even while many of them explore death-related themes. After the breakup of her marriage to Allen Tate, Gardner withdrew to a somewhat reclusive existence in the Chelsea Hotel in New York City and a self-imposed poetic silence of 15 years. Her later poems, in a slight nod to changing poetic fashions and trends, went to longer lines and even an abandonment of the brilliant end rhyme that had been so characteristic of her.

From 1951 to 1956, Gardner was associate editor of Poetry, under the editorship of Karl Shapiro. There she became known for her caring concern for the success of younger poets she worked with, even providing monetary help in some cases. Birthdays from the Ocean and The Looking Glass were nominated for the National Book Award, That Was Then was nominated for the 1980 American Book Award, and in 1981 Gardner was selected as the first recipient of the New York State Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for Poetry.

Gardner died July 7, 1981. She had been married four times: Harold van Kirk, 1938 (marriage ended); Maurice Seymour, 1943 (divorced 1947); Robert H. McCormick Jr., 1947 (divorced 1957); and Allen Tate, 1959 (divorced 1966). She also had two children, Rose Van Kirk and Daniel Seymour.

Collection Description
The Isabella Gardner Papers consists of correspondence from literary figures, publishers, editors, friends, and family including Lee Anderson, Carol Berge, Elizabeth Bishop, Harold Blumenfeld, Jay Bolotin, Paul Carroll, William Congdon, Edward Dahlberg, Richard Eberhart, Maurice English, Roland Flint, Barbara Howes, Josephine Jacobsen, Galway Kinnell, Carolyn Kizer, John Logan, Karl Shapiro, Peter Simpson, and Allen Tate. Also included are manuscripts and editorial material toward most of her books, drafts of individual poems, manuscripts by others, personal papers, and ephemera.

William H. Gass, 1924-. American Author.

Finding Aid for the William H. Gass Papers [MSS051]
Finding Aid for the International Writers Center Archive [MSS059]
William H. Gass: The Soul Inside the Sentence
Reading William Gass (external link)

gassWilliam Howard Gass (July 30, 1924 – ) is an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, and former philosophy professor. Born in Fargo, North Dakota, Gass grew up in Warren, Ohio, where he graduated from Warren G. Harding High School.  He has described his childhood as an unhappy one, with an abusive, racist father and a passive, alcoholic mother. He attended Wesleyan University, and then served as an Ensign in the Navy during World War II for three and a half years. He earned his A.B. in philosophy from Kenyon College in 1947 where he graduated magna cum laude. From there he entered Cornell University as a Susan Linn Fellow in philosophy and by 1954 had earned his PhD in that subject. His dissertation, “A Philosophical Investigation of Metaphor,” was based on his training as a philosopher of language.

Gass taught at The College of Wooster for four years, Purdue University for sixteen, and Washington University in St. Louis, where he was a professor of philosophy (1969–1978) and the David May Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities (1979–1999). Since 2000, Gass has been the David May Distinguished University Professor Emeritus in the Humanities.  In 1990, Gass founded the International Writers Center at Washington University, whose purpose was to “build on the strengths of its resident and visiting faculty writers; to serve as a focal point for writing excellence in all disciplines and in all cultures; to be a directory for writers and writing programs at Washington University, in St. Louis, in the United States, and around the world; and to present the writer to the reader.”

Gass’ first novel, Omensetter’s Luck, about life in a small town in Ohio in the 1890s, was published in 1966. Critics praised his linguistic virtuosity, establishing him as an important writer of fiction. In 1968, he published In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, five stories dramatizing the theme of human isolation and the difficulty of love. That same year Gass published Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife, an experimental novella illustrated with photographs and typographical constructs intended to help readers free themselves from the linear conventions of narrative. He has also published several collections of essays, including Fiction and the Figures of Life (1970) and Finding a Form (1996). Despite his prolific output, he has said that writing is difficult for him. In fact, his epic novel The Tunnel, published in 1995, took Gass twenty-six years to write.

Gass has received many awards and honors, including grants from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1965, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1970. He won the Pushcart Prize awards in 1976, 1983, 1987, and 1992, and in 1994 he received the Mark Twain Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Literature of the Midwest. In 1975, he received the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction and the American Book Award for The Tunnel in 1997. In 2000, he was honored with the PEN/Nabokov award and the PEN/Nabokov Lifetime Achievement award which he has called his “most prized prize.” Gass has received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism three times, for Habitations of the Word(1985), Finding a Form (1997) and Tests of Time (2003).

Collection Description
The William Gass Papers consists largely of his own manuscript material: manuscripts and proof material toward his books, drafts of various stories, essays, and reviews, interviews, and a miscellaneous assortment of notes and other materials. Also present is a substantial amount of professional correspondence, primarily with universities, magazines, and publishers, as well as with his colleagues in academia and in the literary community.

Fannie Hurst, 1889-1968. American Author.

Finding Aid for the Fannie Hurst Papers [MSS058]

hurstFannie Hurst was an American novelist who was also very prominent in philanthropic and civic affairs. Raised in St. Louis, she received her B.A. from Washington University in 1909, and then went to New York to do graduate work at Columbia University. Hurst began writing short stories for popular magazines in 1914, and went on to produce many best-selling novels, the best known of which are Back Street (1931), and Imitation of Life (1933). Many of her novels were made into films, and she herself wrote 12 filmscripts, including “Humoresque” and “Symphony of Six Million.” She was also a frequent contributor to magazines and regularly appeared on radio and television programs.

Hurst was an active philanthropist and leader in civic affairs. She served on many boards and committees, particularly during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. She was chairman of the National Housing Commission (1936-1937), a member of the National Committee to The Works Progress Administration (1940-1941), and, later, a delegate to the World Health Organization Assembly (1952). Upon Hurst’s death a large part of her estate came in a bequest to Washington University, a portion of which was used to create the Hurst Professorship in the Department of English for visiting writers.

Collection Description
The Fannie Hurst Papers consist of a small quantity of correspondence (most of it between Hurst and her school friend Lois Toensfeldt), the manuscript for her novel Quiet Street, some diary material, and a group of clippings and memorabilia. Special Collections also holds Hurst’s personal collection of her published work which includes a complete set of first and variant editions, translations, and other copies of her books.

James Merrill, 1926-1995. American Author.

Finding Aid for the James Merrill Papers [MSS083]
Finding Aid for the Mary Boatwright Collection of James Merrill Papers [MSS133]
Finding Aid for the David Jackson Papers [MSS060]
The James Merrill Digital Archive: Materials for the Book of Ephraim (digital humanities site)
James Merrill: Life and Archive (online exhibit)
James Merrill Other Writings (online exhibit)
James Merrill Symposium (site for 2015 symposium sessions)
Merrill correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50
James Merrill’s Poetry Manuscripts (pedagogical site)
The James Merrill House (external link)

merrillJames Ingram Merrill (March 3, 1926 – February 6, 1995) was an American poet.  Merrill was born in New York City to Hellen Ingram Merrill and Charles E. Merrill, founding partner of the Merrill Lynch investment firm. As a boy, Merrill enjoyed a highly privileged upbringing in economic and educational terms. As a teenager, Merrill attended the Lawrenceville School. When Merrill was 16 years old, his father collected his short stories and poems and published them as a surprise under the name Jim’s Book.

Merrill’s studies at Amherst College were interrupted by service in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1945. Another book, The Black Swan, was privately printed in 1946 while he was still in college. Following his graduation in 1947, he taught for a year at Bard College. Merrill’s first commercially published volume, First Poems, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1951 to critical acclaim.

