American poet David
Louis Posner was born August 6, 1921 in New York to Nell and Louis S. Posner.
Although his father was born in Britain, he worked as a lawyer on Wall Street
and later became Commissioner of Education for New York City. In 1945, Posner
received his B.A. from Kenyon College where he majored in French and in 1947 he
received his M.A. in English Literature from Harvard. After studying at the
Sorbonne, he worked for two years with Radio Diffusion Française interviewing
famous personalities. During this time, he travelled extensively in Europe and
pursued an interest in archeology. He accompanied an expedition searching for
a Phoenician city in Libya and another working at the Palace of Minos in
Crete. In 1953, Posner returned to formal academic pursuits and studied modern
languages at Wadham College, Oxford. Posner’s poem, “The Deserted Altar,” won
the Newdigate Prize for English Verse in 1956. From 1957-1969, Posner was an
English instructor and Assistant Curator of Poetry at the State University of
New York at Buffalo. He became an assistant professor of English at the
University of California and remained there until 1973. He published seven
books of poetry, including The Deserted Altar (1957), A Rake’s
Progress: A poem in five sections (1967), Visit to the East (1971)
and Geographies (1979). Posner was also a life-long collector of first
editions of literature until his death in 1985.
Authors Online, Gale, 2004. Reproduced in BiographyResourceCenter. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2004.
Additional information acquired from materials in
Scope and Contents Note
The David Louis Posner
Papers span the dates 1923 – 1957, and consist of one linear foot of photographs,
school records, letters, essays, invoices, rare book catalogs, ephemera, and
poetry, prose, and play scripts. Though small and clearly incomplete as a
record of Posner’s life, the collection provides good biographical and literary
content for study of this American poet.
The first series of the
collection contains personal materials that consist of photographs and items
related to David Posner’s education, including his early years at the Lawrenceville
School in New Jersey, his undergraduate years at Kenyon College and materials
relating to various graduate programs. These education-related materials consist
of progress reports, official letters, sports schedules, banquet invitations,
essay exams, and graduation programs, and provide a detailed look at Posner’s
early educational experiences. Letters from David’s father written between
1928 and 1951 are arranged chronologically. The letter dated August 1, 1950 includes a typescript copy of a letter by William Carlos Williams
responding to David Posner’s poetry. The first series also includes various
ephemera dating from 1931 – 1957, as well as invoices, catalogs and letters
from American and British book dealers, which highlight Posner’s life-long
interest in collecting first editions of literature.
The second series
contains poetry, prose and play manuscripts. The many poetry manuscripts are
divided between typescript and autograph copies because this was how the items
were originally received. The typescript copies of poetry contain corrections
written in David Posner’s hand.
D. Book collecting
Folder -- Contents
I. A. Photographs, 1923, 1938
Photographs (20 items)
and white photographs of various sizes, including three 7” x 10” photographs.
Two photographs have handwritten pencil identifications on back: One reads,
“David summer 1923” and the other identifies the year as 1923 and the people in
the photo as David and his mother, Nell. Picture of football team is stamped
on back as Nov. 29, 1938.
I. B. Education, 1931 – 1952
Early Education, 1931 – 1944
report cards and progress reports from the Ethical Culture Schools in New York
City, the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, and Camp Wigwam in Maine. Also
includes tuition checks, banquet invitations, sports schedules, graduation day programs,
and a report on David from the Vocational Guidance Department of the National
Institute of Industrial Psychology.
Essays, 1941 and undated
and handwritten essays by David. Some include grade and comments by teacher.
Essay on Thomas Jefferson and Thomas More’s Utopia are in both typescript
and handwritten form. Also included are essays on military preparedness,
Lorenzo Medici, and David’s outline of his utopian society.
Kenyon College, 1943 and undated
22 undated blue-book essay exams written by David on topics in literature and
philosophy. Also includes an undated pamphlet entitled “The Cost of Kenyon
Education,” two 1943 play programs from the Kenyon Dramatic Club’s performances
of Three Men on a Horse and In Time to Come in which David
performed and letters regarding David’s potential for service as a military
Graduate Studies, 1945 – 1952
letters from Harvard University, the American School of Prehistoric Research,
and Wadham College at Oxford.
