Lewis Ellingham's Poet Be Like God Research Materials, 1983-1987 (MSS 126)

Restrictions: Duplication of materials from this collection, other than note-taking, is prohibited. The original collection is located in the SUNY-Buffalo Poetry Collection and requests for duplication must be directed to SUNY-Buffalo. Original media formats are restricted. Viewing/listening copies may be available for researchers.

Extent: 3.6 Linear feet (8 archives boxes, 4 card file boxes)

Papers of writer Lewis Ellingham, containing audio recordings and photocopies of materials used in his research on poet Jack Spicer (1925-1965) and the Spicer Circle, which flourished from roughly 1956 to 1965. The collection consists largely of interview recordings and transcripts, correspondence, and drafts of Ellingham's book Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance (1998).

Lewis Ellingham, writer of prose, poetry and fiction, was born on 27 February 1933 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was the son of a Protestant small town newspaperman and a German Catholic mother. He attended Campion, a Jesuit residential high school from 1947 to 1951. Upon graduating, he began studies in Bloomington at Indiana University.

The years 1952 through 1965 were most pivotal in influencing Ellingham's writing career -- as is revealed in the following statement he made in 1990:

"In 1952, at age 19, I left home, leaving Indiana University in my first year; avoiding the Korean War draft by declaring myself homosexual at the same time, my student deferment automatically ending once I had left college. I lived briefly in New York's Greenwich Village and Chicago's Hyde Park, where my older brother...attended the University of Chicago. In 1954 I came to Berkeley and, shortly afterward, to North Beach in San Francisco, where... [for the most part] I have lived ever since. The central event of these decades in San Francisco was my close association with Jack Spicer's circle of writers and artists, in my case from 1961 through 1965 [the year of Spicer's death]."

From 1963-1965, Ellingham served as book editor for the Sierra Club, editing various guides and articles as well as the Exhibit Format series. Other than that job, Ellingham has been formally employed only sparingly. His most prolific writing periods have been during the 1960s, and from 1979 to the present. In 1990, he was an organizer of "OutWrite '90," a gay writers' conference in San Francisco, which attracted over a thousand participants.

Ellingham has published poetry, prose poetry and short fiction in the following publications: M (1963); Mythrander (1964); Open Space (1964); Magazine (1965); Cassiopeia and Cassiopeia/Ephemeris (1967-69); Nine Queen Bees (1970); The Jefferson Airplane (booklet, 1971); The Capilano Review (1976); No Apologies (1983-85); Mirage (1985-86); Acts (1983-87); Soup (1984); Ironwood (1987); and Line (1986-88). He has also written these unpublished books: The Wounded Laurel (poetry, 1971); Twenty Years of Writing (1982); 'Mechanically We Move in God's Universe' (ten stories from the San Francisco Bay Region, 1983); The Bushes They Were Bells (fantasy fiction, 1985); The Countless Unmurmuring Dead (autobiography, 1986); Koot's Death (novel, 1987); Xavier (novel, 1988); and The Rain Column (novel, 1989). In 1984, he wrote Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance which was not published until 1998, (the research materials for this book comprise UCSD's Ellingham collection).

Jack Spicer (1925-1965) was a San Francisco poet who rejected the traditional centers for poetry -- i.e., academia and the large publishing houses. As a result, he devoted his life to writing poetry by day and forging a community of young, experimental poets by night in the North Beach bars. While working as a research linguist at UC Berkeley for David Reed and briefly as an instructor at San Francisco State (1957), he also founded White Rabbit Press and two magazines, J and Open Space, in which he published much of his own work and that of his friends. In 1957, he claimed to experience dictation by voices other than his own, and he began incorporating these voices in much of his work.

Spicer's work is noted for its experimentation with language, form and compositional method, and it often focuses on the dialectic between language and experience and between the self and the outside world. Recently, Spicer's writing has been growing in critical acclaim, even though it has long been revered by many poets.

