A History of the Magazine

Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry is the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world. Harriet Monroe’s “Open Door” policy, set forth in Volume I of the magazine, remains the most succinct statement of Poetry’s mission: to print the best poetry written today, in whatever style, genre, or approach. The magazine established its reputation early by publishing the first important poems of T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, H.D., William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, and other now-classic authors. In succeeding decades it has presented—often for the first time—works by virtually every major contemporary poet.

Poetry has always been independent, unaffiliated with any institution or university—or with any single poetic or critical movement or aesthetic school. It continues to print the major English-speaking poets, while presenting emerging talents in all their variety. In recent years, more than a third of the authors published in the magazine have been young writers appearing for the first time. On average, the magazine receives over 90,000 submissions per year, from around the world.

An early poster advertising the magazine, c. 1912.

By 1912, when Harriet Monroe founded Poetry, the texture of daily and cultural life already felt recognizably modern: new building materials and methods produced the first skyscrapers, five million Americans went to the movies every day, and the boundaries of acceptability in art and music were being redrawn by the likes of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Picasso, and Matisse. Monroe's response to these changes was not uniformly positive—when she saw Marcel Duchamp's 1912 painting, "Nude Descending a Staircase," at the New York Armory Show, she compared it to "a pack of brown cards in a nightmare or a dynamited suit of Japanese armor"—but she embraced the gesture of the dissident artists: "They throw a bomb into the entrenched camps, give to American art a much-needed shaking up." Painters and sculptors had answered the new century's challenge, discovering new forms of beauty and a fresh vocabulary. But American poetry remained stuck in the twilight of the nineteenth century and an exhausted Romanticism inherited from England:

As some dusk mother shields from all alarms
The tired child she gathers to her breast,
The brunette Night doth fold me in her arms,
And hushes me to perfect peace and rest.

These lines, from Ella Wheeler Wilcox's poem "Night," are typical of the verse then sought after by American magazines and newspapers. When Poetry's first issue appeared in October 1912, the fifty-one-year-old Monroe could not have foreseen the magazine's impact. But it was exactly as if a bomb had exploded, and nothing would ever look, or sound, the same in American poetry again.

The Renaissance in American Poetry

Harriet Monroe dressed in clothing she had purchased on a recent trip to China, c. 1910.

As Monroe looked around Chicago's cultural landscape in the early years of the twentieth century, she would have seen a world-class symphony and opera, theater troupes, dance companies, along with more substantial brick and mortar evidence of citywide support for the arts, including the Art Institute and the spectacular new Orchestra Hall. She resolved to do something similar for poetry by providing a venue devoted solely to its practice, as well as the rare chance for poets to be paid for their work.

Although Monroe herself was not wealthy, she moved comfortably in the circles of Chicago's commercial and cultural elite. One of her first approaches was to novelist, socialite, and institutional trustee Hobart C. Chatfield-Taylor, who suggested a financial plan: convince 100 people to donate fifty dollars a year for five years to underwrite the operations of the magazine. With expenses covered by these donations, subscription income could be used to pay poets. Monroe had enlisted 108 people when she stopped fundraising in June 1912.

Monroe then spent several weeks in the Chicago Public Library, compiling lists of potential subscribers and contributors to whom she would send circulars announcing the new magazine: Poetry : A Magazine of Verse (the puzzlingly redundant subtitle would be dropped by Karl Shapiro in 1950). The poets' circular assured them "of a chance to be heard in their own place, without the limitations imposed by a popular magazine." As an early statement of her editorial principles, Monroe wrote, "We shall read with special interest poems of modern significance, but the most classic subject will not be declined if it reaches a high standard of quality."

Among the first to respond enthusiastically was Ezra Pound. He wrote to Monroe from London, predicting a renaissance in American poetry. Monroe accepted for her inaugural issue the two poems Pound submitted, "Middle-Aged" and "To Whistler, American" (in which he called Americans "that mass of dolts"), and also accepted Pound's offer to keep an eye out for material, naming him Poetry's first foreign correspondent.

