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American Literary Studies

Nathaniel Tarn Papers

The Papers

The Nathaniel Tarn Papers include manuscripts of his published and unpublished poetry and prose, notebooks from his anthropological fieldwork, and correspondence with his personal friends, literary colleagues, and fellow anthropologists. Also included is a complete set of his publications, in book as well as in periodical form.

Location of the Collection: Department of Special Collections, Green Library

Call Number: M1132

Size: approximately 100 linear feet

Finding Guide: A printed version is available in the reading room of the Department of Special Collections. Electronic versions of this finding guide are also available. If you have Microsoft's Internet Explorer version 6.0 or higher, click here to connect to the XML version on the Stanford server; if not, click here for the html version on the Online Archives of California server.

Click the links below for a less detailed list compiled by Tarn himself:

Research Access and Use: Materials in the Department of Special Collections are non-circulating and must be used in the Special Collections' Reading Room in the Cecil H. Green Library. The Reading Room is open 10:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday. Photocopies, photographs, and microfilm can be made of some materials in the collections. For more information about the collections and access policies, please contact Special Collections by telephone at (650) 725-1022, by electronic mail at or by regular mail at the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California 94305-6004.

Career of Nathaniel Tarn (1928 - )

Nathaniel Tarn was born in Paris,1928, lived there until age 7, then in Belgium (Lycée d’Anvers) until age 11. He was educated at Clifton College, U.K. then at King’s College, Cambridge where he studied History and English. He returned to Paris and, after some journalism and radio work, discovered anthropology, taking courses with Marcel Griaule, Claude Lévi-Strauss, André Leroi-Gourhan, Paul Lévy and others at the Musée de l’Homme, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes and the Collège de France. A Fulbright grant took him to Yale and the University of Chicago where he worked with Fred Eggan, Sol Tax and Robert. The latter sent him to Guatemala for his doctoral fieldwork (1951-2). He completed this work as a graduate student at the London School of Economics under Raymond Firth, Fred Nadel, Isaac Schapera and others (1953-8). In 1958, a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation/Royal Institute of International Affairs sent him to Burma for 18 months after which he became Lecturer in South East Asian Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1960-1967).

Tarn published his first volume of poetry Old Savage/Young City with Jonathan Cape, London in 1964 and a translation of Neruda’s “The Heights of Macchu Picchu” in 1986 and began building a new poetry program at Cape. From 1967-9, he joined Cape as General Editor of the international series Cape Editions and a Founding Director of Cape-Goliard Press, specializing in contemporary American Poetry with emphasis on Olson, Duncan, Zukofsky and their peers and successors. He brought a great many French, other European and Latin American titles to Cape and made many visits to the U.S. as a Cape Editor. He taught English at S.U.N.Y. Buffalo in 1969.

In 1970, with a foremost interest in the American literary scene, he immigrated to the U.S. as Visiting Professor of Romance Languages, Princeton University and eventually became a citizen. Since then he taught English and American Literature, Epic Poetry, Folklore etc. etc. at inter alia the Universities of Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico, Manchuria (PRC), reading and lecturing all over he world: Paris, Heidelberg, Freiburg, Berlin, Rome, Messina, Prague, Budapest, Sydney, Melbourne, etc. etc. He has set foot in every state of the Union, with especially long study in Alaska. Extensive travels over the years in Cuba, Mexico, Central America, Peru, most of Europe and Russia, Southern Africa, India, China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia & Sarawak, the Himalayas, Oceania, Australia and Antarctica have informed his poetry from the start.

As poet, literary & cultural critic (two volumes: “Views from the Weaving Mountain” and “The Embattled Lyric”), translator (he was the first to render Segalen’s “Stèles” into English, continued work on Neruda, Latin American and French poets) and editor (with many magazines), Tarn has published some thirty books and booklets in his various disciplines. He has been translated into some ten foreign languages. His poetry possesses a remarkable range of voice and reference, fusing archaic myth with contemporary concerns and moving from complex hieratic visions to the deeply personal.