Lewis Ellingham, who met Spicer in 1961, also came to admire and respect Spicer's work. Out of devotion to Spicer, he decided in 1983 to document the inner workings of the circle of writers that had assembled around Spicer so as to explore the implications for how and why it occurred. Ellingham interviewed over thirty witnesses to the scene - including such notables as Robert Duncan and Robin Blaser - and recorded their comments on cassette tape and in writing.

One of the products of this research was the manuscript Poet Be Like God. Ellingham's approach in creating this book was more sociological than literary. As he wrote in a letter to Michael Davidson, "I did not undertake this work to celebrate these people; they only are a part of my theme, which basically is Proustian of a kind of Left Bank I admire."

The Lewis Ellingham Papers contain sound recordings and photocopies of materials used by Ellingham in his research on Jack Spicer and the Spicer Circle, which flourished from roughly 1956 to 1965. The collection consists largely of interview recordings and transcripts, and drafts of Ellingham's book Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance (1998). The papers do not include any of Ellingham's creative writing or personal correspondence. The papers are highlighted by lengthy quotations from contemporary poetry which is, in some cases, available nowhere else. Moreover, since many of the persons interviewed are Ellingham's friends, this collection also serves as a sort of memoir.

All papers in the collection are photocopies of the originals which currently are held at the State University of New York at Buffalo library.

Arranged in four series: 1) INTERVIEWS; 2) OTHER WRITERS' FILES; 3) SPICER CIRCLE PAPERS, and 4) POET BE LIKE GOD TYPESCRIPT. The organization follows Ellingham's own arrangement.

Container List


Scope and Content of Series

Series 1) INTERVIEWS. Arranged in two subseries: A) Transcripts and Related Materials, and B) Audiocassettes.

A) Transcripts and Related Materials: Alphabetically arranged (by interviewee) typescript transcripts of the interviews related to the Spicer Circle scene, as well as related correspondence (mostly between Ellingham and the interviewees). The written transcriptions were created by Ellingham and are unedited, so some discrepancies between the sound recordings and the written versions exist. Transcripts of Ellingham's interviews with Harry Z. Coren and Nemi Frost (both of which took place in 1987) are missing; however, the recordings of those interviews are filed in the second subseries, "Cassette Recordings."

B) Audiocassettes: Original cassette recordings of the interviews, also arranged alphabetically by interviewee. The subseries also includes two recordings of lectures made by Jack Spicer.

Transcripts and Related Materials

Blaser, Robin

Box 1 Folder 1
Telephone interview from San Francisco to Vancouver, 1983
Box 1 Folder 2
"Opposition in the Life and Work of Jack Spicer"; fragments of a telephone interview with Blaser; galley proof for New Apologies, issue #1, 1983
Box 1 Folder 3
Notes and partial transcript of conversation between Blaser and Ellingham in San Francisco, 1983
Box 1 Folder 4
Bernstein, Charles. Letter to Ellingham about interview of Robin Blaser
Box 1 Folder 5
Watson, Scott. Letter to Ellingham about interview of Robin Blaser
Box 1 Folder 6
Borregaard, Ebbe and Joanne Kyger, 1982
Box 1 Folder 7
Brodecky, Bill, 1982

Chugg, Gail

Box 1 Folder 8
Also includes pre-recorded stories and incidents from Chugg's "The Company of Men", 1982
Box 1 Folder 9
"The Company of Men: A Recital for Six Actors and an Audience" -- written by Chugg
Box 1 Folder 10
Letter from Chugg to Ellingham, 1984
Box 1 Folder 11
Connor, Bob, 1982
Box 1 Folder 12
Duerden, Richard, 1982
Box 1 Folder 13
Dull, Harold, 1982

