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John Taggart Papers
MSS 0011  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Creator: Taggart, John, 1942-
    Title: John Taggart Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1962-2002
    Extent: 22.00 linear feet (56 archives boxes, 1 records carton and 2 oversize folders)
    Abstract: Papers of John Taggart, a contemporary American poet known for his formal and prosodic innovations. In addition to his long career as a professor at Shippensburg State University, Taggart has been involved in supporting literary communities and has written about key artistic and literary figures, in addition to producing his own creative work. The collection contains manuscripts and typescripts of Taggart's published and unpublished poetry, juvenilia from the 1960s and 70s, and fiction. The collection also contains many of his personal journals, notebooks, and loose notecards, as well as ongoing correspondence with writers, artists, and editors such as Theodore Enslin and Susan Howe. Taggart's work on translations of Sappho, Aeschylus, and Francis Ponge is also included. His nonfiction work consists mostly of essays, both published and unpublished, devoted to the work of individual writers and artists, such as George Oppen and Edward Hopper, as well as collective movements such as the Objectivist poets. Of note are included drafts of his articles "Walk Out: Rereading George Oppen" (CHICAGO REVIEW, 1998) and "George Oppen: One Line" (FLASHPOINT, 2002). The collection represents Taggart's ongoing poetic contributions, such as the collections DODEKA, CROSSES, WHEN THE SAINTS, and, most recently, PASTORELLES, as well as his lengthy continued correspondence with literary figures. Also of note are miscellaneous materials such as three-dimensional paper constructions as well as course materials related to his long tenure as a professor.
    Repository: University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
    La Jolla, California 92093-0175
    Collection number: MSS 0011
    Language of Material: Collection materials in English


    Collection is open for research.

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available

    Preferred Citation

    John Taggart Papers, MSS 0011. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.


    John Taggart was born in 1942 in Guthrie Center, Iowa. He graduated with honors in 1965 from Earlham College in Indiana, earning a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy. In 1966 he received a M.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Chicago, and in 1974 he completed a Ph.D. in the Humanities Interdisciplinary Studies Program at Syracuse University. His dissertation, titled "Intending a Solid Object: A Study in Objectivist Poetics," was one of the first extended discussions of the compositional strategies informing the work of poets Louis Zukofsky and George Oppen. Though the work has never been published as a monograph, revised sections of it have appeared in LOUIS ZUKOFSKY: MAN AND POET, edited by Carroll F. Terrell (National Poetry Foundation, 1979) and CREDENCES: JOURNAL OF TWENTIETH CENTURY POETRY AND POETICS (nos. 2-3 Fall/Winter, 1982).
    Taggart's poetry first appeared in print in 1965, when three poems--"Upon the Sweeping Flood," "An Egyptian Cat," and an "Evening with Anna Akhmatova"--were published in CRUCIBLE. Since then Taggart's work has appeared in many little magazines and literary journals including THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, THE PAINTED BRIDE QUARTERLY, IRONWOOD, BOUNDRY 2, SULFUR, and TEMBLOR. His work was featured in the 1969 summer issue of Cid Corman's ORIGIN, and the 1979 spring issue of PAPER AIR was given over entirely to Taggart's work. Besides Taggart's long poem "Peace on Earth," a "healing prayer" on the Vietnam War, the issue included commentary on Taggart's work by Toby Olson, Bruce Andrews, Jackson Mac Low, Paul Metcalf, and several others. Taggart's poetry has also been printed in several anthologies including THE GIST OF ORIGIN (Grossman, 1975), PUSHCART PRIZE ANTHOLOGY (Avon, 1980), NEW DIRECTIONS: AN INTERNATIONAL ANTHOLOGY OF PROSE AND POETRY (issues 24 and 41), and POETES AMERICANS D'AUJOURD'HUI (Delta, 1986).
    In addition to numerous appearances in literary magazines and journals, Taggart has also published several collections of verse. TO CONSTRUCT A CLOCK and PRISM AND THE PINE TWIG (Elizabeth Press 1971 and 1977), Taggart's first and third books, are collections of short objectivist exercises in the manner of Zukofsky and Oppen. THE PYRAMID IS A PURE CRYSTAL (Elizabeth Press, 1974) and DODEKA, with an introduction by Robert Duncan (Membrane, 1979) reveal Taggart's development of a unique style which has attracted considerable favorable attention for its prosodic innovation and formal complexity. In each book, short, pithy objectivist-like images are inscribed inside of boxes and then "plaited" together at the end of each section. THE PYRAMID IS A PURE CRYSTAL is a meditation on a citation from the writings of Georges Vantongerloo, while DODEKA is a retelling of the Hippasus legend, an important character in Pythagorean lore and also the subject of Charles Olson's "The Praises." The formal foundation of both poems, however, is the medieval musical principle of "cantus firmus." In PEACE ON EARTH (Turtle Island, 1981) and DEHISCENCE (Membrane, 1983) Taggart decided to break with the "gem-like" solidity of DODEKA, opting for a much longer line composed of small, repeating syntactical units. While these poems still display Taggart's fascination with Zukofsky' proposal that music is the upper limit of speech, they also indicate his adaptation of etymological strategies discovered in the poetry of Erza Pound and Charles Olson.
    Besides the attention given to his poetry, Taggart has earned a reputation as a judicious, though infrequent, commentator on contemporary American poetry.
    In addition to seminal articles on Zukofsky, Oppen and objectivist poetics, Taggart has also reviewed the work of Wallace Stevens, William Bronk, Robert Duncan, Bruce Andrews, Theodore Enslin, and several other contemporary American poets. He was also the editor and publisher of MAPS, an acclaimed literary magazine appearing during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and, in 1978, edited an issue of TRUCK (1978) devoted to the work of Enslin.
    Taggart has been a professor of literature and creative writing at Shippensburg State University since 1969. His work as writer and teacher has been awarded a Ford Foundation (1965), a Distinguished Academic Service Award from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and two National Endowments for the Arts Writing Fellowships (1976 and 1986).

