River Styx: Liberating the Spoken Word

A new and active literary scene began in the late 1960s St. Louis, with young poets and musicians getting together informally to perform their own works and works by others. Reflecting on this music scene, Michael Castro, Jan Garden Castro, and others began the River Styx Poets radio show on listener‐supported KDNA‐FM, which ran from 1969‐72.

In 1975, the Castros co-founded River Styx magazine and started to produce regular public poetry readings at local restaurant Duff’s in the Central West End. Duff’s hosted these events until it closed in 2014.

The magazine and poetry series pioneered a multicultural, community‐based approach to literature that was new in the 1970s to St. Louis and much of the country. Prominent poets and writers from the region were among those featured, along with renowned poets from across the world.

Washington University Libraries hold three important archives that directly document these activities. Those archives are the River Styx Archive, the Jan Garden Castro Papers, and the Michael Castro Papers. Together these collections contain 947 audio recordings of literary readings, musical performances, and artist interviews.

Washington University provides complete access to recorded performances by hundreds of poets and other writers who appeared in St. Louis from 1969‐2008. This access is in thanks to the Access to Historical Records grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC).

With the grant money, all the cassette and reel-to-reel tapes in these three collections were digitized. A selection of digitized recordings is available to listen to online via the River Styx Collection portal. These are mainly the River Styx at Duff’s performances.

Also available are over 3,000 digital images of brochures, announcements, correspondence, schedules, flyers, press releases, clippings, and other supporting documentation, from the aforementioned collections and the Duff’s Restaurant Literary Events Collection.


Special Collections, Special Collections, Preservation, and Digital Strategies
Joel Minor
Job Title
Curator of Modern Lit Collection/Manuscripts
Phone Number
(314) 935-5413