Gerald Burns Manuscripts and Other Documents, 1978-2013 (bulk 1980-1997) (MSS 221)


Extent: 1.4 Linear feet (1 carton and 1 archives box)

Literary papers, correspondence, and artwork of Gerald Burns, "postmodern" poet, critic, artist, and editor. Includes typescripts of Burns' poetry collections; galleys for Burns' critical books Toward a Phenomenology of Written Art (1979) and Prose (1982); and correspondence with poet Barbara Jordan.

Gerald Burns was born in 1940 in Detroit, Michigan. He was educated at Harvard, Trinity College (Dublin), and taught at Southern Methodist University and New York University. In 1975 Burns moved to Dallas. In 1985, he was awarded an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship for poetry. Burns found employment as an English teacher and editor, but his life's work was as a writer, poet, and artist. He illustrated several of his own books and designed many of their covers (most notably, Boccherini's Minuet and Prose).

Burns is considered a leading practitioner of long-lined, thickly-textured verse. His wide reading and close observation of a panoramic range of subjects allows his poetry to bridge formal and expressive gaps between the 19th-century Romantics, early 20th-century Modernism, and later 20th-century language-oriented writing.

Burns passed away in July 1997.

A small collection of the literary papers, correspondence and artwork of Gerald Burns, "postmodern" poet, critic, artist, and editor. Includes typescripts and drafts of Burns' poetry; galleys for Burns' critical books Toward a Phenomenology of Written Art (1979) and Prose (1982); and correspondence with Barbara Jordan. It also contains page proofs of Robert Trammell's Epics, for which Burns set the type; some prose writings such as essays; and artwork (principally line drawings, doodles, and sketches).

The second part of the collection consists of papers by and on Gerald Burns from the collection of Barbara Jordan, a friend of Burns and his wife, Clio Dunn, and a fellow poet. This material primarily consists of their letters and drafts of poems that Burns shared with Jordan.

Arranged in two series: 1) PAPERS, and 2) MATERIALS FROM BARBARA JORDAN.

Container List


Scope and Content of Series

Series 1) PAPERS. Arranged in two subseries: A) Correspondence, and B) Writings.

A) Correspondence: Contains a letter from Scott Bowdan to Leland Hickman along with Bowdan's submission to Boxcar, "Quest/Questions." Also included are two letters from Burns to Hickman.

B) Writings: Includes works of poetry; prose (literary essays, criticism, and a galley version of his Toward a Phenomenology of Written Art); art, travel writing, and journals; and one review. The poetry files contain an untitled collection of Burns' poetry in two successive drafts, and a galley copy of Robert Trammell's Epics for which Burns did the typesetting "as a Christmas present to Bob." The journals section contains a long travel narrative, "Painting Statues Books" with the author's sketches of relevant "objets d'art" following the text; and one full-sized sketch of Ezra Pound's head from the travel sketches. Finally, Burns' "My Leatherette Reminder", something of a critical/scholarly diary, is included.


Box 1 Folder 1
Bowdan, Scott - Letter to Leland Hickman and submission, "Quest/Question" to Boxcar , 1982
Box 1 Folder 2
Burns, Gerald - 2 letters to Leland Hickman, 1982, 1985

Includes photograph used for initial cover of Prose.



Box 1 Folder 3
Trammel, Robert - Epics, galleys, 1982

Introductory note and type setting by Burns.

Box 1 Folder 4
Untitled collection of Burns' poems, 1984-1985

Two drafts exist for most of the poems. Included are "Homer and Image," "Thought and Extension," "Emerged for Immersed," "Fame in Retrospect," "Written Under German," "Imagining a World," "Concocting the Other," "Named After Days," "Orthodox in Appearance," "Waiting as Dispersion," "Good as Questionable," "Even Chisels Gold," and others.

Prose/Literary Essays

Box 1 Folder 5
Duration is Destination--Verse in the Eighties - Reprint from Southwest Review , 1980

Essay/review of Selected Poems by Donald Justice, The Venetian Nespers by Anthony Hecht, and Greenwich Mean Time by Adrien Stoutenburg.

Box 1 Folder 6
Magnificence of His Rebuttals - Reprint from Southwest Review , 1979

Essay/review of The American Quest for a Supreme Fiction: Whitman's Legacy in the Personal Epic by James Miller, Jr., and John Ashbery: An Introduction to the Poetry by David Shapiro.

