Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Joanne Kyger Correspondence
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0008
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
3.4 Linear feet
(9 archives boxes)
Date (inclusive): 1957-1975
The correspondence of Joanne Kyger, an important member of the 'post-beat' West Coast poetry community, mostly dating from
1957 to 1972. Included are letters, cards, drawings, and poems from Joe Brainard, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg,
Jack Spicer, Lewis Warsh, and Philip Whalen. Also included are eight folders of correspondence between Kyger and Gary Snyder,
to whom Kyger was married from 1960 to 1964. The Kyger/Snyder letters range from August 1958 to February 1975, with the bulk
of the materials falling between August 1958 and December 1959, the period during which Kyger and Snyder were preparing for
their 1960 marriage in Kyoto, Japan. Kyger divorced Snyder in 1964 and married the painter Jack Boyce in 1966. The collection
includes much ephemera from the European travels of Boyce and Kyger.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Joanne Kyger Correspondence includes letters, cards, poems, and drawings from Joe Brainard, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan,
R.T. Fields, Lewis Warsh, and Philip Whalen. It also includes Kyger's business correspondence with Saint James Press, Coyote
Press, and Black Sparrow Press, providing a glimpse into the publishing atmosphere of the late 60s and 70s.
The correspondence with Robert Duncan dates from 1959, when Kyger, Ebbe Borregaard, and Harold Dull all studied poetry with
Mr. Duncan in Stinson Beach. Together with the letters is Kyger's "Poem in the Time of Sick Deer," 5 leaves of original typescript,
with extensive notes in Mr. Duncan's hand. Duncan then retyped the poem, incorporating his changes and again adding more notes.
Of particular interest are the eight folders containing Kyger's correspondence with Gary Snyder. The Kyger/Snyder collection
is filed chronologically and is made of two sources: forty-eight original letters and seven folders of photocopies of letters
obtained from Simon Fraser University. The originals and xeroxes are mixed together, with the bulk of the collection covers
the period from August 1958 to December 1959. This was the period directly preceding Kyger's marriage to Snyder. During this
period Kyger was living in Bolinas and preparing for her journey to Japan, where Snyder was studying Buddhism. The letters
are highly informative as to the dynamic of their relationship. Both Kyger and Snyder wrote often, at great length, and with
much emotion, and the result is a lively and provocative exchange. A few miscellaneous post-divorce cards and letters bring
the Kyger/Snyder correspondence up to February 1975.
The collection, as a whole, is reflective of Kyger's search for self-identity, and it documents her emergence as a respected
poet. The early letters reveal a sense of Kyger's position in relation to Snyder and the other more established male poets
of the star-system culture of Bolinas and San Francisco. The collection chronicles these relations and enables the reader
to appreciate the difficulties involved in Kyger's gradual construction of a world-view -- a world-view that would eventually
lead to her writing an intelligent 'post-beat' poetry of much textural density and beauty.
Joanne Kyger is a West Coast poet who emerged as the Beat movement was beginning to wane in the 1960s. The daughter of Jacob
and Anne Kyger, she was born November 19, 1934. Her father's career as a navy officer led to a peripatetic early life: by
the time she was fourteen she had lived in Vallejo, Ca. (where she was born), China, Washington, Pennsylvania, Florida, and
Illinois. Her father retired in 1949, and the family settled permanently in Santa Barbara, Ca.
Kyger attended the University of California at Santa Barbara from 1952 to 1956, where she took classes with Hugh Kenner and
Paul Wienphal both of whom were important to the development of her poetry. She left the University one unit short of her
degree, and the following year moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. Kyger soon got a job working at Brentano's Bookstore in
San Francisco's North Beach, and she usually spent her nights sharing poems with friends at poetry bars. In 1957 she met John
Wieners at The Place, one of the poetry bars, and through him met Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer; it was also during this time
that she first met Gary Snyder. Duncan and Spicer were the doyens of a group of poets who would gather on Sundays to read
and discuss each other's work. Kyger said of those meetings: "They (Duncan and Spicer) would read what they had written, and
everybody else would read what they had written. And you would be severely criticised. A lot of people would be so heavily
criticised that they wouldn't come back."
Later Kyger moved to the East West House, where such writers as Philip Whalen, Lew Welch, and Jack Kerouac were occasional
residents. In 1960 she moved to Japan, where she and Snyder were married on February 23. There were two ceremonies: one by
the American consul and another at the Daitoku ji monastery in Kyoto. Her life with Snyder in Kyoto and later in India is
the subject of
The Japan and India Journals, 1960-1964 (1981).
Following her divorce from Snyder in 1964 Kyger returned to the Bay Area. She has said about this time, "I just took off on
this big energy cruise. I had lots to say to everybody, and it wasn't like playing second fiddle anymore." The following year
Donald Allen published her first book,
The Tapestry and the Web (1965).
In 1966 Kyger married the painter Jack Boyce, and together they travelled through Spain, France, Italy, and England. Upon
their return Kyger and Boyce stayed briefly in New York, and then in 1967 returned to the San Francisco area where they spent
the next year. In 1968 the two traveled to Bodega Bay, then to Bolinas in 1969, where Kyger has continued to live (she and
Boyce separated in 1970). In the 1970s Bolinas was known for being a center for wandering poets, as well as a home for Philip
Whalen, Robert Creeley, Donald Allen, Tom Clark, and others. Kyger married the artist Donald Guravich in 1978. Kyger has maintained
an active presence in the community, and has been particularly concerned with environmental issues. She has also continued
to travel extensively including several trips to Mexico while continuing to publish her poetry.
The Tapestry and the Web (1965),
Places to Go (1970),
Desecheo Notebook (1971),
Trip Out and Fall Back (1974),
All This Every Day (1975),
The Wonderful Focus of You (1980),
Up My Coast,
The Japan and India Journals 1960-64,
Mexico Blonde (1981),
Going On: Selected Poems 1958-80 (1983).
Joanne Kyger Correspondence, MSS 0008. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Adam, Helen, 1909-1993 -- Correspondence
Berkson, Bill -- Correspondence
Borregaard, Ebbe -- Correspondence
Brainard, Joe, 1942-1994 -- Correspondence
Clark, Tom, 1941- -- Correspondence
Creeley, Robert, 1926-2005 -- Correspondence
Duncan, Robert, 1919-1988 -- Correspondence
Koller, James -- Correspondence
Kyger, Joanne -- Archives
Loewinsohn, Ron -- Correspondence
Millward, Pamela -- Correspondence
Persky, Stan, 1941- -- Correspondence
Rumaker, Michael, 1932- -- Correspondence
Snyder, Gary, 1930- -- Correspondence
Waldman, Anne, 1945- -- Correspondence
Warsh, Lewis -- Correspondence
Whalen, Philip -- Correspondence
Wieners, John, 1934-2002 -- Correspondence
American poetry -- 20th century
Women poets, American