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Kenward Elmslie Papers
MSS 0521  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Kenward Elmslie Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0521
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
    Languages: English
    Physical Description: 39.85 Linear feet (90 archives boxes, 1 card file, 27 oversize folders)
    Date (inclusive): 1901 - 2000
    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. 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which also contains Elmslie's working and personal journals, notebooks, drafts and proofs of his published writings, unpublished material, handmade books and scrapbooks, and photographs.
    Creator: Elmslie, Kenward, Glass harp
    Creator: Elmslie, Kenward, Sweet bye and bye
    Creator: Elmslie, Kenward

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Papers of Kenward Elmslie, writer, performer, editor and publisher associated with the "New York School" of writers and artists. The collection documents Elmslie's personal life and career from the 1930s through the 1990s and includes correspondence, personal and working journals and notebooks, drafts, revisions, original submissions, and edited galleys for most of his published writings, and much unpublished material. Correspondence is a large and significant part of the collection, and includes letters exchanged 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.


    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 theatre includes 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.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Preferred Citation

    Kenward Elmslie Papers, MSS 0521. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 2000.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Ashbery, John, 1927- -- Correspondence
    Berkson, Bill -- Correspondence
    Berrigan, Ted -- Correspondence
    Brainard, Joe, 1942-1994 -- Correspondence
    Chernoff, Maxine, 1952- -- Correspondence
    Clark, Tom, 1941- -- Correspondence
    Corbett, William, 1942- -- Correspondence
    Di Prima, Diane -- Correspondence
    Elmslie, Kenward -- Archives
    Fraser, Kathleen, 1935- -- Correspondence
    Gizzi, Peter -- Correspondence
    Koch, Kenneth, 1925-2002 -- Correspondence
    Kyger, Joanne -- Correspondence
    Lauterbach, Ann, 1942- -- Correspondence
    Mayer, Bernadette -- Correspondence
    Messerli, Douglas, 1947- -- Correspondence
    Padgett, Ron, 1942- -- Correspondence
    Porter, Fairfield -- Correspondence
    Schuyler, James -- Correspondence
    Waldman, Anne, 1945- -- Correspondence
    Z Press. -- Archives
    American poetry--20th century