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Kyger (Joanne) Correspondence
MSS 0008  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information

  • Descriptive Summary

    Languages: English
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla 92093-0175
    Title: Joanne Kyger Correspondence
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0008
    Physical Description: 3.4 Linear feet (9 archives boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1957-1975
    Abstract: The correspondence of Joanne Kyger (1934-2017), 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.

    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 Duncan in Stinson Beach. With the letters is Kyger's "Poem in the Time of Sick Deer," five leaves of original typescript, with extensive notes in Duncan's hand. Duncan 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 copies are mixed together, with the bulk of the collection covering 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 Elizabeth Kyger was 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, California.
    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 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 lived with artist Donald Guravich from 1978 until her death in 2017; they were married in 2013. She maintained an active presence in the community, and was particularly concerned with environmental issues. She continued to travel extensively, including several trips to Mexico, while continuing to publish her poetry. Kyger died March 22, 2017 in Bolinas, California.
    Selected Bibliography: The Tapestry and the Web (1965), Joanne (1970), 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 (1981), The Japan and India Journals 1960-64 (1981), Mexico Blonde (1981), Going On: Selected Poems 1958-80 (1983), Again: Poems 1989–2000 (2001), As Ever: Selected Poems (2002), The Distressed Look (2004), God Never Dies (2004), About Now: Collected Poems (2007), On Time: Poems 2005-2014 (2015), and There You Are: Interviews, Journals, and Ephemera (2017).

    Preferred Citation

    Joanne Kyger Correspondence, MSS 8. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1976.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    American poetry -- 20th century
    Women poets, American
    Kyger, Joanne -- Archives
    Loewinsohn, Ron -- Correspondence
    Millward, Pamela -- Correspondence
    Duncan, Robert, 1919-1988 -- Correspondence
    Koller, James -- Correspondence
    Persky, Stan, 1941- -- Correspondence
    Berkson, Bill -- Correspondence
    Whalen, Philip -- Correspondence
    Wieners, John, 1934-2002 -- Correspondence
    Adam, Helen, 1909-1993 -- Correspondence
    Rumaker, Michael, 1932- -- Correspondence
    Snyder, Gary, 1930- -- Correspondence
    Waldman, Anne, 1945- -- Correspondence
    Warsh, Lewis -- Correspondence
    Creeley, Robert, 1926-2005 -- Correspondence
    Clark, Tom, 1941- -- Correspondence
    Brainard, Joe, 1942-1994 -- Correspondence
    Borregaard, Ebbe -- Correspondence