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Accessions Processed in 1987
    The collection documents the literary and scholarly career of John Taggart, university professor, editor, critic, and, foremost, poet. While there is considerable material from the 1960s, particularly numerous essays by Taggart while an undergraduate at Earlham College and a graduate student at the University of Chicago, the bulk of the collection dates from the early 1970s when Taggart was a doctoral student at Syracuse University and concurrently occupied with assembling the first collection of poetry and editing MAPS.
    The collection is arranged in seven series: 1) NOTEBOOKS AND JOTTINGS, 2) POETRY (divided into 10 sub-series), 3) FICTION, 4) TRANSLATIONS, 5) ESSAYS AND REVIEWS, 6) CORRESPONDENCE, and 7) MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS.
    Series One, NOTEBOOKS AND JOTTINGS, consists of notebooks, journals, and notecards dating from 1963 to 1983, and of newspaper clippings with annotations or attached notes. Most of the earlier notebooks appear related to classes Taggart attended at Earlham College and Syracuse University. The loose notecards filed in this series are citations taken from his reading during the 1970s. (Taggart has been fond of composing on notecards and small sizes of loose leaf paper before preparing a final draft on standard 8 x 11 paper. Typically these notecards have been filed with or in close proximity to the typescript to which they pertain, but only when the that relationship was quite evident.) The journals written during the 1980s are more closely connected to subsequently published work; they often contain seed ideas for poems and essays, but also citations from and comments on other writers.
    The second series, POETRY, is divided into ten subseries and includes worksheets, heavily annotated drafts, and final versions of poems. The first subseries is a grouping of 110 or so unpublished poems, many of which are standard academic exercises--odes, sonnets, elegies, etc.-- dating from ca. 1963-1968. There are also a few poems written for Donald Justice's poetry workshops at Syracuse University, which are annotated by Justice. (Several of the poems filed in the first sub-series may indeed have appeared in print. Unfortunately time constraints did not allow for an exhaustive investigation.) The second sub-series, dating from 1964 to 1985, consists of some 45 published poems which have not been collected in any of Taggart's books. Constituting the third sub-series is LLIVEFOREVER, a lyrical mixture of poetry and meditations on the philosophy of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. Sub-series D-I consists of the manuscripts for each of Taggart's seven collections: TO CONSTRUCT A CLOCK (1972), THE PYRAMID IS A PURE CRYSTAL (1974), PRISM AND THE PINE TWIG (1977), DODEKA (1979), PEACE ON EARTH (1981), DEHISCENCE (1983), and LOOP. Sub-series A and B are arranged alphabetically; dates of composition are provided whenever they are known. the remaining sub-series mirror the arrangement of the published collection to which they pertain. Dates for the composition of individual poems are given as provided by the poet.
    FICTION, the third series, is one of the smaller series in the collection. It consists of six unpublished works.
    The TRANSLATIONS series contains translations of Sapphos' First Fragment and of Francis Ponge's "My Creative Method."
    ESSAYS AND REVIEWS, ca. 1964-1985, is divided into two subseries: unpublished and published. The subseries of unpublished essays consists almost wholly of papers written for undergraduate and graduate courses, most of which address the works of literary authors. Of particular interest are the papers regarding Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman and Henry Miller, and Taggart's dissertation on the Objectivist poets. The subseries of published essays includes papers treating the work of William Bronk, Robert Duncan, Louis Zukofsky, and Susan Howe. It also includes two statements of Taggart's poetics, "The Poem as Woven Scarf" and "Of the Power of the Word," as well as correspondence to Taggart from various writers, artists, and editors.
    Charles Bernstein, George Butterick, Robert Creeley, Ted Enslin, Bradford Graves, Susan Howe, Paul Metcalf, Toby Olson, George Oppen, Ron Silliman, James Weil, and Karl Young are some of the more represented correspondents, but there are also letters from Rene Char, Robert Duncan, Leslie Fiedler, and Louis Zukofsky. Several of the correspondents files, the Robert Duncan for one, also contain literary manuscripts or typescripts by the correspondent.
    MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS, the last series, is comprised of C.E. Hockersmith's musical settings for four of Taggart's poems, of syllabi for courses Taggart taught at Shippensburg State University, and of various publicity releases.
    Accessions Processed in 1989
    The accessions to the John Taggart Papers processed in 1989 complement previously processed materials in the collection. The additional materials are organized into the same general series used in the 1987 processing. The 1989 additions are arranged in four series: 1) POETRY; 2) ESSAYS AND REVIEWS; 3) CORRESPONDENCE; and 4) MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS.
    The POETRY series includes three subseries, two of which relate directly to the previously processed collection, while the third represents Taggart's most recent work. The DODEKA subseries contains a version prepared for poetry readings, which varies from the published edition; while the LOOP materials comprise worksheets for poems not included in the previous LOOP subseries. Taggart's latest poems are organized under the title STANDING WAVE and are arranged by order in which they will appear in the published work.
    The ESSAYS AND REVIEWS series contains one subseries of essays and one subseries of reviews. This subseries differs from the 1987 subseries in that no distinction has been made regarding published versus unpublished works. Included among these essays are a college paper on Charles Olson, notes on a paper for the UCSD Oppen Conference, and an exhibition catalogue essay on the sculpture of Bradford Graves. Also included are Taggart reviews of the recent works of Theodore Enslin, Susan Howe, and Karl Young. The materials in each subseries are arranged alphabetically by title.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series contains many of the same correspondents included in the collection processed in 1987, although more than two thirds of correspondents are new. Letters are organized by author, then arranged chronologically from earliest to latest. Among the correspondents in this series are Theodore Enslin, Bradford Graves, David Melnick, Bradford Morrow, Andrew Schelling, and Karl Young. Of special importance is the abundant correspondence between Taggart and Enslin, including both incoming and outgoing letters. The Taggard-Enslin correspondence is deeply personal and involves discussions of contemporary writing, current events, music, and philosophical issues.
    The MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS series includes three-dimensional paper models and a metal frame used in the composition of the poem "Dodeka." Also contained in this group is a reel-to-reel audio tape recording of a 1965 reading Taggart organized in support of Exclusions, which later became the magazine MAPS. The series also includes a group of sketches by Bradford Graves for Taggart's poem "Peace On Earth."
    Accessions Processed in 1991
    The accessions to the John Taggart Papers processed in 1991 contain correspondence, poetry, and essays and are arranged in three series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) POETRY and 3) ESSAYS.
    Most of the correspondents in the CORRESPONDENCE series are not represented in previous accessions. New correspondents include Bobby Byrd, James Laughlin, Gil Ott, Abraham Veinus, and John Wilson. Significant correspondents also appearing in previous accessions include Ted Enslin and Bradford Graves. Materials date from the 1970s and 1980s and are arranged alphabetically by correspondent.
    The POETRY series contains drafts and revisions of Taggart's translation of fragments from the lost plays of Aeschylus. Also included are proofs and the working manuscript of Loop used by the Sun & Moon Press.
    Drafts of a series of essays on Edward Hopper are located in the ESSAYS series. Also in this series are drafts of an essay on the fiction of Toby Olson entitled "Where All Beauty Resides" and drafts of an essay on Charles Olson and Herman Melville.
    Accessions Processed in 1993
    The accessions to the John Taggart papers processed in 1993 contain letters from Ted Enslin (1990-1993) and letters from Susan Howe (1984-1991). Also included are drafts, typescripts, and galley proofs for recent writings by Taggart; four essays by Susan Howe with marginal notes by Taggart; and eleven bound notebooks (1983-1991) containing reading notes, draft versions of essays and poems, and daily journal entries.
    The materials are arranged in three series: 1) LETTERS, 2) WRITINGS and 3) NOTEBOOKS.
    Accessions Processed in 1994
    The accesssions to the John Taggart Papers processed in 1994 are arranged in three series: 1) POETRY, 2) ESSAYS and 3) CORRESPONDENCE.