Duncan, Robert

Box 1 Folder 14
Includes typescript letter to Duncan from Ellingham, 1983
Box 2 Folder 1-2
Includes typescript letters to Duncan from Ellingham, 1983
Box 2 Folder 3
Copyright waiver and registration forms for the Duncan interviews, 1983 - 1985
Box 2 Folder 4
Correspondence between Duncan and Ellingham about the interviews, 1982 - 1985
Box 2 Folder 5
Dunn, Joe, 1986
Box 2 Folder 6
Everson, Landis, 1983
Box 2 Folder 7
Fabian, Gerald, 1982
Box 2 Folder 8
Fagin, Larry, 1983
Box 2 Folder 9
Field, Thomas, 1982
Box 2 Folder 10
Alexander, Paul, 1982
Box 2 Folder 11
Herndon, Fran, 1982
Box 2 Folder 12-13
Herndon, Jim, 1982 - 1983
Box 2 Folder 14
Kearney, Larry, 1982
Box 3 Folder 1
Loewinsohn, Ronald, 1982
Box 3 Folder 2
Mackintosh, Graham, 1983
Box 3 Folder 3
McNeill, Bill, 1982
Box 3 Folder 4
Meltzer, David. Includes letters and a portion of the transcript edited by Meltzer , 1983
Box 3 Folder 5
Miles, Josephine, 1982
Box 3 Folder 6
Mulholland, Catherine. Includes manuscript and typescript letters from Mulholland to Ellingham, 1984
Box 3 Folder 7
Navarro, Armando, 1983
Box 3 Folder 8
Parkinson, Thomas, 1982
Box 3 Folder 9
Persky, Stan. Includes typescript letters and waiver sent to Persky by Ellingham, 1983
Box 3 Folder 10
Primack, Ron. By telephone from San Francisco to New Orleans; includes typescript and manuscript letters between Ellingham and Primack, 1982
Box 4 Folder 1
Ryan, John Allen, 1982
Box 4 Folder 2
Sawyer, Jess. Recorded remarks sent to Ellingham by Sawyer, 1983
Box 4 Folder 3
Spicer, Holt. Recorded remarks sent to Ellingham by Spicer; also includes correspondence between Ellingham and Spicer, 1983
Box 4 Folder 4-6
Stanley, George, 1982 - 1984
Box 4 Folder 7
Stiles, Knute, 1982
Box 4 Folder 8-9
Wixman, Myrsam, 1982


Box 5 Folder 1-3
Blaser, Robin, 1983
Box 5 Folder 4-5
Borregaard, Ebbe and Joanne Kyger. Recto of second cassette contains part two of Harold Dull interview, 1982
Box 5 Folder 6-7
Brodecky, A. W., 1982
Box 5 Folder 8-9
Chugg, Gail, 1982
Box 5 Folder 10
Chugg, Gail. Includes monologue by Chugg on Jack Spicer, 1982
Box 5 Folder 11
Connor, Bob, 1982
Box 5 Folder 12-13
Coren, Harry Z., M.D., 1987
Box 5 Folder 14
Duerden, Richard, 1982
Box 5 Folder 15
Dull, Harold. Sides 3 and 4 only; side 2 is on recto of Borregaard-Kyger cassette; side 1 is on recto of Myrsam Wixman cassette, 1982
Box 5 Folder 16-17
Duncan, Robert, 1983
Box 6 Folder 1
Duncan, Robert, 1983
Box 6 Folder 2
Dunn, Joe, 1986
Box 6 Folder 3
Everson, Landis, 1983
Box 6 Folder 4
Fabian, Gerald, 1982
Box 6 Folder 5-6
Fagin, Larry, 1983
Box 6 Folder 7-8
Field, Thomas. Part 1 of the interview with Parkinson is on the recto side of the second tape, 1982
Box 6 Folder 9-10
Frost, Nemi, 1987
Box 6 Folder 11
Herndon, Fran, 1982
Box 6 Folder 12-13
Herndon, James, 1982
Box 6 Folder 14-16
Kearney, Larry, 1982
Box 6 Folder 17
Loewinsohn, Ronald, 1982
Box 7 Folder 1-2
Mackintosh, Graham, 1983
Box 7 Folder 3
McNeill, Bill, 1982
Box 7 Folder 4
Meltzer, David, 1983
Box 7 Folder 5
Miles, Josephine. Recto side contains part two of Parkinson interview, 1982
Box 7 Folder 6
Mulholland, Catherine, 1984
Box 7 Folder 7
Navarro, Armando. This tape was hand-edited by Ellingham while making it, and consequently it contains several discontinuities; the Englishman speaking on side 3 is Peter Wigham, 1983
Box 7 Folder 8
Navarro, Armando, 1983
Box 7 Folder 9-10
Persky, Stan, 1983
Box 7 Folder 11
Primack, Ron, 1982

