Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Susan Howe Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 201
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
29.0 Linear feet
(69 archives boxes, 4 card file boxes, 6 oversize folders)
Date (inclusive): 1942-2002
Papers of Susan Howe, American poet. The collection consists of Howe's literary correspondence, poetry manuscripts, notes
and typescripts for readings and talks, personal and working journals, recordings, research files, and art/poetry installations
dating from the 1950s to 2002.
Bernstein, Charles, 1950-
Butterick, George F.
DuPlessis, Rachel Blau
Finlay, Ian Hamilton
Fraser, Kathleen, 1935-
Howe, Susan, 1937-, Articulation of sound forms in time
Howe, Susan, 1937-, Cabbage gardens
Howe, Susan, 1937-, Defenestration of Prague
Howe, Susan, 1937-, Hinge picture
Howe, Susan, 1937-
MacLeish, Archibald, 1892-1982
Sarton, May, 1912-1995
Taggart, John, 1942-
Scope and Content of Collection
The collection consists of Susan Howe's literary correspondence, poetry manuscripts, notes and typescripts for readings and
talks, personal and working journals, recordings, research files, and art/poetry installations dating from the 1950s to 2002.
The collection is arranged in three accessions: an accession processed in 1991, an accession processed in 2003, and a small
additional accession of manuscripts for Coracle Press Publications acquired in 2009.
Accession Processed in 1991: Correspondence, poetry manuscripts, typescripts and notes for readings and talks, personal and
working journals, art/poetry installations and over 100 tape recordings from Howe's WBAI Radio program, "Poetry." Most of
the material dates from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s. It includes a few personal journals and some earlier correspondence
from Howe's family: World War II letters from Howe's father, Harvard Law School professor Mark DeWolfe Howe; personal journals
kept by Howe while visiting Ireland in the 1950s; and a scrapbook documenting Howe's early career as an actress. The accession
contains working manuscripts of Howe's books
Articulation of Sound Forms in Time (1986),
Cabbage Gardens (1979),
Defenestration of Prague (1983),
Hinge Picture (1974),
The Liberties (1980),
My Emily Dickinson (1985),
Pythagorean Silence (1982), and
Secret History of the Dividing Line (1978), along with other poetic experiments, and extensive correspondence from poets and critics: Lyn Hejinian, George Butterick,
John Taggart, Ian Hamilton Finlay, among others.
The 1991 accession is arranged in five series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) WRITINGS, 3) PHOTOGRAPHS AND EPHEMERA, 4) TAPE RECORDINGS
and 5) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
Accession processed in 2003: Correspondence, notebooks, manuscripts, teaching materials, and early biographical materials,
as well as a small amount of material relating to Howe's second husband, sculptor David von Schlegell (1920-1992). The bulk
of the accession dates from the 1990s and contains drafts, manuscripts, production materials, and translations of Howe’s work
from this period, published in
The Non-Conformist's Memorial (1993), and
Pierce Arrow (1999), though some early drafts of this work are contained in notebooks dating from 1972 to 1997. There is a significant
amount of research material—photocopies from archival documents and books, often marked with Howe's marginal notes—both for
her written work and for her work as a professor of literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
The 2003 accession is arranged in ten series: 6) CORRESPONDENCE, 7) NOTEBOOKS, 8) WRITINGS, 9) VISUAL MATERIALS, 10) TEACHING,
11) INTERVIEWS AND CRITICISM, 12) WBAI RADIO MATERIALS, 13) DAVID VON SCHLEGELL MATERIALS, 14) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS AND
EPHEMERA, and 15) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
Manuscripts for Coracle Press Publications: Correspondence, manuscripts, and book production materials dating from 2001 to
2002. Arranged in two series: 16)
BEDHANGINGS II and 17)
Susan Howe (b. 1937) is an American artist, poet, and writer. Howe's poetry evolved from her painting and drawing career,
and her first major publication was the 1974 edition of
Hinge Picture (New York, Telephone Books). Closely associated with the late 1970s and 1980s Language Poets' movement, Susan Howe's poetry
and scholarship are most accurately characterized as language-based and experimental. Howe's early training and careers in
drama and visual arts (she was an actress and an assistant stage designer at the Gate Theatre in Dublin and graduated from
the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts in 1961) are reflected in the dramatic sections of her poems, as in The Liberties, and
in her attention to the visual aspect of the page. Her mother, Mary Manning Howe, an Irish actress and playwright, and her
father, Mark DeWolfe Howe, a Harvard Law School professor, each appear as influences in her poetry. Much of the subject and
location of her work--her close affinity with Emily Dickinson and early American history, as in Articulation of Sound Forms
in Time, her interest in Jonathan Swift's Irish residency in The Liberties--reveals Howe's Irish ancestry combined with hard-biting
New England literary heritage and politics.
Howe's activities as a lecturer and reader are numerous. In the late 1970s, Howe produced a radio talk show for WBAI radio
in which she interviewed and hosted a wide range of American and European poets. In 1980 Howe received the Before Columbus
Foundation American Book Award for Secret History of the Dividing Line and again in 1987 for My Emily Dickinson. In 1985 she
was one of ten American poets at the New Poetics Colloquium in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she returned in 1987 as
visiting artist-in-residence. Howe was one of five American poets at the Rencontres Internationales de Poésie Contemporaine
in Tarascon, France, 1988, as well as a Butler fellow in the Department of English at SUNY, Buffalo, also in 1988.
In 1991, Howe was appointed as a full professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she has taught numerous
classes on American literature and creative writing. She has received two American Book Awards from the Before Columbus Foundation
and in 1996 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1999 she was elected to the Academy of American Poets.
While Howe has continued to produce books of poetry and literary-historical criticism, her work crosses the boundaries of
genres: her poetry stems from her archival research in literary history, while her literary scholarship is poetic and personal.
For example, her 1993 book,
The Birth-mark: Unsettling the Wilderness in American Literary History (named an "International Book of the Year" by the Times Literary Supplement), is a collection of scholarly essays on literary
history. Nonetheless, the essays contain personal anecdotes, marginal quotations from authors and poetic observations on the
nature of literary historical scholarship. Similarly, in her book,
The Non-Conformist's Memorial (1993), Howe interweaves the marginal words of literary figures such as Melville and Shelley with her own poetic lines.
For more biographical information, see Susan Howe's
Singularities, "About the Author" (Hanover, University Press of New England, 1990), and the following website:
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Susan Howe Papers, MSS 201. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Acquired 1991, 2001, 2009.
Diaries dated 1977-1981 (Box 11, Folders 4-8) are restricted; access requires the written permission of Susan Howe. Letters
written by Mary Manning Howe are restricted; access requires the written permission of Susan Howe and Fanny Howe. Letters
of recommendation (Box 65, Folder 10 and Box 69, Folder 4) are restricted in accordance with state and federal law until 2075.
Original audio cassette recordings and a zip disc in Box 73, Folder 8 are restricted. Patrons must request listener/user copies
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Howe, Susan, 1937- -- Archives
WBAI Radio (New York, N.Y.).
American poetry--20th century
Photographic prints -- 20th Century.
Women poets--United States