I.C. Correspondence, 1928-1957
Letters from father, 1928-1951
the earliest letter is from 1928, the bulk of the letters are from 1947 and
1948 with letters written almost weekly. The letters are predominately
typescript copies with only a few handwritten ones. The letter dated August 1,
Correspondence, 1928-1957 (cont’d)
William Carlos Williams, a “poet of accepted stature,” whom David’s father,
Louis, met at a writer’s retreat [Yado] at Saratoga Springs. Included with the
letter is a typescript letter from Williams (dated July 27, 1950) in which he
responds to some of David’s poetry that he read at Louis’ request. Also
included are three letters written to David from his mother, Nell.
from friends, 1942-1957 and undated
letters to David during his time at Kenyon College, and letters and postcards
addressed to him in France, London, and New York.
a letter dated November 28, 1950 from T.S. Eliot’s secretary, a letter from
Sterling Optical regarding David’s prescription and several letters regarding
financial matters. Also includes cancelled checks from David Posner’s account
written to travel agencies and book sellers.
Letters, 1937-1948 and undated
four letters written by David, one of which dates back to David’s elementary
school days. Also includes letters written by Louis regarding David’s interest
in book collecting, and correspondence between Nell and friend, Stanley,
regarding a demonstration in New York in 1939 against the Nazis.
I.D. Book Collecting, 1929-1952
Catalogs — U.S., 1929-1952
from Columbia University Press Bookstore and catalogs from Swann Auction
Galleries for sale number 18 in 1942, sale numbers 48-51, 54 in 1943 and sale
number 309 in 1952.
Catalogs — England, 1941-1951
numbers 67, 68, 69 from Mercurius Britannicus (Aug., Oct., Nov. 1941); Voyages
and Travels catalog numbers 727 and 723; Grafton & Co. catalog
numbers 286 and 287 (1951).
Catalogs — General, 1929-1952
miscellaneous envelopes, catalogs, lists of book dealers, envelopes from book dealers,
and advertisements for special editions including a first edition of John
Dryden’s MacFlecknoe, the poet-of-the-month club and editions from the
Modern Library. Also included is a 1929 date book with “Louis S. Posner” in
gilt on front cover with handwritten notes on various books.
Book Collecting, 1929-1952 (cont’d)
from booksellers, 1931-1952
letters regarding catalogs, account information, newly acquired first editions
and pending orders from various book dealers including Elkin Matthews, H.M.
Fletcher and Percy Dobell.
from booksellers, 1928-1952
from Bertram Rota, Elkin Matthews, W. Heffer and Sons and others dating from
1928 - 1952. The earlier invoices are addressed to Mrs. Louis Posner, while
the invoices from the late 1940s and 1950s are addressed to David Posner.
Christopher. Ex Libris, New York, 1936. An anthology printed and bound
(and sold) at the First National Book Fair sponsored by the National Association
of Book Publishers.
1931-1957 and undated
mockup for a booklet or pamphlet cover for “The Deserted Altar” dated 1956 and
a bookjacket from Posner’s 1957 collection, The Deserted Altar, with unadressed
letter written in David’s hand. Also includes Louis S. Posner’s business card,
tourist map of Venice, various postcards, an announcement for the 1942 summer
programs with the American Friends Service Committee, TIME magazine
current affairs test for January 1939, an In Memoriam notice for Stanley Keyes,
a pamphlet of books banned in Boston, a transcript of a radio address entitled
“The Nazi Madness—A World Menace” given by Samuel C. Lamport in New York in
1933, and an application for the National Writers Club.
Ephemera, 1936-1942 and undated
WWII postage stamps (one, two, and three cents), letters to the editor from The
Nation April 25, 1942, various newspaper clippings on auctions and purchases
of rare editions of literature, cartoons, a February 1937 article from the New
York Times Magazine entitled “In Search of the England That Dickens Knew,” and
a New York Times article from May 19, 1937 entitled “Baldwin Good-Bye
Spoken to Youth,” which details the British Prime Minister’s resignation and
includes the text of his speech.
manuscripts of Posner’s poetry, including rough drafts and worksheets as well
as fair copies. Includes poems entitled “Progress,” “Interlude,” “Lesson in
Anatomy,” “Moving-Pictures” and “To Be Spoken in Time of War.”
poetry manuscripts, including “Thanatopsis,” “In Memory of Coco,” “When the
Dark Days Come,” “Heart of Darkness,” “History Lesson” and “To Adelaide
Proctor,” among others. Several manuscripts bear handwritten corrections.
and typescript copies of essays and short stories.