Together, Pound and Monroe were largely responsible for introducing Modernist poetry to American readers. The revolution was rapid and complete. By 1915, when Pound forwarded "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," by a twenty-six-year-old unpublished poet named T.S. Eliot, night was no longer (and could probably never be again) Wilcox's brunette Mother sheltering her children; instead it "spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table." And in 1918 Alice Corbin Henderson, Monroe's astute assistant editor, wrote, "Nowadays everyone is writing imagist vers libre, or what the writers conceive as such.... Free verse is now accepted in good society, where rhymed verse is considered a little shabby and old-fashioned."

The Open Door Policy

Since its inception the magazine has followed the Open Door policy articulated by Monroe in the second issue. As a result of its ecumenical approach, Poetry published a variety of work, from Joyce Kilmer's poem, "Trees" (the most enduringly beloved poem the magazine has ever printed), and the work of Midwestern populists such as Carl Sandburg, Edgar Lee Masters, and Vachel Lindsay, to important early works by Eliot, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, and Robert Frost. The editorial staff's responsiveness to the variety (and volume) of work it received no doubt helped to ensure the magazine's survival and longevity. By making quality the only criterion, rather than style or politics, Poetry avoided the dangers of a too-narrow adherence to any one agenda or fashion.

Dating from the days when Monroe would boil coffee over a fire in a vacant lot next door to the offices, the Open Door policy was also interpreted more literally. Monroe offered hospitality to many poets when they traveled through Chicago, such as W.B. Yeats (for whom she also arranged a visit to a local spiritualist) and also helped many poets financially, both directly and indirectly. In fact, more than a few future contributors and editors—Janet Lewis, Yvor Winters, Hugh Kenner, Hayden Carruth, George Dillon, and Henry Rago among them—would make their way to Poetry's offices in their youth, finding the door always open.


The Poetry staff at their office in the Newberry Library, 1956: Robert Mueller, Margaret Danner, Elizabeth Wright, Henry Rago, and Frederick Bock.

Interpreting Harriet Monroe's Legacy

As early as the third issue, Poetry had achieved its distinctive mode, including six translations of the Bengali poet and Nobel prize-winner, Rabindranath Tagore, a selection of work by well-known and new poets from both sides of the Atlantic, including Yeats, John Reed, and Alice Meynell, as well as prose commentary. The eclectic mix was occasionally broken up by a single-topic special number, such as the "War" issue of November 1914. While Monroe took seriously Emerson's dictum about the need for America to create its own literature without slavish dependence upon its English cousins, she often published work in translation. Later issues might favor prose over poetry, or the work of the established over the work of the unknown. But the earliest issues contain the seeds that editors after Monroe would develop.

Sgt. George Dillon (editor of Poetry ), Paris, 1944, after he broadcast news of the Liberation from the Eiffel Tower.

Following Monroe's death from a stroke in 1936 while on her way to climb Peru's Macchu Picchu, the magazine was edited by her assistant editor, Morton Dauwen Zabel, until George Dillon took over in 1937. He was helped by Peter De Vries, who later joined the staff at the New Yorker. They published many of the best young poets from the war years, often for the first time, including Gwendolyn Brooks, John Ashbery (under a pseudonym furnished by a classmate who had stolen the poems), Frank O'Hara, Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, Howard Nemerov, and Karl Shapiro. Dillon served in World War II as did many of the poets he published; the tradition of special issues was continued with the August 1943 issue designated as the "Poets in Service Issue." The forties also saw the magazine printing a great deal of prose as the practice of New Criticism, with its emphasis on ambiguity and close reading, began to dominate English departments in universities. Although much of this criticism was useful, its growing presence in the magazine was also controversial, as the essays were often dense, difficult to read, and suited more to academic specialists than general readers.

When Dillon resigned in 1949, he suggested that his assistant editor, Hayden Carruth, replace him. Carruth wanted to print more and longer works by established poets, reducing the number of new voices that appeared. He also continued to tilt the balance of the magazine toward prose, at one point going so far as to include only eight pages of poetry in an issue. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Carruth lasted only a year in the job.

Karl Shapiro, packing up for the move from 1020 N. Lake Shore Drive to the Newberry Library.

