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Collection Overview

Kunitz, Stanley, 1905-2006.
Stanley Kunitz Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1900-2006 (mostly 1960-2005)
209 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-209


The Stanley Kunitz Papers consists of the literary and personal papers of Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006). A prominent American poet, Kunitz was also a known editor, translator, essayist, and educator. Kunitz's diverse interests are evident in the collection, which includes manuscripts of his writings, extensive correspondence, special-interest files, teaching materials, travel files, documents, photographs, memorabilia, artwork, calendars, annotated books, audiocassettes, papers of others, and printed material.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The Stanley Kunitz Papers contain wide-ranging materials accumulated by the poet over his lifetime. The collection includes various manuscripts and galley proofs of books, poems, fiction, nonfiction, translations (books and individual poems), and college writings by Kunitz. In addition, it includes a considerable amount of correspondence, which constitutes the bulk of the collection, exchanged between Kunitz and members of his family, friends, fellow literati, publishers, editors, literary journals, and institutions. Some of the major literary figures represented in the correspondence are Louise Bogan, Elizabeth Bishop, Peter Davison, Louise Glück, Denise Levertov, Robert (Cal) Lowell, Marianne Moore, Theodore Roethke, Michael Ryan, Anne Sexton, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, and Richard Wilbur. There is also a good deal of correspondence with such institutions and corporations as the Academy of American Poets, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Columbia University, and the Atlantic Monthly Press.

The collection also contains papers (correspondence, documents, and printed materials) from the H. W. Wilson Company, where Kunitz worked as an editor (1928-1943), the U. S. Army (1943-1945), the Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, Massachusetts (1968-1997), and the Library of Congress, where Kunitz served as the Poetry Consultant (1974-1976) and later as U.S. Poet Laureate (2000-2001). Also found in the collection are some papers of others, including a poem entitled "The Gettysburg Address" by Robert Lowell, multiple manuscripts of Louise Glück, and the book manuscripts that Kunitz chose while editor of the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

Also included in the Papers are teaching materials, ephemera from readings, travel files, documents, calendars, memorabilia, photographs, annotated books, audiocassettes, and printed material. Most notable among these materials are the photographs of Kunitz, Elise Asher, and their friends. [Note that the Leonard Milberg Collection of American Poetry in the Rare Books Division holds printed books and materials by Kunitz.]


Organized into the following series:

In some cases, there are a number of additional sub-series within a sub-series; see the Series Description for details.

Collection Creator Biography:

Kunitz, Stanley, 1905-2006.

Stanley Kunitz was born on July 29, 1905, in Worcester, Massachusetts. His parents, Yetta Helen and Solomon Z. Kunitz, both Eastern European immigrants, owned and operated a dress manufacturing company in Worcester. After graduating from Classical High School, Kunitz left Worcester to attend Harvard University. In 1926 he received his bachelor's degree with highest honors and was also awarded the Garrison Medal for Poetry by the University. Kunitz remained in Cambridge to earn a master's degree, which he completed in 1927. At this time, Kunitz returned to Worcester, where he worked as a feature reporter for the daily newspaper, The Worcester Telegram ; however, Kunitz grew weary of his hometown rather quickly and so left for New York City in 1928 in search of more interesting prospects.

In New York City Kunitz secured a position at the H. W. Wilson Company, where he edited, either alone or collaboratively, seven reference works of literary biography and the Wilson Library Bulletin . Kunitz's first H. W. Wilson book, Living Authors: A Book of Biographies , was published in 1931 under the pseudonym "Dilly Tante," and his final Wilson book, European Authors, 1000-1900 , was published in 1967. The H. W. Wilson Company offered Kunitz a great deal of freedom to pursue his literary interests. For instance, Kunitz was permitted to go abroad in 1929-1930, during which time he polished the poems (and worked on an unfinished novel) that would become, upon his return from Europe in 1930, his first published book of verse, Intellectual Things . Kunitz was also able to maintain his position at H. W. Wilson despite having relocated from New York City to a farm in Mansfield Center, Connecticut around 1931 with his first wife, Helen Pearce (married 1930-1937).

Although Kunitz continued to edit reference books for H. W. Wilson Company through the 1960s, he relinquished his position in 1943 when he was drafted into the U. S. Army. Initially Kunitz petitioned to be classified as a conscientious objector, but the Army denied his request, forcing Kunitz to serve in the military with the Air Transport Command for the duration of the war. During his enlistment, Kunitz published his second book of poetry, Passport to the War (1944), which was inspired by his wartime experiences.

After his release from the service in 1945, Kunitz lived briefly in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and then accepted his first teaching position at Bennington College in 1946. This was to be the first of many such positions for Kunitz, who continued to teach through the 1980s but remained determined to put writing before teaching, never accepting a tenure-track faculty position. He left Bennington College precipitously in 1949 after a dispute with an administrator and took a position at Potsdam State College (now SUNY College at Potsdam), Potsdam, New York, as the curriculum advisor to the English Department. Here, he also taught summer workshops from 1949 to 1953. During this brief (1949-1950) stay in Potsdam, Kunitz's second wife, Eleanor Evans (married 1939-1958) gave birth to their daughter, Gretchen.

