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University of Texas at Austin

Louis Zukofsky:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator Zukofsky, Louis, 1904-1978
Title Louis Zukofsky Collection
Dates: 1910-1985
Extent: 43 boxes (17.91 linear feet), 5 oversize boxes, 26 galley folders, and 2 oversize folders
Abstract The collection documents the life and writing career of the twentieth century American poet and editor. The bulk of the materials consist of holograph and typescript manuscripts. Also included is Zukofsky correspondence and works by others about Zukofsky.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-04641
Language: English
Access Open for research.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchases and gifts, 1960-1991
Processed by Chelsea S. Jones, 1998

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Louis Zukofsky was born in Manhattan, on the lower east side, in 1904 to Pinchos and Channa Pruss Zukofsky, immigrants from what is now Lithuania. His father's Orthodox Jewish faith eventually became a point of contention between them, but Zukofsky always recognized the influence his immigrant parents' struggle and faith had on him, writing about it in his early work, "Poem beginning 'The';" and in various early sections of his life-long poem, "A."
The Zukofskys spoke Yiddish at home so Louis did not begin to learn English until he started public school. However he had already been exposed to great writers from Shakespeare to Tolstoy at the Yiddish theater. Zukofsky attended Columbia University where he studied philosophy and English, earning his master's degree in 1926. He also began writing poetry, publishing some of it in student publications.
By 1929, he had made himself known to Ezra Pound, who liked his work and encouraged the editors of Poetry Magazine to have Zukofsky edit a special edition: Objectivists 1931, including works by Carl Rakosi, Charles Reznikoff, and William Carlos Williams, all of whom corresponded with and influenced Zukofsky for years to come.
In 1933, Zukofsky found work as a supervisor on a Works Progress Administration project where he met Celia Thaew, a musician and composer. They married in 1939 and had a son, Paul, in 1943. Celia collaborated with Zukofsky on most of his projects after their marriage, composing music for his poetry and typing manuscripts, as well as managing the household.
Despite his early success with Poetry Magazine and An "Objectivists"Anthology (1932), Zukofsky's work remained fairly obscure for the next thirty years and he had significant difficulty finding a publisher. It was not until W.W. Norton agreed to publish the first volume of All: The Collected Short Poems (1966) that publishers began to take a serious interest in his work. If some old friends found Zukofsky bitter by the 1960s, he still had friends and there were many young poets who admired his work. Allen Ginsberg, Gilbert Sorrentino, and Jonathan Williams all count Zukofsky among their influences, and visited and corresponded with him.
Zukofsky's last new work, 80 Flowers (1978), and the final complete version of "A"were at the publishers waiting to go to press when he died in 1978.


Dictionary of Literary Biography--Volume 165: American Poets Since World War II, Fourth Series. Joseph Conte, Ed. (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1996).
Louis Zukofsky: Man and Poet. Carroll F. Terrell, Ed. (Orono: University of Main at Orono Printing Office, 1979).

