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Thomas Parkinson papers


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

Scholar and poet Thomas F. Parkinson was born in San Francisco, California, in 1920. He was the son of a master-plumber union leader, who was blacklisted during the great General Strike of the late 1930s. Following his graduation from high school, Parkinson attended junior college and worked as a shipfitter and logger in the northern California woods. His love of literature brought him to the University of California at Berkeley, where he completed three degrees in four years.

Parkinson became a professor in Berkeley's English department, where he specialized in poetry. He established himself as an authority on poet W.B. Yeats, publishing

W.B. Yeats, Self-Critic in 1951 and W.B. Yeats, the Later Poetry in 1964. Parkinson also published A Casebook on the Beat (1961), one of the first academic analyses of Beat poetry. He wrote extensively on Hart Crane, Yvor Winters, and Robert Lowell. His award-winning Poets, Poems, Movements (1987) contains essays on many poets who were his friends. Following his retirement, Parkinson received the Berkeley Citation in 1991.

Parkinson was a committed commentator and activist on the local literary and political scene in Bay Area. His support for student protestors in the late 1950s and 1960s made him the target of a rightwing broadside in which he was identified as a "Stalinist." In 1961, Parkinson was shot in the face by a former student who said God told him to kill “Communist” professors. Parkinson survived the assasination attempt, but one of his teaching assistants was killed. Despite this incident, Parkinson remained active on campus, heading the American Association of University Professors during the Free Speech Movement.

Thomas Parkinson died after a long illness on January 14, 1992.

"Thomas Parkinson, 71; Wrote of the Beat Era." New York Times. January 18, 1992 (article accessed July 25, 2017)Calisphere website, “Thomas F. Parkinson, English: Berkeley” (accessed July 25, 2017) derived from the collection.

The Thomas Parkinson papers consist of typescripts and manuscripts of poetry and prose by Parkinson, Parkinson's correspondence, periodicals and clippings related to Parkinson's work, and four original pen-and-ink drawings, probably created by Parkinson's wife, Ariel. The materials were created circa 1957-1972.

This collection consists of five series: I. Typescripts and manuscripts; II. Correspondence; III. Drawings; IV. Publications; and V. Miscellaneous.

Series I.A. contains several typescripts and one handwritten manuscript of Parkinson's poetry, totaling 93 pages. Several of the typescripts feature extensive autograph revisions. Two of the longer poems, "The Dying God" and "This sky of lead" appear in multiple versions.

Series I.B. consists of 60 pages of prose manuscripts by Parkinson. These manuscripts include at least three articles that Parkinson published in

The Nation in 1957, two reviews published in the San Francisco Sunday Chronicle in 1959, and a review of three American poets prepared for the magazine Encounter. This subseries also includes a treatment for television entitled "Drake's Bay" that incorporates poetry, prose, and dialogue.

Most of the correspondence in Series II. concerns a proposed festschrift for Kenneth Rexroth. John Ciardi, Richard Eberhart, James Laughlin, Edouard Roditi, and George Woodcock sent letters, poems, and prose manuscripts to Parkinson between 1970 and 1971 in preparation for this project. This grouping includes two reviews and an essay by Rexroth and a review of Rexroth's work, all published in

The Nation between 1957 and 1958. This series also contains carbon copies of letters Parkinson sent to Robert Duncan, Michael McClure, Allen Ginsburg, James Laughlin, Denise Levertov, and Mitchell Goodman; letters from Robert Flint to Parkinson concerning Filippo Marinetti and Ezra Pound; and a 1966 letter to Parkinson from someone named "Dick."

Series III. consists of four pen-and-ink drawings, probably done by Parkinson's wife, Ariel Parkinson, who illustrated several of her husband's books. The drawings appear to document protest marches in Berkeley.

Series IV. contains several publications that featured Parkinson's work, dating from 1957 to 1965. These include copies of

The Nation with Parkinson's articles, reviews by Parkinson in Victorian Studies and San Francisco Sunday Chronicle, and reviews of Parkinson's work from various publications.

Series V. consists of miscellaneous printed materials, including a promotional flyer for Berkeley's All-University Faculty Lecture Series, an advertisment for

A Casebook on the Beat, and a 1958 issue of Poetry with the pages containing Parkinson's essay excised.

Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes

Purchase, April 2017

Processed and encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, July 2017.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2017 July 25
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,

Collection Inventory

Series I.A.. Poetry, undated.
Box 1 Folder F1
Series I.B.. Prose, circa 1957-1959.
Box 1 Folder F2
Series II.. Correspondence, 1957-1972.
Box 1 Folder F3
Series III.. Drawings, undated.
Box 1 Folder F4
Series IV.. Publications, 1957-1965.
Box 1 Folder F5
Series V.. Miscellaneous, 1958-1964.
Box 1 Folder F6

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