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Degnan (June Oppen) Papers
MSS 0017  
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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

    Languages: English
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla 92093-0175
    Title: June Oppen Degnan Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0017
    Physical Description: 4 Linear feet (8 archives boxes, 3 oversize folders)
    Date (inclusive): 1959-1973
    Abstract: Papers of June Oppen Degnan, writer, publisher, political activist, and sister of poet George Oppen (1908-1984). Most of the collection documents Degnan's activities as publisher of the San Francisco Review in the 1960s, and her association with New Directions Books. Included is correspondence and writings of many important members of the American literary community including Jack Anderson, Robert Bly, William Bronk, Basil Bunting, Hayden Carruth, Robert Creeley, Clayton Eshleman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Erich Fromm, Allen Ginsberg, David Ignatow, Denise Levertov, George Oppen, Carl Rakosi, Jerome Rothenberg, C. P. Snow, Gary Snyder, Diane Wakoski, William Carlos Williams, and Louis Zukofsky. Virtually no references to Degnan's personal or political life can be found in the papers. Of special significance are letters from George Oppen. The collection is arranged in four series: 1) SAN FRANCISCO REVIEW AND NEW DIRECTIONS; 2) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS; 3) FILES OF MAJOR WRITERS; and 4) SAN FRANCISCO REVIEW ANNUAL, 1963.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Accession Processed in 1990
    Most of the materials in the collection are related to the publishing and editing affairs of June Oppen Degnan at the SAN FRANCISCO REVIEW and New Directions Books. In general, the papers provide documentation on the inner workings of the literary publishing business of the 1960s. Included are materials relating to many well-known poets and writers of that time, including Jack Anderson, Robert Bly, William Bronk, Basil Bunting, Hayden Carruth, Robert Creeley, Clayton Eshleman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Erich Fromm, Allen Ginsberg, David Ignatow, Denise Levertov, George Oppen, Carl Rakosi, Jerome Rothenberg, C. P. Snow, Gary Snyder, Diane Wakoski, William Carlos Williams, and Louis Zukofsky.
    Degnan's original organization of her papers has been retained in the present collection. The materials are arranged in four series: 1) SAN FRANCISCO REVIEW AND NEW DIRECTIONS; 2) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS; 3) FILES OF MAJOR WRITERS; and 4) SAN FRANCISCO REVIEW ANNUAL, 1963.
    The first series, SAN FRANCISCO REVIEW AND NEW DIRECTIONS, is comprised of four subseries of correspondence. Folders are arranged alphabetically by correspondent, and within each folder letters are ordered chronologically. The first subseries, "Correspondence between Degnan and other publishers," includes letters between Degnan and her fellow publishers at SAN FRANCISCO REVIEW and New Directions. This subseries has both the letters sent to Degnan by her colleagues George Hitchcock, James Laughlin, Robert MacGregor and Roy Miller, as well as the carbons of many of Degnan's responses. The second subseries, "General Correspondence," is devoted to letters sent to Degnan from her friends and associates concerning her publishing business.
    "Correspondence of Other Publishers and Editors," the third subseries in SAN FRANCISCO REVIEW AND NEW DIRECTIONS, is made up of letters sent by and to Degnan's publishing associates - Hitchcock, Laughlin, Miller, Mac Gregor, etc. - which were copied and sent to Degnan for her files. This subseries is highlighted by a letter sent to Laughlin by Carl Rakosi in which Rakosi informs Laughlin of his desire to begin writing after a long hiatus.
    The final subseries in SAN FRANCISCO REVIEW AND NEW DIRECTIONS, "Correspondence from Writers to SFR," consists of original letters and carbons from writers (sent to Degnan or one of her fellow publishers) whose work was published (or was being considered for publication) in San Francisco Review. Notable examples of the writers in this subseries include Paul Blackburn, Robert Bly, Robert Creeley, Hayden Carruth, Clayton Eshleman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Jerome Rothenberg and William Carlos Williams.
    MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS is the second and smallest series, and it is divided into two subseries: SAN FRANCISCO REVIEW and NEW DIRECTIONS-related items; and Degnan's personal items.
    The third series, FILES OF MAJOR WRITERS, is devoted to materials relating to ten writers: William Bronk, Edward Dahlberg, James Hall, Yukio Mishima, George Oppen, Charles Reznikoff, Mary Oppen, C. P. Snow, Gilbert Sorrentino, and Curtis Zahn. These writers were promoted and advised by Degnan, and their work (with the exception of Mary Oppen) was published by New Directions. Each writer has his or her own subseries, and most of the subseries contain typescripts, correspondence (from the writer to Degnan; from Degnan or her associates to the writer; or from others to Degnan about the writer's work), publicity information and reviews of the writers' work. Typescripts, publicity information, and reviews are arranged chronologically, and correspondence is arranged alphabetically by author. Because Degnan did not extensively advise or promote Dahlberg, Mary Oppen, C. P. Snow or Sorrentino, their files are relatively small.
    The fifth subseries in FILES OF MAJOR WRITERS is unusual in that it is devoted to two writers rather than one. This subseries consists primarily of materials (correspondence, publicity ephemera and reviews) relating to books written by George Oppen and Charles Reznikoff -- books which were published by New Directions at the same time. Because of their identical publication dates, the paperwork and publicity for these books were often created jointly; and this is probably why Degnan created this joint file. Degnan also maintained a separate file for Oppen and Reznikoff and, in almost all cases, her original arrangement has been preserved.
    Of great significance in the FILES OF MAJOR WRITERS is the correspondence in the George Oppen file (the sixth subseries). Here, Oppen's correspondence to Degnan provides insight into his opinions about his own writing and that of his contemporaries -- particularly the writing of his friend, William Bronk -- as well as insight into Oppen's relationship with his sister.
    In 1963, Degnan oversaw the publication of the San Francisco Review Annual, and materials concerning the Annual comprise the fourth and final series. This series, SAN FRANCISCO REVIEW ANNUAL, 1963, contains typescripts of selected poems for the Annual, an annotated draft of the Annual, galley proofs, and ephemera.


