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Robert Peters Collection - MS 626

Introduction | Biographical Sketch | Scope and Content | Series Description | Inventory


The Robert Peters Collection was purchased by the Jerome Library, Bowling Green State University, in April, 1991. An additional gift of 71 publications written by Robert Peters was donated by the author in August, 1991. In June, 1996 and 1999, other gifts of contemporary poetry, criticism and manuscript material were made by Robert Peters. The entire collection consists of correspondence, subject files relating to poets and poetry publishing, literary manuscripts and journals, and a substantial book collection, covering American poetry after 1965.

No restrictions exist on the use of this collection. Researchers are responsible for confirming copyright ownership of unpublished material. The finding aid was prepared by Lee McLaird, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections in April, 1992 and revised in August 1996 and June 1999, to incorporate the new material.

 Biographical Sketch

Robert Peters was born in Eagle River, Wisconsin, October 10, 1924, the son of Sam and Dorothy Keck Peters. He was educated in the Wisconsin public schools. After army service during World War II, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, majoring in English. He received his B.A. in 1948, his M.A. in 1949, and his doctorate in 1952. His teaching career took him to Boston University, Ohio Wesleyan, Wayne State, and then the University of California at Riverside. His field of study was Victorian literature, and in addition to publishing numerous articles and monographs, he edited, with Herbert Schueller, the letters of John Addington Symmonds.

In 1950 he married Jean Powell, and they had three children, Robert, Meredith, and Richard. When Richard died suddenly of meningitis, Peters began writing poetry to help himself cope with the loss. The result of that work, Songs for a Son, was published in 1967, and marked a turning point in Peters' career and his personal life. Although one more child, Jefferson, was born to the couple in 1961, the marriage ended in divorce in 1968. Peters, by now teaching at the University of California at Irvine, began to devote more time to the writing and study of contemporary poetry and pursued a gay lifestyle. He reviewed poetry for many publications, collecting his critical work in the Peters Black and Blue Guides to Current Literary Journals (three volumes), The Hunting of the Snark, and The Great American Poetry Bake-off (four volumes).

Peters continued to write poetry, becoming especially interested in narrative, or "persona" poetry. Writing from the point of view of historical figures such as Ann Lee, King Ludwig of Bavaria, and Countess Elizabeth Bathory, he expressed contemporary concerns about violence and sexuality. In addition to public readings, he adapted both Ludwig and the Countess for theatrical presentation, performing them around the country.

 Scope and Content

The Robert Peters Collection consists of personal correspondence, literary reviews and manuscripts, and subject/clipping files, mostly dating from the 1970's to early 1996.

The correspondence files, including incoming and outgoing correspondence, cover poetry, poets, and publishing in the last quarter of the 20th century. The subject and clippings files include biographical information on poets and the output of small pressses. Of special interest to researchers are the number of in-depth interviews with poets appearing in a wide variety of publications (some of them aimed at a gay readership), discussing the poetic arts and including frank information about the poets' personal lives and often their attitudes toward sexuality. Richest of all are the literary holdings. Drafts of Peters' reviews of hundreds of poets are included, shedding light on his critical thinking. Also included are over 200 manuscripts from other poets whose published works are also represented in the book collection. This allows the researcher to follow the development of a work from its initial conception through published book. Many of the poems represented here have never been published in any form.

 Series Description


1970's - 1998; 389 folders.
Arranged alphabetically by correspondent.


1970's - 1996; 18 folders.
Arranged alphabetically by poet.
Includes promotional material about published works, biographical material on poets and presses, and photocopies of published poetry signed by the poets.


1970's - 1996; 18 folders.
Arranged alphabetically by poet reviewed.
Includes drafts of reviews written by Peters for a variety of periodicals and for his book-length work.

1970's - 1996; 9 folders.
Arranged alphabetically by title of manuscript.

1970's-1996; 290 folders.
Arranged alphabetically by writer.
Includes typed and handwritten drafts as well as galley proofs of single works and collections of poetry, sent to Peters from poets requesting his critique or from publishers or periodicals requesting a review.


1970's - 1996, scattered dates; 18 folders.
Arranged alphabetically by subject.


1970'S - 1996; 33 folders.
Includes pamphlets, programs, bookmarks, postcards, etc.

1970's - 1990's, scattered dates.
For a complete list of periodicals, please consult the printed manuscript register at the Center for Archival Collections.

1970's - 1990's.
For complete bibliographic information, see the on-line catalog.


1970's - 2000s, scattered dates
Arranged alphabetically
Most are publicity photographs included with review copies of books.

1980's, scattered dates; 1 folder.
Includes original and xerox copies of illustrations done for publication, as well as "mail art", a painting or drawing with a letter as part of the work. Also see correspondence series with Bruce Hutchinson.


1970's - 2000's, scattered dates
Arranged alphabetically by performer.

1990s-2000s, scattered dates
No arrangement.



Note: For detailed listings of correspondents and manuscript authors, please consult the register in the Center for Archival Collections reference area.

  1. Box 1: Correspondence, A-Co
  2. Box 2: Correspondence, Co-Gl
  3. Box 3: Correspondence, Gl-Ki
  4. Box 4: Correspondence, Ki-Me
  5. Box 5: Correspondence, Me-Ro
  6. Box 6: Correspondence, Ro-Va
  7. Box 7: Correspondence, Va-Z, unsigned; Subject Files, A-J
  8. Box 8: Subject Files, K-Z; Reviews, A-B
  9. Box 9: Reviews, C-O
  10. Box 10: Reviews, P-Z, Manuscripts by Robert Peters
  11. Box 11: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, A-B
  12. Box 12: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, C - Co
  13. Box 13: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, Cr - Do
  14. Box 14: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, Dr - Gil
  15. Box 15: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, Gin - Glas
  16. Box 16: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, Glaz - Hara
  17. Box 17: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, Harr - Hu
  18. Box 18: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, J - K
  19. Box 19: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, L - Ma
  20. Box 20: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, McA - Me
  21. Box 21: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, Mi - Per
  22. Box 22: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, Pet - Pz
  23. Box 23: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, R - Ri
  24. Box 24: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, Ro - Shif
  25. Box 25: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, Shiv - Stoc
  26. Box 26: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, Ston - Van
  27. Box 27: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, Van - Wak
  28. Box 28: Manuscripts and Proof Copies of Work by Others, Wh - Z; Scrapbook Material , A-G
  29. Box 29: Scrapbook Material, H-Z
  30. Box 30: Printed Material, A-F
  31. Box 31: Printed Material, G-Sa
  32. Box 32: Printed Material, Sh-Z; Photographic Material and Artwork, A-Z
  33. Box 33: Artwork, oversize material, sound recordings, video recordings
  34. Oversize material: Manuscript, Printed Material

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