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Register of the Kenward Elmslie Papers
MSS 0521  
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Preferred Citation
  • BIOGRAPHY
  • SCOPE AND CONTENT

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Kenward Elmslie Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1901-2000
    Collection number: MSS 0521
    Creator: Elmslie, Kenward
    Extent: 39.85 linear feet (90 archives boxes, 1 card file, 27 oversize folders)
    Repository: Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD
    La Jolla, CA 92093-0175
    Abstract: 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which also contains Elmslie's working and personal journals, notebooks, drafts and proofs of his published writings, unpublished material, handmade books and scrapbooks, and photographs.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.
    Physical location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Language: English.

    Preferred Citation

    Kenward Elmslie Papers, MSS 0521. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    BIOGRAPHY

    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.
    In 1954 Elmslie began to publish his stories, short plays and verse in little magazines and gather them into collections: PAVILIONS (1961), POWER PLANT POEMS (1967), ALBUM (1969), CIRCUS NERVES (1971), MOTOR DISTURBANCE (1971), ORCHID STORIES (1973), TROPICALISM (1975), TOPIARY TREK (1977), MOVING RIGHT ALONG (1980), SUNG SEX (1990), CHAMP DUST (1994), BARE BONES (1995), ROUTINE DISRUPTIONS (1998). He also began to collaborate with graphic artists, especially with Joe Brainard on THE BABY BOOK (1965), THE CHAMP (1968), THE 1967 GAMEBOOK CALENDAR (1967), and SHINY RIDE (1972); with Donna Dennis on 26 BARS; and with Ken Tisa on BIMBO DIRT (1982) and PALAIS BIMBO SNAPSHOTS (1982).
    In 1973 Elmslie became the editor of the Poetry Project's literary magazine, Z, and continued through issue ZZZZZZ in 1978. He was also editor and publisher of Z Press, publishing work by John Ashbery, Bill Berkson, Jean Boulte, Joe Brainard, Ian Finlay, Steve Gianakos, Joanne Kyger, Harry Matthews, Ron Padgett, James Schulyer, Anne Waldman and Marjorie Walish, among others.
    Elmslie belonged to the American Guild of Authors and Composers, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and the Dramatists' Guild. His "Power Plant Sestina" (1967) received an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. ROUTINE DISRUPTIONS (1971) received the Frank O'Hara Award.
    For a chronology of Elmslie's life, full bibliographic information for his work and an extensive interview, see William C. Bamberger, KENWARD ELMSLIE: A BIBLIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE. Bamberger Books, 1993.

