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Guide to the Miriam Patchen Papers
MS 161  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Miriam Patchen papers
    Date (inclusive): 1930-2000
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1972-2000)
    Collection number: MS 161
    Creator: Patchen, Miriam
    Extent: 4 boxes
    Repository: University of California, Santa Cruz. University Library. Special Collections and Archives
    Santa Cruz, California 95064
    Abstract: This collection contains biographical material, correspondence, photographs, musical scores, audio recordings, a film and an artifact, documenting Miriam Patchen's promotion of her late husband's work.
    Physical location: Stored in Special Collections & Archives: Advance notice is required for access to the papers.
    Language: English

    Administrative Information


    Collection open for research

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to publish or to reproduce the material, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    Miriam Patchen papers. MS 161. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1975-2000


    Miriam Patchen, wife of American novelist and poet Kenneth Patchen, peace activist, and longtime Palo Alto resident, died March 6, 2000 at the age of 86.
    Born Sirkka Miriam Oikemus in Belmont, Massachusetts in September 28, 1914, Miriam, like her Finnish socialist parents, became a lifelong political activist. She joined the American Communist Party at age 7 and claimed to be the "youngest card-carrying member" of this party.
    She met Kenneth Patchen in 1933 and in June of 1934, they married. The Patchens moved to New York in 1935, where Kenneth's first book, Before the Brave, was published the following year. For the next thirty eight years of their marriage and through the creation of more than forty works of poetry and prose all dedicated "For Miriam", she was Patchen's "Muse" and complete partner in all the successes and hardships of their lives.
    After the loss of her husband, Miriam diligently continued to campaign for poetry and for peace. She stood together with her later partner, the civil-rights activist, Laurent Franz on the corner of El Camino Real and Embarcadero Roadevery for 15 years holding a picket sign protesting American military intervention around the world. She was active in promoting her husband's poetry by taking part in readings and exhibits of Kenneth's work across the US and abroad; "Kenneth Patchen Literary Festival" held at the poet's home town Warren, Ohio between 1987-1989, the "Word, Image and Rhythms: a celebration of Kenneth Patchen" in London, 1998, and an exhibition of Patchen's silkscreen prints in Centro Studi Americani in Rome, 1999 etc. For the last two years of her life Miriam assisted Larry Smith on the biography, Kenneth Patchen: rebel poet in America. She was also featured in a documentary Miriam Is Not Amused, directed by Kim Roberts in 1998.
    People who knew Miriam remember her as a woman of compassion, intelligence and wit, and one who was devoted to her causes and friends.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Miriam Patchen papers are arranged into seven series; biographical material, correspondence, photographs, musical scores, audio recordings, film and artifact. Bulk of the material covers her local and international activities from 1972-2000 to promote her late husband's, literary work. Her activities included attending poetry readings, granting permissions to exhibit and publish Patchen's literary works, and establishing of Kenneth Patchen archive at UCSC Special Collections in 1975 and the further collaborative efforts with the institution.
    The only items dating back to pre-1972 era are a memoir about Miriam's first meeting with Patchen, the courtship, and early years of marriage, and a handful of family photographs from 1920's-1950's. The largest series, biographical material and correspondence, includes more than half of the total content.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Patchen, Miriam--Archives.
    Authors, American--20th century.
    Poets, American--20th century.

    Genres and Forms of Materials

    Audio recordings

    Other Index Terms Related to this Collection

    Williams, Jonathan
    Patchen, Kenneth--1911-1972--Kenneth Patchen archive

    Related Material

    The Kenneth Patchen Archive at UCSC includes the following related collections:
    Collections in other institutions: