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Robert A. Wilson John Wieners collection

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Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

American poet John Wieners (1934-2002) is identified with both the Black Mountain School as well as the Beats. His poetry contains themes of drug abuse and mental illness, as well as a concern for women's rights, gay rights, and other social issues.

Wieners was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1934. He received his A.B. from Boston College in 1954. With encouragement from poet Charles Olson (1910-1970), Wieners attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina from 1955-1956, where he studied writing with poets Robert Creeley (1926-2005) and Robert Duncan (1919-1988). Wieners is also identified with the American Beat poets, having spent time in San Francisco at the height of the movement in the late 1950s. Wieners's first collection of poems,

The Hotel Wentley Poems (1958), was written in San Francisco and became an instant sensation with the Beats.

In 1961, Wieners moved to New York City with aid from Allen Ginsberg's Poetry Foundation and returned to Boston in 1964. His interaction with Robert Wilson of The Phoenix Book Shop brought about the publication by Wilson and James Carr of Wieners's second collection,

Ace of Pentacles (1964), a volume that received much positive critical attention. Wieners studied with his mentor Charles Olson at SUNY Buffalo from 1965 until 1967, during which time he wrote and published Pressed Wafer (1967).

Struggles with substance abuse and mental anguish over the course of his life led to periods of institutionalization for Wieners in 1959, 1969, and at various times in the early 1970s. Yet Wieners continued to write and publish, gaining insight and inspiration from those difficult times, and the early 1970s was a prolific time for Wieners. During his time at an institution in 1969, Wieners composed

Asylum Poems (1969). 1970 saw the publication of Nerves , Wieners's first international volume. Wieners was also very active in promoting political causes, taking part in the antiwar movement, speaking out against racism, and campaigning for gay and women's rights. Cincinnati Pike, Or Behind the State Capitol (1975) was another landmark piece for Wieners, and combines a wide variety of media and poetic forms.

Wieners published little new work since 1975 and remained largely out of the public eye. In 1986, he produced a retrospective collection,

Selected Poems, 1958-1984 , edited by Raymond Foye and with a forward written by Allen Ginsberg. In 1996, Wieners's previously unpublished journal by was published in an edited form by The Sun and Moon Press; the volume documents his life in San Francisco around the time of The Hotel Wentley Poems . The book, The Journal of John Wieners is to be called 707 Scott Street for Billie Holiday, 1959 , contains Wieners's prose, poetry, and various impressions of the creative atmosphere in San Francisco at the onset of the 1960s.

Wieners died on March 1, 2002, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Raymond Foye, "John Wieners,"Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 16. The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1983. pp. 572-583."John Wieners."Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2007. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2007. http://galenet.galegroup.com (Retrieved 2007 March 4)

Bibliographer, author, and bookseller Robert A. Wilson was the proprietor of The Phoenix Book Shop, a renowned New York book shop and center of literary activity, particularly associated with writers of the Black Mountain School and the American Beat poets, from 1962 until it closed in 1988.

As the proprietor of The Phoenix Book Shop, Wilson interacted and was friends with many authors whose work he sold, printed, and later collected. Wilson provided encouragement and support, both artistic and financial, to many of the authors who frequented his shop and with whom he formed lifelong friendships.

In addition to selling books by the avant-garde and contemporary writers of the 1950s and 1960s, Wilson also published works out of The Phoenix, including his own bibliographies of some of those writers, Christmas keepsakes, and collections of poetry by authors such as Marianne Moore, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and Diane di Prima. The first work published by Wilson and his colleague James Carr was John Wieners’s

Ace of Pentacles (1964).

In 1997, several authors came together to pay tribute to Wilson and The Phoenix with the book The Phoenix Book Shop: a Nest of Memories, and in 2001, Wilson published a memoir of his twenty-six-year run as the owner of The Phoenix, titled

Seeing Shelley Plain: Memories of New York's Legendary Phoenix Book Shop .

Wilson, Robert A.Seeing Shelley Plain. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books, 2001.

The Robert A. Wilson John Wieners collection comprises one linear foot of materials, spanning the dates between 1958-1988, relating to the literary career of and publication of works by Boston-born poet John Wieners (1934-2002). The collection includes manuscripts, page and galley proofs, mock-ups of some of Wieners's shorter publications, postcards, correspondence to Robert Wilson from Wieners, sheet music, flyers for Wieners's New York readings, reviews of Wieners's work, and photographs.

The collection offers examples of Wieners's writing process, as he was a writer who often revised his work. Personal letters in the collection reflect the business relationship and close, encouraging friendship that formed between Wieners and Wilson. The letters refer to Wieners's concern for the publicity and longevity of his works and his often difficult financial situation; they additionally mention many of Wieners and Wilson's mutual friends and acquaintances, mostly poets and authors involved with the Beat movement and the Black Mountain School, such as LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Diane di Prima, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, James Carr, and Allen Ginsberg. A number of the items in the collection are accompanied by Post-it notes bearing brief descriptions in Wilson’s hand.