When Karl Shapiro was named editor in 1950, he was thirty-seven years old and already a celebrity—a war veteran, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his volume of war poems, and a former Consultant to the Library of Congress (forerunner to today's poet laureate position). One of Shapiro's first editorial decisions was to eliminate the motto from Walt Whitman that had appeared on every issue: "To have great poets, there must be great audiences too." Perhaps he wanted to update Poetry's image, which had become a little lackluster, or perhaps he was responding to this comment made by Eliot in a letter: " Poetry remains obstinately the same in appearance as in the days when it printed 'Prufrock.' (I have sometimes hoped to see a different quotation, whether from Whitman or somebody else, on the back of it; but even this conservatism is expressive of tenacity.)"

Shapiro's interest in translation ensured that several interesting special issues came out—on Greek and post-war French poetry, for example—as well as long sections devoted to poets such as Juan Ramon Jiménez several years before he received the Nobel Prize. Like editors before and after him, though, Shapiro finally tired of the many demands upon his attention and left after five years.

Shapiro's replacement, Henry Rago, met Monroe at age fourteen and published his first poem in Poetry at sixteen. A lawyer by training and meticulous about details, he was also an energetic fundraiser and interpreted the Open Door policy perhaps more liberally than his immediate predecessors, encouraging young poets—even while gently rejecting their work. He was even more eclectic in his tastes than Monroe, publishing work from many different schools, including Confessional poets such as Sylvia Plath, formalists such as Richard Wilbur and James Merrill, and "Objectivists" such as Louis Zukofsky. Rago's fourteen-year tenure (1955-1969) coincided with a second flowering of American poetry and poets, most of whom Rago published extensively, including Robert Duncan, Robert Bly, W.S. Merwin, Galway Kinnell, Donald Hall, Carolyn Kizer, James Wright, and James Schuyler.

Daryl Hine, editor of Poetry, c. 1968.

Daryl Hine (1969-1977) was Rago's replacement. His tenure saw remarkable formalist poetry brought to the forefront, as well as Poetry's first political stance, an anti-Vietnam War issue (September 1970). The appointment of John Frederick Nims in 1978 found greater numbers of newer, younger voices being published, and Nims had the reputation of laboring over many of his rejection notes, providing comments and guidance.

Joseph Parisi (1984-2003),  Christian Wiman (2003 - 2013), and the current editor, Don Share, have carried on the traditions of showcasing established poets alongside new voices (usually one-quarter to one-third of each issue is devoted to first appearances), and presenting to American readers significant selections of poetry in translation, in addition to reviews and essays. Yet at a time when more and more people are writing poetry (Poetry now receives over ninety thousand submissions a year), concerns about what is perceived as a declining audience for poetry have also grown. Except for the loftiness of tone, however, a comment published in the magazine's first issue sounds as relevant today as it did nearly a century ago:

. . . Anglo-Saxons are always forgetting that poetry is one of the great arts of expression. Many of our customs conspire to cause, almost to force, this forgetting. Thousands of us have been educated to a dark and often permanent ignorance of classic poetry . . . one early acquires a wary distrust of it as something one must constantly labor over. Aside from gaining in childhood this strong, practical objection to famous poetry . . . .

Despite the enduring nature of these worries about poetry's future, recent editors have added to their many responsibilities the need to develop poetry's readership by creating programs for libraries, organizing community events, and commissioning broadcasts and tape-recordings by poets. As Poetry's activities have expanded, so have its financial requirements, and Parisi's tenure as editor coincided with the single largest change at the magazine since its founding.

Paying for Poetry

By 1930 all of Poetry's early competitors, such as the Little Review and the Egoist, were no longer operating. Although the magazine's Open Door policy helped guarantee its aesthetic survival, as the Depression in America deepened, Poetry was in a nearly constant state of financial emergency, and Monroe may have felt that she ended her initial fundraising in 1912 prematurely. She informed readers in a 1930 editorial that the current issue might be the last. The magazine was saved, however, by the many small donations from readers, and by a timely corporate grant.

Harriet Monroe shoeing Pegasus: cartoon from the Philadelphia Public Ledger, 30 January 1921.