    The POETRY series includes a group of poems grouped by Taggart under the title CROSSES. The remaining material in the series consists of annotated drafts of poems dated from 1990-1994, none of which have appeared in Taggart's previous collections.
    The ESSAYS series contains material related to Taggart's collection of essays entitled REMAINING IN THE LIGHT: ANT MEDITATIONS ON A PAINTING BY EDWARD HOPPER. Also included are materials related to Taggart's collection of essays on contemporary poetry and poetics, SONGS OF DEGREES; an essay on the Black Mountain Poets; and an essay describing his methodology in the translation of the lost plays of Aeschylus.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series contains many of the same correspondents found previously in the collection, although some new correspondents appear. Included is correspondence with the University of Alabama Press regarding the production process for SONGS OF DEGREES. Materials date from the 1970s to 1994.
    Accession Processed in 1999
    The accession to the John Taggart Papers processed in 1999 contains manuscript and typescript drafts for poems, including the long poem entitled "Problema," and a talk entitled "Mnemotechnic: 15 Notes." The materials are arranged alphabetically.
    Accession Processed in 1995
    The accession processed in 1995 contains manuscripts and correspondence documenting Taggart's literary activity during the period 1990-1995. The accession is arranged in two series: 1) WRITINGS and 2) CORRESPONDENCE.
    Manuscripts of poems to be included in the collection CROSSES, a corrected typescript for SONGS OF DEGREES (a collection of previously published essays issued by the University of Alabama Press), and individual essays on George Oppen, Robert Creeley, Barbara Guest, and Gavin Bryars.
    Letters from various writers and friends including Charles Bernstein, Lew Daly, Ted Enslin, Alan Golding, Bradford Graves, Paul Metcalf, Pam Rehm, Rosmarie Waldrop, and Karl Young.
    Accessions Processed in 1996
    The accessions to the John Taggart Papers processed in 1996 contain manuscripts and typescripts of poems for the collection CROSSES, "Hopper variations," and several new works entitled "Rhapsodies," "Samba De Orpheo," and "Winter/Pink Flamingo." The materials are arranged alphabetically in one series: 1) WRITINGS.
    Accession Processed in 1998
    Additions to the John Taggart Papers processed in 1998 contain correspondence dating primarily from the years 1994-1997, with a few exceptions (such as a letter from Mary Oppen dated 1974 and a letter from Celia Zukofsky dated 1979). Also included are manuscripts, typescripts and notes for the essays "Mere Illustrations: Maurice Sendak and Melville" and "Walk Out: Rereading George Oppen," as well as for various poems from the collection CROSSES and various uncollected works. The accession also contains a few miscellaneous items and notes. The materials are arranged in three series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) WRITINGS and 3) MISCELLANEOUS.
    The accession to the John Taggart Papers processed in 2000 includes notebooks (1996-1999), drafts of "Chicago Breakdown" and "When the Saints," and correspondence (some of which includes works written by Taggart's correspondents). The bulk of the material dates from the years 1996-2000. The materials are arranged in three series: 1) NOTEBOOKS, 2) WRITINGS, and 3) CORRESPONDENCE.
    Accession Processed in 2005
    The accession to the John Taggart Papers processed in 2005 includes materials which are arranged in two series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE and 2) WRITINGS.
    The first series contains ongoing correspondence with literary editors, fellow poets, and friends, including extensive correspondence from Kathleen R. Postle (1960-2000), who served as tenured literature faculty at Taggart's undergraduate alma mater, Earlham College. Some of the files contain literary works written by the correspondents.
    The series WRITINGS is arranged in three subseries: A) PASTORELLES, B) Unpublished Poems, and C) Essays. These subseries contain drafts of the poems published as the collection PASTORELLES, as well as a substantial number of unpublished poems and essays. The bulk of the poetic material dates from the years 1998-2002. Essays by Taggart include: "Henry Miller and the Whitman Tradition," "John Ashbery's 'Clepsydra': An Apologetics for the Modernist Poem" (1968), "Some Propositions and Exercises for the Critic of the Modernist Poem," drafts for a talk on George Oppen (2002), an essay on Mozart, and the preface for a Zukofsky essay.

