University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Tram Combs Correspondence

1953 - 1965

Manuscript Collection Number: 178
Accessioned: Purchase, 1987, 1988.
Extent: 275 items (.5 linear ft.)
Content: Correspondence and typescripts.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: 1991 by Anita A. Wellner.

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Tram Combs (Elisha Trammell, Jr.), born September 25, 1924, in Riverview, Alabama, was the son of Elisha Trammel Combs, a cotton mill superintendent. He attended the University of Washington from 1943-1944. In 1945 He received a certificate of professional competence in meteorology from the University of Chicago. During these years he also served in the U. S. Army Air Forces as a meteorologist, attaining the rank of 2nd lieutenant. In 1948 he graduated from the University of California with an A. B. He also did some course work at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the area of electronics engineering.

Combs worked for a brief period (1948-1951) as an oil chemist for Tidewater Associated Oil Company in Avon, California and later (1951-1952) managing his own Island Studios, Inc.

Beginning in 1952 Tram Combs established his book shop in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. His book shop specializes in material related to the middle and southern Americas. This was his occupation during the span of years of the correspondence in this collection.

As a poet Combs has written a number of books of verse. Some of his published works include pilgrim's terrace: poems american west indian (1957), Saints Thomas' & Francis' cities songs o' Tram (1958), Ceremonies in Mind: artists, boys, cats, lovers, judges, priests (1959), but never mind (1961), Saint Thomas: poems (1965), and Briefs: poems (1966). His poetry was also published in issues of BIM.


Kinsman, Clare D. Contemporary Authors. Volume 1316, First Revision. (Detroit: Gale 1965). Page 173.

Scope and Contents Note

This collection consists of correspondence between Tram Combs and John Malcolm Brinnin, Bill Read, and Frank Collymore. Each section of correspondence consists of the original letters from Brinnin, Read, or Collymore to Combs and carbon copies of Tram Combs' letters in response. Also included in this collection are a number of typescript carbons of poems written by Combs and sent to Brinnin or Collymore. The Brinnin section also contains clippings sent by Brinnin and a typescript inscribed copy of Brinnin's poem, "Skin Diving in the Virgins," which he dedicated to Combs.

Series Outline

Series I.    Correspondence of Brinnin to Combs          p.4.

Series II. Correspondence of Read to Combs p.5.

Series III. Correspondence of Collymore to Combs p.5.

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

          Series I.  Correspondence of John Malcolm Brinnin to Tram
               Combs. 1957-1964.  Original letters and material from the poet,
               John Malcolm Brinnin, to Tram Combs.  In addition to correspondence,
               the file includes an original Ts of the poem, "Skin Diving
               in the Virgin Islands," written by Brinnin and dedicated
               to Tram Combs. This poem became the title poem of Brinnin's 1970
               collection of poetry.  Also included are the carbons of Combs'
               responses to Brinnin's letters and carbons of some poems by Combs.

               The correspondence is based on their friendship and respect for
               one another's poetry.  Brinnin met Combs while vacationing in
               Saint Thomas at his book shop.  The letters reflect the development
               of their friendship, founded on similar views of poetry, society,
               and homosexuality.  Brinnin discusses his poetry, other poets
               such as William Carlos Williams and Dylan Thomas, his efforts
               with biographies and poetry and the rigors of teaching in the
               university setting.  Brinnin encourages Combs' poetry and writes
               the introduction to Combs' book of poetry, "Pilgrim's Terrace."  

               The sixteen folders contain TLSs, ALSs, ACSs from Brinnin and
               various carbon copies of letters from Combs to Brinnin spanning
               the years 1957-1964.   The material is arranged chronologically.

               191 items.

1	F1     1957: January-June.  11 items (13 leaves) 15 pp.

	F2     1957: September-November.  7 items (9 leaves) 10 pp.

	F3     1958-1959.  16 items (17 leaves) 19 pp.

	F4     1960.  10 items (10 leaves) 10 pp.

	F5     1961: January-July.  Includes Ts (carbon)s of poems
               by Tram Combs.  14 items (14  leaves) 15 pp.

	F6     1961: August-December.  Includes photographs of Brinnin,
               Bill Read, and the Gibneys.  Also includes an offprint of Brinnin's
               review of Combs' book of poetry, but never mind.  19 items (19
               leaves) 23 pp.

	F7     1962: January-June.  Includes clippings and a letter
               from Francie Brinnin (John Malcolm  Brinnin's mother) to Combs.
               15 items (17 leaves) 22 pp.

	F8     1962: July-December.  15 items (17 leaves) 22 pp.

2	F9     1963: January-March.  Includes a clipping.  14 items (18 leaves) 21 pp.

	F10    1963: April-June.  13 items (25 leaves) 25 pp.

	F11    1963: July-September.  8 items (11 leaves) 11 pp.

	F12    1963: October-November.  Includes a Ts copy of John Malcolm
               Brinnin's poem, "Skin Diving in the Virgins," inscribed
               to Combs by Brinnin.  9 items (11 leaves) 12 pp.

	F13    1964: January-February.  Includes a letters from Bill
               Read and a carbon copy of poems  by Combs.   9 items  (14 leaves)
               15 pp.

	F14    1964: March-May.  12 items (19 leaves) 19 pp.

	F15    1964: June-July.  10 items (14 leaves) 16 pp.

	F16    1964: August-December.  9 items (10 leaves) 11 pp.

          Series II.  Correspondence between Bill Read and Tram Combs.
               As a friend and companion of John Malcolm Brinnin, Read met Tram
               Combs on a vacation to the Virgin Islands.  Bill Read, an
               educator and writer, discusses a number of topics with Combs including
               poets, books he wishes to order from Combs' book service, his
               vacation in the islands, and Brinnin.  

	F17    1957-1964.  Includes ALSs and TLSs from Bill Read and
               carbons of Combs' letters of  response.  21 items  (29 leaves) 29 pp.

          Series III.  Correspondence between Frank A. Collymore
               and Tram Combs.  1953-1964.  Frank Collymore, a leading poet of
               the Caribbean Islands and editor of BIM magazine, writes to Tram
               Combs about various matters.  Frequently the discussion is of
               BIM but occasionally Collymore discusses other poets, the literary
               culture in Barbados, and his health.  Also included are carbons
               of Combs' letters to Collymore as well as copies of some of his
               poems which were submitted to BIM for publication.  Occasionally
               the verso of Combs' carbons bear notes, advertisements, and
               examples of his poetry. 

               The six folders include ALSs, TLSs, and TNSs from Collymore and
               carbons of letters and Ts poems from Combs.  The material is arranged
               chronologically.   63 items.

3	F18    1953-1954.  8 items (8 leaves) 10 pp.

	F19    1955-1958.  10 items (10 leaves) 10 pp.

	F20    1959.  Includes poems written by Combs.  5 items   
               (6 leaves) 6 pp.

	F21    1960.  Includes poems written by Combs.  13 items  
               (13 leaves) 13 pp.

	F22    1961.  Includes poems written by Combs.  14 items  
               (15 leaves) 15 pp.

	F23    1962-1964.  13 items (13 leaves) 16 pp.

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