    June Oppen Degnan was born in New York City on June 7, 1918, the daughter of George August and Seville Shainwald Oppen. June's brother was George Oppen (1908-1984), who became a well-known poet and exponent of the Objectivist school. For her higher education, Degnan attended the University of California at Berkeley, the Sorbonne, and the University of San Francisco Law School. She was married at least twice: once to a Mr. McKeen (a relationship which ended around 1959), and once to George Degnan, a marriage which took place around 1960. From her first marriage, June had one daughter, Aubrey, who subsequently married Orly Lindgren.
    Beginning in 1959, Degnan served as publisher, along with George Hitchcock and Roy Miller, of the San Francisco Review, a journal of poetry and prose published in close cooperation with New Directions book publishers of New York City. New Directions often published (with Degnan's guidance and encouragement) books by writers who Degnan admired strongly -- writers who she published in the San Francisco Review. These writers included George Oppen, Charles Reznikoff, William Bronk and James Hall.
    Degnan appeared to have a very close but occasionally difficult relationship with her brother. George dedicated his 1965 book This In Which to her with the inscription, "For June/ Who first welcomed/ me home." With New Directions, June assisted him in publishing the major works of his later career: The Materials (1962), This In Which (1965), Of Being Numerous (1968) and The Collected Poems of George Oppen (1975). However, Degnan and Oppen had several disagreements about financial matters. George often wrote to June urging her to seek happiness beyond materialism and monetary wealth.
    Like George, June is avidly concerned with political, social and environmental issues. For a short period she was editor and publisher of Oceans magazine. She was an active member of the Oceanic Society and of Conservation International. In 1968 she served on the board of directors of the New School for Social Research, and she was president of the International Child Art Center in San Francisco from 1971-1972. Starting in 1956, she regularly assisted the finance committee of the California Democratic Central Committee, and she actively involved herself in the presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern.
    Degnan has a reputation as a competent, dedicated and assertive businessperson who is deeply concerned with both literary and political issues.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Preferred Citation

    June Oppen Degnan Papers, MSS 0017. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1985.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Publishers and publishing -- United States
    American poetry -- 20th century
    San Francisco review (San Francisco : 1958-1962)
    New Directions Publishing
    Wakoski, Diane -- Correspondence
    Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963 -- Correspondence
    Zukofsky, Louis, 1904-1978 -- Correspondence
    Degnan, June Oppen -- Archives
    Bunting, Basil -- Correspondence
    Ignatow, David, 1914-1997 -- Correspondence
    Carruth, Hayden, 1921-2008 -- Correspondence
    Sorrentino, Gilbert -- Correspondence
    Snyder, Gary, 1930- -- Correspondence
    Rothenberg, Jerome, 1931- -- Correspondence
    Reznikoff, Charles, 1894-1976 -- Correspondence
    Rakosi, Carl, 1903-2004 -- Correspondence
    Oppen, Mary, 1908-1990 -- Correspondence
    Levertov, Denise, 1923-1997 -- Correspondence
    Oppen, George -- Correspondence
    Anderson, Jack, 1935- -- Correspondence
    Blackburn, Paul, 1926-1971 -- Correspondence
    Bly, Robert -- Correspondence
    Bronk, William -- Correspondence
    Creeley, Robert, 1926-2005 -- Correspondence
    Eshleman, Clayton -- Correspondence
    Ferlinghetti, Lawrence -- Correspondence
    Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1927 -- Correspondence