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David Budbill Papers

Identifier: mss-943

Scope and Content

The David Budbill papers contain both personal and professional papers from his late teens through his seventies. Predominantly manuscript materials and correspondence, they have been arranged to reflect his original order.

Correspondence is mostly arranged chronologically with a few files arranged by correspondent. The majority of material is written to David Budbill though a relatively small amount of outgoing correspondence is present.

Journals is used as an umbrella term for notebooks which contain writings on personal topics; contact information; to do lists; schedules and calendars; and notes of poems, poems ideas, and/or poetry topics.

The alphabetically arranged Subject Files, while not all his subject headings, hold the miscellany of his life, notably collaborative projects with musician William Parker and jazz recordings shared by friend Hayden Carruth. The term GIgs, as used here, refers to any public performance or appearance including readings, signings, and musical presentations.

Budbill's Writings series reflect his time as a student, as a minister, as a teacher, and finally as a professional writer. The vast majority of the papers in this series come from his professional work, reflecting his early years working with form and content and tracing his maturation and voice as a well-recognized professional. Reflecting his own arrangement, the sub-series consists of manuscript drafts, photographs and negatives, publications and publicity material, feedback correspondence, and recordings of performances. Professional works are organized in a roughly chronological order with working titles collected under the final published title's heading.


  • 1940-2015
  • Majority of material found within 1965 - 2007



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

David Budbill was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1940 to a street car driver and a minister's daughter. In high school he spent his time playing jazz trumpet, running track, hunting and fishing. He studied philosophy and art history at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio and graduated in from there in 1962. He served as a Presbyterian "Supply Pastor" in southeastern Ohio while in college.

He earned a graduate degree in theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1967. In 1966 he married Lois Eby, an artist, originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and they left New York City and taught at Lincoln University, an all African-American school, in Oxford, PA from 1967 through 1969.

In 1969 he and his wife moved to the mountains of northern Vermont where they built themselves a house. They had two children.

When first in Vermont, Budbill taught part time at The Stowe School. At various times in his life, Budbill has worked as a carpenter's apprentice, short order cook, manager of a coffee house, day laborer on a Christmas tree farm, street gang worker, attendant in a mental hospital, forester, gardener, pastor of a church, high school and college teacher. Always his chosen occupation however was that of a free lance writer, lecturer, children's book author, poet and playwright at which he has worked on full-time since about 1973.

Budbill's first book of poems, BARKING DOG, was privately printed in 1968. His second book of poems, THE CHAIN SAW DANCE, published by Countryman Press in 1977, with an introduction by Hayden Carruth and drawings by Lois Eby, sold over 10,000 copies. His third book of poems, FROM DOWN TO THE VILLAGE, was published by the Ark, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 198l with an introduction by John Haines and drawings by Lois Eby. Budbill's fourth book of poems, WHY I CAME TO JUDEVINE, was published in the spring of 1987, again with drawings by Lois Eby, by White Pine Press of Fredonia, NY.

In 1981 Budbill was a Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry.

In 1991 Chelsea Green Publishing Company published JUDEVINE: THE COMPLETE POEMS, a 320 page epic poem/poetic novel and the culmination of twenty years work. Booklist chose JUDEVINE: THE COMPLETE POEMS as one of the three best books of poems published in 1991. Chelsea Green republished a revised and expanded edition of JUDEVINE in the spring of 1999.

A new collection of poems, influenced by a lifetime of reading ancient Chinese poetry, called MOMENT TO MOMENT: POEMS OF A MOUNTAIN RECLUSE was published by Copper Canyon Press in September of 1999. MOMENT TO MOMENT was chosen by Booklistas one of the top ten books of poems for 1999. During 2000 Garrison Keillor read 9 poems from the book on National Public Radio's "The Writer's Almanac." THE HERALD, a weekly newspaper in Randolph, Vermont, ran a poem a week from MOMENT TO MOMENT: POEMS OF A MOUNTAIN RECLUSE on it's Editorial Page for 52 weeks during the year 2000.

Budbill's poems have been anthologized in For a Living: The Poetry of Work, edited by Nicholas Coles and Peter Oresick (University of Illinois Press, 1995), The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, edited by Robert Bly, James Hillman, and Michael Meade (HarperCollins, 1992), Working Classics, edited by Peter Oresick and Nicholas Coles (University of Illinois Press, 1990), The Best American Poetry of 1989, edited by Donald Hall (Charles Scribner's and Sons, 1989), An Ear to the Ground: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, edited by Marie Harris and Kathleen Aguero, (The University of Georgia Press, 1989), and Wetting Our Lines Together, edited by Allen Hoey, (Tamarack Editions, 1982).

