ECU | Joyner Library | Special Collections | Digital Collections
ECU Digital Collections Banner

Stuart Wright Collection: John Ciardi Papers 1949-1976

Manuscript Collection #1169-018

Descriptive Summary Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Title: Stuart Wright Collection: John Ciardi Papers
Creators: Ciardi, John [John Anthony], 1916-1986
Wright, Stuart T., 1948-
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Papers (1949-1976) documenting the life and literary career of John Ciardi, the noted American poet, translator, etymologist, and editor, consisting of loose manuscripts from the Stuart Wright Book Collection, including correspondence, notes, and ephemera, by or about John Ciardi, Elio Vittorini, Harry Crews, George Braziller, and others.
Extent: 0.25 Cubic feet, 1 archival box; 19 items.

Administrative Information Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Accessions Information

21 June 2010; 0.008 cubic feet; 1 archival box; 19 items; 25 p.; Papers (1949-1976) documenting the life and literary career of John Ciardi, the noted American poet, translator, etymologist, and editor, consisting of loose manuscripts from the Stuart Wright Book Collection, including correspondence, notes, and ephemera, by or about John Ciardi, Elio Vittorini, Harry Crews, George Braziller, and others. Vendor: Stuart Wright

Access Restrictions

No restrictions

Copyright Notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Preferred Citation

Stuart Wright Collection - John Ciardi Papers (#1169-018) East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

Acquisition Information

  • Purchased from Stuart Wright, 6/21/2010

Processing Information

  • Processed, Preliminary inventory, Container list, & Finding aid by Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of Saundra Pinkham, revised 11/19/2010; Final inventory by Douglas Tuers, revised 1/24/2011; Finding aid revised by Jonathan Dembo, 11/29/2011; revised by Trisha Capansky, 11/28/2011; revised by Jonathan Dembo, 1/23/2012; Encoded by Jonathan Dembo, 7/2/2012; Encoding revised by Jonathan Dembo, 7/16/2012


Biographical / Historical Note Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

John Anthony Ciardi

John Anthony Ciardi was born 24 June 1916 in Boston, Massachusetts into an Italian-American immigrant family. He is known as a poet, translator, etymologist, and editor. While primarily known as a poet, he also translated Dante's Divine Comedy trilogy (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradisio, 1954-1977), wrote several volumes of children's poetry, pursued etymology studies, contributed to the Saturday Review as a columnist and long-time poetry editor, and directed the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Vermont. Ciardi graduated from Tufts University in 1938. He subsequently earned an M.A. from the University of Michigan in 1939. Ciardi served in the U. S. Army Air Corps during World War II, as a gunner aboard B-29 bombers and flew at least 20 missions over Japan. After the war, Ciardi resumed his teaching career at the University of Kansas City but soon left for academic positions at Harvard University, where he served from 1946-1953. During this time he became involved with the Bread Loaf Writers Conference at Middlebury College in Vermont. He served as director of the conference for almost thirty years. Ciardi’s first book of poems – Homeward to America -- was published in 1940. Other Skies, based on his wartime experiences appeared in 1947. A third volume, Live Another Day was published in 1949. In 1959, Ciardi published a book on how to read, write, and teach poetry: How Does a Poem Mean? This volume has proven to be among the most-used books of its kind. At the peak of his popularity in the early 1960s, Ciardi also had a network television CBS program, Accent. He died 30 March 1986, in Metuchen, New Jersey.

Stuart T. Wright

The John Ciardi Papers were collected and compiled by Stuart T. Wright. Wright was born on 30 March 1948 in Roxboro, North Carolina. He was the son of Frances Critcher Wright (1919-2010) and Wallace Lyndon Wright (1921-1965). An avid reader as a boy, Wright developed a strong interest in the American Civil War and with his father toured many of the war’s battlefields searching for artifacts and studying the history of the era. At the age of 12, he won a statewide “Johnny Reb” essay contest and by the age of 15 had visited every major battlefield of the Civil War. Wright attended Roxboro High School, from which he graduated in 1966. It was during these years that he developed an interest in collecting historical books and manuscripts and began relationships with a number of local collectors and dealers.