Despite great personal wealth derived from unbreakable trusts made early in his childhood, Merrill lived modestly. In 1956, he used a portion of his inheritance to found the Ingram Merrill Foundation, which has since awarded grants to hundreds of artists and writers. Beginning with the prestigious Glascock Prize, awarded for “The Black Swan” when he was an undergraduate, Merrill would go on to receive every major poetry award in the United States, including the 1977 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Divine Comedies. Merrill was honored in mid-career with the Bollingen Prize in 1973. He would receive the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1983 for his epic poem The Changing Light at Sandover. In 1990, he received the first Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry awarded by the Library of Congress for The Inner Room. He garnered the National Book Award for Poetry twice, in 1967 forNights and Days and in 1979 for Mirabell: Books of Number. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1978. Merrill also served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1979 until his death.

A writer of elegance and wit, highly adept at wordplay and puns, Merrill was a master of traditional poetic meter and form who also wrote a good deal of free and blank verse. As Merrill matured, the polished and taut brilliance of his early work yielded to a more informal, relaxed voice. Already established in the 1970s among the finest poets of his generation, Merrill made a surprising detour when he began incorporating occult messages into his work. The result, a 560-page apocalyptic epic published as The Changing Light at Sandover (1982), documents two decades of messages dictated from otherworldly spirits during Ouija séances hosted by Merrill and his partner David Jackson. The Changing Light at Sandover is one of the longest epics in any language, and features the voices of recently deceased poet W. H. Auden, Merrill’s late friends Maya Deren and Greek socialite Maria Mitsotáki, as well has heavenly beings including the Archangel Michael.

Following the publication of The Changing Light at Sandover, Merrill returned to writing shorter poetry which could be both whimsical and nostalgic. His last book, A Scattering of Salts, was published a month after his death.

Collection Description
The James Merrill Papers consists of original manuscripts, drafts, typescripts, diaries, reading notes, college materials, ephemera, and photographs, extensive correspondence with his family, friends, and business associates. Audiovisual and personal material document other aspects of Merrill’s life. Also included are the journals and letters of David Kalstone, a close companion of Merrill’s from the 1960s until his early death in 1986, as well as correspondence, scrapbooks, and ephemera belonging to his mother, Hellen Ingram Plummer. Items related to his lifelong companion, David Jackson, are represented as well.

Howard Nemerov, 1920-1991. American Author.

Finding Aid for the Howard Nemerov Papers [MSS089]
Nemerov correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50
Library of Congress Howard Nemerov: Online Resources

nemerovHoward Nemerov, a native of New York City, was a widely published poet who was been recognized with numerous prizes, awards, grants, and fellowships. He graduated from Harvard in 1941 and immediately enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Nemerov flew for the Canadian forces in Europe until 1944, when he joined the U.S. Army Air Force and flew combat missions until 1945.

In 1946, Nemerov became an associate editor of Furioso and began teaching at Hamilton College. He served on Furioso until 1951 and taught at several other schools — Bennington College, the University of Minnesota, Brandeis University and Hollins College — until 1963, when he received a one year appointment as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress. In 1969 Nemerov joined the English faculty at Washington University where he was a highly visible and popular teacher, holding the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished Professor of English Chair.

Although he is best known as a poet, Nemerov wrote novels, short stories, essays, and criticism. His first book, The Image and the Law, was published in 1947 and he went on to produce over 20 books. Nemerov received nearly every award or prize available to poets including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1977 for Collected Poems, and the Bollingen Prize for Poetry in 1981. He was inducted into the Academy of American Poets in 1971 and was elected a member of the American Institute of Arts and Letters in 1977.

Collection Description
The Howard Nemerov Papers are a large group of materials which help document the career of this important American poet. The collection includes a great number of worksheets, drafts, and notes towards poems, essays, lectures, stories, collections, and novels. Nemerov corresponded with numerous important literary figures and their letters are housed in the Nemerov Papers. Kenneth Burke, Maxine Kumin, Kay Boyle, and Reed Whittemore, in particular, have been long-time correspondents with Nemerov and the Washington University holdings contain over 800 letters from these four authors. The Howard Nemerov Papers are completed by an extensive collection of business correspondence, most relating to the publication of his books, and a large group of photographs, teaching materials, journals, and miscellany.

