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American Literary Studies

Toby Olson Papers

The Papers

Stanford holds the literary papers of the poet and novelist Toby Olson. The collection contains original manuscripts of all his published and some of his unpublished works in poetry, fiction, opera, and criticism; correspondence to Olson from fellow writers; and all his published books. The materials cover Olson's career from 1962 to 2001.

Location: Department of Special Collections, Green Library

Call Number of Collection: M1296

Size: 30 linear ft

Finding Guides: 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.

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 Toby Olson (1937 - )

The poet, novelist and essayist Toby Olson was born in Berwyn, Illinois in 1937, and received degrees from Occidental College and Long Island University. A prolific writer, he has published twenty-two books of poetry including Changing Appearance: Poems 1965-1970 (1975) and We Are the Fire: A Selection of Poems (1984). On the subject of poetry, Olson comments: "For me poetry is no less than good talk about important things, and this good talk has as its end the telling and presentation of truth." Olson is also the author of nine works of fiction, including The Life of Jesus (1976) and the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning Seaview (1982). Experimental stylistically, yet accessible to a general audience, Olson's work resists easy classification. Currently, he lives in Philadelphia with his wife Miriam.

Highlights and Research Potential of the Papers

The collection contains multiple versions of all of Olson's books, tracing the evolution of his work from initial idea to the published version. Also of interest is Olson's often extensive correspondence with other literary figures, including Walter Hamady, printer and publisher of Perishable Press, and fellow writers Robert Creeley, Gilbert Sorrentino, John Taggart and Nathaniel Tarn.

Preliminary Inventory of the Toby Olson Papers complied by Olson

(Please note that the numbering of the boxes repeats itself. This reflects the fact that the library received the materials in two shipments. The boxes will be renumbered when Stanford Library finishes cataloguing the collection.)

Preliminary Inventory of Toby Olson Papers

Box 1:

First and second drafts
A draft with notes
Final draft
The Life of Jesus
First draft, with roughs and notes
Rough manuscript
Third Draft
Box 2:
At Sea, first called "Angle of Repose," then "Certain Women"
Various drafts
Research materials
Tampico and Write Letter to Billy
Various drafts and notes
Some false starts
Box 3:
Dorit (Opera)
Chihuahua (Opera)
Drafts and notes
The Bitter Half
Drafts and notes
Poetry manuscripts and revisions
Susanna Styron movie correspondence and her screenplay
Gale Research autobiography correspondence
Box 4:
Dorit in Lesbos
First Draft
Notes and research materials
Raw, early manuscript material
Second and third drafts
Proof and edited manuscript
Final manuscript
Poem Copies
Diane Wakoski: Symposium (edited by Olson)
Correspondence and materials
Wakoski correspondence
Box 5:
The Woman Who Escaped From Shame
First and second drafts
Third draft
Other drafts and revisions
Some correspondence
John Taggart correspondence
Box 6:
Manuscripts from Friends
Box 7:
Review of Contemporary Fiction: Barthelme/Olson Issue
Correspondence and materials
Misc. Correspondence
Correspondence: Various Writers
Box 8:
Correspondence, Editors
Ellen Levine Literary Agency
New Directions
James Laughlin
Jonathan Galassi
John Glussman
Alan Peacock
Correspondence: Various Writers and Others
Box 9:
At Sea (called Certain Women)
Drafts and notes
Human Nature
Drafts and notes
Drafts and notes
Box 10:
At Sea
Edited drafts
Write Letter to Billy
First, second, third drafts, notes
Unfinished Building
Copyedited copy
Box 11:
Walter Hamady correspondence
Box 12:
First draft
Notes and materials
Second and third drafts
Copyedited manuscript
Last draft, with some work
Box 13:
The Bitter Half
Write Letter to Billy
Copyedited proof
Drafts and notes
Box 14:
Dorit in Lesbos
The Woman who Escaped From Shame
At Sea
The Life of Jesus
Write Letter to Billy
We Are the Fire
Human Nature
Unfinished Building
Changing Appearance
The Florence Poems
The Hawk-Foot Poems
Writing Talks
Standard-4, Aviator Press
[off print of poems]
Center #6
Philadelphia Magazine, Nov. 1986
Inquirer Magazine, July 1993
Margins [Diane Wakoski Symposium] 1/2/3, 1976
New Directions #29
New Directions #35
New Directions #40
Loves, Etc.
Inside Outer Space

