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Rexroth (Kenneth) papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization
  • Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Processing History
  • Separated Materials

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: USC Libraries Special Collections
    Title: Kenneth Rexroth papers
    creator: Rexroth, Kenneth
    Identifier/Call Number: 0119
    Identifier/Call Number: 1241
    Physical Description: 18.17 Linear Feet 28 boxes
    Date (inclusive): 1940-1982
    Date (bulk): 1969-1981
    Abstract: The papers of Kenneth Rexroth, American poet and activist, comprise manuscripts, notes, printed material, publications, correspondence, ephemera, and artwork related to poetry, writing, speaking engagements, and teaching, primarily from the last decade of his life; also included are correspondence, manuscripts, drawings, photographs, and edits compiled by Geoffrey Gardner for a Kenneth Rexroth festschrift published in 1980.


    American painter, poet, critic, translator, and playwright Kenneth Charles Marion Rexroth was born in 1905 in South Bend, Indiana. After being expelled from a Chicago high school, Rexroth worked as a soda jerk, clerk, wrestler, and reporter to support himself. Although he attended the Art Institute of Chicago, he was largely self-educated in the literary salons, nightclubs, lecture halls, and hobo camps he frequented in the 1920s. In his youth Rexroth traveled extensively in the United States, Mexico, and Europe, and backpacked frequently in the American wilderness. During this time he worked as a forest ranger, harvester, fruit packer, factory hand, and mental institution attendant. He also became something of a political radical, allying himself with various avant garde and leftist organizations, and developing what would become lifelong interests in eroticism, anarchy, mysticism, and Eastern philosophy. In the 1940s New Directions published Rexroth's first poetry collections "In What Hour" and "The Phoenix and the Tortoise." Both works encapsulated Rexroth's pacifistic, anti-establishment ethos, represented his interest in the natural and erotic, and alluded to classical poets from the East and West. In the late 1940s, Rexroth launched the San Francisco Renaissance, promoting the work of poets like William Everson, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Denise Levertov on a weekly radio show. His poetry and lifestyle also clearly influenced Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and other Beat poets, though Rexroth would eventually come to disapprove of the Beat movement, and was displeased when he became known as the father of the Beats. In the 1960s, Rexroth brought national public attention to world literature poetry in translation through his "Classics Revisited" column in the Saturday Review and his anthologies of Chinese and Japanese poetry. Recognized by the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1964, he went on to publish collections of his shorter poems and longer poems in 1967 and 1968. From 1968 through 1974 he taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 1974, he received a Fulbright scholarship to study in Japan, and in 1975 he received the Copernicus Award from the Academy of American Poets in recognition of a poet's lifetime work and contribution to poetry as a cultural force. Rexroth died June 6, 1982 in Montecito, California.

    Scope and Content

    The papers of Kenneth Rexroth, American poet and activist, comprise manuscripts, notes, printed material, publications, correspondence, and ephemera related to Rexroth's poetry, writing, speaking engagements, and teaching, primarily from the last decade of his life.


    The collection is organized into the following series: Series 1. Correspondence, Series 2. Festschrift, Series 3. Manuscripts by Rexroth, Series 4. Other writers' manuscripts, Series 5. Notes, notebooks, and scrapbooks, Series 6. Ephemera, clippings, miscellaneous records, Series 7. Artwork, Series 8. Financial records


    Advance notice required for access. Financial records are restricted.

    Conditions Governing Use

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Kenneth Rexroth papers, Collection no. 0119, Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California

    Acquisition Information

    All files acquired from Bradford Morrow, Kenneth Rexroth's literary executor.

    Related Archival Materials

    Kenneth Rexroth papers, Collection 175, Department of Special Collections, UCLA

    Processing History

    Partially processed by Mike Garabedian, Fall 2004. In October 2011, Sue Luftschein completed the remaining rehousing and description.

    Separated Materials

    Rexroth's papers came with 8 cartons of books and journals from his personal library. These have been cataloged separately into USC's online public access catalog, Homer.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    American poetry -- 20th century -- Archival resources
    Authors, American -- California -- 20th century -- Archival resources
    Authors, American -- 20th century -- Archival resources
    Poetry -- Archival resources
    Poets -- Archival resources
    Financial records
    Axelrod, Joseph -- Correspondence
    Atsumi, Ikuko -- Correspondence
    Berry, Wendell -- Correspondence
    Benedict, Nannette -- Correspondence
    Cooney, Rian -- Correspondence
    Ciani Forza, Daniela M. -- Correspondence
    Copperhead (Press) -- Correspondence
    Copper Canyon Press -- Correspondence
    Acker, Kathy -- Correspondence
    Anderson, Marta -- Correspondence
    Adam, Helen -- Correspondence
    Atchity, Kenneth John -- Correspondence
    Argüelles, Ivan -- Correspondence
    Raine, Kathleen -- Correspondence
    Tinker, Carol -- Correspondence
    Solt, John -- Correspondence
    Szerlip, Barbara -- Correspondence
    Tarn, Nathaniel -- Correspondence
    Thomas, Janet -- Correspondence
    Roditi, Edouard -- Correspondence
    Sakurai, Emiko -- Correspondence
    Sanchez, Thomas -- Correspondence
    Shiffert, Edith Marcombe -- Correspondence
    Rexroth, Katharine -- Correspondence
    Rexroth, Mary -- Correspondence
    Rexroth, Kenneth -- Archives
    Rainer, Dachine -- Correspondence
    Racionero, Luis -- Correspondence
    Piercy, Marge -- Correspondence
    Oden, Gloria -- Correspondence
    Norse, Harold -- Correspondence
    Morrow, Bradford -- Correspondence
    Milosz, Czeslaw -- Correspondence
    Matsui, Keiko -- Correspondence
    Levertov, Denise -- Correspondence
    Lawless, Gary -- Correspondence
    Lawler, Justus George -- Correspondence
    Laughlin, James -- Correspondence
    Lattimore, Richmond Alexander -- Correspondence
    Kuzma, Greg -- Correspondence
    Kray, Elizabeth -- Correspondence
    Kertesz, Louise -- Correspondence
    Huerta, Albert -- Correspondence
    Kodama, Sanehide -- Correspondence
    Hamill, Sam -- Correspondence
    Handler, Esther -- Correspondence
    Hagedorn, Jessica Tarahata -- Correspondence
    Hamalian, Leo -- Correspondence
    Gidlow, Elsa -- Correspondence
    Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997 -- Correspondence
    Gardner, Geoffrey -- Archives
    Gibson, Morgan -- Correspondence
    Ferlinghetti, Lawrence -- Correspondence
    Forché, Carolyn -- Correspondence
    Douskey, Franz -- Correspondence
    Everson, William -- Correspondence
    Corman, Cid -- Correspondence
    Dana, Robert -- Correspondence