William Jay Smith, 1918-. American Author.

Finding Aid for the William Jay Smith Papers [MSS104]
Smith correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50

smithWilliam Jay Smith (April 22, 1918 – ) is an American poet, critic, and translator.  Born in Winnfield, Louisiana, Smith was brought up at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, south of St. Louis. He received his A.B. and M.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, and continued his studies at Columbia University, and Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.  Smith served as a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress (the position now known as the U.S. Poet Laureate) from 1968 until 1970, and has been a member of The Academy of Arts and Letters since 1975, as well as a former vice-president for literature.

Smith was a poet in residence at Williams College from 1959–1967, Chairman of the Writing Division of the School of Arts at Columbia University from 1973 until 1975, and currently is the Professor Emeritus of English at Hollins College.  He has written ten collections of poetry, two of which were nominated for the National Book Award. Smith has also written numerous children’s books, including Laughing Time: Collected Nonsense (1990) andBirds and Beasts (1990).

Although Smith is equally at home in most literary genres, he is probably best known today for his work as a translator and for the role he has played in introducing the work of numerous foreign authors to English-speaking audiences, winning him awards from both the French Academy, the Swedish Academy, and the Hungarian government. Smith’s early work as a translator was directed towards French literature, including Poems of a Multimillionaireby Valery Larbaud (1955) and Selected Writings of Jules Laforgue (1956).

Collection Description
The William Jay Smith Papers correspondence from literary figures dating back to the 1940s, including a substantial group of letters from Russian, Hungarian, and other Eastern European authors. Numerous letters from publishers, editors, scholars, and friends are also present in the collection. The Smith Papers also include manuscripts and editorial matter towards his published work, as well as a large collection of manuscripts by other authors. Finally, the Smith Papers include a large assortment of miscellaneous material relating to specific writing projects, academic work, literary awards panels, Smith’s travel, family and other personal papers, all of which help document in detail the career of this American literary figure.

May Swenson Papers, 1919-1989. American Author.

Finding Aid for the May Swenson Papers [MSS111]
Swenson correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50

swensonAnna Thilda May “May” Swenson (May 28, 1913 – December 4, 1989) was an American poet and playwright. Born in Utah, Swenson grew up as the eldest of 10 children in a Mormon household where Swedish was spoken regularly and English was a second language. She received a B.S. from Utah State University in 1939 and taught poetry at as poet-in-residence at Bryn Mawr, the University of North Carolina, the University of California at Riverside, Purdue University and Utah State University. From 1959 to 1966, she worked as a manuscript reviewer at New Directions publishers. Swenson left New Directions Press in 1966 in an effort to focus completely on her own writing. She also served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1980 until her death in 1989.

Her poems were published in Antaeus, The Atlantic Monthly, Carleton Miscellany, The Nation, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Saturday Review, Parnassus and Poetry. She received much recognition for her work, including: Guggenheim fellowship (1959), Amy Lowell Traveling Scholarship (1960), Ford Foundation grant (1964), Bollingen Prize for poetry (1981), and MacArthur Fellowship (1987).

Since her first collection of poems, Another Animal, was published by Scribner in 1954. Swenson’s other collections of poems include A Cage of Spines (1958), To Mix with Time: New and Selected Poems (1963), Half Sun Half Sleep (1967), Iconographs (1970), New & Selected Things Taking Place(1978), and In Other Words (1987). Posthumous collections of her work include The Love Poems (1991), Nature: Poems Old and New (1994), andMay Out West (1996).

She is also the author of three collections of poems for younger readers, including Poems to Solve (1966) and More Poems to Solve (1968); a collection of essays, The Contemporary Poet as Artist and Critic (1964); and a one-act play titled The Floor, which was produced in New York in the 1960s. As translator, she published Windows and Stones: Selected Poems of Tomas Tranströmer (1972), which received a medal of excellence from the International Poetry Forum.

