Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

Search Collections

Judson Crews:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Crews, Judson
Title: Judson Crews Papers
Dates: 1935-1981
Extent: 17 boxes (7.15 linear feet)
Abstract: The papers of poet, editor, publisher, and book dealer Judson Crews include extensive correspondence, published and unpublished manuscripts of novels, poetry, and other genres written by Crews under his many pseudonyms, and materials relating to censorship.
RLIN Record #: TXRC94-A16
Language English.
Access

Open for research




Acquisition

Purchases, 1962, 1981

Processed by

Yuka Asai, Heather Moore, and Katherine Mosley, 1990, revised by David Hatfield Sparks, June 1994

Repository:

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin


Judson Crews, poet, editor, publisher, and book dealer, was born June 30, 1917, in Waco, Texas, to Noah George Crews and Tommie Farmer Crews. In 1947 he married Mildred Tolbert, a photographer and writer who also contributed to her husband's early publications and works. They had two children, Anna Bush and Carole Judith, before divorcing in 1980. Crews received both the B.A. (1941) and M.A. (1944) in Sociology from Baylor University, and during 1946-1947 studied fine arts at Baylor. In addition, Crews did graduate study at the University of Texas, El Paso in 1967. He has worked as an educator at Wharton County Junior College, New Mexico (1967-1970), the University of New Mexico, Gallup Branch (1971-1972), and at the University of Zambia (1974-1978). He has also been involved in social work. After two years in the U. S. Army Medical Corps during World War II, Crews moved his family and business, Motive Press, from Waco, Texas, to Taos, New Mexico, where he began his writing and publishing career in earnest.

Judson Crews was a prominent figure in the Southwest poetry scene as a poet, editor, and publisher of contemporary poetry and art magazines. Crews is known as an original and innovative poet applying the 20th-century poetic techniques of poets like Pound, Williams, and Wallace Stevens in an idiosyncratic way. Since 1935 he has contributed to a large number of little magazines, journals, and anthologies. These include Beloit Poetry Journal, Evergreen Review, Poetry Now, Wormwood Review, City Lights Anthology (1974), Poems Southwest (1968), and An Uninhibited Treasury of Erotic Poetry (1963). His published chapbooks include A Poet's Breath (1950), Come Curse the Moon (1952), The Wrath Wrenched Splendor of Love (1956), The Ogres Who Were His Henchmen (1958), and The Stones of Konarak (1966). Crews' more recent works include the chapbook, Nolo Contendere (1966), edited by Joanie Whitebird and a 1982 collection of poems, The Clock of Moss, edited by Carol Bergé.

Crews admittedly wrote under numerous pseudonyms. Of these pseudonyms, Willard Emory Betis, Trumbull Drachler, Cerise Farallon (Mrs. Trumbull Drachler, maiden name Lena Johnston), and Tobi Macadams have been clearly identified. In the instance of these, and possibly many other pseudonymous names, Crews created a fantasy world of writers to encompass, perhaps, the breadth of his literary ambitions.

Crews' fiction and non-fiction writing includes two unpublished novels and numerous essays. Crews was a crusader in various causes related to his writing and publishing activities. These causes include such topics as obscenity and censorship, freedom of sexual expression, and women's reproductive issues including abortion, contraception, and forced sterilization. Other essays include literary criticism, such as book reviews, as well as regional topics as found in The Southern Temper (1946), and Patocinio Barela: Taos Wood Carver (1955). In 1976 Crews began an extensive memoir which remains unpublished.

Crews' publishing activities began in earnest after his move from Texas to the Taos area. He started the Este Es Press in 1946, which remained in operation until 1966. The little magazines with which he was involved from 1940 to 1966 include The Deer and Dachshund, The Flying Fish, Motive, The Naked Ear, Poetry Taos, Suck-Egg Mule: A Recalcitrant Beast, Taos: A Deluxe Magazine of the Arts, and Vers Libre. Together with Scott Greer, he was co-editor of Crescendo: A Laboratory for Young America, and worked with Jay Waite on Gale. Crews published not only his own chapbooks and magazines but also those of his friends and colleagues, including the Zambian poet Mason Jordan Mason, among others. In conjunction with this printing activity, Crews operated the Motive Book Shop which became a focal point for the dissemination and advocacy of avant-garde poetry, important little magazines and literary reviews, as well as so-called pornographic materials. The material that Crews sold ranged from literary classics such as the works of D. H. Lawrence and Henry Miller, to hard-to-obtain domestic and foreign avant-garde journals, and nudist magazines. Crews was also a friend as well as an advocate of Henry Miller and continued to sell Miller's works after they were banned in the United States.


The Judson Crews Papers, 1935-1981 (bulk 1940-1966), include correspondence, drafts, notes, manuscripts, and newspaper clippings, as well as page proofs, paste-ups, and various materials collected for publication. The collection is arranged in five series: Correspondence, 1935-1981 (7.5 boxes); Works, 1946-1974 (2 boxes); Works by Others, 1945-1966 (2 boxes); Publications Edited, 1940-1965 (1.5 boxes); Censorship Activities, 1945-1966 (1 box); and Personal Papers, 1935-1966 (3 boxes).