Two years later, the magazine's twentieth anniversary provided the occasion for more worry. For the anniversary issue, Marianne Moore wrote the poem, "No Swan So Fine," which addresses the theme of passing. And, in a letter to Monroe, Moore wrote, "The thought of your terminating this great work of yours, begun twenty years ago, that has had throughout your particular individuality, saddens me. The article in the Tribune is gratifying, especially the line saying Poetry'gives the city a loftier fame throughout the world than any other asset Chicago possesses.' . . . How I do hope that the millionaire will yet come forward." Monroe herself thought that the magazine would not survive her death. When she died in Peru in 1936 newspaper headlines agonized over the possibility that the magazine might close; once again the generosity of readers and contributors helped Poetry to continue. In 1941 the Modern Poetry Association was formed as a not-for-profit organization whose board members undertook financial responsibility for the magazine. Finances would always remain precarious, however, and the pattern of near collapse followed by last minute rescue was repeated in coming decades.

Nevertheless, throughout the waxing and waning of the magazine's fortunes, (during one particularly dark period under Karl Shapiro's editorship there was only one hundred dollars in the bank), Poetry continued to pay its contributors and award prizes, a tradition inaugurated by the Guarantor's Prize, given to Yeats in 1913. But editors, often practicing poets themselves, nearly always have had to juggle their editorial responsibilities with the need to solicit money from individuals and foundations, a task accomplished with varying degrees of vision, skill, and success. The first Poetry Day, arranged by Henry Rago in 1955, featured Robert Frost, and this fundraiser would become a popular annual event, interrupted only in 2001 by the events of September 11.

The Lilly Bequest

John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation, at the first annual Pegasus Awards, 6 October 2004.

The pharmaceutical heiress, Ruth Lilly, endowed Poetry's Ruth Lilly Prize in 1986, a $100,000 award given annually to recognize a poet's lifetime achievement. Her generosity also provided two Lilly Fellowships given annually to promising undergraduate or graduate students of poetry. Lilly's relationship with the magazine began when she submitted some of her poems in 1972, receiving handwritten rejection notes from the editors. Impressed, perhaps, by this evidence of concern for fledgling writers and pleased, as well, by the magazine's responsible use of her previous contributions, in 2002 Ruth Lilly made Poetry a bequest worth more than one hundred million dollars, ensuring the magazine's existence in perpetuity. Since then, the Modern Poetry Association, Poetry's advisory board, has reorganized itself as the Poetry Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to crafting and implementing a new vision for poetry in contemporary American culture.

Poetry's financial situation may have changed, but its mission—to print the best work written by either new or established poets—remains the same. Also unchanged is the magazine's relationship to its authors and the editors' personal encouragement of aspiring poets. Although, as T.S. Eliot noted fifty years ago, " Poetry, in fact, is not a little magazine, but an INSTITUTION," its commitment to the presentation and development of poetry remains personal—one poem, one poet, one letter at a time.

—Averill Curdy

EDITORSHIPS

1. HARRIET MONROE
October 1912-September 1936

Editorial Staff: Emanuel Carnevali, George H. Dillon, Alice Corbin Henderson, Helen Hoyt, Jessica Nelson North, Ezra Pound, Marion Strobel, Eunice Tietjens, Morton Dauwen Zabel

Support Staff: Mila Straub, Margery Swett, Geraldine Udell, Marianna Von Moltke

Advisors: William T. Abbott, Aksel K. Bodholdt, Percy H. Boynton, H. C. Chatfield-Taylor, George Dillon, Henry B. Fuller, Charles H. Hamill, Arthur T. Leonard, Robert Morss Lovett, Jessica Nelson North, Lew Sarett, Marion Strobel, Eunice Tietjens, Thornton Wilder, Edith Wyatt

2. MORTON DAUWEN ZABEL
October 1936-October 1937

Editorial Staff: Jessica Nelson North

Support Staff: Geraldine Udell

Advisors: Percy H. Boynton, George Dillon, Charles H. Hamill, Arthur T. Leonard, Robert Morss Lovett, Lew Sarett, Eunice Tietjens, Thornton Wilder

3. GEORGE DILLON
November 1937-August 1942

Editorial Staff: Peter De Vries, Jessica Nelson North

Support Staff: Amy Bonner, Margedant Peters, Geraldine Udell

Advisors: Percy H. Boynton, Charles H. Hamill, Arthur T. Leonard, Robert Morss Lovett, Jessica Nelson North, Lew Sarett, Eunice Tietjens, Thornton Wilder