Collection Description
The May Swenson Papers contain manuscript and editorial material toward most of her books including Another Animal (1954), A Cage of Spines (1958),To Mix with Time: New and Selected Poems (1963), and Half Sun Half Sleep(1967). This material includes drafts of individual poems as well as letters to and from various editors, friends, and readers. Swenson’s correspondents include John Hall Wheelock, and Burroughs Mitchell, but the most fascinating portion of the May Swenson Papers is her correspondence with the American poet Elizabeth Bishop. The two were close friends and Washington University holds 268 of their letters written from 1950 to 1979, the year of Bishop’s death.

Alexander Trocchi, 1925-1984. Scottish Author.

Finding Aid for the Alexander Trocchi Papers [MSS116]
Trocchi correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50

trocchiAlexander Trocchi was a Scottish author, publisher and activist. He attended the University of Glasgow from 1942-1943 and from 1946-1950, and served in the Royal Navy from 1943-1946. Trocchi began writing poetry and prose in the late 1940’s, and by the early 1950’s was an established member of the artistic avant-garde.

With Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse he edited Merlin a literary magazine that published Ionesco, Genet, Beckett, Creeley, Sartre, and Miller, for seven issues from 1952-1955. He was also an editor of Paris Quarterly from 1952-1955 and of Moving Times, which published work by William S. Burroughs, Trocchi, and Jeff Nittall. Trocchi’s association with Merlin led to his collaboration with Maurice Girodias at Olympia Press. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, Trocchi helped Girodias publish books, wrote catalog copy, and contributed a large number of pornographic writings, including Helen and Desire, The Carnal Days of Helen Seferis, White Thighs, Vol. 5 of My Life and Loves by Frank Harris, and School for Sin. Most of his work was banned in England, France, and America.

At the same time he worked with these publishing efforts, Trocchi was involved with other projects, including painting, sculpting, joining Asgar Jorn in the International Situationist movement, and pursuing his own writing. His first novel, Young Adam (1954), a tale of immorality and justice, was followed by his more famous Cain’s Book, a roman a clef which detailed his adventures as a heroin addict living on a scow on the Hudson River. The book’s frank depiction of drug addiction and sex was the source of an obscenity trial in 1963 and the book was banned in England. His other literary works included The Outsiders (1961), a collection of stories and a revision of Young Adam, and Man at Leisure (1972) a collection of poems.

In the 1960’s, Trocchi devoted most of his energy toward organizing a broad collaboration of international underground movements under the auspices of what he called the Sigma Project. It was an eclectic and protean effort, with no concrete direction, but with a wide focus. The Sigma Project resulted on more than 30 varied publications, and attracted a great deal of attention.

Although it took up much of his time, Sigma was only one of Trocchi’s activities in the 1960’s. He also organized the 1965 Albert Hall poetry reading, which brought the work of Allen Ginsberg, Laurence Ferlinghetti, and others to the attention of a large British audience. He was visiting lecturer in sculpture at St. Martin’s School of Art (London), and he translated the work of a number of French novelists, including Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues, Jan Cremer, Harriet Daimler. Rene de Obaldia and Valentine Penrose. He also wrote his only nonfiction book, Drugs of the Mind, published in 1970.

Prolific as he was, Trocchi’s activities waned during the last 15 years of his life. Although he was ostensibly working on a sequel to Cain’s Book and an unpublished novel called The Long Book, he was actually too ill much of the time to accomplish much. His lifelong addiction to heroin eventually incapacitated him and he died in 1984.

Collection Description
The Alexander Trocchi Papers include manuscripts of his novels, stories, essays and poems, the extant archives of Merlin, most of his manuscripts and correspondence concerning the Sigma Project, material relating to a large number of projects Trocchi was involved with in the 1960’s, and his journals and notebooks. The Trocchi Papers also house an extensive collection of magazines and ephemera, including material relating to the International Situationist movement. A large collection of Trocchi’s published work, and his personal library complement the Alexander Trocchi Papers.