The Robert A. Wilson John Wieners collection is arranged in four series: I. Works; II. Correspondence; III. Publicity, reviews, and critical writings about John Wieners; and IV. Photographs and ephemera. Series I. comprises materials related to John Wieners's works in a variety of genres, both published and unpublished. The series demonstrates various stages of Wieners’s work as well as his range as an author. Material includes manuscripts, page and galley proofs, mock-ups, signatures, printing bills, clippings and printed works, and dummies.

Series II. consists of the correspondence from Wieners to Robert A. Wilson, excepting a few items, recipients of which have been noted. Items of interest include postcards from Wieners to Wilson and Marshall Clements from Spoleto, Italy, where in 1965, several Beat poets gathered to share their work. Another highlight of this series is the postcard dated January 13, 1970, sent from Gloucester, Massachusetts, to Wilson after the funeral service of poet and co-founder of Black Mountain College, Charles Olson (died January 10, 1970), signed by Wieners, Allen de Loach, and Allen Ginsberg. Material is arranged chronologically.

Series III. includes items relating to publicity, reviews and critical writings about John Wieners’s work; critical reception of his work, a topic of conversation in his correspondence with Wilson, was a source of concern and interest for Wieners.

Series IV. includes photographs, mostly of Wieners, and sheet music of “Autumn in New York” inscribed to Wilson from Wieners.

  1. Boxes 1-3: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes
  2. F6, F7: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize galleys
  3. Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize galleys

Purchase, 2007.

Processed by Maureen Cech, March 2007. Encoded by Maureen Cech, November 2011.

Publisher
University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2011 November 4
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce isrequired from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library, https://library.udel.edu/static/purl.php?askspec

Collection Inventory

Scope and Contents

Series I. comprises materials related to John Wieners's works in a variety of genres, both published and unpublished. The series demonstrates various stages of Wieners's work as well as his range as an author. Material includes manuscripts, page and galley proofs, mock-ups, signatures, printing bills, clippings and printed works, and dummies.

Physical Description

3 items

Autograph postcard, 1965 May 18.
Box 1 Folder F1
Scope and Contents

Wieners to Robert Wilson, asking for the photostats of

The Hotel Wentley manuscripts "so I could revise them for future publication. I'm hot on this now, and know I could do good work on them … "
Hotel Wentley Poemstypescript manuscript, 1958.
Box 1 Folder F1
Scope and Contents

Six of the original eight poems (lacking "A Poem for Tea Heads" and "A Poem for Museum Goers"). Mostly typed in red ink, with minor corrections throughout; each dated and autographed by Wieners. "Poem for Painters" shows considerable re-working.

Physical Description

16 pages

Hotel Wentley Poemstypescript manuscript, 1965.
Box 1 Folder F1
Scope and Contents

Seven of the eight poems appearing in the revised 1965 edition (lacks "Poem for Early Risers"; "A Poem for Tea Heads" was re-titled "A Poem for Vipers" for the revised edition). Wieners annotated the first leaf: "This is the printer's/publisher's copy from which type was set and which bears his corrections."

Physical Description

11 pages

Ace of Pentacles, 1964.
Box 1 Folder F2
Scope and Contents

Corrected galley proofs and a dummy set of sewn, unbound sheets of

Ace of Pentacles , published by Robert Wilson and James Carr. Galleys shelved in SPEC MSS oversize galleys. Proofs shelved in SPEC MSS oversize galleys. Physical Description

2 items

Physical Description

3 items

Publisher's proof/mock-up of booklet, undated.
Box 1 Folder F3
Scope and Contents

Booklet in brown wrappers. Inscribed by Wieners but unsigned.

First proof of "Long Distance", 1968 February 25.
Box 1 Folder F3
Scope and Contents

Copy #1 of 3 with this rejected title.

Physical Description

1 page

"Unhived" [sic] proof, 1968 March 10.
Box 1 Folder F3
Scope and Contents

Proof of "Unhired" misspelled as "Unhived."

Physical Description

1 page

Unpublished Poets' Press manuscript, 1964-1968, undated.
Box 1 Folder F4
Scope and Contents

Includes the poems "The Moor," "WW," "Dear David," "Menu," "To Do," "Maine," "Tours," "Piazza," "Espirit de Corps," and a colophon.

Physical Description

11 pages

"Larders", 1970 and undated.
Box 1 Folder F5
Scope and Contents

Two sets of page proofs from Ferguson Press with Wieners's name misspelled. The first proof (from envelope) is dated 24 February 1970. The other proof's date is not discernible from the accompanying envelope.