4. GROUP EDITORSHIP
September 1942-April 1949

Editors: Peter De Vries, George Dillon, John Frederick Nims, Jessica Nelson North, Margedant Peters, Marion Strobel

Editorial Staff: Hayden Carruth, Katinka Loeser, John Frederick Nims, Margedant Peters, Marion Strobel

Support Staff: Rufus Beyle, Amy Bonner, Vladimir Dupré, J. M. Eichelberger, Marlys Johnston, Herbert Kalk, John Nerber, Margedant Peters, Julia Siebel, Geraldine Udell

Advisors: Amy Bonner, Julia Bowe, Percy H. Boynton, J. V. Cunningham, Peter De Vries, George Dillon, Thomas C. Lea, Arthur T. Leonard, Katinka Loeser, Robert Morss Lovett, William S. Monroe, John Frederick Nims, Jessica Nelson North, Margedant Peters, Lew Sarett, Marion Strobel, Eunice Tietjens, Thornton Wilder

5. HAYDEN CARRUTH
May 1949-January 1950

Support Staff: J. M. Eichelberger, Marlys Johnston, Herbert Kalk, John Nerber, Julia Siebel, Geraldine Udell

Advisors: Amy Bonner, Julia Bowe, J. V. Cunningham, George Dillon, Thomas C. Lea, Arthur T. Leonard, Robert Morss Lovett, William S. Monroe, John Frederick Nims, Jessica Nelson North, Margedant Peters, Lew Sarett, Marion Strobel, Thornton Wilder

6. KARL SHAPIRO
March 1950-September 1955

Editorial Staff: Isabella Gardner, Nicholas Joost, Robert Mueller, Henry Rago, Joseph Wiley

Support Staff: Jane Broeksmit, Gleah Brown, Margaret Cunningham, Margaret Danner, Harold E. Donohue, J. M. Eichelberger, Joan Farwell, Barbara Harris, Marlys Johnston, Nicholas Joost, Herbert Kalk, Madeleine Kilpatrick, Bertha Mayer, Patricia McEnerney, Cornelia McNamara, Charlotte Miller, Robert Mueller, Sue Neil, John Nerber, Evalyn Shapiro, Julia Siebel, Geraldine Udell, Joseph Wiley, Harry Yates

Advisors: Amy Bonner, Julia Bowe, J. V. Cunningham, George Dillon, Wallace Fowlie, Hugh Kenner, Thomas C. Lea, Arthur T. Leonard, Robert Morss Lovett, William S. Monroe, John Frederick Nims, Jessica Nelson North, Margedant Peters, Lew Sarett, Marion Strobel, Thornton Wilder

7. HENRY RAGO
October 1955-June 1969

Editorial Staff: Frederick Bock, Margaret Danner, Daryl Hine, Robert Mueller, John Frederick Nims, Joseph Wiley

Support Staff: Grace Carone, Flora Grippo, Helen Lothrop, Patricia McEnerney, Julie McLauchlin, Donald H. Merwin, Elizabeth Wright

Advisors: George Dillon, Wallace Fowlie, Hugh Kenner, Jessica Nelson North, Marion Strobel

8. DARYL HINE
July 1969-December 1977

Editorial Staff: Michael Mesic, Joseph Parisi, Joseph Wiley

Support Staff: Rob Colby [Allen], Nadine Cummings, Helen Lothrop Klaviter

Advisors: Virgil Burnett, Wallace Fowlie, Hugh Kenner, Sally Spector, R. Williams

9. JOHN FREDERICK NIMS
January 1978-August 1983

Editorial Staff: Joseph Parisi

Support Staff: Nadine Cummings, Helen Lothrop Klaviter

10. JOSEPH PARISI
September 1983-September 2003

Editorial Staff: Jim Elledge, Davis McCombs, Drew Swinger, Stephen Young, Aaron Fagan, Damian Rogers

Support Staff: Nadine Cummings, Aaron Fagan, William D. Falloon, Chad Gayle, Helen Lothrop Klaviter, Michael Blaise Kong, Allison Lemieux, Davis McCombs, Douglas Milam, Drew Swinger, Rex Wilder, Stephen Young, Damian Rogers

