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Joe Brainard Letters
MSS 0703  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biography
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Publication Rights
  • Scope and Contents of Collection

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Joe Brainard Letters
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0703
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
    Languages: English
    Physical Description: 2.4 Linear feet (6 archive boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1957-1994
    Abstract: Letters to Joe Brainard, author and artist. The collection is comprised of correspondence from various poets and artists, including John Ashbery, Ted Berrigan, and Kenward Elmslie, and includes letters, postcards, images and ephemera. The materials date from 1957 through 1994, with the bulk of the collection covering the period from 1964 through 1993.
    Creator: Brainard, Joe, 1942-1994


    Born in Arkansas in 1942 and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Brainard moved to New York City in 1961. There, he quickly developed friendships with Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, Bill Berkson, Barbara Guest, and other participants in the New York School.
    Brainard's achievement, however, is remarkable aside from his many associations. Brainard harmonized linguistic and visual materials in extraordinary ways. His graphic work is notably literary, often incorporating words and sentences into non-literary designs. Such qualities prompted Frank O'Hara to say that Brainard's work had "nothing to do with philosophy, it's all art." Both the art work and writing are full of information and frequently take erotic and semiotic risks. In one of his more scandalous serial works, Brainard subjected Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy to every imaginable erotic and high art situation.
    A prolific artist, Brainard's work has been exhibited extensively in the New York City area since the early 1960s. The Joe Brainard Archive, located in the Mandeville Special Collections Library at UCSD, is the largest collection extant of Brainard's work.
    Brainard died on May 25, 1994.

    Preferred Citation

    Joe Brainard Letters, MSS 703. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 2009.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Scope and Contents of Collection

    The Joe Brainard Letters include correspondence from such American authors and artists as John Ashbery, Bill Berkson, Ted Berrigan, Robert Creeley, Kenward Elmslie, Joanne Kyger, and Alice Notley. The collection is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. Materials cover the period from 1957 to 1994 and include copies of manuscript and typescript drafts of poems sent to Brainard from such writers as Ted Berrigan, Ray Johnson, and Lewis Warsh.
    This collection includes 89 postcards, separated into 12 undated packets, from Frank Bidart. These postcards, in which Bidart wrote for Brainard, contain an overarching narrative in each packet, including such themes as "clothing", "hair", and "the wonder book."

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Allen, Donald, 1912-2004 -- Correspondence
    Ashbery, John, 1927- -- Correspondence
    Berkson, Bill -- Correspondence
    Berrigan, Ted -- Correspondence
    Brainard, Joe, 1942-1994 -- Archives
    Creeley, Robert, 1926-2005 -- Correspondence
    Elmslie, Kenward -- Correspondence
    Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997 -- Correspondence
    Johnson, Ray, 1927-1995 -- Correspondence
    Kyger, Joanne -- Correspondence
    Mayer, Bernadette -- Correspondence
    Notley, Alice, 1945- -- Correspondence
    Owen, Maureen, 1943- -- Correspondence
    Warsh, Lewis -- Correspondence
    American poetry -- 20th century
    Gay men -- United States -- Poetry