Crews' correspondence with friends, colleagues and editors, subscribers and customers dominates the collection. Significant correspondents include Wendell B. Anderson, Imamu Amiri Baraka, Kenneth Lawrence Beaudoin, Robert Bly, Charles Bukowski, Glen Coffield, Robert Creeley, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Carol Ely Harper, Langston Hughes, Aldous Huxley, John F. Kennedy, Meridel Le Sueur, Gordon Lish, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Larry McMurtry, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Kenneth Patchen, Kenneth Rexroth, Alan Swallow, Louis Untermeyer, William Carlos Williams, and Louis Zukofsky. While most of the correspondence is of a business nature, some letters from writers with whom Crews was more intimate shed light on his personal life and creative process. Other correspondence with individuals, organizations, and government agencies pertains specifically to Crews' involvement in censorship and obscenity issues. A complete list of correspondents can be found at the end of this inventory.

Manuscripts of works by Crews and others are also present in the collection. Among these are poems by Crews spanning the years 1946-1965, including those published separately in individual chapbooks. Other unpublished poetry manuscripts include "Sudden Encounter" (nd) and "The Unnecessary Serpent" (nd). Numerous early works by Crews are found in the works series, including two as yet unpublished novels, miscellaneous essays, book reviews, and notebooks, as well as a 1974 diary of Crews' travel in Africa. Some of Crews' pseudonymous poetry (by Willard Emory Betis, Trumbull Drachler, and Cerise Farallon) is also present. Other writers whose works are represented in this collection include Wendell B. Anderson, Kenneth Lawrence Beaudoin, Carol Bergé, Scott Greer, Norman Macleod, Mason Jordan Mason, Alfred Morang, and Robert Rivera.

Publication files for several little magazines with which Crews was involved, about 1940 to 1965, are also found among these papers. These include The Deer and Dachshund, The Flying Fish, The Naked Ear, Gale (co-edited with Jay Waite), Poetry Taos, Taos: A Deluxe Magazine of the Arts, and Suck Egg Mule: A Recalcitrant Beast.

A few personal records such as medical and military papers, are also present. Other materials in the collection include numerous clippings, many of which are related to obscenity and censorship topics (especially the Henry Miller obscenity trial of 1961), advertisements, brochures, and catalogs from nudist colonies, and newsletters and pamphlets from a variety of political and literary organizations in which Crews was interested, helped organize, or of which he was a member. Copies of "The Horse Fly" (1935-1965), written by his friend Spud Johnson, are also found here.

Beyond the study of Crews and his writings, this collection also provides insight into the Southwestern and avant-garde poetry scenes of the 1950s and 1960s, the publication and editorial process involved in publishing little magazines, the assumption and use of pseudonymous literary identities, as well as issues involved in publishing and bookselling, such as censorship, obscenity, and the import and sale of banned books through the U. S. mails.


Other Crews materials can be found in several HRC collections, including the E. E. Cummings, Henry Miller, Spud Johnson, and Gerard Malanga collections. There are also letters from Mildred Tolbert Crews in the Spud Johnson Collection.

The HRC was a customer of Crews' book service and purchased various little magazines between 1959 and 1963. A record of these transactions can be found in the Crews and Little Magazines Collection Files.

Other collections of Crews' papers are housed at the University of New Mexico Special Collections Library and at the University of California, Los Angeles. The collection at UCLA also includes materials of Mildred Tolbert.


Correspondents

Anderson, Wendell B.

Baraka, Imamu Amiri, 1934- .

Beaudoin, Kenneth Lawrence, 1913- .

Bergé, Carol, 1928- .

Bly, Robert.

Bond, Pearl.

Bontemps, Arna, 1902-1973.

Bukowski, Charles.

Bynner, Witter, 1881-1968.

Childs, Barney.

Ciardi, John, 1916- .

Coffield, Glen, 1917- .

Corman, Cid, 1924- .

Creeley, Robert, 1926- .

Crosby, Caresse, 1892- .

Duncan, Robert Edward, 1919- .

Ferlinghetti, Lawrence.

Ginsberg, Allen, 1926- .

Greer, Scott A.

Hill, Hyacinthe.

Hoover, J. Edgar (John Edgar), 1895-1972.

Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967.

Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963.

Ignatow, David, 1914- .

Johnson, Walter Willard, 1897-1966.

Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963.

Kupferberg, Tuli.

Legman, G. (Gershon), 1917- .

Le Sueur, Meridel.

Levy, D. A.

Lish, Gordon.

Luhan, Mabel Dodge, 1879-1962.

Macleod, Norman, 1906- .

Macauley, Robie.

McMurtry, Larry.

Malanga, Gerard.

Miller, Henry, 1891- .

Morang, Alfred, 1902-1958.

Nin, Anaïs, 1903-1977.

Patchen, Kenneth, 1911-1971.

Rexroth, Kenneth, 1905- .

Shapiro, Karl, 1913- .

Sorrentino, Gilbert, 1929- .

Swallow, Alan, 1915-1966.

Untermeyer, Louis, 1885-1977.

Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963.

Zukofsky, Louis, 1904-1978.

Subjects

American poetry--Southwest, New.

American poetry--Periodicals.

American poetry--20th century.

Erotic poetry, American.

Erotica--Censorship.

Experimental poetry.

Little magazines--United States.

Poets, American.

Southwest, New--Poetry.

Document Types

Chapbooks.

Commonplace books.

Diaries.

First drafts.

Galley proofs.

Photographs.

Poems.

Prints.