In 1985, he took early retirement as Professor Emeritus of Poetry, Comparative Literature and Anthropology from Rutgers University and has since lived some twenty minutes N.W of Santa Fe, New Mexico. His interests range from bird watching, gardening, classical music, opera & ballet, stamp collecting, etc. all the way over to aviation and world history.


Nathaniel Tarn: A Descriptive Bibliography. by Lee Bartlett. Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland, 1987


Old Savage/ Young City. London, Cape, 1964; New York, Random House, 1965.
Penguin Modern Poets 7, with Richard Murphy and Jon Silkin. London, Penguin, 1966.
Where Babylon Ends. London, Cape Goliard Press, and New York, Grossman, 1968.
The Beautiful Contradictions. London, Cape Goliard Press, 1969; New York, Random House, 1970.
October: A Sequence of Ten Poems Followed by Requiem Pro Duabus Filiis Israel. London, Trigrain Press, 1969.
The Silence. Milan, M'Arte, 1970.
A Nowhere for Vallejo: Choices, October. New York, Random House, 1971; London, Cape, 1972.
Lyrics for the Bride of God: Section: The Artemision. Santa Barbara, California, Tree, 1973.
The Persephones. Santa Barbara, California, Tree, 1974.
Lyrics for the Bride of God. New York, New Directions, and London, Cape, 1975.
Narrative of This Fall. Los Angeles, Black Sparrow Press, 1975.
The House of Leaves. Santa Barbara, California, Black Sparrow Press, 1976.
From Alashka: The Ground of Our Great Admiration of Nature, with Janet Rodney. London, Permanent Press, 1977.
The Microcosm. Milwaukee, Membrane Press, 1977.
Birdscapes, with Seaside. Santa Barbara, California, Black Sparrow Press, 1978.
The Forest, with Janet Rodney. Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, Perishable Press, 1978.
Atitlan / Alashka: New and Selected Poems, with Janet Rodney. Boulder, Colorado, Brillig Works Press, 1979.
The Land Songs. Plymouth, Blue Guitar, 198 1.
Weekends in Mexico. London, Oxus Press, 1982.
The Desert Mothers. Grenada, Mississippi, Salt Works Press, 1984.
At the Western Gates. Santa Fe, Tooth of Time, 1985.
Palenque: Selected Poems 1972-1984. London, Oasis/Shearsman Press, 1986.
Seeing America First. Minneapolis, Coffee House Press, 1989.
The Mothers of Matagalpa. London, Oasis, 1989.
Views from the Weaving Mountain : Selected Essays in Poetics and Anthropology. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1991.
Drafts For: The Army Has Announced That From Now On Body Bags Will Be Known As "Human Remains Pouches". Oregon, Trout Creek Press, 1992
I Think This May Be Eden, with Billy Panda, Small Press Distributors, 1997.
The Architextures: 1988-1994. Tucson, Chax Press, 2000.
Flying the Body. Los Angeles, CA, The Arundel Press, 1993.
A Multitude of One: the Poems of Natasha Tarn (editor). New York, the Grenfell Press, 1994.
Three letters from the City: the St. Petersburg Poems. Santa Fe, NM, the Weaselsleeves Press & St.Petersburg, Borey Arts Center, 2001.
Selected Poems: 1950-2000. Middletown, CT, Wesleyan University Press, 2002.
Recollections of Being. Cambridge, U.K. & Sydney, Australia, Salt Publishing, 2004.
Avia: A poem of International Air Combat. Exeter, U.K., the Shearsman Books, Ltd., 2008
Ins and Outs of the Forest Rivers. New York, New Directions, 2008.