In the fall of 1966, Wright enrolled at Wake Forest University as a pre-med, history, German and music student. Wright earned a B.A. in German and music in 1970. As a graduate student at Wake Forest University, Wright focused his studies on Southern history and literature, his ambition being to build an authoritative Southern Studies collection for the university. He received a master's degree in Southern Studies in 1973 and a second master's degree in U.S. History in 1980. Additionally Wright holds a professional degree from England in a medically related field. It was while studying there that he became interested in Thomas Wolfe, the noted North Carolina native and novelist.

Following his graduation from Wake Forest, Wright began to develop his collections more systematically, acquiring many first editions of Southern writers. In 1976 he began teaching at Reynolda House, a Wake Forest University affiliate dedicated to the arts and arts education. Wright taught classes in American music as well as human anatomy for art students. In 1978 Wright became Lecturer in Education at Wake Forest University. During his 10 years teaching at Wake Forest University, Wright authored numerous works of Civil War and North Carolina history, and dozens of articles, bibliographies, essays and reviews on Southern literature and the writers whose papers he collected. In addition, he developed a strong interest in the writings of the English poet Donald Davie and the Minnesota-born poet Richard Eberhart, whose works he also collected.

At the same time, Wright also began a career as a publisher by starting Palaemon Press in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. By 1984, Palaemon Press had produced 316 titles, consisting mainly of broadsides and limited editions, of the poetry and essays of such Southern writers as A. R. Ammons, Fred Chappell, James Dickey, William Goyen, George Garrett, and Eudora Welty. He also built comprehensive collections and compiled book-length descriptive bibliographies of A.R. Ammons, Andrew Lytle, Reynolds Price, James Dickey, William Goyen, Walker Percy, Randall Jarrell, Peter Taylor, George Garrett, Richard Eberhart, and Donald Davie. As well as serving as editor of the contemporary literature section of the Bulletin of Bibliography throughout the 1980s, Wright also contributed pioneering checklists of the writings of Southern poets Henry Taylor, Charles Wright, and Robert Morgan. For Meckler Publishing he served as series editor for a number of book-length bibliographies and checklists. In recognition of these accomplishments, when he was just 32, Wright was elected to membership in New York's prestigious Grolier Club.

All of these works are represented in the Stuart Wright Collection. In his dealings with these various authors Wright made consistent efforts to acquire personal papers, letters and documents, photographs, manuscripts, drafts, proofs, and published materials to supplement his continuing activities as a purchaser of their works. In this way, Wright acquired perhaps a majority of his overall collection. Over the years a number of biographers used Wright’s collection to aid their research. For example, James A. Grimshaw, Jr. used the collection extensively for his Robert Penn Warren: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1922-1979 published by the University Press of Virginia, in 1981 and Craig S. Abbott did so as well for John Crowe Ransom: A Descriptive Bibliography, published by Whitston Publishing Company, Inc. in 1999. Joseph Blotner also used the Wright collection in researching Robert Penn Warren: A Biography, published by Random House in 1997.

Nevertheless, from the mid- to late 1980s, Wright began to look for a permanent home for his collection, which he felt had grown too large and yet had been too little used. Unable to find a repository willing to accept the entire collection under suitable conditions, he sold a number of individual author collections to Vanderbilt University, Duke University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Emory University. It was not until 2010 that he reached agreement to house the remaining, and largest part of his collection at East Carolina University. The Stuart Wright Collection in the East Carolina Manuscript Collection of J.Y. Joyner Library includes 22 sub-collections of the papers of Southern American writers. The related Stuart Wright Book Collection holds several thousand volumes by or about many of the same writers. Many of these volumes contain annotations, inscriptions, and insertions that reveal much about the authors in the collection and their relationships with one another. In 1998 Wright moved to England, and since 2001 he has resided in the medieval market town of Ludlow, in Shropshire.

Description Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

The John Ciardi Papers consists of two files of John Ciardi’s correspondence and loose manuscript materials transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection. The John Ciardi Papers are arranged in original order in two series.

