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Robert Sward Papers

Identifier: MS-MS-ms110

The Robert Sward Papers are one of the largest and most diverse manuscript collections among Washington University's holdings. They include an extensive correspondence with literary figures, little magazine editors, small press publishers, family members, and friends. Thousands of pages of Sward's heavily revised worksheets and journals are also present and serve as excellent examples of the poetic process at work. A large collection of little magazines, small press publications, and literary ephemera is also housed in the Sward Papers and helps further document not only the life and career of Robert Sward, but also the American poetry scene during the 1960's and 1970's.


  • 1951-1971


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.)


47.00 boxes

Biographical Information

Robert Sward (June 23, 1933-February 21, 2022) emerged as a promising young American poet in the late 1950's. A Chicago native, Sward was educated at the University of Illinois (BA, 1956), Middlebury College, and the University of Iowa (MA, 1958). After graduating from the Iowa Writers' Program, Sward spent a year in England on a Fulbright Fellowship and upon his return joined the English Department at Cornell University.

While he was at Cornell, Sward's colleagues included the poets A.R. Ammons and William Meredith, both of whom helped promote Sward's poetry. It was Cornell University Press, in fact, that brought Sward's work to the attention of the academic community by publishing his two early collections, Kissing the Dancer and Other Poems (1964) and Thousand Year Old Fiancée and Other Poems (1965).

Sward left Cornell in the mid-1960's and spent much of the remaining decade traveling extensively in the United States and England teaching poetry workshops and giving readings. His work appeared regularly in most of the important little magazines and he developed friendships and correspondences with numerous authors of his generation, notably Carol Berge, Paul Blackburn, Robert Cohen, Larry Lieberman, Ann Quin, and Margaret Randall.

In 1969 Sward took a position as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. It was here that he launched Soft Press, a small press that he operated for nearly ten years which became the primary publishing outlet for his work in the 1970's. Sward eventually became a landed immigrant in Canada and lived in Toronto where he became an active member of that city's literary scene. In 1985, he returned to the United States and now lives in California. Sward reads and performs regularly as one of the "Three Roberts" (Sward, Robert Zent, and Robert Priest) and recently had a major collection of poetry published by Aya Press, Half a Life's History: Poems New and Selected, 1957-1983 (1983).

Source of Acquisition

Gift and purchase from Robert Sward


Robert Sward Papers
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 April 7: 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