Done on the telephone

Box 7 Folder 12-13
Ryan, John Allen. A portion of part two was inadvertently recorded over with part six by Ellingham, 1982
Box 7 Folder 14
Sawyer, Jess. Recorded by Sawyer, 1983
Box 7 Folder 15
Spicer, Holt, 1983
Box 7 Folder 16-17
Stanley, George, 1982
Box 8 Folder 1-2
Stanley, George, 1982
Box 8 Folder 3-4
Stiles, Knute, 1982
Box 8 Folder 5-6
Wixman, Myrsam. Part one of Harold Dull interview on recto of second tape, 1982
Box 8 Folder 7-8
Spicer, Jack. "Poetry and Politics", 1965
Box 8 Folder 9-13
Spicer, Jack. Vancouver lecture


Scope and Content of Series

Series 2) OTHER WRITERS' FILES: Materials relating to Spicer (journal entries, notes, essays, articles and ephemera) collected and created by Russell FitzGerald and Robert Duncan and given to Ellingham to assist him in his research.

Box 9 Folder 1
FitzGerald, Russell. An excerpt from his diary, given to Ellingham by Dora FitzGerald, 1957 - 1960

Duncan, Robert

Box 9 Folder 2
Spicer's writings: Poems of Jack Spicer, collected and copied by Duncan
Box 9 Folder 3
Spicer's writings: Miscellaneous writings by Spicer, collected and copied by Duncan
Box 9 Folder 4
Spicer's writings: Miscellaneous materials and correspondence
Box 9 Folder 5
Duncan's writings on Spicer: Manuscript notes on Spicer's poetry given to Ellingham , 1983
Box 9 Folder 6
Duncan's writing on Spicer: Essay fragments on Jack Spicer -- includes two pages from the Preface to Don Allen's One Night Stand, Preface to a Spicer bibliography and an explanatory note on the material by Ellingham
Box 9 Folder 7
"Robert Duncan on Spicer" essay by Duncan; includes Duncan's annotations
Box 9 Folder 8
From Spicer to Duncan (manuscript and typescript letters), 1947 - 1965
Box 9 Folder 9
Correspondence from Spicer to others, collected by Duncan
Box 9 Folder 10
Duncan's manuscript notes on Spicer's letters
Box 9 Folder 11
To Duncan about Spicer's death, 1965
Box 9 Folder 12
Article and obituary about Spicer's death, 1965
Box 9 Folder 13
Advertisement for Spicer's book, The Heads of the Town Up to the Aethor , 1962
Box 9 Folder 14
List of unidentified photographic prints and postcards


Scope and Content of Series

Series 3) SPICER CIRCLE PAPERS: Primarily comprised of correspondence written by and to Ellingham about the writing, revising, editing and publishing of his book. Included in this series are copies of some of the last letters sent to Spicer before his death in 1965. Also included are letters from Denise Levertov to Ellingham, in which she accuses Spicer of sexism and explicates the reasons behind her accusation. Another interesting aspect of the correspondence is that Ellingham regularly sent interviewees transcripts of the interviews of other witnesses, and often they wrote Ellingham back to comment on or to refute the other person's account.

A large portion of the letters deal with Ellingham's concern over securing the publication of his book. Many of the letters are devoted to Ellingham's concern over Clayton Eshleman's (editor of Sulfur) rejection of the book and his comment that Ellingham should hire an editor to revise and condense the work so that it would have a broader, more academic appeal. Also found in this series is a variety of miscellaneous materials relating to the Spicer circle and the White Rabbit Press.

