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Register of the Kenward Elmslie Papers
MSS 0521  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
Papers of Kenward Elmslie, writer, performer, editor and publisher associated with the "New York School" of writers and artists. Elmslie's lyrics and libretti for operas and musicals--MISS JULIE (1965), LIZZIE BORDEN (1966), THE SWEET BYE AND BYE (1966), THE GRASS HARP (1972), and THE SEAGULL (1974)--brought a contemporary style to the language of musical theatre. Elmslie also wrote in various prose and verse forms and a collection of his writing, MOTOR DISTURBANCE (1971), won the Frank O'Hara Award for Poetry in 1971. He was recognized with a Ford Foundation Grant and a National Council of the Arts Award. As editor and publisher of Z MAGAZINE and Z Press, Elmslie promoted the work of John Ashbery, Bill Berkson, Jean Boulte, Joe Brainard, Michael Brownstein, Joanne Kyger, Ron Padgett, James Schuyler, and Anne Waldman, among others. The collection documents his literary career and personal life from the 1930s through the 1990s, with the bulk of the material spanning the period 1942-1995. Correspondence is a large and significant part of the collection, which also contains Elmslie's working and personal journals, notebooks, drafts and proofs of his published writings, unpublished material, handmade books and scrapbooks, and photographs. There is also work by Joe Brainard, John Latouche and other writers and composers with whom Elmslie worked. The papers are arranged in eleven series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) PERFORMANCE/THEATRE WORKS, 3) WRITINGS BY ELMSLIE, 4) PHOTOGRAPHS, 5) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL, 6) Z PRESS PRODUCTION FILES, 7) JOE BRAINARD MATERIAL, 8) JOHN LATOUCHE MATERIAL, 9) WRITINGS OF OTHERS 10) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIAL, and 11) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
Background
Kenward Gray Elmslie was born in New York City on April 27, 1929, to William Gray Elmslie, a British businessman, and Constance Pulitzer, daughter of newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer. His early childhood was spent in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and he attended preparatory schools in Virginia, Ohio and Massachusetts. He was graduated from Harvard in 1950 with a B.A. in literature and began his writing career as a lyricist and librettist in collaboration with several composers. His published work for the musical theatreincludes THE SWEET BYE AND BYE (1966) and LIZZIE BORDEN (1966), music by Jack Beeson; MISS JULIE (1965), music by Ned Rorem, and three works with composer Thomas Pasatieri, THE SEAGULL (1974), WASHINGTON SQUARE (1976), and THREE SISTERS (1986). He also wrote both the book and lyrics for a musical, THE GRASS HARP (1972) based on Truman Capote's novel.
Extent
39.85 linear feet (90 archives boxes, 1 card file, 27 oversize folders)