11. CHRISTIAN WIMAN
October 2003-September 2013

Editorial Staff: Stephen Young, Helen Lothrop Klaviter, Danielle Chapman, Christina Pugh, Fred Sasaki, Scott Stealey, Adam Travis, Valerie Jean Johnson, Don Share, Lindsay Garbutt

12. DON SHARE
October 2013-present

Editorial Staff: Christina Pugh, Fred Sasaki, Lindsay Garbutt, Holly Amos, Sarah Dodson

Poetry Collections at University of Chicago

The Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago houses the Harriet Monroe Modern Poetry Collection, which includes the Modern Poetry Rare Book Collection and the Modern Poetry Manuscript Collection. The following excerpts are taken from the University of Chicago Library's Special Collections website.

History of the Harriet Monroe Modern Poetry Collection

In 1931, Harriet Monroe decided to present her poetry library, her personal papers, and the editorial files of Poetry magazine as a gift to the University of Chicago. Following her death in 1936, the Monroe library and Poetry archives were received as a bequest and installed in a specially designated room in Wieboldt Hall, the modern languages building on the campus of the University of Chicago. The Modern Poetry Library room provided book shelves for the poetry collection, display cases for the letters and manuscripts of notable poets in the Poetry archives, and equipment for listening to recordings of poets reading their works.

The formal opening of the Harriet Monroe Library of Modern Poetry was marked by a festive dinner of the University of Chicago Friends of the Library on May 24, 1938. Guest speakers paying tribute to Harriet Monroe's achievements included Carl Sandburg, Archibald MacLeish, Ford Maddox Ford, George Dillon, and Sterling North. Messages lauding Monroe's remarkable influence were received from many of the poets she had encouraged and promoted, including Ezra Pound, Walter De La Mare, William Rose Benét, Witter Bynner, John Gould Fletcher, Edgar Lee Masters, Lew Sarett, Jean Starr Untermeyer, and John Hall Wheelock, among others.

In addition to the gift of her library and archives, Harriet Monroe's will also provided $5,000 to establish a fund for the advancement and encouragement of poetry through the award of a $500 prize for distinction in poetry. Monroe stipulated that the committee of award for the prize should give preference to "poets of progressive rather than academic tendencies." The inaugural Harriet Monroe Poetry Award, given at the University of Chicago in June 1941, was presented to twenty-eight-year-old Muriel Rukeyser. Among those receiving the award in later years were Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, and Robert Lowell.

In 1953, the Harriet Monroe Modern Poetry Library was incorporated within the newly established Department of Special Collections of the University of Chicago Library. In 2002, this department became the Special Collections Research Center. The Modern Poetry book collection, enlarged continuously on an annual basis with the support of an endowed acquisition fund, is divided between a poetry collection in the general stacks of Regenstein Library and the Modern Poetry rare books and serials in the Special Collections Research Center. The editorial archives of Poetry magazine, the personal papers of Harriet Monroe, and the papers of other modern poets and editors and publishers of poetry are held as part of the manuscript collections in the Special Collections Research Center.

Modern Poetry Rare Book Collection

In 1931, five years before the death of Harriet Monroe, University of Chicago Trustee Harold H. Swift provided an anonymous gift of $5,000 to support Poetry magazine while Monroe remained editor and to serve as an endowment for the enlargement of her book collection thereafter. At the time of its receipt by the University of Chicago Library, the books in the library of Harriet Monroe numbered 2,400 volumes.

Poets represented in the collection included major figures in the modern poetry movement such as Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, William Butler Yeats, and Marianne Moore, along with John Gould Fletcher, William Vaughn Moody, Witter Bynner, and many other authors. The library included Monroe's collection of little magazines, inscribed copies of books by authors she championed, and publications of poetry in chapbooks, broadsides, pamphlets, and other ephemeral formats. Among the important works of early modernism and first books by authors who appeared in the magazine are Samuel Beckett, Whoroscope (Paris: Hours Press, 1930); T.S. Eliot, Prufrock and Other Observations (London: the Egoist, 1917); Robert Frost, A Boy's Will (London: D. Nutt, 1913); Ezra Pound, A lume spento (Venice: Published by A. Antonini, 1908); and Dylan Thomas, 18 Poems (London: the Sunday Referee and Parton Bookshop, 1934). Friends and colleagues of Harriet Monroe such as Helen and Hi Simons and Morton D. Zabel helped to enlarge the collection by donating books from their own libraries.

