Gerald Burns Manuscripts and Other Documents

Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
Copyright 2005
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla 92093-0175

Descriptive Summary

Languages: English
Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla 92093-0175
Title: Gerald Burns Manuscripts and Other Documents
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0221
Physical Description: 1.4 Linear feet (1 carton and 1 archives box)
Date (inclusive): 1978-2013 (bulk 1980-1997)
Abstract: Literary papers, correspondence, and artwork of Gerald Burns, "postmodern" poet, critic, artist, and editor. Includes typescripts of Burns' poetry collections; galleys for Burns' critical books Toward a Phenomenology of Written Art (1979) and Prose (1982); and correspondence with poet Barbara Jordan.

Scope and Content of Collection

A small collection of the literary papers, correspondence and artwork of Gerald Burns, "postmodern" poet, critic, artist, and editor. Includes typescripts and drafts of Burns' poetry; galleys for Burns' critical books Toward a Phenomenology of Written Art (1979) and Prose (1982); and correspondence with Barbara Jordan. It also contains page proofs of Robert Trammell's Epics, for which Burns set the type; some prose writings such as essays; and artwork (principally line drawings, doodles, and sketches).
The second part of the collection consists of papers by and on Gerald Burns from the collection of Barbara Jordan, a friend of Burns and his wife, Clio Dunn, and a fellow poet. This material primarily consists of their letters and drafts of poems that Burns shared with Jordan.
Arranged in two series: 1) PAPERS, and 2) MATERIALS FROM BARBARA JORDAN.


Gerald Burns was born in 1940 in Detroit, Michigan. He was educated at Harvard, Trinity College (Dublin), and taught at Southern Methodist University and New York University. In 1975 Burns moved to Dallas. In 1985, he was awarded an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship for poetry. Burns found employment as an English teacher and editor, but his life's work was as a writer, poet, and artist. He illustrated several of his own books and designed many of their covers (most notably, Boccherini's Minuet and Prose).
Burns is considered a leading practitioner of long-lined, thickly-textured verse. His wide reading and close observation of a panoramic range of subjects allows his poetry to bridge formal and expressive gaps between the 19th-century Romantics, early 20th-century Modernism, and later 20th-century language-oriented writing.
Burns passed away in July 1997.

Preferred Citation

Gerald Burns Manuscripts and Other Documents. MSS 221. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

Acquisition Information

Acquired 1992, 2014.



Publication Rights

Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

American poetry -- 20th century
Burns, Gerald -- Archives
Jordan, Barbara, 1949- -- Correspondence



Scope and Content of Series

Series 1) PAPERS. Arranged in two subseries: A) Correspondence, and B) Writings.
A) Correspondence: Contains a letter from Scott Bowdan to Leland Hickman along with Bowdan's submission to Boxcar, "Quest/Questions." Also included are two letters from Burns to Hickman.
B) Writings: Includes works of poetry; prose (literary essays, criticism, and a galley version of his Toward a Phenomenology of Written Art); art, travel writing, and journals; and one review. The poetry files contain an untitled collection of Burns' poetry in two successive drafts, and a galley copy of Robert Trammell's Epics for which Burns did the typesetting "as a Christmas present to Bob." The journals section contains a long travel narrative, "Painting Statues Books" with the author's sketches of relevant "objets d'art" following the text; and one full-sized sketch of Ezra Pound's head from the travel sketches. Finally, Burns' "My Leatherette Reminder", something of a critical/scholarly diary, is included.


Box 1, Folder 1

Bowdan, Scott - Letter to Leland Hickman and submission, "Quest/Question" to Boxcar 1982

Box 1, Folder 2

Burns, Gerald - 2 letters to Leland Hickman 1982, 1985

General note

Includes photograph used for initial cover of Prose.




Box 1, Folder 3

Trammel, Robert - Epics, galleys 1982

General note

Introductory note and type setting by Burns.
Box 1, Folder 4

Untitled collection of Burns' poems 1984-1985

General note

Two drafts exist for most of the poems. Included are "Homer and Image," "Thought and Extension," "Emerged for Immersed," "Fame in Retrospect," "Written Under German," "Imagining a World," "Concocting the Other," "Named After Days," "Orthodox in Appearance," "Waiting as Dispersion," "Good as Questionable," "Even Chisels Gold," and others.