In 1950 Kunitz again found himself in New York City, where he held numerous teaching positions at various universities, colleges, and institutions, including The New School for Social Research (1950-1957), the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street YM-YWHA (1958-1962), Queens College (1956-1957), and Columbia University as a lecturer (1963-1966) and then as an adjunct professor of writing (1967-1985). He also held teaching positions further afield in such places as the University of Washington, where he was the poet-in-residence (1955-1956), Brandeis University (1958-1959), Yale University (1971, fellow since 1969), Rutgers University (1974), and Princeton University (1978-1979). In 1958 he married the painter and poet Elise Asher (1912-2004), with whom he spent the rest of his life.

Aside from teaching, Kunitz was an active member of the greater literary community. In 1968 he helped found the Fine Arts Work Center, an artists' colony in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and continued to be a stalwart supporter of the Center, evident in his service on the Board of Trustees, the Executive Committee, and the writing division. As the editor of the Yale Series of Younger Poets from 1969 to 1977, Kunitz gave rise to a new generation of poets, including such well-known poets as Carolyn Forché and Michael Ryan. Kunitz was also a member of the Academy of American Poets and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He served as the Poetry Consultant for the Library of Congress (1974-1976) and, along with Elizabeth Kray, founded Poets House in New York City in 1985. At the age of 95 Kunitz was named U.S. Poet Laureate, a post he served for two years (2000-2001). Internationally Kunitz participated in a number of cultural exchange programs, which included trips to Russia and Poland in 1967, to Senegal and Ghana in 1976, to Russia again in 1979, and to Israel and Egypt in 1980.

Kunitz's other publications include Selected Poems, 1928-1958 (1959), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1959, The Testing-Tree (1971), The Terrible Threshold (1974), The Poems of Stanley Kunitz: 1928-1978 (1979), Next-to-Last Things (1985), and Passing Through (1995), for which he received the 1995 National Book Award, The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz (2000) and The Wild Braid (2005), a book he co-wrote with Genine Lentine. In 1975 Kunitz published a book of prose entitled A Kind of Order, A Kind of Folly . He edited The Poems of John Keats (1964) and The Essential Blake (1987). In addition Kunitz has also been involved in translating poetry into English. He collaborated with Max Hayward on Poems of Akhamatova (1973) and, with others, translated Andrei Voznesenskii's Story under Full Sail (1974). In 1978 he edited and co-translated the Ukrainian poet Ivan Drach's Orchard Lamps .

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, Kunitz won other prestigious awards, which include a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1945-1946), National Institute of Arts and Letters Award (1959), Academy of American Poets fellowship (1968), National Endowment for the Arts senior fellowship (1984), Bollingen Prize in Poetry, Yale University Library (1987), and the National Medal of Arts (1993).

Equally lauded for his talents as a gardener, Kunitz's Provincetown, MA home featured a sprawling, multi-tiered garden that he had coaxed from sand. His final book, The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden (2005), co-written with Genine Lentine, reveals the interconnectedness of his writing and gardening habits. A few months shy of his 101th birthday, Stanley Kunitz died at his home in New York City.

Collection History


Princeton University purchased the papers from Stanley Kunitz in 1998. The papers came directly from his home in New York City. In 2003, the University received a small gift of Kunitz correspondence and materials from Roger Skillings. Also in 2003, the University purchased additional materials directly from Mr. Kunitz.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Heather A. Shannon and Jennifer Maloney in 1999 , 2003 , and 2004 . Additional materials to the collection were processed by Jill Baron in 2012 with the assistance of Lauren Hoffman '15. Finding aid written by Heather A. Shannon and Jennifer Maloney in 1999 , 2003 , and 2004 . Finding aid written and revised by Jill Baron in 2012 .

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Stanley Kunitz Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-209

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Subject Terms:
American literature -- 20th century.
American poetry -- 20th century.
Authors and publishers -- New York (State) -- New York -- 20th century.
Authors and publishers -- United States -- 20th century.
Authors, American -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Diplomatic and consular services, American -- 20th century.
Editors -- New York (State) -- New York -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Editors -- United States -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Fathers and daughters -- United States -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Husband and wife -- United States -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Mothers and sons -- United States -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
National Medal of Arts.
New York school of art
Novelists, American -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Painters -- United States -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Pencil drawings, American -- 20th century.
Poetry -- Study and teaching -- United States -- 20th century.
Poetry -- Translating -- 20th century.
Poetry consultants -- United States -- 20th century.
Poets laureate -- United States -- 20th century.
Poets, African -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Poets, American -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Poets, American -- 20th century.
Poets, American -- Political activity -- 20th century.
Poets, American -- Travels -- 20th century.
Poets, English -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Poets, Ukrainian -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Political letter-writing -- United States -- 20th century.
Presidents -- United States -- 20th century -- Photographs.
Publishers and publishing -- New York (State) -- New York -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Publishers and publishing -- United States -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Pulitzer prizes.
Russian poetry -- 20th century -- Translations into English.
Small presses -- United States -- 20th century.
Women novelists, American -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Women poets, American -- 20th century.
Genre Terms:
Family papers.
Photographs, Original.
Academy of American Poets.
American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
American academy of arts and letters
Atlantic monthly press
Yale university press
United States. Army
United States. International Communication Agency
Library of Congress. Poetry Office
H.W. Wilson Company.
Harvard university
92nd Street Y (New York, N.Y.). Unterberg Poetry Center
National Institute of Arts and Letters (U.S.)
Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center