Boundary 2, 1980
Intrepid Anthology, 1976
The Paris Review #99
The American Experience: A Radical Reader, 1970
Contemporary American Fiction, 1983
Caterpillar #5
New Letters, 1981-82
Sumac, 1971
Handbook #111
The Falcon #4
Stations #2
Mulch #1
Occurence #6
The Gettysburg Review, Vol. 2 #1
The Painted Review, Vol. 3 #2
The Painted Review, Vol. 4 #1
The Painted Review, 1975-1993
The Painted Review, #45
Sumac: An Active Anthology, 1974
Perfect Lies
The Review of Contemporary Fiction [Barthelme/Olson issue]
Washington Square #6
Colorado Review #2, Fall, 1992
Colorado Review #1, 1999
Denver Quarterly, Vol. 34 #4, 2000
Conjunctions #3
Conjunctions #13
Conjunctions #28
Toby Olson: Boxes -2

Miscellaneous letters - 113
Walter Hamady - 38
John Taggart -15
Gil Sorrentino - 17
Nathaniel Tarm - 16
Letters, Reviews, etc: related to the following:
We Are the Fire and The Wrestlers and Other Poems
The Florence Poems and Unfinished Building
The Life of Jesus
Write Letter to Billy
The Woman Who Escaped From Shame
Dorit in Lesbos

Other Materials
Grants and Fellowships
Reading Trips
Royalty Statements

Pen/Faulkner Award materials

Magazine Publications

Revision pages: Write Letter to Billy
Proof: Unfinished Building
Proof: "Reading"
Revision Pages: Human Nature
Revision Pages: "Seeing Duchamp" [essay]
Libretto, review, program: "Chihuahua"
Two issues: The Occidental Review, edited by Olson in undergraduate school at Occidental

"Another Popular Song"
"Just This"
"from Home"
"from El Monte"
"A Very Cold Day"
"The Trumpet Vine"
"Cold House" [Perishable Press]
"Priorities" [post card]
"A Kind of Psychology" [post card]

CD: "Birdsongs"
CD: "Three Songs From Home"
Tape: Olson Reading Home


La Vida de Jesus [translation of The Life of Jesus]
Seaview [English Publication]
Seaview, U.S.A. [French translation]
Sitting in Guesvik. Black Mesa Press
Reading. Friend of Typography.
Two Standards. Salient Seedling Press.
Still/Quiet. Landlocked Press.
Aesthetics. Membrane Press.
Pig/s Book. Dr Generosity Press.
The Wrestlers and Other Poems. Barlenmir House

Books: the perishable press

The Pool
Worms into nails
Doctor Miriam
The Brand
Three and One

A few magazine publications
Card Catalogue of all publications: 1965-1987
Dorit [chamber opera]: tape and librettro
Chihuahua [chamber opera]: tape and libretto
CD: Olson reading, 10-6-01, Woodland Patterns, Milwaukee
TAPE: musical pieces:
Reading [short story]
Facing [poem]
John Leonard NPR review of Dorit in Lesbos
NPR interview with Epstein and Olson, re. Dorit [opera]

Conjunctions, magazine publication
Walter Hamady - 3
Julio Cortazar - 1
John Taggart - 1
Gil Sorrentino - 3
Paul Blackburn - 12
Misc - 3

Material re. Poetry Section edited by Olson
The Colorado Review, Fall, 1992

Related Manuscript Collections at Stanford

Robert Creeley Papers




Last modified: July 5, 2006

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