    SCOPE AND CONTENT

    The Kenward Elmslie Papers document Elmslie's personal life and career from the 1930s through the 1990s and include correspondence, personal and working journals and notebooks, drafts, revisions, original submissions, and edited galleys for most of his published writings, and much unpublished material. The materials include correspondence with composers Jack Beeson, John Latouche, Claibe Richardson, Thomas Pasatieri and Ned Rorem and graphic artists Joe Brainard, Donna Dennis and Kenneth Tisa. The production files of Z MAGAZINE and Z Press contain correspondence and manuscripts of writers and artists including John Ashbery, Jean Boulte, Joe Brainard, Ian Hamilton, Steve Gianakos, Joanne Kyger, Harry Matthews, Ron Padgett, James Schuyler, Anne Waldman, and Marjories Welish. There are a substantial number of photographs including formal portraits and snapshots depicting Elmslie, his friends and colleagues, his travels and interests, as well as albums containing photographs of members of the Pulitzer and Elmslie families in the early decades of the twentieth century. Also represented are pre-publication drafts by other poets and writers and manuscripts and miscellaneous materials by Joe Brainard and John Latouche.
    The papers span the period 1901-2000, with the bulk of the material dated between 1950-1995. The collection occupies 39.85 linear feet and is 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.
    SERIES 1: CORRESPONDENCE
    The CORRESPONDENCE series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and chronologically within folders. There are two subseries: A) General Correspondence and B) Family Correspondence. Correspondence related to specific Elmslie works, Z Press and the Joe Brainard and John Latouche material are located with their series or subseries. A) The General Correspondence subseries documents the collaborative nature of much of Elmslie's writing and his support of the art, music and literary communities of the 1950s through 1990s. Correspondents include writers John Ashbery, Ted Berrigan, Maxine Chernoff, Diane Di Prima, Kenneth Koch, Joanne Kyger, Bernadette Mayer, Eileen Myles, James Schuyler, and Anne Waldman; artists Joe Brainard, Donna Dennis, Kenneth Tisa; composers Jack Beeson, Thomas Pasatieri, Claibe Richardson, Ned Rorem, and others. Many were aware of Elmslie's interest in postcards and sent humorous and unusual examples. Elmslie often kept copies of his own letters, sent and unsent, and these are located at the end of the General Correspondence subseries.
    B) The Family Correspondence subseries contains letters by Elmslie's father, William Gray Elmslie to his wife Constance and to his son. There are also letters from Elmslie's sisters, Vivien and Cynthia, and from aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews.
    SERIES 2: PERFORMANCE/THEATRE WORKS
    The PERFORMANCE/THEATRE WORKS series is arranged chronologically in three subseries: A) Published Works, B) Unpublished Works and C) Announcements and Flyers.
    A) The Published Works subseries is arranged by year of publication, given in parentheses, then alphabetically by title within a single year. The material for each title is arranged in order of production. Related correspondence, if any, is first, followed by folders that may contain notes and outlines, work-in-progress files, drafts, and proofs. Collateral material, such as music scores, photographs or illustrations, is next, followed by advertisements, programs and reviews. In those instances where a sound or film recording was made of a work, material related to these formats concludes the section.
    B) The Unpublished Works subseries is arranged alphabetically by title or first line and contains handwritten, typescript, paste-up, and photocopied texts.
    C) The Announcement and Flyers subseries is arranged chronologically and contains a variety of promotional formats--newspaper and magazine advertisements, mailings and posters--for performances and readings of works by Elmslie.
    SERIES 3: WRITINGS BY ELMSLIE
    The WRITINGS BY ELMSLIE series is arranged in six subseries: A) Journals and Notebooks, B) Published Poetry and Prose in Collections, C) Published Poetry and Prose in Journals, D) Miscellaneous Published Writings, E) Unpublished Writings, and F) Handmade Books and Scrapbooks.
    A) The Journals and Notebooks subseries spans the period 1937-1965 and contains Elmslie's personal and working journals and notebooks. The journals are arranged chronologically and the undated notebooks alphabetically by topic.
    B) This subseries is arranged chronologically by publication date of each work, given in parentheses. It begins with Elmslie's lists of his published books, catalogs and announcements of his books, and Elmslie's chronological files of finished work. Titles of collections are capitalized, followed by publication date and titles of individual texts with date of first publication.
    C) This subseries is arranged chronologically by date of publication, given in parentheses, and contains typescripts, paste-ups and photocopies.
    D) The subseries is arranged chronologically by date of publication and contains a blurbs and introductions for the work of others, reviews and the autobiographical essay, "Libretto Land" (1982).
    E) The Unpublished Writings subseries is arranged alphabetically by title or first line and contains typescripts and some handwritten drafts. Unidentified work is located at the end of the subseries. Some pieces may have been published in alternative versions.
    F) The Handmade Books and Scrapbooks subseries is arranged chronologically, spanning the period 1961-1975. The books and scrapbooks contain collages of items from Elmslie's theatre work--ticket stubs, programs, flyers--as well as clippings, correspondence, photographs, and texts from Elmslie's writings. Many of them of them were gifts to Joe Brainard.
