Monday, September 2, 2013

Monday Muse: Emory U's Poetry Library

. . . [B]ook collecting is fun; serious fun possibly
but always an antidote to the idiocies of life
and the pretensions of academia. . . .*
~ Raymond Danowski, Collector

What does it take to assemble a 75,000-object poetry library? Raymond Danowski, who initially had the idea to acquire every poetry book published in English in the 20th Century, says, "Book collecting is an outlet for fanaticism, passion, love, and rationality without their drawbacks."* Passion indeed. While in his hands, Danowski's holdings were thought to comprise the largest private poetry library of its kind. Since 2004, his holdings have been housed in the Manuscript, Archives & Rare Book Library (MARBL) at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.

Created over some 25 years and still being augmented, The Raymond Danowski Poetry Library is every poetry lover's and scholar's dream of what a poetry-centric library could be. It is notable for its wide range of objects — rare and first editions of modern and contemporary poetry, chapbooks, anthologies, broadsides, manuscripts, literary journals and magazines, audio recordings, visual art — and for its A-to-Z depth. The collection spans the period 1855 to the present and within it are the author collections of W.H. Auden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, and William Carlos Williams. The holdings come not only from the United States but also from the United Kingdom (including Ireland and Scotland), Australia, India, Canada, and South Africa.

Looking for the first author-printed edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1855)? You'll find it in the Danowski collection. Or perhaps William Carlos Williams's Poems of 1909? It's in the library, too, one of just 11 known copies of the poet's first (and never reprinted) book. The collection also includes Anne Sexton's personal, annotated copy of Sylvia Plath's Ariel (1965).

MARBL is undertaking to catalogue electronically everything in the collection and make it available online. More than 48,000 items already are listed on MARBL's site (list of catalogued works).

* Quoted from "Raymond Danowski, Collector" (This is a wonderful reflection on what inspired Danowski to collect and his reasons for selecting Emory as the repository for the library.)

Emory University and MARBL on FaceBookTwitter, and YouTube

Of Related Interest 

The Danowski Poetry Library sponsors a Reading Series that has brought to campus such poets and writers as Elizabeth Alexander, Lucille Clifton, Billy Collins, Toi Derricotte, Cornelius Eady, Eamon Grennan, Galway Kinnell, Mary Oliver, Don Paterson, Robert Pinksky, D.A. Powell, and Natasha Trethewey. (See, in addition to the audio recordings available here, the free Poetry Conversations at iTunes and The Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Reading Series - Videos.) 

Collectible, limited-edition (100 copies to 250 copies), signed and unsigned broadsides accompany many readings and may be purchased by the public.

"Democratic Vistas", curated by poet Kevin Young in 2008, was the first major exhibition of the Danowski collection. Featuring more than 200 poetry works, including a copy of T.S. Eliot's Prufrock and Other Observations (1917), inscribed for Eliot's friend Emily Hale, the exhibition was accompanied by an illustrated,  full-color catalogue written by Young and available from MARBL.

Young, who has been the poetry library's curator since 2005, teaches courses at Emory that incorporate and focus on the library's holdings. 

Danowski himself has participated in poetry-in-the-classroom seminars. (See the videos for "In the Classroom with Raymond Danowski: Poetry and the Counterculture".)

"The Extraordinary World of MARBL: Three Dimensional Poetry", June 6, 2013

Jenny Jarvie, "Raymond Danowski Has Your Chapbook", Essay, Poetry Foundation, July 29, 2009

Brenda Goodman, "Atlanta Sings of Poems Electric, Past and Present", The New York Times, April 5, 2008

Bruce Weber, "A Windfall of Modern Poetry for Scholars", The New York Times, September 29, 2004

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