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Mona Van Duyn and Jarvis Thurston Papers

Identifier: MS-MS-ms144

The Mona Van Duyn and Jarvis Thurston Papers make up one of the largest groups within the Modern Literature Manuscript Collection. Included are hundreds of letters of correspondence from and to literary figures, publishers, editors, scholars, family, and friends. Also included are manuscripts and editorial matter towards most of Van Duyn’s books, drafts of individual poems, essays and reviews by both Van Duyn and Thurston, and manuscripts by others authors. Finally, the Van Duyn and Thurston Papers include a large assortment of college and teaching materials, including poems written by Van Duyn as a student; family and other personal papers; artwork, including paintings by William Fett and Fred Becker; ephemera; recordings by Van Duyn, Thurston, and other literary figures; and realia, including family quilts, knickknacks, and graduation hoods.


  • 1860-2007


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)


235.00 boxes

Biographical Information

Mona Van Duyn (1921-2004) was an award-winning poet, a highly respected editor, and an experienced teacher of younger writers. She was born in Waterloo, Iowa and studied at the University of Northern Iowa where she earned a B.A. and at the University of Iowa where she received an M.A. in 1943. In that same year, Van Duyn married Jarvis Thurston with whom she founded Perspective magazine in 1947. She edited the quarterly with Thurston until 1975.

Van Duyn taught writing at a number of schools, including the University of Iowa, the University of Louisville, and at numerous writing workshops and conferences around the country. At Washington University, she taught in University College, the English Department, and in the Writing Program as a visiting Hurst professor in 1987. Van Duyn also served as poetry consultant for Washington University Libraries’ Modern Literature Collection in the mid-1960s and was instrumental in the acquisition of a number of the literary manuscript collections owned by Washington University Libraries.

She published ten volumes of poetry: Valentines to the Wide World,1959; A Time of Bees,1964; To See, To Take,1970; Bedtime Stories,1972; Merciful Disguises,1973; Letters From a Father and Other Poems,1982; Near Changes,1990; Firefall,1993; If It Be Not I,1993; and Selected Poems, 2002. She received many awards for her poetry, including the prestigious Bollingen Award in 1970, the National Book Award for Poetry in 1971 for To See, To Take, and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1991 for Near Changes. From 1992-1993, she served as the first woman Poet Laureate of the United States. Van Duyn was also named a Fellow of the Academy of American Poets in 1980 and in 1985 served as one of its chancellors. She received fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Washington University, Cornell College, the University of Northern Iowa, George Washington University, and the University of the South all awarded her the degree of Honorary Doctor of Letters. Mona Van Duyn died of bone cancer on December 2, 2004.

Jarvis Thurston (1914-2008), a native of Utah, was an editor, author, and educator who studied at the University of Utah and the University of California at Berkeley. He received a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Iowa in 1946 and was a professor of literature since that time. He taught at the University of Louisville for four years and in 1950 joined the faculty of Washington University. Thurston served as English Department chairman from 1967-1969 and retired in 1982. Thurston was instrumental in establishing Washington University's creative writing program and attracting a constellation of distinguished writers to the University including Stanley Elkin, Wayne Fields, Donald Finkel, William Gass, John Morris, Howard Nemerov, and Constance Urdang.

Thurston's articles and short stories have appeared in literary magazine and anthologies; however, he is best known as an editor. The co-author of Short Fiction Criticism, 1800-1958 (1960), Thurston edited two books, Reading Modern Short Stories (1955) and Short Stories from the Literary Magazines (1972). While at the University of Louisville, he and his wife, Mona Van Duyn, founded the quarterly Perspective and served as the magazine's principal editors for its entire run from 1947 to 1975. Thurston was regarded as a key figure in discovering some of the nation's best literary talent. Perspective published the early writing of several of his Washington University colleagues, along with works by James Gardner, Anthony Hecht, William S. Merwin and Douglas Woolf. He died in 2008 of heart disease.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number MSS2022-003. Gift of Nina W. Matheson, February 22, 2022.

Related Materials

See also MS120 Mona Van Duyn Papers, MS093 Perspective Archive, and MS114 Jarvis Thurston Papers

Mona Van Duyn and Jarvis Thurston Papers
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Revision Statements

  • 2021 February 19: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Manuscripts Collecting Area

Joel Minor
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495