Box 1 Folder 7-8
Prose galleys, 1981-1982
Box 1 Folder 9
Straddling the Brink - Reprint from Southwest Review with author's handwritten notes, 1978

Essay/article on Words for Dr. Y by Anne Sexton, Hearts of the Tattooed by Jim Hubert, and Refractions by Paul Shuttleworth.

Box 1 Folder 10
Toward a Phenomenology of Written Art - Paste-ups, 1979

Art, Travel Writings, Journals

Box 1 Folder 11
Bound typescript journal with varied commentary, 1982
Box 1 Folder 12
Paintings Statues Books, a travel journal with sketches - Typescript with photocopies of drawings, 1985
Box 1 Folder 13
Gaudier Brzeska--Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound - Full size photocopy of drawing contained in Paintings Sculpture Books, 1985
Box 1 Folder 14
Review of A Book of Spells - Julie Siegel, "Tangible Magic From A Poet Who Cares," tear sheet from Southwest Review , 1980


Scope and Content of Series

Series 2) MATERIALS FROM BARBARA JORDAN: Papers from the personal collection of Barbara Jordan, a friend of Burns and his wife, Clio Dunn, and a fellow poet. Arranged in three subseries: A) Correspondence, B) Writings, and C) Miscellaneous.

A) Correspondence: Burns and Jordan carried on a decade-long correspondence, and letters from Burns to Jordan (often mailed with artwork and voluminous poetry drafts, copies, and typescripts) are included here, arranged chronologically by year. At the beginning of most folders is an inventory by Jordan of the file's contents, though Jordan wrote these inventories before the collection came to the Library and there are some discrepancies in her description. Overall, however, these are highly useful guides to the rich content of each folder of letters and the enclosed writings and drawings. There are also a small number of letters to and from Burns and Jordan to other correspondents. Arranged alphabetically by the name of the author.

B) Writings: Many drafts and copies of Burns's work were bundled with letters to Jordan and remain with the letters in subseries 2A, however, Jordan also had a pile of Burns's writings that was not explicitly linked to correspondence. This material has been sorted roughly by genre and year.

C) Miscellaneous: Ephemera, Burns's artwork, teaching materials, and works by others.


Letters by Gerald Burns

Box 2 Folder 1
Burns, Gerald to Jonathan Brannen, 1995
Box 2 Folder 2
Burns, Gerald to Ed Foster (Talisman ed.), 1988-1991, 1995
Box 2 Folder 3
Burns, Gerald to Michael Franco, 1988-1989
Box 2 Folder 4-12
Burns, Gerald to Barbara Jordan and Ed Batchelder, 1987-1995
Box 2 Folder 13
Burns, Gerald to Barbara Jordan, 1996-1997
Box 2 Folder 14
Burns, Gerald to Spencer Selby (with reply), 1994

Letters by Others

Box 2 Folder 15
Dunn, Clio to Barbara Jordan and Ed Batchelder, 1989-1991
Box 2 Folder 16
Falleder, Arnold to Barbara Jordan, 1998
Box 2 Folder 17
Jordan, Barbara to George Minkoff, 2013

Jordan describes the context and history of the correspondence between her and Gerald Burns in the collection.

Box 2 Folder 18
Jordan, Barbara to Gerald Burns and Clio Dunn, 1989-1996
Box 2 Folder 19
Lehman, David to Gerald Burns, 1991
Box 2 Folder 20
Southern Illinois University Press to Gerald Burns, 1989
Box 2 Folder 21
Sullivan, Gary to Gerald Burns, 1995


Box 2 Folder 22-23
Shorter Poems compilation - Typescript drafts, 1989, 1991
Box 2 Folder 24-32
Poetry, 1985, 1987-1995
Box 2 Folder 33
Poetry, undated
Box 2 Folder 34
Prose writings

Includes essays "San Antonio art," "What's left for the liberal arts," and others.


Box 2 Folder 35
Ephemera, undated

Reading notes, business cards, and list of experimental/poetry art magazines.

Box 2 Folder 36
Drawings by Gerald Burns
Box 2 Folder 37
Drawings by Gerald Burns - On envelopes
Box 2 Folder 38
Final exams for English/writing courses taught by Burns, ca. 1991
Box 2 Folder 39
Journalism - Course agendas, 1990
Box 2 Folder 40
Works by others - James Haining, Monica Raymond, Kevin Killian, undated

The Raymond poem is a response to Burns's "Reply to a poem by Arnold Falleder called 'Ice cream is for the summer and kugel is for all year long.'"