Correspondence to Ellingham About his Book

Box 9 Folder 15
Alexander, James, 1982 - 1983
Box 9 Folder 16
Alexander, Paul, 1982 - 1985
Box 9 Folder 17
Allen, Don M., 1983
Box 9 Folder 18
Berkson, Bill, 1983
Box 9 Folder 19
Black Sparrow Press, (John Martin, editor), 1986
Box 9 Folder 20
Blaser, Robin, 1983 - 1984
Box 9 Folder 21
Boone, Bruce, 1983
Box 9 Folder 22
Borregaard, Ebbe, 1983
Box 9 Folder 23
Bottone, Gary, 1984
Box 9 Folder 24
Bowering, George, 1983 - 1984
Box 9 Folder 25
Butterick, George, 1984
Box 9 Folder 26
Capilano Review , 1985
Box 9 Folder 27
Chamberlain, Lori, 1983
Box 9 Folder 28
Conjunctions, (Bradford Morrow, editor), 1984 - 1985
Box 9 Folder 29
Credences, (Robert Bertholf, editor), 1983 - 1985
Box 9 Folder 30
Creeley, Robert, 1983 - 1984
Box 9 Folder 31
Davidson, Michael, 1983 - 1984
Box 9 Folder 32
Diaman, Nikkos A., 1982 - 1984
Box 9 Folder 33
FitzGerald, Dora, 1982 - 1984
Box 9 Folder 34
Foye, Raymond, 1985
Box 10 Folder 1
Goodwin, Jack F., 1981 - 1985
Box 10 Folder 2
Granger, John, 1984 - 1985
Box 10 Folder 3
Green, Mark, 1983
Box 10 Folder 4
Haimsohn, George
Box 10 Folder 5
Haselwood, Dave, 1984
Box 10 Folder 6
Ironwood, (Michael Cuddihy, editor), 1985
Box 10 Folder 7
Johnston, Alistair, 1984
Box 10 Folder 8
Lansing, Gerrit
Box 10 Folder 9
Levertov, Denise, 1984
Box 10 Folder 10
Mulholland, Catherine (Kate), 1983
Box 10 Folder 11
O'Hara, Frank. Letter sent by O'Hara to Jasper Johns; given to Ellingham by Don Allen, 1959
Box 10 Folder 12
Parkinson, Thomas, 1984
Box 10 Folder 13
Persky, Stan. Includes copy of "Moss", 1961
Box 10 Folder 14
Rumaker, Michael, 1983
Box 10 Folder 15
Ryan, John Allen, 1982
Box 10 Folder 16
Sagetrieb / Paideuma, 1985
Box 10 Folder 17
Schelling, Andrew, 1984
Box 10 Folder 18
Spicer, Holt V., 1983 - 1986
Box 10 Folder 19
Spicer, Jack. Final letters sent to him before his death, 1965
Box 10 Folder 20
Sulfur, (Clayton Eshleman, editor), 1985
Box 10 Folder 21
Wah, Fred, 1983
Box 10 Folder 22
Wolfe, Michael, 1983
Box 10 Folder 23
ZZYZZYVA, (Howard Junker, editor), 1985
Box 10 Folder 24
Miscellaneous correspondence, A-Z


Box 10 Folder 25
White Rabbit Press, Bibliographic History of. Compiled by Alistair Johnston, 1957 - 1965
Box 10 Folder 26
Legal release forms (tape waivers), 1983 - 1985
Box 10 Folder 27
List of paintings related to the Spicer scene. Compiled by Ellingham , 1956 - 1965
Box 10 Folder 28
Miscellaneous ephemera
Box 10 Folder 29
White Rabbit Symposium and Jack Spicer Conference, Schedule of events, 1986 - 1986

POET BE LIKE GOD (Typescript)

Scope and Content of Series

Series 4) POET BE LIKE GOD TYPESCRIPT: An early version of the first six chapters of Ellingham's book, as well as the complete 1984 version (thirty-six chapters).

Box 10 Folder 30
Chapters 1-6. Early copy of the text
Box 11 Folder 1-6
Chapters 1-23. Final version
Box 12 Folder 1-2
Chapters 24-36. Final version