Series 1: Correspondence consists of two files of correspondence. The first consists of Ciardi’s correspondence with Judith Wray and Robert Mueller regarding the Modern Poetry Association’s private auction in October-November 1959. The second consists of Ciardi’s correspondence with Harry Crews regarding Crews’ behavior, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, their friendship and a proposed visit, during 1971-1972. Series one is held in Box 1.a – 1.b

Series 2: Loose Manuscripts from Stuart Wright Book Collection consists of loose manuscript and other materials found between the leaves of volumes in the Stuart Wright Book Collection. The material consists of notes, letters, clippings, printed material and ephemera, 1940-1976, relating to John Ciardi, Elio Vittorini, Harry Crews, George Braziller, and their publications. Most of the correspondence relates to Harry Crews’s publications Car (1974), The Gospel Singer (1974), and A Feast of Snakes (1976). The loose manuscripts are linked to the book of origin by their Stuart Wright Book Collection Number (e.g. Stuart Wright Book Collection #38.04). Series two is held in Box 1.c – 1.f

Note to Researchers: Series 2: Loose Manuscripts from Stuart Wright Book Collection consists of items found laid in works in the Stuart Wright Book Collection by, about, associated with, or owned by John Ciardi. They include notes and bookmarks inserted by Ciardi, Stuart Wright, and others; also notes, cards, correspondence, clippings, advertising, reviews, ephemera, etc. relating to his published works. The loose manuscripts are linked to the books from which they came by their Stuart Wright Book Collection Number (e.g. Stuart Wright Book Collection #40.15).

Related Collections Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Container List Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Jump to a section?

Series 1:
Correspondence
  • Box 1#1169-018.1
    • Folder a#1169-018.1.a
      Ciardi, John with Judith Wray & Robert Mueller, re: Modern Poetry Association private auction [Correspondence] (October - November 1959) ALS, TLS Clipping, Etc. 8 items. 10 p. Note: John Ciardi was the auctioneer.
    • Folder b#1169-018.1.b
      Ciardi, John with Harry Crews, Gainesville, Florida [Correspondence] (9 February 1971-23 April 1972, undated) TL, TLS. 6 items. 7 p. Note: Discussion of Crews' behavior, bread loaf, their friendship, and possibly visiting.
Series 2:
Loose Manuscripts Transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection
  • Box 1#1169-018.1
    • Folder c#1169-018.1.c
      In Sicily, by Elio Vittorini [Periodicals] (1949) Printed. 1 item. 4 p. Note: In Sicily, by Elio Vittorini, Introduction by Ernest Hemingway, Reviewed by John Ciardi, The Book Find News, George Braziller, editor, Issue No. 87; Vittorini (23 July 1908 - 12 February 1966) was an Italian writer and novelist; autographed by John Ciardi; Loose Manuscripts Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #18.1
    • Folder d#1169-018.1.d
      Car, by Harry Crews [Books] (1974) Printed. 2 items. 2 p. Note: Stuart Wright note slips: "See blurb on front flap of DJ [dust jacket] of published edition for Ciardi's contribution" & "Ciardi is co-dedicatee of The Gypsy's Curse (1974) Holograph; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #49.8
    • Folder e#1169-018.1.e
      Feast of Snakes, A, by Harry Crews [Books] (1976) Printed. 1 item. 1 p. Note: Harry Crews, Letter to John Ciardi enclosing "A Feast of Snakes", is now writing a monthly column for Esquire, etc. (ca. 1976) TLS; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #49.16
    • Folder f#1169-018.1.f
      Gospel Singer, The, by Harry Crews [Book] (1974) Printed. 1 item. 1 p. Note: Stuart Wright note card: "Ciardi is co-dedicatee of "The Gypsy's Curse" (1974) Holograph; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #49.18
What is this page? Click here to learn more abou this webpage
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Special Collections Division, J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University. The materials described here are physically available in our reading room. None of the original documents in this collection are digitally available online at this time.
ECU Centennial Logo

Finding Aids for Special Collections and University Archives

© 2002-2011 Joyner Library, East Carolina University

Contact Us ° Digital Collections
Feedback Form
Feedback Analytics