Poetry at Beinecke Library

From the Yale Library Gazette Archives

Posted in Beinecke Collections, Poetry at Yale by beineckepoetry on November 20, 2012


Originally published in The Yale University Library Gazette, Vol. 56, No. 1/2 (October 1981), pp. 50-59

As with some of Yale’s most significant collections, especially in contemporary letters, the prime mover behind the acquisition by the library of the first editions and a substantial portion of the papers of William Carlos Williams was the late Norman Holmes Pearson, Professor of English and American Studies (hereafter NHP). While still a graduate student in English at Yale, he had first written to Dr. Williams in 1937 in connection with the Oxford Anthology of American Literature, which he was then editing with William Rose Benêt. Neither Benêt nor NHP knew Williams’s poetry more than superficially, and eight of the eleven poems eventually printed in the Oxford Anthology were included at the suggestion of the author himself, who, more- over, sent typed copies “to save you the expense of buying my books.”

Nullifying Dr. Williams’s effort to save him money, NHP acquired as many of the books as he could find and quickly remedied his lack of familiarity with Williams’s published work, both poetry and prose. Correspondence between the two flourished, and they met in 1938 at Sarah Lawrence and again in 1940. At that second meeting NHP, who was an active member of the Yale Library Associates, communicated to Dr. Williams his eagerness to build up a complete collection of Williams first editions for Yale; a letter written soon afterward mentions especially the first book, Poems (Rutherford, N.J., 1909). Only a few days later, on November 18, Dr. Williams was “tickled to death” to be able to write NHP that he had located a most desirable copy–that given and inscribed by the author to the printer, Reid Howell, and signed by both. It was not for sale, but Howell, who had just passed his eightieth birthday, would be happy to give it to Yale. If NHP in return wished to make a contribution to Dorothy Parker’s fund for the rescue of Spanish children, Dr. Williams added, “consider that I’ve given you my apostolic blessing–you’ve got it anyway.”


Image: Photograph of William Carlos Williams, 1962

Beiencke Collections and Resources:

William Carlos Williams Papers, YCAL MSS 116

William Carlos Williams Papers Image Guide

Yale Collection of American Literature Collection Image Guides

Recent acquisitions can be located in the Beinecke Library’s Uncataloged Acquisitions Database

Detailed descriptions of many related archival collections are available in the Yale Library Finding Aid Database

New From Beinecke Collections

Posted in Announcements, Beinecke Collections by beineckepoetry on November 18, 2012

All We Know: Three Lives by Lisa Cohen, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Esther Murphy was a brilliant New York intellectual who dazzled friends and strangers with an unstoppable flow of conversation. But she never finished the books she was contracted to write—a painful failure and yet a kind of achievement.

The quintessential fan, Mercedes de Acosta had intimate friendships with the legendary actresses and dancers of the twentieth century. Her ephemeral legacy lies in the thousands of objects she collected to preserve the memory of those performers and to honor the feelings they inspired.

An icon of haute couture and a fashion editor of British Vogue, Madge Garland held bracing views on dress that drew on her feminism, her ideas about modernity, and her love of women. Existing both vividly and invisibly at the center of cultural life, she—like Murphy and de Acosta—is now almost completely forgotten.

In All We Know, Lisa Cohen describes these women’s glamorous choices, complicated failures, and controversial personal lives with lyricism and empathy. At once a series of intimate portraits and a startling investigation into style, celebrity, sexuality, and the genre of biography itself, All We Know explores a hidden history of modernism and pays tribute to three compelling lives.

Beinecke Collections: Gerald and Sara Murphy Papers; Edmund Wilson Papers; Carl Van Vechten Photographs; Muriel Draper Papers; Max Ewing Papers; Rebecca West Papers

More about All We Know: Three Lives by Lisa Cohen

“Notes on Camp”: Review by M. G. Lord in the New York Times

“You Better Not Tell Me You Forgot”: Review by Terry Castle in the London Review of Books

Lisa Cohen Recognizes Trio of Women in ‘All We Know’: Review by Lorna Koski in Women’s Wear Daily

Ezra Pound–New Acquisitions

Posted in Announcements, Beinecke Collections, Poetry at Yale by beineckepoetry on November 7, 2012

New additions enrich Beinecke’s Pound collection

Recent acquisitions of Ezra Pound letters and manuscripts present new research opportunities in the Beinecke Library’s collection on Modernist literature. Fearless researchers will appreciate Pound’s letters, dense with obscure abbreviations, literary references, and political opinions. The language of his correspondence reflects his erratic, irreverent, and idiosyncratic character.

Beinecke acquires manuscripts relating to all aspects of Pound’s life, though recent acquisitions focus on his time at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. (1945-1958). Tried for treason in 1945 on charges stemming from his broadcasts on Italian radio during the Second World War, Pound was committed to psychiatric care in lieu of prison. Recent acquisitions document his activity during this 12-year confinement, during which he maintained a prolific correspondence.

Pound’s lawyer Robert Furniss advocated for the release of America’s “greatest living poet” who was “mentally incapable of defending himself.” The documents and ephemera in the Furniss collection detail the public controversy surrounding Pound’s incarceration. Correspondence between Furniss and Pound document their legal strategy as Furniss defended “Mental Health No. 31113” (as Pound was identified by the court) from charges of treason.

Reading Pound’s correspondence, researchers can delve in to his relationships with, and influence on, younger poets. Such is the case with Pound’s letters to poet, composer, and performance artist Jackson Mac Low. In addition to discussing literature and politics, Pound defends himself from charges of anti-Semitism with the inflammatory remark that “some kike might manage to pin an antisem lable on me IF he neglected the mass of my writing.”

These new additions complement Beinecke’s vast collection of material relating to Pound and to other figures of the Modernist literary milieu. Beinecke continuously adds to its exciting Modernist collection, which consists not only of the vast and comprehensive literary archives of Pound, H.D., Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, and Mina Loy, but also numerous small collections and individual letters, manuscripts, photographs, works of art, and books.

The recent Pound acquisitions include:

Letters to Rene Taupin, 1928-1932

Letters to Paul-Gustave Van Hecke, 1930

Letters to David Sinclair Nixon, 1937

Letters to Jackson Mac Low, 1946-1955

Letters to Robert Thom, 1949

Letters to Allan Seaton, 1949-1953

Robert Furniss collection of Ezra Pound Papers, 1946-1959

These uncataloged collections are available for research. Researchers may contact the Beinecke Library Reference Staff for further information.

Related collections at the Beinecke include:

Ezra Pound Papers (YCAL MSS 43, YCAL MSS 53)

Ezra Pound Miscellany (YCAL MSS 182)

Olga Rudge Papers (YCAL MSS 54, YCAL MSS 241)

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is open for research year-round and visitors can plan their research or read about fellowship opportunities online. (LC)

Image: Photograph of Ezra Pound at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, [1954], Olga Rudge Papers (YCAL MSS 54).