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Walter Lowenfels Papers

Identifier: MS-MS-ms074

The Walter Lowenfels collection includes letters primarily to Walter Lowenfels or Marjorie Elizabeth (Nan) Braymer, arranged alphabetically by sender, concerning contributions to Where is Vietnam?, payments, editorial policy, criticism, little magazines, sales of worksheets, reactions to book's publication, and including biographical and bibliographic sketches of many correspondents. Principal correspondents include: George Abbe, Robert Bly, Nan Braymer, Kirby Congdon, James Dickey, Richard Eberhart, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, David Ignatow, Sybil Kaufman, Harry Lewis, Marya Mannes, Morton Marcus, Felix Pollak, David Rogers, John Tagliabue, others, including Lynn Deming, Doubleday editor of anthology, circa 365 items; Lowenfels letters (largely carbons), March 1966-Oct. 1967, to various poets, publishers, others, soliciting, accepting, rejecting poems for book, discussing textual and editorial changes, and answering various oriticisms of book, circa 450 items; biographical sketches of contributors drafted from information sent to Lowenfels, drafts of the foreword and table of contents of the anthology, circa 313 pages.

Also included are manuscript, typescript and photocopies of poems submitted to or chosen by Lowenfels, arranged alphabetically by author, some with comments by Lowenfels or Nan Braymer; ts. draft of entire book; one printer's copy and two galley proofs of book; copies of permission to reprint poems and various copyright materials; clippings of announcements and reviews concerning book; clippings, pamphlets, announcements, and instruction concerning peace read-ins; and various peace publications and other miscellaneous items, 340 items.


  • 1966-1967


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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.)


7.00 boxes

Biographical Information

Walter Lowenfels (May 10, 1897 – July 7, 1976) was an American poet and journalist. Born in New York City, Lowenfels graduated from a preparatory school in 1914, and served in the military during World War I, after which he began writing poetry. He worked for his father's company from 1914 until 1926. He met Lillian Apotheker, who later co-edited several of the anthologies of poetry he edited, in 1924, and the couple married in 1926. In 1925, with the financial assistance of Apotheker, he published his first collection of poems, Episodes & Epistles.

In 1930, while in Paris, Lowen co-founded Carrefour Press with Michael Fraenkel, which published the pamphlet Anonymous: The Need for Anonymity. The pamphlet was a manifesto declaring the need for anonymous publication in order to "avoid artistic competition and alienation." Carrefour later anonymously published Lowenfels' play USA with Music, but was forced to reveal the identity of the playwright in 1932 when it filed a plagiarism suit against composer George Gershwin. Thereafter, the publishing house attributed its publications to their authors, effectively ending the anonymity movement.

In 1938, he published Steel 1937, which began with an open letter to Philip Murray, the CIO organizer behind the unionization drive at Little Steel. The poems in the book commemorated the 18 steelworkers killed by US Steel during the 1937 Little Steel Strike, and also discussed the Spanish Civil War. Following the publication of Steel 1937, Lowenfels quit writing poetry and would not resume for 17 years.

In 1938, Lowenfels moved to Philadelphia where he became involved in the Civil Rights movement and the struggles of working people. He began writing for the Pennsylvania edition of the Daily Worker, later rising to the position of editor, which he held from the late 1930s until 1953. As a journalist and editor, his work focused on the lives of working people, especially African Americans.

At 2 a.m. on July 29, 1953, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Lowenfels' cabin in New Jersey and arrested him. He was charged with conspiracy to overthrow the US government, a violation of the Smith Act. During the trial, he also took up the translation of poetry by French and Italian authors. He also completed Sonnets of Love and Liberty. He was convicted in 1954, but his conviction was overturned in higher courts shortly thereafter for lack of evidence.

Following his release, Lowenfels stopped editing the Pennsylvania Worker and returned to writing poetry. He became best known as an anthologist of avant-garde poetry. He edited an anthology of Walt Whitman's poetry, but his most famous anthology was the 1967 Where is Vietnam?, a compilation of the poetic responses to the Vietnam War. He was active in the anti-Vietnam War peace movement, serving as the associate editor of the anti-war publication Dialog.

In total, he wrote more than two dozen books of poetry. He also wrote an autobiography, My Many Lives, the second half of which is published in The Portable Walter, an anthology of his writings.

Source of Acquisition

Accession number 783. Purchase from Henry Wenning, September 30, 1966.

Accession number 793. Purchase from Henry Wenning, November 18, 1966.

Accession number 826. Gift from Walter Lowenfels, May 19, 1967.

Accession number 1005. Purchase from Henry Wenning, November 12, 1968.

Accession number 2012.012. Purchase from Between the Covers, February 29, 2012.

Walter Lowenfels Papers
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Revision Statements

  • 2021 April 20: 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