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Hayden Carruth Papers

Identifier: mss-061

Scope and Content Note

The Hayden Carruth Papers contain correspondence, writings, and various types of personal papers dating from 1897-2009. These materials document Carruth's childhood in Connecticut and New York, his early career in publishing, his work with James Laughlin and New Directions Publishing, and his teaching career at Syracuse University. The collection also extensively documents his writing career, primarily as a poet, but also as a critic and essayist.

The Correspondence series includes personal correspondence with family members and friends as well as correspondence with publishers and public or literary persons, many of whom were close friends as well. The family correspondence includes letters he wrote and received. Considering the collection as a whole, there are significantly more incoming letters than outgoing. Notable correspondents include Wendell Berry, Robert Bly, T.S. Eliot, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Goodman, Stanley Kunitz, James Laughlin, Denise Levertov, Philip Levine, Robert Lowell, Archibald MacLeish, Thomas Merton, W.S. Merwin, Anais Nin, Adrienne Rich, Karl Shapiro, Allen Tate, Mark Van Doren, Diane Wakoski, and Yvor Winters, as well as several poets and writers who lived in Vermont, such as Alan Broughton, David Budbill, John Engels, David Huddle, and Galway Kinnell. Naturally, much of this correspondence includes discussions of poetry and poets, and many letters include unpublished poems written to or shared with the recipient. Several correspondents have added their collected correspondence with Carruth to the collection, and these are arranged separately.

The University of Vermont, Special Collections acquired the bulk of this collection from Carruth in three major batches with years separating the acquisitions. The arrangement of the Correspondence series generally follows the original arrangement of these batches, and so is not entirely consistent across the series. The first group of chronologically arranged Personal Correspondence primarily contains letters to and from Carruth's parents and first two wives, Sara Hudson and Eleanore Ray. The alphabetically arranged Personal Correspondence primarily contains letters from relatives and personal friends, including some literary friends. The General Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by name of correspondent or institution, and is primarily professional or literary in nature. However, there is a great deal of overlap among the different correspondence subseries, so researchers should look in each for a more complete account of Carruth's correspondence with an individual or during a period of time.

The Writings series includes notes, worksheets, manuscript drafts, typescript drafts, proofs, some publication related correspondence, and publicity materials of Carruth's individual poems, essays, introductions to other authors' books, reviews, short stories, and books of collections of poetry and prose. The poetry worksheets in particular contain both published and unpublished drafts of poems and display Carruth's revisions and creative process. As with the Correspondence subseries, there are several subseries of writings that contain some overlapping materials, due to the timing and nature of the three major accessions and several additions to the collection. For example, the Worksheets subseries contains many poems that may appear in one of the Book Manuscripts subseries. The Worksheets subseries also contains drafts of essays, reviews, and short stories, even though there are also subseries for each of these genres. There is no clear distinction between the two Book Manuscripts subseries, neither chronological nor alphabetical, and in some cases there are manuscripts for a single book in multiple subseries. Again a researcher is advised to check the folder list under each of the Writings subseries for a complete inventory of a single work, collection, or period of time.

The Personal Papers series contains artifacts, a few audio recordings, Carruth's diaries, financial records, student papers, and other materials that are of a personal nature such as Carruth's son's schoolwork, clippings, sheet music, printed material on topics of interest to Carruth, his teaching papers from Syracuse and Bucknell, and various documents and records related to his publications and copyrights. A file of interest contains materials related to the controversy of awarding Ezra Pound the inaugural Bollingen Prize for his Pisan Cantos. Carruth's student records document his years in Grade School, High School, University of North Carolina, and University of Chicago.

Though not as well known as many of his contemporaries, Carruth had a major influence on American poetry during the last half of the twentieth century through his editorial work, his reviews of poetry, his critical essays, his anthology The Voice That is Great within Us, his teaching, and his own distinct poetic voice. This collection is a unique and rich source documenting Carruth's perspectives on and contributions to American poetry.


  • 1897 - 2009



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

Hayden Carruth was born August 3, 1921, in Waterbury, Connecticut. His family moved to Woodbury, CT, when he was three years old and again to Pleasantville, NY, when he was thirteen. He attended the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill from 1939-1943, where he met his first wife, Sara Anderson (1922-2012). They were married on their graduation day, and he immediately left for military training. From 1943-1945, Carruth served in the Army Air Corps and was stationed mainly in southern Italy. After the war, both Carruth and his wife, Sara, attended the University of Chicago. Carruth studied English Literature, earning an M.A. in 1947. He discontinued his Ph.D. studies to become the editor of Poetry, a position he held for a year and a half. He then worked as an associate editor at the University of Chicago Press until 1952. During this time he and Sara had a daughter, Martha (1952-1997). Shortly afterward, Sara and Carruth separated, and she accepted a teaching position at Auburn University. She married Fred Hudson in 1961.

