© The contents of this finding aid are the copyright of the University of Chicago Library
© 2007 University of Chicago Library
When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. Records, [Box #, Folder #], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library
Poetry: A Magazine of Verse was founded in 1912 by Chicago poet Harriet Monroe. Taking Whitman's line, "To have great poets there must be great audiences too" as her motto, Monroe sought to cultivate a wide readership for new writing and ideas. By insisting on paying all contributors and establishing an annual prize, Poetry magazine raised the visibility and status of poetry. The journal published and promoted the careers of a galaxy of poets who came to define twentieth century modernism, including T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, and Langston Hughes, among many others. Poetry transformed the way that poetry and poets are recognized and read worldwide, and it continues to flourish as a major cultural influence.
Monroe funded the early publication of Poetry with subscriptions and contributions from wealthy Chicago patrons. As editor, she shepherded the magazine through into its third decade. Following Monroe’s death in 1936, editorship passed to Morton Dauwen Zabel (1936-1937), followed by George Dillon (1937-1949), Hayden Carruth (acting editor, 1949), Karl Shapiro (1950-1954) and Henry Rago (1955-1969).
In 1931, Harriet Monroe presented her poetry library, her personal papers, and the editorial files of Poetry magazine to the University of Chicago. Following her death, the Monroe library and Poetry archives were received as a bequest and installed in a specially designated room in Wieboldt Hall, the modern languages building on the campus of the University of Chicago. The Modern Poetry Library room provided book shelves for the poetry collection, display cases for the letters and manuscripts of notable poets in the Poetry archives, and equipment for listening to recordings of poets reading their works.
The formal opening of the Harriet Monroe Library of Modern Poetry was marked by a festive dinner of the University of Chicago Friends of the Library on May 24, 1938. Guest speakers paying tribute to Harriet Monroe's achievements included Carl Sandburg, Archibald MacLeish, Ford Maddox Ford, George Dillon, and Sterling North. Messages lauding Monroe's remarkable influence were received from many of the poets she had encouraged and promoted, including Ezra Pound, Walter De La Mare, William Rose Benet, Witter Bynner, John Gould Fletcher, Edgar Lee Masters, Lew Sarett, Jean Starr Untermeyer, and John Hall Wheelock, among others.
In addition to the gift of her library and archives, Harriet Monroe's will provided $5,000 to establish a fund for the advancement and encouragement of poetry through the award of a $500 prize for distinction in poetry. Monroe stipulated that the committee of award for the prize should give preference to "poets of progressive rather than academic tendencies." The inaugural Harriet Monroe Poetry Award, given at the University of Chicago in June 1941, was presented to twenty-eight-year-old Muriel Rukeyser. Among those receiving the award in later years were Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, and Robert Lowell.
In 1953, the Harriet Monroe Modern Poetry Library was incorporated within the newly established Department of Special Collections of the University of Chicago Library. In 2002, this department became the Special Collections Research Center. The Modern Poetry book collection, enlarged continuously on an annual basis with the support of an endowed acquisition fund, is divided between a poetry collection in the general stacks of Regenstein Library and the Modern Poetry rare books and serials in the Special Collections Research Center. The editorial archives of Poetry magazine, the personal papers of Harriet Monroe, and the papers of other modern poets, editors and publishers of poetry are held as part of the manuscript collections in the Special Collections Research Center.
The editorial archives of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse acquired by bequest from Harriet Monroe included extensive files of correspondence and poetry manuscripts from the time of her founding of the journal in 1912 until her death in 1936. Subsequently, the University of Chicago Library acquired two additional series of editorial files documenting Poetry and its authors during the years 1936-1953 and 1954-1961. Together, these three series of files preserve the letters and writings of a significant and remarkably diverse group of modern poets of the first half of the twentieth century. Eliot, Pound, Williams, Moore, Yeats, Sandburg, Thomas, and Frost are represented, along with Vachel Lindsay, Conrad Aiken, Wallace Stevens, Yvor Winters, Sara Teasdale, James Joyce, Edgar Lee Masters, Alfred Kreymborg, Ford Maddox Ford, Louis Zukofsky, Hart Crane, Witter Bynner, and Robert Penn Warren, Richard Wilbur, and many others.
This collection contains administrative records of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse from its founding in 1912 to 1961. The majority of the files include correspondence, poetry, articles and reviews that were sent to and compiled by each editor of the magazine beginning with its first editor and founder, Harriet Monroe. Though the collection covers the period 1912 to 1961, it includes a small amount of correspondence from the late 1890s.
In the 1970s, the collection was first archivally organized into three series, based upon the original arrangement in which the papers were received. The preservation and microfilming project conducted in 2001-2002 retained this broad arrangement but also provided enhanced description by identifying subdivisions with each of the series. The Poetry collection has been arranged as follows: Series I: Administrative Files, 1912-1936, Series II: Administrative Files, 1936-1953, Series III: Administrative Files, 1954-1961 and Series IV: Oversize. For more descriptive information see the series descriptions for each series.