Constance Urdang, 1922-1996. American Author.

Finding Aid for the Constance Urdang Papers [MSS119]
Urdang correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50

urdangConstance Urdang, a native of New York City, was a writer who achieved critical success as a poet and novelist and academic success as a teacher of writing. She did her undergraduate studies at Smith College. Following her graduation, Urdang worked for some years as a military intelligence analyst for the U.S. Department of the Army and as an editor for several New York publishers.

Urdang returned to school in 1954 and in 1956 she received her MFA in writing from the University of Iowa. In 1960, Urdang and her husband, the poet Donald Finkel, came to Washington University where they taught in and co-directed the graduate Writers’ Program. Urdang’s first association with Washington University came in 1974, when she served as an instructor in advanced exposition in University College in Arts and Sciences and in the Writing Workshops for Women program in the School of Continuing Education. She also coordinated the Writers’ Program from its inception in 1977 until 1989. From 1989-90, Urdang was a lecturer in English, and in 1991, she taught in University College.

In 1965, Urdang’s first collection of poems, Charades and Celebrations, was published and four years later her only novel, Natural History, appeared. Urdang wrote seven additional collections of poetry after her novel, The Picnic in the Cemetery (1975), The Lone Woman and Others (1980), Only the World (1983), Lucha (1986), American Earthquakes (1988), The Woman Who Read Novels and Peacetime (1990), and Alternative Lives (1990). Among other awards, she received a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1976.

Collection Description
The Constance Urdang Papers include a nearly complete collection of manuscript and editorial material toward all of her published books. These materials include typescript drafts of entire books as well as drafts of individual poems. A number of Urdang’s journals and notebooks are also present. The collection also contains drafts of translations by Urdang and the drafts of two unpublished novels. The Urdang Papers are completed by a small yet significant collection of her business, personal, and literary correspondence.

Mona Van Duyn, 1921-2004. American Author.

Finding Aid for the Mona Van Duyn Papers [MSS120]
Finding Aid for the Mona Van Duyn and Jarvis Thurston Papers [MSS144]
Finding Aid for the Perspective Archive [MSS093]
Van Duyn correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50
The Library of Congress Mona Van Duyn: Online Resources [External Link]

vanduynMona Van Duyn (1921-2004) was an award-winning poet, a highly respected editor, and an experienced teacher of younger writers. She was born in Waterloo, Iowa and studied at the University of Northern Iowa where she earned a B.A. and at the University of Iowa where she received an M.A. in 1943. In that same year, Van Duyn married Jarvis Thurston with whom she founded Perspective magazine in 1947. She edited the quarterly with Thurston until 1975.

Van Duyn taught writing at a number of schools, including the University of Iowa, the University of Louisville, and at numerous writing workshops and conferences around the country. At Washington University, she taught in University College, the English Department, and in the Writing Program as a visiting Hurst professor in 1987. Van Duyn also served as poetry consultant for Washington University Libraries’ Modern Literature Collection in the mid-1960s and was instrumental in the acquisition of a number of the literary manuscript collections owned by Washington University Libraries.

She published ten volumes of poetry: Valentines to the Wide World (1959), A Time of Bees (1964), To See, To Take (1970), Bedtime Stories (1972),Merciful Disguises (1973), Letters From a Father and Other Poems (1982),Near Changes (1990), Firefall (1993), If It Be Not I (1993), and Selected Poems (2002). She received many awards for her poetry, including the prestigious Bollingen Award in 1970, the National Book Award for Poetry in 1971 for To See, To Take, and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1991 for Near Changes.