    SERIES 4: PHOTOGRAPHS
    The PHOTOGRAPHS series is arranged in five subseries: A) Kenward Elmslie, B) Kenward Elmslie and Others, C) Elmslie and Pultizer Families, D) Other People, and E) Miscellaneous Photographs.
    A) The Kenward Elmslie subseries contains formal and informal black-and-white and color photographs of Elmslie, 1950-1990.
    B) The Kenward Elmslie and Others subseries contains photographs of Elmslie with friends, colleagues and family members.
    C) The Elmslie and Pulitzer Families subseries contains albums with family travel scenes from the early decades of the 20th century in California, Colorado, Maine, and Europe. There are also loose photographs with family members and travel scenes.
    D) The Other People subseries contains formal and informal photographs of Elmslie's friends and colleagues, notably John Ashbery, Joe Brainard, and James Schuyler.
    E) The Miscellaneous Photographs subseries contains mostly black-and-white images of Elmslie's dogs and a variety of other animals, his property in Vermont, buildings and scenes encountered in his travels, signed studio photographs of Ethel Merman, Pola Negri and Shirley Temple.
    SERIES 5: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL
    The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL series is arranged in three subseries: A) General, B) Address Books and C) Appointment Calendars.
    A) The General material subseries is arranged alphabetically and documents Elmslie's private life and public career in school report cards, passports and travel documents, membership cards, biographical sketches prepared for WHO'S WHO volumes, articles about Elmslie in newspapers and magazines, a handwriting analysis, and an astrological chart. There are four interviews, notably the 1964 handwritten text with Elmslie and Joe Brainard interviewing each other.
    B) The Address Books subseries contains several types of address books, business cards and handwritten names, telephone numbers.
    C) The Appointment Calendar subseries is arranged chronologically, spans the period 1959-1995, and contains bound and loose leaf daily and monthly calendars with annotations.
    SERIES 6: Z PRESS PRODUCTION FILES
    The Z PRESS PRODUCTION FILES are arranged in four subseries: A) Correspondence, B) Z MAGAZINE, C) Z Press Books, and D) Miscellaneous Material. A) The Correspondence subseries is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and chronologically within folders. It contains letters by John Ashbery, Bill Berkson, Ian Finlay, Ann Lauterbach, Trevor Winfield, and others.
    B) The Z MAGAZINE subseries contains typescript drafts, paste-ups and page proofs for four years of the literary magazine, issues ZZZ through ZZZZZZ, 1974-1978. Some drafts and proofs have correctionsor printers' marks.
    C) The Z Press Books subseries contains drafts, proofs, material for covers or illustrations for seventeen writers and artists. Among them, John Ashbery (THREE PLAYS, 1978), Joe Brainard (TWENTY NINE MINI ESSAYS, 1978), Ron Padgett (TULSA KID, 1980), James Schuyler (HOME BOOK: PROSE AND POEMS, 1977), and Anne Waldman (CABIN, 1981).
    D) The Miscellaneous Material subseries contains financial material, flyers and announcements promoting events sponsored by Z Press and a clippings file with reviews of Z Press events and publications.
    SERIES 7: JOE BRAINARD MATERIAL
    The JOE BRAINARD MATERIAL is arranged in three subseries: A) Correspondence, B) Artwork and Writings, and C) Miscellaneous Material.
    A) The Correspondence subseries is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and chronologically within folders. It contains letters from family members.
    B) The Artworks and Writings subseries is arranged alphabetically by title and contains handwritten and typescript texts, drawings and sketches, journal entries for the spring/summer of 1969. There are handwritten drafts and a corrected galley proof for Brainard's book, I REMEMBER (1968 and 1970).
    C) The Miscellaneous Material subseries is arranged alphabetically by subject and contains publicity material for his exhibitions and readings, article about him and his work, drawings and sketches, and an early award for his painting.
    SERIES 8: JOHN LATOUCHE MATERIAL
    The JOHN LATOUCHE MATERIAL is arranged in three subseries: A) Correspondence, B) Writings and Music, and C) Miscellaneous Material.
    A) The Correspondence subseries is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and chronologically within folders.
    B) The Writings and Music subseries is arranged alphabetically by title of work or type of format and contains promotional material for works by Latouche, notebooks and a journal, vocal scores for RIDING HOOD REVISITED and several Latouche songs.
    C) The Miscellaneous Material subseries is arranged alphabetically and contains a eulogy and miscellaneous membership cards.
    SERIES 9: WRITINGS OF OTHERS
    This series is arranged alphabetically by author's name and title of work. It contains typescripts and photocopies of work by John Ashbery, David Rosenberg, James Schuyler, Lewis Warsh, and Trevor Winkfield, among others. There is also a transcript of a interview by John Hollander of W.H. Auden from the early 1960s.
    SERIES 10: MISCELLANEOUS MATERIAL
    The MISCELLANEOUS MATERIAL series is arranged alphabetically by topic and brings together material that sheds light on Elmslie's cultural, domestic and political activities and interests. It contains aclippings file, collage material, an album of postcards, and two scrapbooks with World War II era clippings.
    SERIES 11: ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
    This series contains the originals of fragile or high-acid content items that have been photocopied.