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Petersen (Robert M.) papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Custodial History
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Processing Information
  • Bibliography

  • Contributing Institution: University of California, Santa Cruz
    Title: Robert M. Petersen papers
    Creator: Petersen, Robert M., 1938-1987
    Identifier/Call Number: MS.337
    Physical Description: 0.75 Linear Feet 2 boxes
    Date (inclusive): 1936-1987
    Date (bulk): 1959-1985
    Abstract: This collection consists of poetry, prose, and lyrics written by Robert M. "Bobby" Petersen, along with some supporting material: notes, correspondence, photographs, and ephemera.
    Physical Location: The collection is located in Special Collections and Archives.
    Language of Material: English


    The collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by Didrik Petersen and administered by Alan Trist. The publication or use of any work protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use for research or educational purposes requires written permission from the copyright owner. Responsibility for obtaining permissions, and for any use rests exclusively with the user.

    Preferred Citation

    Robert M. Petersen Papers, MS 337. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

    Acquisition Information

    This collection was donated in 2010 by Alan Trist. Additional materials were donated by Richard Wilcox in 2012.

    Custodial History

    Alan Trist donated the collection to the UC Santa Cruz University Library in 2010. A second, small accrual of additional materials was donated in 2012 by Richard Wilcox, one of Petersen's friends, via Alan Trist.


    Robert McLane Petersen (1936-1987) was a poet best known for the four lyrics he wrote for the Grateful Dead: "New Potato Caboose," "Pride of Cucamonga," "Unbroken Chain," and "Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues." Born in Klamath Falls, OR, Petersen moved to Sacramento, CA, as a boy. He attended the College of San Mateo, where he became friends with Phil Lesh, and was an active participant in the Palo Alto/peninsula post-Beat bohemian scene in which the Grateful Dead emerged. He married Cecilia Jane Adams in 1962; they had one child, Didrik, born in 1964.
    Petersen served two prison terms; his first produced the unpublished chapbook "Blue Petre," later included in Alleys of the Heart: The Collected Poems of Robert M. Petersen . In his first published collection, Far Away Radios , he wrote that his poetry had been published in several small press and alternative publications.
    A participant in the Grateful Dead community until his death, Petersen attended concerts and traveled with the band on their spring 1986 tour. He died in San Francisco in January 1987 after experiencing a stroke, following the Dead's New Year's Eve performance. He was returning to Cottage Grove, OR, where he was living at the time.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection consists of manuscripts, typescripts, and one chapbook paste-up, including poetry, prose, lyrics, notes, and correspondence, along with photographs and a few items written by others.


    The collection is arranged according to four series: Collections; Lyrics; Poetry; and Prose and Miscellaneous. Several factors made reconstruction of Petersen's archive challenging. His peripatetic lifestyle meant that drafts of his work were not assembled and maintained in the order in which they were created and edited, and he gave drafts of some works to friends. He paginated longer works only occasionally. Often Petersen grouped poems together to create longer works, either as individual long poems or small collections; those groupings were retained in processing. Manuscript emendations, paper type, and typewriter characteristics all helped to determine arrangement. Untitled works are listed by first line.

    Processing Information

    Materials were organized according to genre and arranged alphabetically and chronologically. A substantial number of photocopies duplicating material in the collection were discarded; a few photocopies with no original were retained.


    Three anthologies of Petersen's poetry have been published. The first, Far Away Radios, had two printings; the second, posthumous collection, Alleys of the Heart, was assembled by Petersen's friend, longtime band family member and Ice Nine manager Alan Trist. The copyright page of Far Away Radios states that a number of poems included in that anthology had been published in several literary magazines and alternative publications: The Willie, San Francisco Phoenix , Georgia Straight, and Desperado. In 2015, Petersen's first chapbook, Pecker Poles, left in paste-up at his death, was produced.
    Robert M. Petersen. Far Away Radios. Arcata, CA: Bug Press, 1980.
    Robert M. Petersen. Far Away Radios. 2nd printing. San Anselmo, CA: San Anslemo Printing, [1984]. Note: This printing sponsored by Grateful Dead Productions.
    Trist, Alan, ed. Alleys of the Heart: The Collected Poems of Robert M. Petersen . Eugene, OR: Hulogosi, 1988.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Petersen, Robert M., 1938-1987
    Grateful Dead (Musical group)