Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Home for Thanksgiving

November 21st, 2017

Happy (early) Thanksgiving, everyone! We hope you all get the chance to enjoy a relaxing few days with your loved ones over the holiday! Please remember that the Spencer Research Library will be closed from Thursday to Sunday this week.

We invite you to take a moment and reflect on this thoughtful and introspective poem by award-winning poet, Linda Pastan. Entitled Home for Thanksgiving, the poem comes from her book, Setting the Table.

Poem "Home For Thanksgiving" by Linda Pastan

Cover of Linda Pastan's Setting the Table: Poems

“Home for Thanksgiving” by Linda Pastan from her collection, Setting the Table: Poems. Washington, D.C. ; San Francisco: Dryad Press, [©1980]. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas. Call #: C9301. Click images to enlarge.

Emily Beran
Public Services

Rainer Maria Rilke

December 5th, 2016

Rainer Maria Rilke is one of the most beloved German-language poets of the twentieth century. So in honor of his 141st birthday yesterday, we’re highlighting some of our amazing books by Rilke from Spencer Library’s Special Collections.

Duineser Elegien (English: Duino Elegies), which is considered one of his masterpieces, was begun in 1912 at Duino Castle near Trieste, Italy. The inscription by Rilke pictured below was probably created as he was beginning to write these poems.

Inscription by Rainer Maria Rilke, "Herrn Justizrath Löwenfeld in dankbarer Erinnerung...Schloss Duino...Januar 1912” located on the front page from volume 1 of his work, Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge, Leipzig : Insel-Verlag, 1910. Special Collections, call number: Rilke X18.
Inscription by Rainer Maria Rilke: “Herrn Justizrath Löwenfeld in dankbarer Erinnerung…Schloss Duino…Januar 1912”
located on the front page from volume 1 of his work, Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge, Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, 1910. Special Collections, call number: Rilke X18. Click image to enlarge.

The first edition of Duineser Elegien was published in 1923 in Leipzig. Here is Spencer Library’s copy of this first edition printed on handmade paper with the beginning of “Die Erste Elegie” (English: “The First Elegy”).

Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duineser Elegien, Leipzig: im Insel-Verlag, 1923: cover. Special Collections, call number: Rilke Z50.   Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duineser Elegien, Leipzig: im Insel-Verlag, 1923: title page with unicorn watermark. Special Collections, call number: Rilke Z50.
Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duineser Elegien, Leipzig: im Insel-Verlag, 1923: “Die Erste Elegie”. Special Collections, call number: Rilke Z50.   Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duineser Elegien, Leipzig: im Insel-Verlag, 1923: back page stating that this is the first edition, copy 48 of 300 printed on handmade paper. Special Collections, call number: Rilke Z50.
Pictured from top left to bottom right: Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duineser Elegien, Leipzig: Im Insel-Verlag, 1923: cover, title page with unicorn watermark (below and the the right of Leipzig), “Die Erste Elegie” and back page stating that this is the first edition and copy 48 of 300 printed on handmade paper. Special Collections, call number: Rilke Z50. Click images to enlarge.

Rilke’s works were translated into English, helping to bring his poetry to an international audience. Here is the beginning of “The First Elegy” from Duino Elegies translated into English by J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender and published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press in 1939.

Rilke’s Duino Elegies, with part of the “The First Elegy” in the original German with the English translation by J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender placed side by side. Special Collections, call number: Rilke Y26.

Rilke’s Duino Elegies, beginning of “The First Elegy” with German and English translation
by J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender placed side by side.
Special Collections, call number: Rilke Y26. Click image to enlarge.

Mindy Babarskis
Reference Specialist
Public Services

Tramping on Mount Oread: Poet Harry Kemp

April 21st, 2015

How many freshmen can boast that their arrival on campus was covered by the national press? Though neither a star athlete nor the child of a public figure, poet Harry Kemp (1883-1960) won this distinction through his knack for self-promotion. Kemp’s unconventional arrival at KU by boxcar in January of 1906 launched him from anonymity to the front page of the New York Tribune —  “TO COLLEGE UNDER FREIGHT CAR / Student Leaves New-York with 3 cents–Working Way at University of Kansas. Another headline in the Kansas City Star proclaimed Kemp a “Tramp Poet,” and the moniker stuck (though he was known as the vagabond poet and hobo poet as well). During his six years of studies at KU, Kemp immersed himself in books, built a reputation as a poet and writer, and befriended nearby William Allen White, the newsman and “Sage of Emporia.”

