University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Toby Olson
Letters to Carl Thayler

1967 - 1983

Manuscript Collection Number: 184
Accessioned: Purchase, 1988.
Extent: .1 linear ft. (119 items).
Content: Letters, poems and postcards.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: July 1992 by Anita A. Wellner.

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Toby Olson

American poet and Temple University professor, Toby Olson, was born August 17, 1937, in Berwyn, Illinois. His name at birth was Merle Theodore Olson. He was educated at Occidental College, receiving a B.A. in 1965, and at Long Island University, receiving an M.A. in 1967.

He has served on the faculties of Long Island University, Brooklyn, New York (1966-1974); the Friends Seminary, New York (1974-1975); the New School for Social Research, New York (1967-1975); Aspen Writer's Workshop, Aspen, Colorado (1964-1967); and Temple University, Philadelphia (1975- ).

His writing includes books of poetry, novels, articles, reviews, and short stories. His novels include The Life of Jesus (1976), Seaview (1982), Utah (1987), and Dorit in Lebos (1990). Seaview received the PEN Faulkner Award in 1983.

Olson's books of poetry include The Hawk-Foot Poems (1968), Maps (1969), Worms Into Nails (1969), The Brand (1969), Pig's Book (1969), Vectors (1972), Fishing (1974), The Wrestlers and Other Poems (1974), City (1974), Changing Appearance: Poems 1965-1970 (1975), Home (1976), Four Poems (1976), Three and One (1976), Doctor Miriam (1977), The Florence Poems (1978), Aesthetics (1978), Birdsongs (1980), Two Standards (1982), and We Are the Fire (1984).

Carl Thayler

Born April 29, 1933, in Los Angeles, California, Carl Thayler was educated at Kenyon College, where he received his B.A. in 1968. He pursued graduate study at the University of Wisconsin from 1968-1972. While in Wisconsin he also participated in the Wisconsin Poetry-in-the-Schools program.

His writing includes several published books of poetry and a play titled "Grail." His books of poetry include The Drivers (1969), Some Ground (1970), The Mariposa Suite (1971), The Providings: Poems, 1963-1971 (1971), and Goodrich and the Haggard Ode and the Disfiguration (1972).


Evory, Ann and Linda Metzger (eds.). Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series, Volume 9. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1983. p. 382.

Evory, Ann (ed.). Contemporary Authors. First Revision, Volumes 37-40. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1979. p. 548.

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of 119 letters from American poet and Temple University professor, Toby Olson, to the poet Carl Thayler. Dating from 1967 to 1983, these detailed letters treat a variety of literary and personal matters and reveal the close friendship shared by Olson and Thayler.

Seven of the letters include drafts of poems which Olson sent to Thayler for his comments. The poems include "Wood Song," "Antonio Rocca," "Brother Moon," "Gorgeous George," "Waltz," "The Contract," "Aesthetic #1," and "Aesthetic-8." Also discussed are Olson's books in progress, including his novels The Life of Jesus and Seaview. Books of poetry mentioned are Maps, Pig's Book, Worms Into Nails, The Florence Poems, Aesthetics, and Birdsongs.

In these letters Olson critiques poems written by Thayler, as well as other writing which Thayler sent to him. Thayler's Goodrich (1972), for which Olson wrote the introduction, is also discussed. Olson also comments on the work of Gilbert Sorrentino, Robert Creeley, Paul Blackburn, Avery Corman, Gregory Corso, Diane Wakoski, Denise Levertov, and others.

These letters provide insight into Olson's academic career at Long Island University, Temple University, and at the New School for Social Research in New York City. The letters also provide details of his summers at North Truro, Massachusetts, and of his interactions with various publishers about his poetry and novels.

The correspondence is arranged chronologically, with two folders of undated letters filed at the end.

Contents List

Folder -- Contents

F1   Letters, 1967-1969.
     Include one poem titled "Wood Song."  18 items (18 leaves)
     20 pp.

F2   Letters, 1970-1971. 
     Includes two poems titled "The Contract" and "Waltz." 
     20 items (20 leaves) 24 pp.

F3   Letters, 1972-1973.
     Includes one poem titled "Aesthetics #1."  The postcard
     bears a poem by Karl Young titled "Ecosystems" (printed 
     by Membrane Press).  19 items (19 leaves) 20 pp.

F4   Letters, 1974-1979.
     Includes two poems, "Brother Moon" and "Aesthetics-8." 
     The two postcards have printed poems on the verso.  One 
     poem is George Economou's, "The Se[er]", and the other is
     an untitled poem by Charles Doria (both are printed by
     Membrane Press).  19 items (20 leaves) 20 pp.

F5   Letters, 1980-1983.
     10 items (10 leaves) 10 pp.

F6   Letters, [n.d.]. 
     The postcard bears on the verso a printed poem by Rosenblum,
     "at sunrise (the skin)," (printed by Membrane Press). 
     16 items (16 leaves) 17 pp.

F7   Letters, [n.d.].
     Includes the poems "Antonio Rocca" and "Gorgeous George."
     17 items (17 leaves) 19 pp. 

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