New poetry collections open for research

May 2, 2022
Emma Frothingham
Robert and Lysa McDowell at the Story Line Press mailbox

The Jack Marshall papers and Story Line Press records are now processed and open for research! Both of these collections showcase American poetry in the latter half of the twentieth century with an emphasis on narrative poetry on the West Coast. A highlight of both collections is the extensive correspondence with other well-known poets and writers.

Jack Marshall, the child of an Iraqi-Jewish father and Syrian-Jewish mother, grew up in an Arabic-speaking Mizrahi Jewish home–an experience he wrote about in his memoir From Baghdad to Brooklyn: Growing Up in a Jewish-Arabic Family in Midcentury America (Coffee House Press, 2005). Marshall was active in the Lower East Side poetry scene centered around the 10th Street Coffee House before moving to San Francisco during the 1960s. His poetry draws largely from the Objectivists of the 1930s, the Black Mountain school of the 1950s, and the Beat poets of the 1950s and 1960s. 

The Jack Marshall papers include extensive correspondence about poetry, spanning from the 1960s to the 2010s, including many missives from other poets based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Of particular note is Marshall's decades-long correspondence with fellow poets Steve Kowit and Morton Marcus, with whom he shared drafts of his own work, provided feedback on their works, and discussed the wider field of poetry. Drafts of Marshall’s books, poems, and prose also make up a large portion of the collection and provide insight into his writing and editing process. 

Story Line Press was established in the mid-1980s by poets Robert McDowell and Mark Jarman, along with artist Lysa McDowell, as an outgrowth of the New Formalism and New Narrative movements in American poetry. The press operated out of Santa Cruz before moving up to Brownsville, Oregon, in 1989. In addition to poetry volumes, Story Line Press also published short fiction pieces, essays on literary criticism, and poetry anthologies. After struggling to find financial backing as an independent press, Story Line Press ceased operations in the early 2000s. 

The Story Line Press records include correspondence with many notable poets and authors, including Dana Gioia, David Mason, and Annie Finch, as well as manuscript and proof copies of many of the works put out by Story Line Press. In addition to works by individual authors and poets, there are also production files for the anthologies released by Story Line Press. The collection also includes the business records, documenting the challenges of keeping an independent press operating.