The collection documents not only the administration and growth of Poetry magazine, but also the development of English-language verse in the first half of the twentieth century. Most of the files within each series contain editorial correspondence and poetry, articles and reviews, in manuscript and proof form.
Each series contains a modest amount of business files having to do with the operation of the magazine including financial, advertising and fund raising records, literary prizes, author biographies and clippings.
Within each series, manuscripts and correspondence have generally been arranged alphabetically by the name of the author. Series I and II are divided into alphabetical subseries distinguished “Major” and “Minor” Poets, a division present in the files upon their receipt.
The following related resources are located in the Department of Special Collections:
Series I includes correspondence, manuscripts of poetry, articles and reviews sent to Harriet Monroe during her tenure as editor of Poetry: a Magazine of Verse. The manuscripts cover the period from the beginnings of the magazine to her death in 1936. This series has been divided into three subseries, reflecting the organization of the files as used by the editorial staff of the magazine. 1. General Manuscripts, 2. Major Poets, and 3. Addenda.
Subseries 1, General Manuscripts contains alphabetically arranged correspondence and manuscripts submitted to Harriet Monroe, editor of Poetry. There is a limited amount of overlap between the first and second subseries. Cross-references have been added in many instances, but researchers are encouraged to review each series and subseries for related information.
Subseries 2, Major Poets is arranged alphabetically. It includes editorial correspondence, manuscripts of poetry and prose and galleys, some with manuscript corrections.
Subseries 3, Addenda, contains a mix of business records. It includes business correspondence; correspondence between Harriet Monroe and Poetry’s business manager, Mila Straub; biographical information provided by poets; guarantor’s records; circulars, news clippings; and photographs of Harriet Monroe. A small group of letters are identified as Crank Letters. These includes a miscellany, some marked "amusing" or "museum verses not for publication."
Series II contains Poetry files acquired by the University of Chicago in 1953, as an addition to those received upon the death of Harriet Monroe. There is some overlap among the materials in .s Series I and II; related correspondence and manuscripts from the 1930s may appear in both series. .s Series II is arranged in four subseries: 1. 1. Manuscripts - Major Contributors, 2. Manuscripts - Minor Contributors; 3. Editorial Files, and 4. Non-editorial Files.
Subseries 1, Manuscripts - Major Contributors, includes correspondence and manuscripts from those writers considered by the Poetry staff of the time to be "Major" poets. The manuscripts are arranged alphabetically by author in a single sequence with each author’s contributions arranged individually in one or more folders in the following order:
1. poetry in chronological order with undated poems at the end.
2. prose (reviews., essays, etc.) in a single chronology.
3. correspondence to and from the contributor in a single chronological sequence.
4. Miscellaneous material, including corrected proofs., printed publicity, etc.
Subseries 1 also contains business correspondence from Amy Bonner, Eastern Business Representative for Poetry, who was also a poet and contributor.
Subseries 2 contains the correspondence and contributions of "minor" contributors and literary correspondents, arranged alphabetically with the papers of a number of individuals in a single folder.
Subseries 3 contains editorial and production material, such as manuscripts, galley proofs and printers’ instructions., for each issue of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse from October, 1936 (volume XLIX., number 1) through December, 1953 (volume LXXIII, number 3). Proofs corrected by authors will be found under the name of the author in Subseries 1 or 2.
Subseries 4 includes non-editorial records of the magazine, including records of fundraising, relationships with publishers and advertising agencies, literary prizes and projects, personnel matters, and other business material relating to the operation of the magazine. This material is arranged alphabetically and then chronologically by subject with the exception of the financial reports and miscellaneous business correspondence which are in chronological order.
Series III contains Poetry files from the years 1954 to 1961. There is some overlap among the materials in .s Series II and III; related correspondence and manuscripts from the 1950s may appear in both series. .s Series II is arranged in four subseries: 1. Contributors, 2. Business Records and Correspondence, 3. Publication Matter and 4. Miscellaneous.
Subseries 1, Contributors, is an alphabetical file of the correspondence and manuscripts sent to the Poetry editors. There is no division of "major" and "minor" poets in .s Series III. Correspondence with an agent or other individual regarding a poet’s work is generally filed under the poet’s name. Translated manuscripts are generally found under the name of the translator, with whom Poetry editors corresponded.
Subseries 2, Business Records and Correspondence, contains non-editorial correspondence regarding the operation of Poetry. It includes items filed alphabetically by correspondents’ names, as well as subject files. Among the latter are files on special issues of the magazine (such as those on Indian, Israeli and Japanese poetry), material on the Poetry Prize and other awards and records of copyright permissions.
Subseries 3, Publication Matter, comprises folders for each month’s issue, containing editorial manuscripts, galleys, and correspondence with the printer.
Subseries 4, Miscellaneous, contains radio scripts for readings from Poetry on WFMT in 1953 and 1954, news releases, publicity material, announcements, photographs and other items.