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Finding Aid for the Kenneth Rexroth papers, 1853-1986 (bulk 1950-1975)
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Kenneth Rexroth papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1853-1986
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1950-1975)
    Collection number: 175
    Creator: Rexroth, Kenneth, 1905-
    Extent: 154 boxes (77 linear ft.) 5 oversize boxes
    Abstract: Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) was an author, critic, poet, teacher, translator and active member of San Francisco's cultural, political, and poetry scenes from the 1930s through the 1960s. The collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts, and ephemera by and about Rexroth, and members of his circle.
    Language: English
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to UCLA Library Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Purchased from Kenneth Rexroth, 1964-1968.
    Gift from New Directions, 1970-1982.
    Gift from Joseph S. Handler (Series 2, the Esther Handler papers), 2004.

    Processing Information:

    Initial processing of the collection was completed in 1965. In preparation for shipment to SRLF, Simon Elliott and Lilace Hatayama created a brief list of post-1965 additions to the collection in 1990. Eric Gudas fully reprocessed the manuscripts and Handler series with assistance from Laurel McPhee in 2004-2005; all other series were processed by Laurel McPhee with assistance from CFPRT staff in 2005.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Kenneth Rexroth Papers (Collection 175). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 2723077 


    Born December 22, 1905 in South Bend, Indiana; campaigned for many radical groups, particularly the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World), and espoused eroticism and general anarchy; influenced by poet William Carlos Williams and the Second Chicago Renaissance; founded San Francisco Poetry Center with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg; although his Bohemian lifestyle was emulated by Beats, he did not like the movement for its artistic excess and lack of rigor; noted as an accomplished painter with one-man shows throughout the world; translated poems from the Chinese and Japanese languages; died June 6, 1982 in Montecito, California.

    Expanded Biographical Narrative

    Kenneth Rexroth (22 Dec. 1905- 6 June 1982) was born in Southwest Indiana. His family lived in various Midwestern cities until he was orphaned in 1919, and moved in with an aunt in Chicago. Rexroth pursued a vigorous self-education while working odd jobs, backpacking across the country, and writing poetry; his early work was strongly influenced by Chicago's Second Renaissance. He married Andrée Schafer in 1927, and the couple moved to San Francisco. During the early 1930s, Rexroth became involved in the Communist party's John Reed Clubs. During this time he developed friendships with other leftist poets. In the mid-1930s, Rexroth participated in the Federal Writers' Project, and published some of his poetry in journals and little magazines. His lifelong friendship with prominent New Directions publisher James Laughlin was established at this time.
    In 1938 Rexroth shifted his Communist-based political ideologies to an ecologically informed pacifism. He married Marie Kass following his first wife's death in 1940, and registered as a conscientious objector during World War II. Rexroth established a philosophy club and hosted discussion salons that attracted other West coast intellectuals and poets, and became known as the father of the Beat generation.
    Rexroth received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1948 and traveled extensively across Europe and the United States. He fathered his two daughters, Katharine and Mary, by philosophy student Marthe Larsen. In addition to his weekly radio show and writings, Rexroth began to read poetry with live jazz accompaniment at popular performances. After Kass divorced him in 1955, Rexroth wed Larsen in 1958; they divorced in 1961.
    In the 1960s Rexroth supported both civil rights struggles and the anti-war movement. Disassociating himself from his radical past and cultural affiliation with Beatniks and Bohemians, Rexroth became more aligned with the mainstream media and was a regular essayist for the Saturday Review and San Francisco Examiner. Rexroth received a National Institute of Arts and Letters award in 1964. He became a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Barbara (1968-1974), where he taught popular writing courses. His later poems were greatly influenced by Eastern philosophy and the work of Japanese and Chinese poets; he also became known for his poetry translations. In 1974 and 1975, Rexroth won a Fulbright to Japan and a Copernicus Award for lifetime achievement. He married his fourth wife, Carol Tinker, in 1974. He died in Santa Barbara in 1982.
    Rexroth's poetry publications include: In What Hour (1940), The Phoenix and the Tortoise (1944), The Signature of All Things (1949), In Defense of the Earth (1956), Natural Numbers (1963), Elastic Retort (1973), New Poems (1974), and Flower Wreath Hill (1991). His translations include 100 Poems from the Chinese (1956), 100 Poems from the Japanese (1964), Pierre Reverdy, Selected Poems (1969), Love and the Turning Year (1970), Orchid Boat (1972), 100 Poems from the French (1972), and 100 More Poems from the Japanese (1976).