Prose/Literary Essays

Box 1, Folder 5

Duration is Destination--Verse in the Eighties - Reprint from Southwest Review 1980

General note

Essay/review of Selected Poems by Donald Justice, The Venetian Nespers by Anthony Hecht, and Greenwich Mean Time by Adrien Stoutenburg.
Box 1, Folder 6

Magnificence of His Rebuttals - Reprint from Southwest Review 1979

General note

Essay/review of The American Quest for a Supreme Fiction: Whitman's Legacy in the Personal Epic by James Miller, Jr., and John Ashbery: An Introduction to the Poetry by David Shapiro.
Box 1, Folder 7-8

Prose galleys 1981-1982

Box 1, Folder 9

Straddling the Brink - Reprint from Southwest Review with author's handwritten notes 1978

General note

Essay/article on Words for Dr. Y by Anne Sexton, Hearts of the Tattooed by Jim Hubert, and Refractions by Paul Shuttleworth.
Box 1, Folder 10

Toward a Phenomenology of Written Art - Paste-ups 1979


Art, Travel Writings, Journals

Box 1, Folder 11

Bound typescript journal with varied commentary 1982

Box 1, Folder 12

Paintings Statues Books, a travel journal with sketches - Typescript with photocopies of drawings 1985

Box 1, Folder 13

Gaudier Brzeska--Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound - Full size photocopy of drawing contained in Paintings Sculpture Books 1985

Box 1, Folder 14

Review of A Book of Spells - Julie Siegel, "Tangible Magic From A Poet Who Cares," tear sheet from Southwest Review 1980



Scope and Content of Series

Series 2) MATERIALS FROM BARBARA JORDAN: Papers from the personal collection of Barbara Jordan, a friend of Burns and his wife, Clio Dunn, and a fellow poet. Arranged in three subseries: A) Correspondence, B) Writings, and C) Miscellaneous.
A) Correspondence: Burns and Jordan carried on a decade-long correspondence, and letters from Burns to Jordan (often mailed with artwork and voluminous poetry drafts, copies, and typescripts) are included here, arranged chronologically by year. At the beginning of most folders is an inventory by Jordan of the file's contents, though Jordan wrote these inventories before the collection came to the Library and there are some discrepancies in her description. Overall, however, these are highly useful guides to the rich content of each folder of letters and the enclosed writings and drawings. There are also a small number of letters to and from Burns and Jordan to other correspondents. Arranged alphabetically by the name of the author.
B) Writings: Many drafts and copies of Burns's work were bundled with letters to Jordan and remain with the letters in subseries 2A, however, Jordan also had a pile of Burns's writings that was not explicitly linked to correspondence. This material has been sorted roughly by genre and year.
C) Miscellaneous: Ephemera, Burns's artwork, teaching materials, and works by others.



Letters by Gerald Burns

Box 2, Folder 1

Burns, Gerald to Jonathan Brannen 1995

Box 2, Folder 2

Burns, Gerald to Ed Foster ( Talisman ed.) 1988-1991, 1995

Box 2, Folder 3

Burns, Gerald to Michael Franco 1988-1989

Box 2, Folder 4-12

Burns, Gerald to Barbara Jordan and Ed Batchelder 1987-1995

Box 2, Folder 13

Burns, Gerald to Barbara Jordan 1996-1997

Box 2, Folder 14

Burns, Gerald to Spencer Selby (with reply) 1994


Letters by Others

Box 2, Folder 15

Dunn, Clio to Barbara Jordan and Ed Batchelder 1989-1991

Box 2, Folder 16

Falleder, Arnold to Barbara Jordan 1998

Box 2, Folder 17

Jordan, Barbara to George Minkoff 2013

General note

Jordan describes the context and history of the correspondence between her and Gerald Burns in the collection.
Box 2, Folder 18

Jordan, Barbara to Gerald Burns and Clio Dunn 1989-1996

Box 2, Folder 19

Lehman, David to Gerald Burns 1991

Box 2, Folder 20

Southern Illinois University Press to Gerald Burns 1989

Box 2, Folder 21

Sullivan, Gary to Gerald Burns 1995



Box 2, Folder 22-23

Shorter Poems compilation - Typescript drafts 1989, 1991

Box 2, Folder 24-32

Poetry 1985, 1987-1995

Box 2, Folder 33

Poetry undated

Box 2, Folder 34

Prose writings

General note

Includes essays "San Antonio art," "What's left for the liberal arts," and others.


Box 2, Folder 35

Ephemera undated

General note

Reading notes, business cards, and list of experimental/poetry art magazines.
Box 2, Folder 36

Drawings by Gerald Burns

Box 2, Folder 37

Drawings by Gerald Burns - On envelopes

Box 2, Folder 38

Final exams for English/writing courses taught by Burns ca. 1991

Box 2, Folder 39

Journalism - Course agendas 1990

Box 2, Folder 40

Works by others - James Haining, Monica Raymond, Kevin Killian undated

General note

The Raymond poem is a response to Burns's "Reply to a poem by Arnold Falleder called 'Ice cream is for the summer and kugel is for all year long.'"