From 1992-1993, she served as the first woman Poet Laureate of the United States. Van Duyn was also named a Fellow of the Academy of American Poets in 1980 and in 1985 served as one of its chancellors. She received fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Washington University, Cornell College, the University of Northern Iowa, George Washington University, and the University of the South all awarded her the degree of Honorary Doctor of Letters. Mona Van Duyn died of bone cancer on December 2, 2004.

Collection Description
The Mona Van Duyn Papers contain manuscripts and editorial matter toward her books, including the award-winning To See, To Take and Near Changes. In addition, there are numerous drafts of individual poems and correspondence from and manuscripts by numerous literary figures.

David Wagoner, 1926-. American Author.

Finding Aid for the David Wagoner Papers [MSS122]
Wagoner correspondence, drafts, videos and more on MLC50

wagonerDavid Russell Wagoner (June 5, 1926 – ) is highly regarded as the leading poet of the Pacific Northwest. He also has a strong reputation as a teacher of writing and served as editor (1966-2002) of the distinguished literary journalPoetry Northwest for nearly 36 years. Among his published works are 24 collections of poems—two of which were finalists for the National Book Award—as well as ten novels.

Born in Massillon, Ohio and raised in Whiting, Indiana from the age of seven, Wagoner attended Pennsylvania State University. He received an M.A. in English from the Indiana University in 1949 and has taught at the University of Washington since 1954 having moved there on the suggestion of friend and fellow poet Theodore Roethke.

The natural environment of the Pacific Northwest is the subject of much of David Wagoner’s poetry. Citing his move from the Midwest as a defining moment, Wagoner soon became best known as a poet and novelist whose work was attentive to place, environment, and the natural world, and dealt with the corrupting influences of modern society.

Wagoner’s poetry collections include Good Morning and Good Night (2005);The House of Song (2002); Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems(1999); Walt Whitman Bathing (1996); Through the Forest: New and Selected Poems (1987); First Light (1983); Landfall (1981); Collected Poems, 1956-1976 (1976), and In Broken Country (1979). His collection Who Shall Be the Sun? (1978) is a collection of poems based on the folklore, legends, and myths of indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast and Plateau regions. Other collections of poetry include Sleeping in the Woods (1974), Riverbed(1972), New and Selected Poems (1969), Staying Alive (1966), The Nesting Ground (1963), A Place to Stand (1958), and Dry Sun, Dry Wind (1953). His novels include The Escape Artist (1965), which was adapted into a movie by Francis Ford Coppola. He is also the editor of Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, 1943-63 (1972).

Wagoner was selected to serve as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1978 and has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Pushcart Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the English-Speaking Union prize from Poetry Magazine, and the Arthur Rense Prize. He has also received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Wagoner continues to write and publish poetry in periodicals, anthologies, and books—his latest being After the Point of No Return, in 2012. He currently teaches in the low-residency MFA program of the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts on Whidbey Island.

Collection Description
The David Wagoner Papers consist of two accruals. The fully processed materials included in the current finding aid contain correspondence (1953-1965), notebooks (1944-1959), individual poem and essay drafts, material toward plays including Everyman for Himself, and material toward novels including The Escape Artist and Rock.

In 2012, an estimated 80 additional linear feet was added to the collection that is currently minimally processed, but available for research.  This material includes personal and professional photographs, notebooks, diaries, scrapbooks, teaching materials, ephemera, realia, and clippings that span more than 80 years.  Also included are drafts of numerous published and unpublished novels, essays, short stories and poems; materials toward novels including The Escape Artist, Tracker, Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?, The Road to Many a Wonder, Whole Hog, and Rock; material toward poetry collections including  The Hanging Garden, Sleeping in the Woods, Walt Whitman Bathing, Through the Forest, and First Light; material toward plays including Every Man for Himself, The Song of Songs Which is Sheba’s, The Harp and the Slingshot, and The Ram in the Thicket. Finally, the new accession contains materials from Wagoner’s long tenure as editor ofPoetry Northwest and substantial correspondence with other significant poets, such as Wagoner’s friend and mentor, Theodore Roethke.