Shortly after co-editing a book titled Form, Power, and Person in Robert Creeley’s Life and Work, the English department’s Stephen Fredman has been awarded a $125,000 Library Acquisition Grant from the Office of the Provost to support the library’s purchase of the late poet Robert Creeley’s library. This grant will contribute to the $684,000 cost of the collection, $80,000 of which Creeley’s widow donated to aid the acquisition and restoration of Creeley’s library.
The collection includes some two hundred volumes of Creeley’s own works, many in special editions not widely available to the public. Creeley habitually stuffed letters, articles, reviews, newspaper articles, and the like into the pages of these volumes, and the library plans to keep careful track of these for anyone interested in how he kept them. An additional eleven artist books that Creeley collaborated on will join the collection. Most of these are museum quality collectibles, including a few large, unbound ones on unique materials such as plastic. Several multimedia materials––tapes, records, and other miscellaneous media––come with the purchase along with over six thousand books by writers in Creeley’s cohort from his own generation and subsequent ones. Many of these books contain dedications to him and also have a variety of letters, brochures, and reviews placed in them.
Creeley’s library will allow scholars to perform critical and biographical work and will help solidify our understanding of the poet’s literary relations, especially since the majority of these materials have never been publicly available before. Fredman believes that further study of the collection will change perceptions of Creeley as a hermetic poet writing in Dickinsonian isolation to that of a writer actively participating in circles of writers, artists, publishers, editors, and musicians, working, in fact, in the center of these groups in a catalytic capacity. The papers will benefit Notre Dame students as well because they will have the opportunity to compare their reading experiences in the classroom with actual visits to look at the original books from which their readings are taken.
Adding such a large and important collection to Notre Dame’s holdings will impact the reputation of the library and the university significantly. According to Fredman, “this will really help put us on the map as a holder of a major poet’s materials. People will come from around the world to look at it.” Creeley’s library will be the centerpiece of an expanding collection of modern poetry, building on the library’s smaller holdings of small press poetry from the 1960s to the present, its Samuel Hazo collection of modern poetry, and its foreign language acquisitions. The library hopes to make fellowships available for people to use the Creeley collection and eventually to organize a conference around the it. In the meantime, the collection is available for viewing, although it is not yet fully catalogued. Anyone wishing to consult the papers should contact Special Collections directly.
Fredman is now turning his attention to another book he has in progress, tentatively titled Prose/Poetry: American Writing at the Crossroads, a sequel to his 1983 Poets’ Prose that looks at writings of the last thirty years and opens up new territory between poetry and prose. He also hopes to produce the memoirs of his early meetings with modern poets such as Creeley, Robert Duncan, and David Antin.