The Literary Manuscripts Collections, established in 1971, is the repository for the personal papers and manuscripts of authors and poets either born in Minnesota or who resided in the state for a significant length of time.

Among the collections is a broad array of source materials for studying the lives and careers of these writers: diaries, journals, correspondence, notes, outlines, drafts of written works, photographs, and copies of published editions may all be found in the collections. Detailed finding aids are available to make locating and retrieval of needed items fast and easy.

Robert Bly, Minnesota's first poet laureate, changed the course of poetry in the 20th century. As a groundbreaking poet, publisher, translator, outspoken Vietnam War protester, creator of the Mythopoetic Men’s movement, and founder of the Great Mother and New Father conferences, Bly has influenced millions of lives around the world. He is the author of 30 books of poetry and prose, including the National Book Award winner The Light Around the Body, and the New York Times bestseller Iron John. See a sneak preview of photographs, correspondence, and manuscripts in an online exhibit here. The entire collection of the Robert Bly papers is now available. The finding aid can be found here. Related Robert Bly collections are listed below the main Bly finding aid (

A number of outstanding authors and poets are represented in these collections. The Frederick Manfred Papers (1912-1994) detail the life and works of this prominent regional novelist who lives in the area he calls "Siouxland," the southwestern corner of Minnesota which is the locale for many of his books. The Manfred Papers richly illuminate his entire life from early youth to the time of his death in 1994.

John Berryman's papers contain a wealth of material documenting the tumultuous life and career of this extraordinary contemporary American poet. Berryman (1914-1972) taught at the University of Minnesota for many years before his death, following stints on the faculties of Princeton and Harvard. The collection has supported the research interests of numerous scholars, resulting in at least a dozen books and many articles.

James Arlington Wright, born in 1927 in Martin's Ferry, Ohio, taught in the English Department at the University of Minnesota from 1957 to 1963 and received subsequent appointments at Macalester College (St. Paul) and Hunter College (New York City). Wright was elected a fellow of The Academy of American Poets in 1971 and received the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for his Collected Poems in 1972. Wright died in New York in 1980. His collection contains correspondence, journals, manuscripts, typescripts and galley proofs of James Wright's poetry and prose works. Among his correspondents were noted American poets such as Robert Bly, James Dickey, John Crowe Ransome (also a professor of Wright's at Kenyon College), Anne Sexton, and Leslie Silko. In addition, there are photographs, clippings and other writings about Wright, plus teaching notes from his various academic posts.

Small regional presses are represented by the archives of Milkweed Editions based in Minneapolis since 1979. The papers document the publications and business of the press from its founding to 2000 with a copy of every title issued since 1984. The archives of New Rivers Press, which closed its doors in 2001 after 33 years, contain a complete collection of its publications and the personal papers of C.W. “Bill” Truesdale (1929-2001), its founder and director. The records of Dacotah Territorial Press of Fargo/Moorhead is yet another small press whose archives are among the Literary Manuscripts Collections. These and the papers of the poets and writers are part of the Upper Midwest Literary Archives, formed in 2001 to acquire and preserve the written records of small presses and literary figures from Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Joseph Amato, founder and chair of the History Department at Southwest Minnesota State University, where he arrived in 1969, was one of the architects of the university's required Rural Studies curriculum in the 1970s. He also was instrumental in the founding of the Society for the Study of Local and Regional History, developed, edited, and produced the Rural and Regional Essay Series and Crossings Press, and has supported the university's History Center since its founding in the early 1970s.

In 2003 Amato was recognized as a Friend of the Humanities by the Minnesota Humanities Commissioin and as Prairie Star by the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanites Council.

Amato's publications fall into two basic categories, cultural and intellectual explorations and rural and regional studies. His publications include Mounier and Maritain: A French Catholic Understanding of the Modern World, University of Alabama Press, 1975, soon to be republished by Ave Maria Press; Victims and Values: A History and Theory of Suffering, Praeger Press, 1990; Dust: A History of the Small and Invisible, University of California Press, 2000, and the recent On Foot: A Cultural History of Walking, New York University Press, November, 2004.

Rural, regional, and local books include To Call It Home: The New Immigrants of Southwestern Minnesota, with John Meyer, John Radzilowski, Donata DeBruyckere, and Anthony Amato. Crossings Press, 1996 and Community of Strangers: Change, Turnover, Turbulence & the Transformation of a Midwestern Country Town, with John Radzilowski and assistance of John Meyer. Crossings Press, 1999 among a host of others.

The holdings are not limited exclusively to authors and poets. The voluminous Arthur Motley Papers (1946 - 1984) chronicle the career of the former chairman of the board of Parade Publications and contain his business correspondence, transcripts of hundreds of speeches, plus photographs and related material. The Francis Shenahon Papers span the years from 1848 to 1967 and portray in affectionate detail the family life of a hydraulic engineer who practiced in the Twin Cities from the 1890s to the 1930s. This collection includes family and business correspondence, diaries, photographs, clippings and scrapbooks, as well as technical reports Shenahon compiled as a consultant and during his several trips to Europe. Particularly noteworthy is the group of letters written by Mrs. Shenahon's grandfather while serving in the Civil War and a fine collection of amateur motion pictures Shenahon made of the countryside and of several dams and power stations in Germany and Austria in the 1920s.

The Archer Gilfillan Papers are significant for their detailed look at the life of a sheepherder in western South Dakota from 1890 to 1960. Dozens of photographs plus Gilfillan's huge coded diary (with accompanying decoded typewritten transcript) make this collection especially interesting and valuable. The records of the Henry Miller Literary Society of Minneapolis (1955-1969) contain more than 200 original letters from novelist Henry Miller to the president of the society, which was established to promote and honor the work of this controversial writer.

Several important science-fiction and fantasy writers are represented among the holdings, including Gordon R. Dickson, Carl Jacobi, H.P. Lovecraft, E. Hoffman Price, and Clifford D. Simak. These collections include correspondence or manuscript drafts of stories and novels.

The papers of Kathleen Catlin (1907-1995), fashion director of Marshall Fields in Chicago, document her career as a high fashion buyer and consultant. Included is correspondence, interoffice memos, advertising brochures, photographs, and scrapbooks from her years at Fields (1946-1961), her previous position in advertising and promotion at Munsingwear in Minneapolis, and many family letters dating to her childhood.

Among the holdings, too, is an impressive assemblage of some 6200 posters from World War I and World War II, covering the wartime activities of several nations, including the United States. Complementing them is a collection of 10,000 photographs of scenes from the global conflict of 1939-1945.

Collection Highlights