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Ed Dorn Papers

Identifier: MSN/MN 3009

Scope and Contents

The correspondence, more than 1000 items, for the most part dates from 1987 to 1999 and consists of letters to Dorn from students, fellow poets, friends, publishers, and colleagues. There are some exceptions to this pattern of correspondence. For example, there is a group of letters dating from 1952 to 1955 written by Dorn to Gordon Taylor, a good friend from high school; there is another group of letters from Dorn to Jennifer Dunbar written around 1967 and 1968. The manuscripts consist of handwritten notes, scraps, fragments, drafts, and proofs of both published and unpublished work; there are drafts and proofs of such works as Abhorrences, Chemo Sábe, Hi Plane, and Langue d'Oc. The papers include material relating to Dorn's academic career: primarily, documentation surrounding his tenure review at the U. of Colorado as well as some course descriptions. Materials relating to the publication Rolling Stock consist primarily of: manuscripts, artwork, correspondence, mailing lists, grant applications, and publicity materials. The collection also includes numerous audiocassette tapes such as recordings of Charles Olson, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Stan Brakhage, Jeremy Prynne, Robert Duncan, and Robert Creeley.


  • Creation: 1952-2000
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1987-1999


Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish from these papers must be obtained from both the University of Notre Dame and from the holder of the copyright.

Biographical / Historical

Edward Dorn (1929-1999) was an American poet, writer, and teacher. He was born in Villa Grove, Illinois and attended the University of Illinois, Eastern Illinois University, and Black Mountain College, where he studied under Charles Olson and Robert Creeley. During his long career, he taught at a number of institutions, including Idaho State University, the University of Essex in England (where he lived for five years) and the University of Colorado. During that same time he established himself as a poet. The numerous volumes of poetry he published show originality and diversity, and his style varies from lyric to narrative and from meditative to satiric. Though he avoids traditional meter and rhyme, his verse can still achieve a tone of formality and elegance. Thematically, he often expresses his concern for the underprivileged and disadvantaged. For example, the plight of the American Indian has been a consistent theme in his work. Consensus of opinion indicates that the Gunslinger series (1968-1972; published as Slinger in 1975), a poem in four books, is his most notable work, a kaleidoscopic effort revolving around the mythic figure of the gunslinger of the old West.

While teaching and developing his skills as a poet, Dorn also wrote a screenplay, short stories, and a novel, Rites of Passage (1965), later revised as By the Sound (1971). He helped to translate the poems of Cesar Vallejo, Jose Emilio Pacheco, and other Latin American poets. He also edited several newspapers: Bean News and, more notably, Rolling Stock. The latter, published from 1981 to 1991, has been described as a "newspaper of ideas" and has been called the "chronicle of the 1980s." Among the many outstanding contributors to the paper were: Stan Brakhage, Tom Raworth, Fielding Dawson, and Jeremy Prynne. In addition to his Black Mountain associates: Creeley, Olson, and Robert Duncan, Dorn was a close friend or acquaintance of a rich circle of literary and artistic figures, including the black American dramatist and poet, LeRoi Jones, who later went by the name Amiri Baraka. Indeed, it was Jones's Totem Press that published Dorn's first volume of poetry, The Newly Fallen (1961).

With regard to family, Dorn met his first wife, Helene Buck, in 1951. During his years at the U. of Essex in England, he met and married the writer and filmmaker, Jennifer Dunbar, who later co-edited the paper Rolling Stock. He died of pancreatic cancer in 1999. Dorn is survived by his wife, two sons, Paul Buck and Kidd Dorn, as well as by his daughter, Maya Dorn.


26.5 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



The papers consist of the correspondence and manuscripts of the poet Edward Dorn, particularly from the 1990s. The collection also includes a variety of items related to the publiction Rolling Stock, as well as manuscripts of other writers and audiocassette tapes.


This collection is arranged into seven series: I. Correspondence; II. Manuscripts, Notebooks, Address Books, and Daily Calendars; III. Teaching and Education; IV. Dorn Publications-Rolling Stock; V. Miscellaneous; VI. Manuscripts by Others; and VII. Audio Material and Other Items. Series I is arranged into nine subseries: i. General Correspondence, A to Z; ii. Dorn's Letters to Gordon Taylor; iii. Dorn's Correspondence with LeRoi Jones (aka Amiri Baraka); iv. Dorn's Letters to Jennifer Dunbar Dorn; v. Letters of Tom Clark to Ed Dorn; vi. Ed Dorn's Letters to Various Correspondents; vii. Publisher's Letters to Ed Dorn; viii. Dorn's Correspondence Regarding Poetry Readings; and ix. Condolences. Series II is arranged into three subseries: i. Manuscripts; ii. Notebooks; and iii. Address Books and Daily Calendars. Series III is arranged into four subseries: i. Tenure; ii. Courses; iii. Grants; and iv. Black Mountain College. Series IV is arranged into five subseries: i. Correspondence; ii. Manuscripts; iii. Artwork; iv. Unpublished Manuscripts; and v. Assorted Items Relating to Rolling Stock. Series V is arranged into two subseries: i. Broadsides, Stationery, and Other Items; and ii. Publicity, Personal Documents, and Other Items. Series VI is arranged into two subseries: i. About Dorn; and ii. Other Subjects. Series VII is arranged into two subseries: i. Audio Material; and ii. Other Items.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Ed Dorn Papers were purchased by the Hesburgh Libraries from Granary Books in New York in 2013, with funding provided by the Howard and Evangeline Phalin Collection in English and American Literature and by the Libraries' Humanities Fund.

Related Materials

Scholars researching Ed Dorn may also wish to consult Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center (U. of Connecticut), which holds material dating primarily from 1956 to 1993. Stanford also holds some earlier material (1946-1962). There are other collections well worth considering; for example, the Lilly Library at IU-Bloomington and the Charles E. Young Research Library at UCLA have LeRoi Jones collections, which include Ed Dorn.

Ed Dorn Papers
Yugon Kim and Ingrid Adams
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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