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R. L. Barth papers

 Collection
Identifier: 0161

Scope and Contents

The R. L. Barth papers consist of manuscripts, paste-ups, chapbooks, and file copies of small press poetry published by the Robert L. Barth Press from the time of its founding in 1981 until the press ceased in the early 2000s. The collection also includes Barth's correspondence with poets Turner Cassity, Dick Davis, John Finlay, Charles Gullans, X. J. Kennedy, Janet Lewis, Timothy Steele, and Wesley Trimpi. Notable among the correspondence is a file of letters from Barth to Timothy Steele, which spans 1981 to 2000, along with an additional letter written in February of 2022. Timothy Steele and Victoria Lee Steele provided the following biographical information (abridged here) when they donated an accrual to the R. L. Barth papers in 2022: "Robert L. Barth (1947-) was not only a publisher, but is also a poet and editor. In the latter capacity, he has edited both the selected letters and the selected poems of Yvor Winters and the selected poems of Winter's wife, Janet Lewis. As a poet, he is best known for his poems about the Vietnam War, in which he served as a young Marine in the late 1960s, at the height of the conflict." See the unabridged quote under this finding aid's biographical note.

Dates

  • 1981 - 2022

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE: Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Department of Special Collections at specol@usc.edu. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

Finding aid description and metadata are licensed under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Biographical

Timothy Steele and Victoria Lee Steele provided the following biographical note when they donated an accrual to the R. L. Barth papers in 2022.

Robert L. Barth (1947-) was not only a publisher, but is also a poet and editor. In the latter capacity, he has edited both the selected letters and the selected poems of Yvor Winters and the selected poems of Winters's wife, Janet Lewis. As a poet, he is best known for his poems about the Vietnam War, in which he served as a young Marine in the late 1960s, at the height of the conflict.

As a publisher, Barth chiefly issued works of metrical poetry, and his press, in its advocacy of formal verse, is uniquely significant. Barth's publications represent an historically illuminating counter-current to the prevailing fashion for free verse in recent generations.

In addition, Barth's publications collectively bring together poets of three generations who represent in tum the three moments in 20th-century poetry that involved a revival of interest in verse in traditional measures. Barth published several works by Janet Lewis who was born in 1899 and who as a young poet contributed to the neoclassical movement of the 1920s. Barth also published such poets as Thom Gunn, Edgar Bowers, Helen Pinkerton, Charles Gullans, Robert Mezey, and X. J. Kennedy, who were associated with the formal revival in the decade following World War II and whose poems were first prominently gathered together and featured in Donald Hall, Robert Pack, and Louis Simpson's landmark 1957 anthology, New Poets of England and America. And Barth published many of the so-called New Formalist poets, including Catherine Tufariello, Dick Davis, Charles Martin, and Leslie Monsour, who emerged in the final quarter of the 20th century. No other publishing enterprise, in other words, has greater breadth in its area of focus than Barth's.

The poets themselves are in many cases important, independently of their stylistic inclinations or affiliations. Lewis, for instance, was awarded the Los Angeles Times' Robert Kirsch Award for her contributions to the literature of the American West. Gunn (another winner of the Kirsch Award) is one of the few English-language poets of the second half of 20th-century to have maintained a trans-Atlantic audience and reputation. (Barth was the first to publish a collection featuring Gunn's celebrated elegies for victims of the AIDS epidemic: his 1987 edition of Gunn's chapbook, Night Sweats, predates the larger trade edition of The Man with Night Sweats that Faber and Faber issued in 1992.) Kennedy and Hall are widely admired not only for their poetry but also for representing the dying breed of the general person-of-letters-the versatile writer whose career is anchored in the literary marketplace rather than affiliated with an academic institution. And Dick Davis is widely recognized as the greatest English translator of Persian poetry since Edward Fitzgerald.

The donation also includes a file of correspondence from Barth to Steele, who published with Barth's press two chapbooks; a festschrift for Charles Gullans's 60th birthday; and a series of postcards containing epigrams by Robert Herrick. This file is notable for the many comments Barth makes about literary life generally and about his transactions with the writers he published.

Extent

2.67 Linear Feet (6 boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The R. L. Barth papers consist of manuscripts, paste-ups, chapbooks, and file copies of small press poetry published by the Robert L. Barth Press from the time of its founding in 1981 until the press ceased in the early 2000s. The collection also includes Barth's correspondence with poets Turner Cassity, Dick Davis, John Finlay, Charles Gullans, X. J. Kennedy, Janet Lewis, Timothy Steele, and Wesley Trimpi. Notable among the correspondence is a file of letters from Barth to Timothy Steele, which spans 1981 to 2000, along with an additional letter written in February of 2022. Timothy Steele and Victoria Lee Steele provided the following biographical information (abridged here) when they donated an accrual to the R. L. Barth papers in 2022: "Robert L. Barth (1947-) was not only a publisher, but is also a poet and editor. In the latter capacity, he has edited both the selected letters and the selected poems of Yvor Winters and the selected poems of Winter's wife, Janet Lewis. As a poet, he is best known for his poems about the Vietnam War, in which he served as a young Marine in the late 1960s, at the height of the conflict." See the unabridged quote under this finding aid's biographical note.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accrual no. 2022-050: gift of Timothy Steele, April 11, 2022

Related Materials

The USC Libraries also holds a copy of Z, Robert L. Barth: A Checklist of the Publisher's First Printings, 1981-1998, cataloged separately under the call number: Z232.B198 Z2 1998.

Processing Information

Many of the file-level sub-records under this finding aid were derived from an undated collection inventory found in one of the collection's boxes. The inventory's file descriptions date many of the collection's material up to the "present," which the archivist working on the collection in 2022 estimated to be circa 1995.

Status
Completed
Author
Bo Doub
Date
2010 and 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2022 June: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub: expanded existing collection-level notes and subjects, imported description from an old finding aid found in Box 1, and documented material added to the collection in 2022 from accrual no. 2022-050.

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States