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John Matthias Collection

Identifier: EPH 5026

Scope and Contents

The John Matthias collection includes nine series. The first consists of works of poetry by Matthias published by small chapbook presses such as Martin Booth's Sceptre Press, as well as a number of drafts and author's editions, and translations of Matthias' poetry into Italian and Swedish. The collection also includes a transcript of a talk given by Matthias, and a musical score for which Matthias wrote lyrics.

The second series consists of poetry in English. The majority of items are handmade chapbooks, and a number of important small presses from the UK are well represented, such as Enitharmon Press, Fulcrum Press, The Menard Press, and The Sceptre Press. This collection shows Matthias' deep interest and involvement with poetry in the UK, for example in the number of works by Richard Burns - with whom Matthias was well acquainted - and poetry by Duncan Glen written in Scots. A small number of elaborate fine press items are also included (see Folders 19, 122), as well as publications by both colleagues and former students from the University of Notre Dame.

The third series consists of poetry related to Scandinavia and its languages, which have been important to Matthias' scholarly work. This collection principally includes vernacular Swedish poetry by authors with which Matthias was well acquainted, such as Jan Östergren, Göran Printz-Påhlson, Göran Sonnevi, and Jesper Svenbro. Also included are works translated from Swedish and Danish into English, including some by W.H. Auden and Robert Bly, as well as works translated from English and French into Swedish.

The fourth series consists of poetry in languages other than English or Swedish. This includes translations of works by Richard Burns into Croatian, Greek, and Spanish, as well as a number of non-traditional creative translation/interpretation projects.

The fifth series includes broadsides and posters. This includes a number of broadsides from the Mad River Press series, and a project of large screenprinted poems by Jean Dibble, a colleague of Matthias at the University of Notre Dame in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design. A number of posters for readings given by Matthias at Notre Dame and elsewhere are also included.

The sixth series includes periodicals, anthologies, and festschrifts. This includes a number of issues of Poetry Magazine from the 1970s which contain poems, reviews, and comment essays written by Matthias, as well as festschrifts honoring Roy Fisher, David Gascoyne, Octavio Paz, and Gael Turnbull.

The seventh series consists of literary criticism and works of nonfiction. Again these are mostly small chapbook editions from publishers such as Golgonooza Press. This includes a history of Anthony Rudolf's The Menard Press, volumes of essays and interviews by Ed Dorn, and a transcript of a lecture given by Seamus Heaney at Oxford.

The eighth series includes materials related to Anglo-Welsh poet and artist David Jones, who was very influential for Matthias, and about which Matthias has published two books. This collection includes publications of poetry and essay by Jones, reproductions of paintings, and catalogs from exhibitions of Jones's work. A number of small chapbook publications of essay and criticism, chiefly concerning Jones's literary works, are also included.

The ninth series includes of miscellaneous items such as programs to poetry festivals, exhibition catalogs, and other art books.


  • Creation: 1959-2013

Language of Materials


Language of Materials

The majority of the collection is in English, with some materials in Swedish, Italian, and Croatian.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

John Matthias is an American poet. He was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1941. In 1959, while still in high school, he had the opportunity to meet and study under the poet John Berryman. The two kept in touch until Berryman's death in 1972. Matthias went on to study at Ohio State University and Stanford University. While in graduate school at Stanford, Matthias studied under the poet and critic Yvor Winters. There, despite Winters's influence to the contrary, he became deeply interested in modernism, British modernism in particular. Later, while living for years in England, Matthias would go on to compile the 1970 anthology 23 Modern British Poets. At Stanford, he kept company with Robert Hass and Robert Pinsky, who would go on to become poets laureate of the United States, as well as the poets Ken Fields, James McMichael, and John Peck. In 1966, upon leaving graduate school, he worked as a Fulbright scholar in London for one year. There he met his future wife, Diana Adams. Within a year they were married. Many of Matthias's poems concern Adams's family, which included several artists and writers of note like Wayland, Emily, and Louisa Young.

Matthias has split the majority of his professional life between Britain, where he did major scholarly work on the Anglo-Welsh poet and painter David Jones, and at the University of Notre Dame, where, after the establishment of the creative writing MFA program in 1990, he taught many creative writing classes. He also served for twenty years, alongside William O'Rourke, as co-editor of the Notre Dame Review, an international literary journal. Today he continues as editor at large. He has also worked with several Notre Dame based artists, including Douglas Kinsey, who did illustrations and covers for several of his books; printmaker Jean Dibble, who helped him to create a series of "poster poems"; and Serbian mathematician and poet Vladeta Vučković, with whom Matthias co-translated the epic fragments known collectively as The Battle of Kosovo (1999).

Matthias's life in Britain was comparatively non-academic. His books found publication through English presses like Anvil Press, Salt, and, most recently, Shearsman. He lived mostly at his wife's house in the small village of Hacheston, Suffolk. He worked for a time with Swedish colleagues Göran Printz-Påhlson and Lars-Håkan Svensson on translations of Swedish poetry, including the anthology Contemporary Swedish Poetry (1980) and the selected poems of Jesper Svenbro, Three-Toed Gull(2003). Matthias's own poetry has been translated into many languages, including Italian and Swedish. He was also part of the group that founded the Cambridge Poetry Festival in 1973. Matthias, now Notre Dame Professor Emeritus, lives in South Bend, Indiana.

Major scholarly works on Matthias' poetry include the books Word Play Place: Essays on the Poetry of John Matthias (1998), edited by Robert Archambeau and The Salt Companion to John Matthias (2011), edited by Joe Francis Doerr. There is a substantial chapter on Matthias' poetry in Archambeau's study Laureates and Heretics (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010). Major essays appear in books by Gerald Bruns (What Are Poets For?), Mark Scroggins (Intricate Thicket), and Sally Connelly (Grief and Meter: Elegies for Poets after Auden). In 2004 an issue of the poetry magazine Samizdat was devoted to commentary on his work.


11 Cubic Feet


The materials include small press poetry, criticism, and miscellaneous literary and art publications from the UK, the USA, and Scandinavia assembled by John Matthias (1941-), a prominent American poet, critic, translator, and Professor Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame.


The collection is arranged in nine series, as noted above. Typically, there is one item per folder.

Related Materials

The John Matthias Papers (JEM) are located in the University of Notre Dame Archives.

John Matthias Collection
Chris Holdaway
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556