July 15, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 19

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    Poetry magazine a treasure worthy of preservation

    Theresa Carson
    News Office

    One of the nation’s treasures sits in the archives of the University Library, and thanks to a grant from Save America’s Treasures program, the library’s Poetry magazine collection will be restored and protected for generations to come.

    Earlier this month, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the library’s receipt of the $125,508 award. Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, was “the first journal in America devoted entirely to poetry that had a significant impact,” said Mark Strand, 1999 Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry and Professor on the University’s Committee on Social Thought.

    Alice Schreyer, Curator of Special Collections, said, “This magazine created an audience for the works of many of America’s and Europe’s foremost poets.” The archive contains 120,000 pages of original manuscripts, authors’ letters and editorial files of Poetry from the first half of the magazine’s existence.

    “It was a venue for experimental writing,” said Strand, a former U.S. Poet Laureate. These documents will better inform researchers about the publishing histories of prominent writers, he said. Included in the collection are the original manuscripts of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and Carl Sandburg’s “The Windy City” as well as letters from Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens and Ernest Hemingway.

    “The journal transformed the way that poetry and poets are recognized and read worldwide, and it continues today as a major cultural influence and source of pride in American achievement,” Schreyer said.

    The grant will be used to repair and rehouse the fragile originals and to microfilm the entire archive, Schreyer said. Written between 1912 and 1961 on acidic paper, the documents were in danger of irreparable deterioration. Some are already so brittle they can no longer be safely read, Schreyer said.

    The preservation process will allow for safe future use of the collection. Once filmed, the documents will be available for use worldwide. Funding from the award also will support digitization of the first decade of the published journal.