Scope and Contents

Holograph and typescript manuscripts and correspondence make up the bulk of the Louis Zukofsky Collection (1910-1985). The collection is organized into five series: I. Works, 1921-1978 (17.5 boxes), II. Letters, 1930-1968 (3.5 boxes), III. Recipient, 1924-1977 (9.5 boxes), IV. Miscellaneous, 1910-1985 (6.5 boxes), and V. Subject Files, 1936-1975 (7 boxes). The first four series are arranged alphabetically by title or author. The fifth series is arranged alphabetically by subject, generally the title of a work. This collection was previously accessible through a card catalog, but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.
Materials acquired before 1970 were cataloged and arranged in the standard arrangement of Works, Letters, Recipient, and Miscellaneous. Aquisitions that arrived after 1970 were arranged by subject, so that letters about a publication were filed with the manuscript. It was decided to leave the material grouped in this order and place it in a fifth series, rather than distribute it throughout the collection. All works and correspondence are indexed to facilitate use.
The Works Series covers Zukofsky's writing career thoroughly between 1921 and 1968, including the "A" series of poems from "A"-1 to "A"-21/Rudens, typescripts and galley proofs for all three versions of All: The Collected Poems, and various individual poems, short stories, and radio scripts. Due to the potential for confusion when listing the various segments of the "A" poems, the term (poem) or (book) was placed after the title of each segment and book titles were italicized, however quotes were not placed around the titles of poems in the following Folder List. Of particular interest in this series are the working notebooks in which Zukofsky and his wife translated Catullus. The Latin text runs on the left-hand page while the English is written on the right. The same method was used by Zukofsky in editing "A"-14 and "A"-15 with one version of the poem written on the left-hand page and an edited version on the right. Individual poems, as well as the major titles, are listed in the Index of Works in this guide.
The Letters Series is relatively small but does contain a large collection of letters from Zukofsky to fellow poets Cid Corman, Lorine Niedecker and Carl Rakosi. Most of the letters in this series are personal, however some communications with publishers and organizations are present. The Recipient Series is much larger and contains substantial numbers of letters to Zukofsky from Basil Bunting, Cid Corman, Guy Davenport, Hayden Carruth, Robert Creeley, Hugh Kenner, Marianne Moore, Samuel Newberry, Lorine Niedecker, Ezra Pound, Mary Ellen Solt, Jonathan Williams, and William Carlos Williams. An Index of Correspondents is located in this guide.
The Miscellaneous Series is composed largely of works by other authors and correspondence between other people about Zukofsky. There are three theses, several reviews of Zukofsky's publications, works by Lorine Niedecker, a series of holograph poems by Whittaker Chambers in a travel diary, and a quantity of envelopes and folders. Also included are a few newspaper clippings, notes on the publication of Zukofsky's works and an honorary degree from Bard College. An Index of Works by Other Authors is included at the end of this guide.
The Subject Files Series contains more holographs and typescripts of Zukofsky's later work, including "A"-22 through "A"-24; Little, for Careengers; Autobiography, and the French translation for First Half of "A"-9.Material for "A"-24 is particularly complete, ranging from holograph notes in a spiral notebook to the typescript scores for individual characters and including production notes. Celia Zukofsky's listing of Zukofsky's works, titled A Bibliography, is also found here, along with the correspondence which lead to its publication. Correspondence regarding Catullus and Arise, Arise! is also included, as is the correspondence between Zukofsky and about a dozen institutions where he gave readings. The works and correspondence in this series are included in the Index of Works and the Index of Correspondence found in this guide

Separated Material

Elsewhere in the Ransom Center are an extensive collection of newspaper clippings and other printed materials covering the publication and criticism of Zukofsky's work (Vertical Files), 17 sound recordings (Manuscript Sound Recordings Index), some video footage, a series of collages and drawings by and of Zukofsky in the Art Collection, a few photographs in the Literary Files of the Photography Collection, and a wallet that belonged to Zukofsky in the Personal Effects Collection.

Index Terms


Blackburn, Paul, 1925- .
Brakhage, Stan.
Bunting, Basil.
Carruth, Hayden, 1921- .
Corman, Cid.
Creeley, Robert, 1926- .
Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962.
Dahlberg, Edward, 1900-1977.
Davenport, Guy.
Duncan, Robert Edward, 1919- .
Eberhart, Richard, 1904- .
Eigner, Larry, 1927- .
Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1885-1965.
Enslin, Theodore.
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence.
Finlay, Ian Hamilton.
Ignatow, David, 1914- .
Kelly, Robert.
Kenner, Hugh, 1928- .
Levertov, Denise, 1923- .
Lowenfels, Walter, 1897-1976.
Lucie-Smith, Edward.
Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.
Monroe, Harriet, 1860-1936.
Moore, Marianne, 1887-1972.
Newberry, Samuel David.
Niedecker, Lorine.
Patchen, Kenneth, 1911-1972.
Pickard, Tom, 1946- .
Pound, Ezra, 1885-1972.
Rakosi, Carl, 1903- .
Read, Herbert Edward, Sir, 1893-1968.
Reznikoff, Charles, 1894-1976.
Samperi, Frank.
Solt, Mary Ellen.
Stevens, Wallace, 1879-1955.
Tomlinson, Charles, 1927- .
Van Doren, Mark, 1894-1972.
Williams, Jonathan, 1929- .
Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963
Wilson, Edmund, 1895-1972.
Zukofsky, Celia Thaew.
Zukofsky, Paul.


American poetry--20th century.
Catullus, Gaius Valerius.
Philosophy in literature.
Poets, American--20th century.
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616--Philosophy.

Document Types

Christmas cards.
Galley proofs.

Other Finding Aids

For more explicit descriptions of items in the Zukofsky Collection, see:
A Catalogue of the Louis Zukofsky Manuscript Collection.Marcella Booth. (University of Texas: Austin, 1975). and
"Supplement to Marcella Booth's A Catalogue of the Louis Zukofsky Manuscript Collection." Cathy Henderson. The Library Chronicle. Series 38/39, pp107-181. (University of Texas: Austin, 1987).
It should be noted that the catalog numbers provided in these sources cannot be used to retrieve materials.

Louis Zukofsky Collection--Folder List