Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Joanne Kyger Correspondence,
Date (inclusive): 1957-1975
3.40 linear feet
(9 archives boxes)
Abstract: The correspondence of an important member of the 'post-beat' West Coast poetry community. The bulk of the collection covers
the period from 1957 to 1972. Included are letters, cards, drawings, and poems from Joe Brainard, Robert Creeley, Robert
Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Spicer, Lewis Warsh, and Philip Whalen. Also included are eight folders of correspondence between
Kyger and Gary Snyder, to whom Kyger was married from 1960 to 1964. The Kyger/Snyder letters range from August 1958 to February
1975, with the bulk of the materials falling between August 1958 and December 1959, the period during which Kyger and Snyder
were preparing for their 1960 marriage in Kyoto, Japan. Kyger divorced Snyder in 1964 and married the painter Jack Boyce
in 1966. The collection includes much ephemera from the travels of Boyce and Kyger through Europe.
University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
La Jolla, California 92093-0175
Collection number: MSS 0008
Language of Material:
Collection materials in English
Collection is open for research.
Joanne Kyger Correspondence, MSS 0008. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Joanne Kyger is a West Coast poet who emerged as the Beat movement was beginning to wane in the 1960s. The daughter of Jacob
and Anne Kyger, she was born 19 November 1934. Her father's career as a navy officer led to a peripatetic early life: by the
time she was fourteen she had lived in Vallejo, Ca. (where she was born), China, Washington, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois.
Her father retired in 1949, and the family settled permanently in Santa Barbara, Ca.
Kyger attended the University of California at Santa Barbara from 1952 to 1956, where she took classes with Hugh Kenner and
Paul Wienphal both of whom were important to the development of her poetry. She left the University one unit short of her
degree, and the following year moved to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Kyger soon got a job working at Brentano's Bookstore in San Francisco's North Beach, and she usually spent her nights sharing
poems with friends at poetry bars. In 1957 she met John Wieners at The Place one of the poetry bars and through him met
Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer; it was also during this time that she first met Gary Snyder. Duncan and Spicer were the doyens
of a group of poets who would gather on Sundays to read and discuss each other's work. Kyger said of those meetings: "They
(Duncan and Spicer) would read what they had written, and everybody else would read what they had written. And you would be
severely criticised. A lot of people would be so heavily criticised that they wouldn't come back."
Later Kyger moved to the East West House, where such writers as Philip Whalen, Lew Welch, and Jack Kerouac were occasional
residents. In 1960 she moved to Japan, where she and Snyder were married on February 23. There were two ceremonies: one by
the American consul and another at the Daitoku ji monastery in Kyoto. Her life with Snyder in Kyoto and later in India is
the subject of Japan and India Journals 1960 64 (1981).
Following her divorce from Snyder in 1964 Kyger returned to the Bay Area. She has said about this time, "I just took off on
this big energy cruise. I had lots to say to everybody, and it wasn't like playing second fiddle anymore." The following year
Donald Allen published her first book, THE TAPESTRY AND THE WEB.
In 1966 Kyger married the painter Jack Boyce, and together they travelled through Spain, France, Italy, and England. Upon
their return Kyger and Boyce stayed briefly in New York, and then returned to the San Francisco area. Within a few months
they moved to Bolinas, north of San Francisco Bay, where Kyger has continued to live (she and Boyce separated in 1970). In
the 1970s Bolinas was known for being a center for wandering poets, as well as a home for Philip Whalen, Robert Creeley, Donald
Allen, Tom Clark, and others. Kyger has maintained an active presence in the community, and has been particularly concerned
with environmental issues. She has also continued to travel extensively including several trips to Mexico while continuing
to publish her poetry.
Selected Bibliography: THE TAPESTRY AND THE WEB (1965), JOANNE, PLACES TO GO (1970), DESECHEO NOTEBOOK (1971), TRIP OUT AND
FALL BACK (1974), ALL THIS EVERY DAY (1975), THE WONDERFUL FOCUS OF YOU (1980), UP MY COAST, THE JAPAN AND INDIA JOURNALS
1960-64, MEXICO BLONDE (1981), GOING ON: SELECTED POEMS 1958-80 (1983).
Scope and Content of Collection
The Joanne Kyger papers consist of the correspondence of an important member of the West Coast poetry community, including
letters, cards, poems, and drawings from Joe Brainard, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, R.T. Fields, Lewis Warsh, and Philip
Whalen. Also including Kyger's business correspondences with Saint James Press, Coyote Press, and Black Sparrow Press, each
of which provide a glimpse into the inner workings of the publishing atmosphere of the late 60s and 70s.
The correspondence with Robert Duncan took place in 1959, when Kyger, Ebbe Borregaard, and Harold Dull all studied poetry
with Mr. Duncan in Stinson Beach. Together with the letters is Kyger's "Poem in the Time of Sick Deer," 5 leaves of original
typescript, with extensive notes in Mr. Duncan's hand. Duncan then retyped the poem, incorporating his changes and again
adding more notes.
Of particular interest are the eight folders containing Kyger's correspondence with Gary Snyder. The Kyger/Snyder collection
is filed chronologically and is made of two sources: forty-eight original letters and seven folders of photocopies of letters
obtained from Simon Fraser University. The originals and xeroxes are mixed together, with the bulk of the collection covers
the period from August 1958 to December 1959. This was the period directly preceding Kyger's marriage to Snyder. During
this period Kyger was living in Bolinas and preparing for her journey to Japan, where Snyder was studying Buddhism. The letters
are highly informative as to the dynamic of their relationship. Both Kyger and Snyder wrote often, at great length, and with
much emotion, and the result is a lively and provocative exchange. A few miscellaneous post-divorce cards and letters bring
the Kyger/Snyder correspondence up to February 1975.
The collection, as a whole, is reflective of Kyger's search for self-identity, and it documents her emergence as a respected
poet. The early letters reveal a sense of Kyger's position in relation to Snyder and the other more established male poets
of the star-system culture of Bolinas and San Francisco. The collection chronicles these relations and enables the reader
to appreciate the difficulties involved in Kyger's gradual construction of a world-view -- a world-view that would eventually
lead to her writing an intelligent 'post-beat' poetry of much textural density and beauty.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Kyger, Joanne, -- Archives
American poetry -- 20th century
Women poets -- United States
Adam, Helen, 1909- -- correspondent
Berkson, Bill, -- correspondent
Borregaard, Ebbe, -- correspondent
Brainard, Joe, 1942- -- correspondent
Clark, Tom, 1941- -- correspondent
Creeley, Robert, 1926- -- correspondent
Duncan, Robert Edward, 1919- -- correspondent
Koller, James, -- correspondent
Loewinsohn, Ron, -- correspondent
Millward, Pamela, -- correspondent
Persky, Stan, 1941- -- correspondent
Rumaker, Michael, 1932- -- correspondent
Snyder, Gary, 1930- -- correspondent
Waldman, Anne, 1945- -- correspondent
Warsh, Lewis, -- correspondent
Whalen, Philip, -- correspondent
Wieners, John, -- correspondent