Emory’s Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Changes Literary History

This March, Dr. Nick Sturm, the NEH Postdoctoral Fellow in Poetics at The Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, will lead a “Great Works” seminar series that explores the history and holdings of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library. Assembled by collector Raymond Danowski over 30 years, the Danowski Poetry Library contains over 75,000 books, 50,000 periodicals, thousands of broadsides, and other primary sources. This “living library,” which functions as an archive within an archive at Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, is thought to have been the largest library in private hands until its arrival at Emory in 2004. Ongoing acquisitions have allowed the collection to continue to grow ever since, making the Danowski one of the most vital and lively literary archives in the world.

This five-part seminar will explore the Danowski Poetry Library from the late Raymond Danowski’s initial collecting in the 1970s up to its acquisition by Emory and its ongoing growth today. Open to anyone interested in literature and archives, the series will offer an in-depth look at the library itself as a “great work,” a collection so capacious and diverse that its existence changes the ways we can imagine the literary history of the 20th century. We will hear from the book dealers, librarians, writers, researchers, and students whose work intersects with the Danowski while exploring some of the most important and surprising materials in the collection. Guest speakers will include David Faulds, Curator of Rare Books and Literary Manuscripts at The Bancroft Library; Dr. Kinohi Nishikawa, Associate Professor of English and African American Studies at Princeton University; and others. Complimentary copies of “Democratic Vistas”: Exploring the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, the inaugural catalog prepared by Kevin Young in 2008, will be made available to Atlanta-based participants.

Scholars, researchers, archivists, librarians, curators, teachers, book dealers, students, and community members are all invited to participate. Please find a detailed schedule listed below. Participants are welcome to attend as many individual seminars as they prefer. All seminars begin at 6pm ET and will take place via Zoom. To reserve a spot, email foxcenter [at] emory [dot] edu.

March 1st: How the Danowski Poetry Library Was Made, with guest David Faulds, Curator of Rare Books & Literary Manuscripts at The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley

  •  How does a poetry library of this scale and scope come to be? The first seminar will tell the story of the Danowski Poetry Library from its beginnings in the 1970s to its shaping into a world-renowned research collection after its arrival at Emory in 2004. This introduction to the history of the collecting and processing of the library will include insights from Richard Aaron, one of the primary booksellers who helped Raymond Danowski build his collection, and feature guest David Faulds, Emory’s former Rare Book Librarian who led the unpacking and processing of the Danowski.

March 8th: Immersion in the Little Mags, with special guest to be announced

  •  In 2008 when the first catalog for the Danowski Poetry Library, Democratic Vistas, was published, the vast majority of the library’s fifty thousand issues of individual journals and magazines had yet to be catalogued. What does it mean for understanding 20th century literary history to have so many (and with subsequent acquisitions, so many more) periodicals in a single library? This seminar will explore the depth, variety, and diversity of the literary periodicals in the Danowski with an emphasis on the little magazines of the 1960s—the so-called “Mimeograph Revolution.”

March 15th: Black Print Aesthetics, with guest Dr. Kinohi Nishikawa, Associate Professor of English & African American Studies at Princeton University

  • The books, magazines, anthologies, broadsides, and newspapers published by Black poets, artists, and editors throughout the 20th century critiqued and reimagined the shape of American literature. However, much of this material constitutes what Jean-Christophe Cloutier calls a “shadow archive of American literature” whose existence and value have been obscured through a combination of systemic institutional and cultural forces. What would it look like to acknowledge “how black literary archives smuggle radicalism into traditional sites of cultural and national authority”? In conversation with Dr. Kinohi Nishikawa, this seminar will investigate examples of this radicalism in the Danowski Poetry Library with an emphasis on Amiri Baraka’s small Press. Jihad Productions.

March 22nd: It Really Changes How You See Research, with guests Alana Simpson & Katherine Starcher, undergraduate students at the Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Emory’s commitment to preserving and expanding the Danowski Poetry Library as a teaching library is one of the foremost reasons why Raymond Danowski chose to house his collection at this institution. How has the Danowski been utilized by teachers and students? What pedagogical opportunities are afforded by access to one of the largest literary archives in the world? How can such capacious collections of primary sources be used in innovative ways by students in any field of study? This seminar will explore the Danowski as an instructional environment and feature conversations with Georgia Tech undergraduate students Alana Simpson and Katherine Starcher, both of whom engaged in original research using the Danowski.

March 29th: Together in Archives

  • How is the Danowski Poetry Library an archive of communities, of points of contact, of ongoing and unresolved conversation? This final seminar in the “Living Library” series will feature highlights from throughout the collection that amplify how archival collections and primary sources describe, embody, and model forms of association, friendship, and community. Participants will be invited to share their own stories about the connections and communities generated from their experiences in archives.

Following the conclusion of the “Living Library” seminar, please join Dr. Sturm on April 7th at 7pm for “Researching After the Last Avant-Garde,” a talk on his current book project’s development through archival research at the Rose Library. This event is the inaugural NEH Poetics Fellow Lecture co-hosted by The Bill & Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry and the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.