Galway Kinnell Recordings

Composed of 365 reels, cassettes, compact discs, VHS, Super 8, and DVD recordings made between 1960 and 2015, the Galway Kinnell recording collection constitutes the largest aggregate of Kinnell recordings in the world.

The Galway Kinnell recording collection includes a range of authorial recordings (including live readings, studio recordings, interviews, lectures, and workshops), interpretive readings by Galway Kinnell (of the works of such poets as Walt Whitman and Pablo Neruda), family recordings, memorial tributes, performances of musical settings of Kinnell’s poems by such composers/musicians as Andrew Bird and William Mayer, and association copies of readings/performances by friends and fellow authors—among them, John Ashbery, Robert Bly, Allen Ginsberg, Donald Hall, Etheridge Knight, Sharon Olds, Grace Paley, Adrienne Rich, and James Wright.

The collection also reflects Kinnell’s early travels in Iran (with recordings by such poets as Forough Farrokhzad and Nader Naderpour), the peripatetic academic positions he held at the outset of his career (with recordings made at Reed College/Oregon and University of Colorado/Fort Collins), his involvement with the nascent Squaw Valley Writers’ Conference, as well as his ongoing relationships with New York University and the Vermont poetry community. 

His committed role as an activist can also be traced throughout the collection: from a recording made during his CORE work in Louisiana to peace marches with his daughter to anti-war readings after 9/11. The recordings he chose to collect provide additional insights into international authors whose works stimulated and engaged him—including recordings that feature Yves Bonnefoy, Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda, and W. B. Yeats.

Additional recordings in the collection include original (and dubbed) recordings produced by commercial publishers and non-profit organizations: among them, the Academy of American Poets (where he served as a Chancellor), Poets House (where he contributed to the annual Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge by reciting Walt Whitman), Watershed Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, and Caedmon.

In addition to its intellectual content, the Kinnell recording collection is of interest for how it reflects a mid-20th century poet’s integration of a range of audio-visual technologies in conjunction with his both his domestic and artistic life: such as Dictaphone recordings, answering machine messages, mixtapes, nocturnal tape-recordings of his dreams, and the use of Super-8 films to document his friends and family.

The collection as a whole allows scholars to encounter Kinnell’s anatomical and literary voice as it evolved over the course of his long career, and the voices to which he listened and received sustenance and inspiration throughout his lifetime.

The recordings were generously donated to the Woodberry Poetry Room by Bobbie K. Bristol.

Photograph: Courtesy of the New York Times

Accessing These Materials

The collection is currently closed to research (pending digitization) until Spring 2020.

The Galway Kinnell recording collection is accessible via Houghton Library. Access to the original formats and containers requires the permission of the curator.


Christina Davis and Mary Walker Graham