In 1952, James Laughlin, the publisher of New Directions, offered Carruth a position as Coordinator of the Intercultural Exchange in New York City. During this time, Carruth married his second wife, Eleanore Ray. While in New York, Carruth suffered a breakdown from "a lifelong neurotic anxiety" (Hayden Carruth, Beside the Shadblow Tree: A Memoir of James Laughlin [Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1999], p. 13) and from his heavy use of alcohol. He entered the Payne Whitney Westchester psychiatric hospital, also known as Bloomingdale Hospital, in 1953, where he remained for a year and a half. While in the hospital, Carruth wrote the poems later published as The Bloomingdale Papers (1975). After leaving the hospital, Carruth lived in his parents' home in Pleasantville, NY. Carruth published his first book of poetry in 1959, The Crow and the Heart. In 1961, James Laughlin again offered Carruth a job, this time organizing early New Directions correspondence at Laughlin's cottage in Norfolk, CT. While there, Carruth met Rose Marie Dorn (1932-2018). They were married after three months, and continued to live at the cottage for another year. David, their son, was born at that time.

In 1963, Carruth, Rose Marie, and their son moved to Vermont and bought a farm house in Johnson. Carruth lived there and wrote poetry, reviews, essays, and conducted editorial work for Harper's and The Hudson Review, in a cowshed on the property for the next 20 years. While living in Vermont, Carruth raised chickens, gardened, operated Crow's Mark Press, and worked on a neighbor's farm in addition to his writing career; his work and the people and land of Vermont figured heavily in his poetry of this period. In addition to these activities, Carruth held various positions at Johnson State College, the University of Vermont, and St. Michael's College during the 1970s. He was visited by friends and fellow poets, including Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov, and Galway Kinnell, but remained fairly secluded from the literary world during this time. Carruth's published works from the Vermont years include North Winter (1964), Contra Mortem (1967), From Snow and Rock, from Chaos: Poems, 1965-1972 (1973), and Brothers, I Loved You All (1978). Hayden and Rose Marie separated in 1978 and formally divorced in 1988.

In 1980, Carruth left Vermont to accept a teaching position in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University where he remained at Syracuse University until his retirement in 1991, with the exception of a one year visiting professorship at Bucknell University (1985-1986). He separated from Rose Marie in x. On February 24, 1988, Carruth survived a suicide attempt. He has written about his experience in his autobiographical essays, Reluctantly (1998). Carruth married Joe-Anne McLaughlin in 1989, and lived with her until his death on September 29, 2008.

After moving to New York state, Carruth published many books of poetry, including, The Sleeping Beauty (1983), If You Call This Cry a Song (1983), Asphalt Georgics (1985), Suicides and Jazzers (1992), and Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey (1996). He also wrote many critical reviews and literary essays, some of which were collected into books, including: Sitting In: Selected Writings on Jazz, Blues, and Related Topics (1993) and Selected Essays & Reviews (1996).

Carruth received many fellowships and awards during his career as a poet, including, the Bollingen Foundation Fellowship, the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (twice), the Lannan Literary Fellowship (1995), the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (three times) and Senior Fellowship, the Vermont Governor's Medal, the Ruth Lily Prize, the Whiting Award, the Carl Sandburg Award, the Lenore Marshall/The Nation Poetry Prize (1991), the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry (1992), The Paterson Poetry Prize (1994), and the National Book Award in Poetry (1996).


76.5 Linear Feet (46 cartons, 41 boxes, 2 oversize folders)

Language of Materials



The Hayden Carruth Papers contain correspondence, writings, and various types of personal papers dating from 1897-2009. These materials document Carruth's childhood in Connecticut and New York, his early career in publishing, his work with James Laughlin and New Directions, and his teaching career at Syracuse University. The collection also extensively documents his writing career, primarily as a poet, but also as a critic and essayist.


Library Research Annex; contact for access.

Separated Materials Note

Financial and medical records were removed from the collection.

Processing Information

Correspondence from William Duckworth may be confused for that of William Kulik, and vice versa. Correspondence from Linda McCarriston, Linda Merians, and Linda Roth may be confused for each other.

Note that Sara (Anderson) Carruth is referred to here as Sara Hudson.

Guide to the Hayden Carruth Papers
Sarah Barnett
1990 February
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)