    Indexing Terms

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


    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Archives
    Miller, Henry, 1891-
    Stevens, Wallace, 1879-1955
    Zukofsky, Louis, 1904-1978
    Hopper, Edward, 1882-1967
    American poetry -- 20th century


    Andrews, Bruce, 1948- -- correspondent
    Ashbery, John, -- correspondent
    Barone, Dennis, -- correspondent
    Bernstein, Charles, 1950- -- correspondent
    Bertholf, Robert J., -- correspondent
    Bronk, William, -- correspondent
    Butterick, George F., -- correspondent
    Byrd, Bobby, 1942- -- correspondent
    Carruth, Hayden, 1921- -- correspondent
    Char, René, 1907- -- correspondent
    Creeley, Robert, 1926- -- correspondent
    Crumb, George, -- correspondent
    Cuddihy, Michael, -- correspondent
    Davenport, Guy, -- correspondent
    Davidson, Michael, 1944- -- correspondent
    Derrida, Jacques, -- correspondent
    DuPlessis, Rachel Blau, -- correspondent
    Edson, Russell, -- correspondent
    Elliott, George P., 1918- -- correspondent
    Enslin, Theodore -- correspondent
    Eshleman, Clayton, -- correspondent
    Gass, William H., 1924- -- correspondent
    Golding, Alan C., 1952- -- correspondent
    Graves, Bradford -- correspondent
    Hamady, Walter, -- correspondent
    Heller, Michael, 1937- -- correspondent
    Hejinian, Lyn, -- correspondent
    Hickman, Leland, -- correspondent
    Hocquard, Emmanuel, -- correspondent
    Howe, Susan, 1937- -- correspondent
    Johnson, Ronald, 1935- -- correspondent
    Kenner, Hugh, -- correspondent
    Laughlin, James, 1914- -- correspondent
    Lazer, Hank, -- correspondent
    Mac Low, Jackson, -- correspondent
    Mackey, Nathaniel, 1947- -- correspondent
    Marshal, Jack, 1936- -- correspondent
    Metcalf, Paul C. -- correspondent
    Morrow, Bradford, 1951- -- correspondent
    Olson, Toby, -- correspondent
    Ong, Walter J., -- correspondent
    Oppen, George, -- correspondent
    Palmer, Michael, 1943- -- correspondent
    Rehm, Pam, 1967- -- correspondent
    Rothenberg, Jerome, 1931- -- correspondent
    Perloff, Marjorie, -- correspondent
    Silliman, Ronald, 1946- -- correspondent
    Spanos, William, -- correspondent
    Steiner, George, 1929- -- correspondent
    Tarn, Nathaniel, -- correspondent
    Sutton, Walter, -- correspondent
    Veinus, Abraham, -- correspondent
    Waldrop, Rosmarie, -- correspondent
    Waldrop, Keith, -- correspondent
    Watson, Craig, 1950- -- correspondent
    Weil, James L. -- correspondent
    Weinberger, Eliot, -- correspondent
    Welish, Marjorie, 1944- -- correspondent
    West, Paul, 1930- -- correspondent
    Young, Karl -- correspondent
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- To construct a clock
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Pyramid is a pure crystal
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Prism and the pine twig
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Dodeka
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Peace on earth
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Dehiscence
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Loop
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Remaining in light
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Prompted
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Crosses
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Songs of degrees
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Remaining in light
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Aeschylus fragments
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Intending a solid object
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Tauler sentences