And as the years passed, Kemp continued to make headlines, including as the “other man” in Upton Sinclair’s divorce and for attempting  in 1913 to “tramp” to England as a stowaway aboard a steamer, something that earned him a brief stay in a British jail and further celebrity on both sides of the pond. Of course, Kemp garnered attention for his literary output as well. He published books of verse–including The Cry of Youth (1914), Chanteys and Ballads (1920), and Don Juan’s Note-book (1929)–and a bestselling semi-fictionalized memoir, Tramping on Life: An Autobiographical Narrative (1922), in which KU appears as “Laurel University” in “Laurel, Kansas.” Kemp livened up already the already lively literary circles of Greenwich Village and was associated with the Provincetown Players, electing ultimately to settle in Cape Cod.

Potrait of the KU Scoop Club, 1909, featuring Harry Kemp. Photograph of Harry Kemp circa the 1950s

Youth and Old Age: Harry Kemp (middle row, second from left) with fellow members of the Scoop Club
(for news reporters) in the 1909 Jayhawker yearbook, Call #: LD 2697.J3 1909,
and in a photograph from the the 1950s, Personal Papers of Harry Kemp. Call #: PP 75, Box 3.
Click images to enlarge.

Though Louis Untermeyer had once spoken of Kemp alongside Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay, and Edgar Lee Masters, by the end of his life, the Tramp Poet’s reputation had already begun to fade. Nevertheless, Kemp continued to write and elevate his eccentricities to an art.  From his shack in Provincetown, Massachusetts, he would sign his poems (and sometimes even compose them) with a seagull feather.  In honor National Poetry Month, we remember today one of the most eccentric and free-spirited poets to emerge from KU, Harry Kemp, and share three of his poems below.

Harry Kemp's "Kansas" from Sunflowers: A Book of Kansas Poems (1914)

Kemp, Harry. “Kansas” in Sunflowers: A Book of Kansas Poems. Willard Wattles, Editor.
Lawrence, KS:  World Company, 1914. Call #: KAC C71. Click image to enlarge.

Cover of Kemp's Chantey's and Ballads (1920) "The Humming Bird" by Harry Kemp from Chanteys and Ballads (1920)

Kemp, Harry. “The Humming Bird,” from Chanteys and Ballads, Sea-chanteys, Tramp-ballads and Other
Ballads and Poems
. New York, Brentano’s [c1920]. Call #: PP 75, Box 1. Click images to enlarge.

Typescript poem ("Eight Lines, for the New Year") by Harry Kemp, with manuscript inscription.

Kemp, Harry.  “Eight Lines, For the New Year (Human Trust),” undated.
Personal Papers of Harry Kemp. Call # PP 75, Box 3. Click Image to enlarge.

For more on Harry Kemp, his poetry, and his wild life, see William Brevda’s Harry Kemp, the Last Bohemian or drop by Spencer and begin exploring his personal papers.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian


Collection Snapshot: Amiri Baraka (1934-2014)

January 18th, 2014

Last week, the poet, playwright, and critic Amiri Baraka died at the age of 79. Baraka (who was born Everett Leroy Jones and published as LeRoi Jones until the late sixties) was a founder of the Black Arts Movement.  As his New York Times obituary suggests, his career took many turns and was punctuated by both accolades and controversy, but there can be little doubt that he was a significant figure for post-WWII American literary culture.  The Kenneth Spencer Research Library houses over 45 items by or containing contributions from Amiri Baraka, with more than double that amount in the KU Libraries circulating collections. Spencer’s holdings include several scarce or ephemeral items, such as an advance proof of his important study Blues People: Negro Music in White America (1963),  a 1965 fundraising letter for the Black Arts Repertory Theater/school of Harlem, the illustrated broadside A Traffic of Love (1967), and the 13-page mimeograph edition of his play Slave Ship, An Historical Pageant (ca. 1967).