The scope of the Modern Poetry book collection now encompasses poetry written in English from 1900 to the present, with writers ranging from W. H. Auden and Rupert Brooke to William Carlos Williams, Dylan Thomas, and Allen Ginsberg. Canadian, African, British, Australian, and American authors are represented along with translations of foreign poets who exerted particularly strong influence on writers in English. The collection includes translations of major poets' works into Italian, French, and other languages. Literature of significant poetry movements such as the Imagists is complemented by the works of student poets, the publications of poetry societies, and finely printed editions.

At present, the Library's Modern Poetry book collection comprises well over 25,000 volumes, and the collection continues to grow by 1,000-1,200 volumes a year. Books and serials in the general and rare components of the Modern Poetry collection are accessible through the Library's online catalog.

Modern Poetry Manuscript Collection

The editorial archives of Poetry acquired by bequest from Harriet Monroe included extensive files of correspondence and poetry manuscripts from the time of her founding of the journal in 1912 until her death in 1936. Subsequently, the University of Chicago Library acquired two additional series of editorial files documenting Poetry and its authors during the years 1936-1953 and 1954-1961. Together, these three series of files preserve the letters and writings of a significant and remarkably diverse group of modern poets of the first half of the twentieth century. Eliot, Pound, Williams, Moore, Yeats, Sandburg, Thomas, and Frost are represented, along with Vachel Lindsay, Conrad Aiken, Wallace Stevens, Yvor Winters, Sara Teasdale, James Joyce, Edgar Lee Masters, Alfred Kreymborg, Ford Maddox Ford, Louis Zukofsky, Hart Crane, Witter Bynner, and Robert Penn Warren, among many others.

The editorial files of Poetry are amplified by collections of papers and records that document the work of individual poets and the publication of their writings. These materials include the papers of Harriet Monroe, Harriet Brainard Moody, Ronald Lane Latimer, Amy Bonner, and Morton D. Zabel, and the editorial files of the Chicago Review. More recent collections documenting the writing and publishing of modern poetry continue to be added.

Manuscript holdings are arranged in the following individual collections and series:

  • Mary Aldis. Papers.
  • Big Table Records [within Paul S. Carroll Papers]
  • Amy Bonner. Papers.
  • Noah S. Brannen. Papers.
  • Paul S. Carroll. Papers.
  • Chicago Review. Records.
  • James Vincent Cunningham. Papers.
  • William I. Elliott. Papers.
  • Thomas Fitzsimmons. Papers.
  • Free Lunch Records [within Ron C. Offen Papers}
  • Morgan Gibson. Papers.
  • Jeremy Ingalls. Papers.
  • Ronald Lane Latimer. Papers.
  • Leza Lowitz. Papers.
  • LVNG. Records.
  • Modern Poetry Miscellaneous Manuscripts.
  • Modern Poetry Photograph Collection.
  • Harriet Monroe. Personal Papers.
  • Harriet Brainard Moody. Papers.
  • Ronald C. Offen. Papers.
  • Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. Records. 1912-1961.
  • David Ray. Papers.
  • SARU Press Records [within Drew M. Stroud Papers]
  • Seven Woods Press. Records.
  • Hi Simons. Papers.
  • Layle Silbert. Papers.
  • Maurine Smith. Papers.
  • Israel Solon. Papers.
  • Drew M. Stroud (Ryu Makoto). Papers.
  • Lewis Turco. Papers.
  • University of Chicago. Library. Harriet Monroe Modern Poetry Library. Records.
  • Verse. Records.
  • Morton Dauwen Zabel. Papers.

Manuscript materials in the Harriet Monroe Modern Poetry Collection are accessible through finding aids available in the Special Collections Research Center. Some materials within collections may be restricted; for further information on holdings, please contact the Special Collections Research Center directly.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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