Criticism and Anthropology :

Views from the Weaving Mountain: Selected Essays in Poetics and Anthropology. Albuquerque, NM, the University of New Mexico Press, 1991.
Scandals in the House of Birds: Priests & Shamans in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, New York, Marsilio Publications, 1997.
The Embattled Lyric: Essays & Conversations in Poetics & Anthropology, with a biographical & bibliographical essay by, and a conversation with, Shamoon Zamir. Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 2007.


Con Cuba: An Anthology of Cuban Poetry of the Last Sixty Years. London, Cape Goliard Press, 1969.
The Heights of Macchu Picchu, by Pablo Neruda. London, Cape, 1966.
Stelae, by Victor Segalen. Santa Barbara, California, Unicorn Press, 1969.
Selected Poems: A Bilingual Edition, by Pablo Neruda. London, Cape, 1970.

Critical Studies

Roberto Sanesi in Le Belle Contradizzioni, Milan, Munt Press, 1973

"Nathaniel Tam Symposium" in Boundary 2 (Binghamton, New York), Fall 1975

"The House of Leaves" by A. Kingsley Weatherhead, in Credences 4 (Kent, Ohio), 1977

Ted Enslin and Rochelle Ratner, in American Book Review 2 (New York), 5, 1980

Translating Neruda by John Felstiner, Stanford, California, Stanford University Press, 1980

"America as Desired: Nathaniel Tam's Poetry of the Outsider as Insider" by Doris Sommer, in American Poetry I (Albuquerque), 4, 1984

"II Mito come Metalinguaggio nella Poesia de Nathaniel Tarn" by Fedora Giordano, in Letteratura d'America (Rome), 5(22), 1984

George Economou, in Sulfur (Ypsilanti, Michigan), 14, 1985

Gene Frumkin, in Artspace (Albuquerque), 10(l), 1985

Lee Bartlett, in Talking Poetry, Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1987

"The Sun Is But a Morning Star" by Lee Bartlett, in Studies in West Coast Poetry and Poetics, Albuquerque, University of New Mexico, 1989

Eliot Weinberger  "An Aviary of Tarns" in Written Reaction, New York, Marsilio Publishing, 1996

Shamoon Zamir: "Bringing the World to Little England: Cape Editions, Cape Goliard and Poetry in the Sixties. An Interview with Nathaniel Tarn. With an afterword by Tom Raworth," in E.S. Shaffer, ed., in Comparative Criticism, vol 19: "Literary Devolution." Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp.263-286, 1997.

Shamoon Zamir: "On Anthropology & Poetry: an Interview with Nathaniel Tarn," Boxkite, no.1, Sydney, Australia, 1998

Shamoon Zamir: "Scandals in the House of Anthropology: notes towards a reading of Nathaniel Tarn" in Cross Cultural Poetics, no.5, Minneapolis, MN, 1999, pp.99-122. A version of this is in the Internet Magazine, Jacket, no.6, Sydney, Australia, 1999

Brenda Hillman: Review of “Selected Poems” in Jacket magazine #28, (internet) Sydney, Australia, 1999.

Joseph Donahue: Review of “The Architextures” in First Intensity #16, 2001.

Peter O’Leary: Review of “The Architextures” in XCP Cross-Cultural Poetics #12, 2003.

Martin Anderson: Review of “Recollections of Being” in Jacket magazine #36, (internet) Sydney, Australia, 2008.

Daniel Bouchard: Conversation with NT, in Zoland Poetry #31, 2009

Isobel Armstrong: Review of “Avia” in Tears in the Fence #50, Blanford Forum, Dorset, UK, 2009

Joseph Donahue: review of “Ins & Outs of the Forest Rivers” in Jacket magazine #39, (internet) Sydney, Australia, 2010.

Richard Deming: Essay on “The Embattled Lyric” & “Selected Poems” in Jacket magazine #39 (internet) Sydney, Australia, 2010.

Lisa Raphals: Reading NT’s “House of Leaves” in Jacket #39 (internet) Sydney, Australia, 2010

Last modified: December 2, 2010

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