Physical Description

2 items

Selected Poems, undated.
Box 1 Folder F6
Scope and Contents

First set of undated galley proofs of

Selected Poems , corrected by Wieners for the London publisher Jonathan Cape, Limited. This item preceded the publication of the 1972 Selected Poems . Noted in Wilson's hand as "the controversial galley proofs." Wieners had dealt directly with Cape for a volume of his collected works, a move unknown to Wilson; copyright and legal issues arose involving plans Wilson had for a volume of Wieners's collected works to appear after Ace of Pentacles (published by Wilson and James Carr in 1964) had gone out of print. At the time of the "controversial galley proofs," many copies of the volume were still available Physical Description

1 item

Physical Location

Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize galleys

Corrected galley proofs, undated.
Box 1 Folder F7
Physical Location

Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize galleys

Set of unbound signatures, undated.
Box 1 Folder F8
Scope and Contents

Signatures in "blues" format that served as a test run for printing; portions appear to be missing.

Page proofs, undated.
Box 1 Folder F9
Letter to Wilson from Black Sparrow Press, 1986.
Box 2 Folder F9
Scope and Contents

Letter from Black Sparrow Press offering the reproduction proofs of

John Wieners' Selected Poems .
Unidentified manuscripts, undated.
Box 2 Folder F10
Scope and Contents

Unidentified manuscripts in Wieners's hand. The first item is a small 4x6 sheet of paper of penciled notations on both sides. Some of the notes refer to Charles Olson and were perhaps notes from a lecture of Olson's at Black Mountain College, where Wieners was a student from 1955-1956. The second item, a one-page manuscript with accompanying envelope, is titled "Our Way of Life/To Ron G." It begins "Every constitution dictated intimate/decisive alternate collections."

Physical Description

2 items

"A One Act Scene", 1961.
Box 2 Folder F11
Scope and Contents

Typescript manuscript inscribed "1961 New York Poets Theatre/84 E/ 10th St/ directed by James Waring."

Physical Description

8 pages

"Of Asphodel, In Hell's Despite", undated.
Box 2 Folder F11
Scope and Contents

Mimeographed typescript for a production at Judson Theatre.

Physical Description

15 pages

The Lanterns Along the Wall, 1972.
Box 2 Folder F12
Scope and Contents

Includes printing receipts, typescript manuscript with autograph corrections, and a dummy.

Physical Description

3 items

Journals and periodicals, [1961]-1985.
Box 3 Folder F13
Scope and Contents

Copies of journals and periodicals in which John Wieners's work appears.

Physical Description

4 items

Scope and Contents

Series II. consists of the correspondence from Wieners to Robert A. Wilson, excepting a few items, recipients of which have been noted. Items of interest include postcards from Wieners to Wilson and Marshall Clements from Spoleto, Italy, where in 1965, several Beat poets gathered to share their work. Another highlight of this series is the postcard dated January 13, 1970, sent from Gloucester, Massachusetts, to Wilson after the funeral service of poet and co-founder of Black Mountain College, Charles Olson (died January 10, 1970), signed by Wieners, Allen de Loach, and Allen Ginsberg. Material is arranged chronologically.

Correspondence, 1962-1965.
Box 3 Folder F14
Scope and Contents

Majority of correspondence is from Wieners to Robert Wilson. Other correspondents include LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Alan Marlowe, and Marshall Clements.

Correspondence, 1967-1988.
Box 3 Folder F15
Scope and Contents

Correspondence from Wieners to Wilson. Also includes an undated note in Wieners's hand which appears to be a grocery list.

Scope and Contents

Series III. includes items relating to publicity, reviews and critical writings about John Wieners's work; critical reception of his work, a topic of conversation in his correspondence with Wilson, was a source of concern and interest for Wieners.

Reviews and critical writings, 1965, 1982 and undated.
Box 3 Folder F16
Scope and Contents

Includes a review of

Ace of Pentacles by Denise Levertov, a review of Behind the State Capitol by Charles Shively and what appears to be Raymond Foye's entry on Wieners for the special Beats volume of the Dictionary of Literary Biography , The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America (1983). Physical Description

3 items

Fliers and advertisements, undated.
Box 3 Folder F17
Scope and Contents

Fliers for Wieners's New York readings and publishers' advertisements; includes a postcard announcing publication of Wieners's

The Hotel Wentley Poems with penciled notes in Wieners's hand, the verso of which bears Wieners's inscription of "The Rose of Peace" by W.B. Yeats. Physical Description

8 items

Scope and Contents

Series IV. includes photographs, mostly of Wieners, and sheet music of "Autumn in New York" inscribed to Wilson from Wieners.

"Autumn in New York" sheet music, undated.
Box 3 Folder F18
Scope and Contents

Sheet music of "Autumn in New York" by Vernon Duke. Inscribed by Wieners: "To Bob Wilson from John"; sent to Wilson from Wieners as a suggested title for the volume that became

Ace of Pentacles .
Photographs, 1965, circa 1982 and undated.
Box 3 Folder F19
Scope and Contents

Eight photographs, mostly of the author. Locations include the Phoenix Bookshop and Spoleto, Italy. Also included is one photograph of actress Greta Garbo, on which Wieners has inscribed: "Can we use this as a picture of the author?"

Physical Description

8 items

Print, Suggest