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Donald Finkel Papers

Identifier: MS-MS-ms045

The Donald Finkel Papers include his extensive research materials, journals, notes, and heavily revised manuscripts. A large collection of editorial matter toward all of his books and a small, yet revealing professional correspondence with editors and literary colleagues completes the Finkel Papers.


  • 1947-1983


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Conditions Governing Use

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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.

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51.00 boxes

Biographical Information

Donald Finkel was an American poet best known for his unorthodox styles. Finkel wrote his poetry in free verse, juxtaposing different subjects against each other. Some of his poetry was extremely lengthy, with single pieces filling a volume. He strayed from abstraction and used common language in his writing. Finkel would interlace his poetry with sections taken from a wide range of works, including the writings of authors including Lenny Bruce, Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, Albert Camus and Franz Kafka.

Born in New York, Finkel attended Columbia University, where he was awarded a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1952 and a master's degree in English in 1953. Most of his teaching career has been at Washington University where he helped develop the Writers' Program with his wife, Constance Urdang, but he has also taught at the University of Iowa, Bard College, and Bennington College. Finkel was the poet-in-residence emeritus at Washington University until his death.

Some of Finkel's best-known poems include Answer Back (1968) about Mammoth Cave, Adequate Earth (1972) book of poems about Antarctica, and his 1987 work The Wake of the Electron (1987) which was inspired by the story of sailor Donald Crowhurst, who died in 1969 while competing in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. Finkel was sent to Antarctica in 1968, as part of a scientific expedition sponsored by the National Science Foundation to send artists to Antarctica. The subject appeared in his 1978 book, Endurance: An Antarctic Idyll.

The 14 books of poetry and other works he published include Simeon (1964), A Joyful Noise (1966), The Garbage Wars (1970), A Mote in Heaven’s Eye (1975), Endurance: An Antarctic Idyll (1978), Going Under (1978), What Manner of Beast (1981) and Not So the Chairs: Selected and New Poems (2003). He translated A Splintered Mirror: Chinese Poetry From the Democracy Movement with Carolyn Kizer, which was published in 1991.

Other Descriptive Information

Additional material was added to the Donld Finkel Papers in 2008, not yet listed on this finding aid. Please contact the Manuscript Department for more information.


Donald Finkel Papers
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Revision Statements

  • 2021 April 21: 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