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of original correspondence, manuscripts, and assorted printed materials that document Rexroth's writing, interests, and activities. Of particular note is the voluminous personal correspondence between Rexroth and close friends and family members, in addition to correspondence from major writers, poets and cultural figures, including: Ansel Adams, Homero Ardijis, Robert Bly, John Cicardi, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Morgan Gibson, Allen Ginsberg, James Laughlin, Denise Levertov, Gerard Malanga, Henry Miller, Kenneth Patchen, Edouard Roditi, William Carlos Williams, Edward Weston, and George Woodcock. The collection also includes single letters from prominent people such as Pearl S. Buck, James P. Cooney, Jack Kerouac, Ezra Pound, Man Ray, and Isaac B. Singer, among others. The manuscript series contains Rexroth's typescripts and handwritten works across several genres, including poetry, prose, translations, reviews, and his work for the Federal Writers' Project. Other series include extensive ephemera documenting the San Francisco scene, such as anti-Vietnam fliers, posters announcing readings, and event invitations; selected audio recordings of Rexroth's jazz readings and radio series; articles and clippings about Rexroth and his circle; little magazines; and Rexroth's teaching and lecture files.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged in the following series:
    1. Correspondence, 1853-1979 (bulk 1950-1975) (39 boxes), subseries A-B as follows:
      1. A-Z, 1853-1979 (bulk 1950-1975) (35 boxes).
      2. Cards, 1954-1975 (4 boxes).
    2. Esther Handler papers, 1957-1986 (2 boxes), subseries A-B as follows:
      1. Correspondence, 1958-1986 (1 box).
      2. Miscellaneous, 1957-1986 (1 box).
    3. Manuscripts by Rexroth, 1922-1976 (35 boxes), subseries A-F as follows:
      1. Book reviews, 1937-1968 (1 box).
      2. Federal Writers Project, 1936-1939 (1 box).
      3. Notebooks, ca. 1935-1950 (0.5 box).
      4. Poetry and verse, 1922-1967 (9.5 boxes).
      5. Prose, 1935-1976 (18 boxes).
      6. Translations, 1952-1974 (5 boxes).
    4. Manuscripts by others, 1936-1975 (18.5 boxes), subseries A-B as follows:
      1. A-Z, 1936-1975 (17.5 boxes).
      2. Lonergan Conference papers, 1970 (1 box).
    5. Miscellaneous, 1925-1974 (15.5 boxes), subseries A-F as follows:
      1. Artwork, 1941-1969 (1 folder).
      2. Audio recordings, 1952-1966 (6 boxes).
      3. Finances and calendars, 1947-1970 (5 boxes).
      4. Kenneth Rexroth Books, 1940- 1957 (1 box).
      5. Photographs, 1925-1958 (1 folder).
      6. Travel, 1948-1974 (3.5 boxes).
    6. Printed material, 1936-1976 (36 boxes), subseries A-F as follows:
      1. Articles and essays, 1946-1975 (3.5 boxes).
      2. Clippings and reviews, 1936-1975 (3 boxes).
      3. Ephemera, 1940-1974 (10 boxes).
      4. Little magazines, 1936-1976 (8 boxes).
      5. Newspapers, 1938-1975 (5 boxes).
      6. Periodicals and newsletters, 1944-1975 (6.5 boxes).
    7. Teaching, 1953-1974 (9 boxes), subseries A-C as follows:
      1. Lectures, 1953-1974 (2 boxes).
      2. San Francisco State College, 1957-1966 (1 box).
      3. UC Santa Barbara, 1968-1974 (6 box).

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Rexroth, Kenneth, 1905- --Archives.
    Authors, American--Archival resources.
    Beat generation--Archival resources.
    Poetry, Modern--20th century--United States.

    Related Material

    Periodical articles by Rexroth are in the Little Mag Collection (1000). Available at Library Special Collections, UCLA.
    Butler, Jerry & Eager, Brenda Lee. The love we have. Chicago, Illinois: Phonogram Incorporated, 1973. 1 album (2 s.) 12 in. 33 1/3 rpm.


    Two poems on the inside jacket cover are from Kenneth Rexroth's 100 poems from the Japanese. 10.