Photograph of the covers of all eight issues of Yugen (1958-1962)

Yugen, edited by LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and Hettie Cohen. Nos. 1-8 (1958-1962). Call Number: Ser C170. Click image to enlarge.

 Among our earliest holdings for Baraka is a complete run of the journal Yugen (1958-1962), which he edited with his first wife, Hettie Cohen.  Only eight issues of the magazine were published, and it included contributions from writers such as William Burroughs, Robert Creeley, Diane DiPrima, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder. Spencer’s holdings are strongest for the first decade and a half of Baraka’s career, from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, during which time he was associated first with the Beats and then the Black Arts Movement.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian



Representing the Countess: Constance Markievicz in the Poetry of Eva Gore-Booth & W. B. Yeats

April 25th, 2013

This week’s post comes from undergraduate public services student Meaghan Moody, who during this last week of National Poetry Month examines poetic depictions of Irish nationalist Countess Constance Markievicz.

On Monday, April 24th, 1916, Irish nationalists seized strategic infrastructure in Dublin to expel the British and establish an independent Irish Republic. Among these insurgents was Constance Markievicz (1868-1927), who served as second in command under Michael Mallin of the Citizen Army force in St. Stephen’s Green.  Markievicz was sentenced to death for her involvement in what became known as the “Easter Rising,” but the sentence was later commuted to life in prison based solely upon her sex. Markievicz is remembered and celebrated for her fearlessness, her intrepid nature, and her radical military dress. In the image below, you can see her in her full military regalia.

Image of Constance Markievicz excized from the Tatler, Nov. 28, 1917.

“A Rebel Leader” (Constance Markievicz) [image excised from the Tatler, Nov. 28, 1917]. Call Number: O’Hegarty Q38.

While conducting research for my English 530 course, Irish Renaissance Literature, I came across two strikingly similar depictions of the Countess by two Irish writers with diverging political beliefs. W.B. Yeats, a cultural nationalist, and Eva Gore-Booth, a pacifist suffragist and Constance’s sister, both fundamentally condemned the Rising and its resulting violence. They both also depict Markievicz and her subsequent imprisonment in their poetry.

W.B. Yeats knew Markievicz in her youth. He preferred his memory of her innocent beauty and rejected her involvement in politics.

Cover of  Yeat's Michael Robartes and the Dancer  Image of Yeats's poem "On A Political Prisoner"

Cover and “On A Political Prisoner” from W. B. Yeats’s Michael Robartes and the Dancer. Churchtown, Dundrum: The Cuala Press, 1920. Call Number: Yeats Y45. Click images to enlarge.

Eva Gore-Booth, too, disapproved of her sister’s involvement, but, unlike Yeats, depicted Constance as an ethereal, spiritual being, as seen in this poem that she sent the imprisoned Constance for Christmas.

Image of Cover of Eva f Gore-Booth's Broken Glory  Image of Eva Gore-Booth's poem "To Constance--In Prison"

Cover and “To Constance–In Prison” from Eva Gore-Booth’s Broken Glory. Dublin; London: Maunsel, 1918. Call Number: B11104. Click images to enlarge.

In her prison letters, Markievicz reflected on herself as a poetical inspiration, remarking, “I love being in poetry and feel so important!”

Though she recognized her sister’s aversion to violence, Markievicz took pride in the role she played in the Easter Rising and felt a sense of honor in her subsequent incarceration. She wrote to Eva, “Don’t worry about me. I am quite happy. It is in nobody’s power to make me unhappy. I am not afraid, either of the future or of myself.”

Meaghan Moody
Public Services Student Assistant

Source consulted: Weihman, Lisa. “Doing My Bit for Ireland: Transgressing Gender in the Easter Rising.”  Éire-Ireland 39.3&4 (2004) 228-249.