came to Emory in four hulking sea-cargo containers, rumbling
into the Briarcliff Campus on tractor trailers that looked
fit to deliver entire floors of furniture or industrial
the trucks held booksmore than fifty thousand of
them, in fact. Books in boxes, books in crates, books
in wooden tea chests that still had bits of tea leaves
crushed in the bottom. The four massive shipments from
a warehouse in Geneva, Switzerland, brought Emory what
is thought to be the largest collection of poetry ever
amassed by a private collector, recently given to the
University by bibliophile Raymond Danowski.
Danowski collection makes Emory one of the true centers
for poetry in the world, says Ron Schuchard, Goodrich
C. White Professor of English, one of a handful at Emory
who have been in discussions with Danowski about the agreement
since 1998. There has been no collection like it
built by a private individual in the past centuryit
is truly unique. Being a universal collection of twentieth-century
poetry in English, it lifts us above the strength of our
already strong collections of English and Irish materials
and makes us an international collection. It really puts
us on a new plateau.
a former London art dealer who now lives in South Africa,
acquired the collection over some thirty years, forming
the non-profit Poets Trust to oversee it. Eventually
the library grew so large that no single buyer could afford
it, so he began searching for a proper home, a place where
the books could be freed from storage and held, touched,
and read by lovers of poetry.
it will take years to catalogue the volumes, a number
of gems already have been unpacked to be displayed and
celebrated. Highlights include a first edition of Walt
Whitmans Leaves of Grass (1855), the likes
of which recently sold at Christies for $160,000;
T.S. Eliots early Poems (1919), published
and hand-printed by Virginia and Leonard Woolf; a rare
first printing of Allen Ginsbergs Howl and Other
Poems (1956) with an introduction by William Carlos
Williams; one of thirteen known copies of W. H. Audens
Poems (1928), privately printed by fellow poet
Stephen Spender during a school holiday and bearing corrections
in Audens hand; and William Carlos Williams
first collection, Poems (1909), one of the most
rare and coveted works of twentieth-century literature.
The poems were privately printed and a few sold at a local
stationery store, but most were destroyed in a fire and
only eleven are thought to remain; the Danowski copy is
inscribed by Williams to his brother.
believe that a great city needs a great library, and Emory
is well on its way to becoming that, says Steve
Enniss, director of special collections and archives.
With acquisitions such as this, Emory serves a broad
research community both national and international. Its
one of the ways libraries fulfill a mission that is closely
aligned with the Universitys own.
Schuchard, former University President William M. Chace,
former interim Provost Woody Hunter, Vice Provost for
Libraries Linda Matthews, and former Vice Provost Joan
Gotwals all played a role in bringing the Raymond Danowski
Poetry Library to Emory, a process that took place over
several years at meetings in Atlanta, New York, London,
and Geneva. Schuchard first heard of Danowski and the
collection in 1996, around the same time a number of others
in the field began telling Danowski he should take a close
look at Emorys libraries and literature program
when considering a home for his books of poetry.
thing that became very compelling for Raymond is that
we are essentially joining our already very strong archives
with these booksit was like two halves of the same
whole, Enniss says. The greatest value of
the library is really in its breadth and depth. Literally,
whole chapters of the literary history of our time will
be written in the Woodruff Library.
are already underway for a new facility to house Emorys
Special Collections and Archives, and the goal is to keep
the collection accessible to students, faculty, and visiting
was always meant to be a comprehensive research library,
Danowski says. Emory has a quality I really value.
The students here have a kind of natural ease in the way
they move about the library and move about Emory. Its
very special. It was a naturalthis just felt like
the right home for it. Its a library in my mind
that has now become real.P.P.P.
the written word
University hailed the Danowski Collection with a
celebration in August, at which Dana Gioia, chair
of the National Endowment for the Arts and a poet
and critic in his own right, read works of poetry.
think that as long as we use words to describe our
own existence to one another, to ourselves, then
poetry will remain an essential art, Gioia
said. It remains, even in the twenty-first
centuryin the day of iPods, e-mails, and cell
phonesthe most concise, memorable, and expressive
way we have of using words. And I do think even
in this electronic era, when the written word now
competes with a variety of other media, that poetry,
which predates written language, remains startlingly
contemporary for us and becomes one of the genuine
and potent ways that we link ourselves to the past.
of the poems Gioia shared was a work of his own
entitled Words, a partial answer to
a question Gioia has become famous for asking: Can
Raymond Danowskis collection is any indication,
it can indeed.
world does not need words. It articulates itself
sunlight, leaves, and shadows. The stones on the
no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.
fluent leaves speak only the dialect of pure being.
kiss is still fully itself though no words were
one word transforms it into something less or other
chaste, perfunctory, conjugal, covert.
calling it a kiss betrays the fluster of hands
the skin or gripping a shoulder, the slow
of neck or knee, the silent touching of tongues.
the stones remain less real to those who cannot
them, or read the mute syllables graven in silica.
see a red stone is less than seeing it as jasper
quartz, cousin to the flint the Kiowa
as arrowheads. To name is to know and remember.
sunlight needs no praise piercing the rainclouds,
the rocks and leaves with light, then dissolving
lucent droplet back into the clouds that engendered
daylight needs no praise, and so we praise it always
than ourselves and all the airy words we summon.
Interrogations at Noon by Dana Gioia (Graywolf
Press), used by permission