Budbill wrote a picture book for children, CHRISTMAS TREE FARM, with paintings by Donald Carrick, which was published by Macmillan in 1974 and was a Kirkus Choice Book for that year.

Dial Press published a collection of his short stories, SNOWSHOE TREK TO OTTER RIVER, in 1976 which was published in paperback by Bantam Books, Skylark editions, in 1984 and later as a Puffin paperback. SNOWSHOE TREK TO OTTER RIVER was nominated for The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award in 1976.

In 1978 Dial Press published Budbill's novel, BONES ON BLACK SPRUCE MOUNTAIN, which is a sequel to the short story collection. It won the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award and has sold more than 120,000 copies.

Budbill's first play, MANNEQUINS' DEMISE, was published by Baker's Plays of Boston in 1966 and has been produced in more than 250 locations throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

His second play, KNUCKLEHEAD RIDES AGAIN, was produced in New York and New Jersey and was published by Religious Theatre Magazine in 1967.

His third poem/play, PULP CUTTERS' NATIVITY, in which characters from THE CHAIN SAW DANCE reappear and play out a modern adaptation of the English, medieval miracle play, "The Second Shepherds' Play," has been produced in numerous locations including McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. PULP CUTTERS' NATIVITY is included as part of JUDEVINE.

Since its world premier at McCarter Theatre in 1984, Budbill's fourth play, JUDEVINE, has received tremendous popular and critical acclaim and has been produced by repertory theaters all over the United States through the 1990s. JUDEVINE received its first Mainstage production at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco during January and February of 1990 where it won The Bay Area Critics' Circle Award for Best Ensemble Performance for that year.

In 1991 Budbill won a National Endowment for the Arts Playwriting Fellowship. He has been playwright-in-residence at Arena Stage in Washington, DC; American Inside Theatre in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin; Texas Wesleyan University in Forth Worth, Texas; American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, California; Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee and at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey, and poet-in-residence at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York and for Niagra-Erie Writers in Buffalo, New York. During the 1995 Spring semester, Budbill was Guest Lecturer at The Buckham Seminar, Department of English, The University of Vermont, Burlington, VT.

The premier production of JUDEVINE: THE PLAY IN FOUR ACTS had its first production in October of 1996 at Old Castle Theatre in Bennington, VT.

JUDEVINE: THE PLAY IN TWO ACTS, was published by Heinemann in NEW AMERICAN PLAYS: Vol. 2 in January of 1992.

Budbill's play, THINGY WORLD!, a satire about American materialism and greed and its effect on the environment, received it's first fully mounted production at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, in November of 1991.

Budbill's play, LITTLE ACTS OF KINDNESS, is a series of encounters between the people who inhabit and pass through a city park; various musicians who play in the park make a wide variety of musical comments on the action of the play. The first production of LITTLE ACTS OF KINDNESS played to Standing Room Only audiences and rave reviews at Lost Nation Theatre in Montpelier, Vermont, the summer of 1993. Center Stage Theatre Company produced a new version of LITTLE ACTS OF KINDNESS, featuring the blues and gospel group The Disciples and toured Vermont playing in 13 different venues from the end of September to the beginning of November of 1995.

Center Stage Theatre Company also staged his play, TWO FOR CHRISTMAS, throughout Vermont, in December of 1996 where it sold out every night. TWO FOR CHRISTMAS is Budbill's own translation of the medieval English miracle play "The Second Shepherds' Play" followed by "A Pulp Cutters' Nativity."

David Budbill's poetry and prose have appeared in numerous periodicals including: Graffiti Rag, The Utne Reader, Cedar Hill Review, Shambhala Sun, The Maine Times, Harper's Magazine, Regional Review, The Henniker Review, New Virginia Review, Green Mountains Review, West Branch, Slow Dancer, The Sun, The Seneca Review, Harvard Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Not Man Apart, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Country Journal, Quest/79, Poetry Now, Vermont Life, The New Farm, Longhouse, The Hollins Critic, Organic Gardening, The Greensboro Review, Vermont Affairs, New Letters, The Greenfield Review, The Ohio Review, North by Northeast, Seeds of Change, The Great Circumpolar Bear Cult, and so forth.

Budbill regularly gave readings from his work in schools, colleges, natural food stores, restaurants, bars, art galleries and libraries. He has toured for various organizations in North Carolina, New York state, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine as well as given individual readings in New Hampshire, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, Florida, New York State, California, Texas, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

Budbill has written essays for and delivered speeches to an environmental studies class, a community college convocation, a state arts council, The Junior League, a law school, high school and college commencements, and an organic farmers convention and the annual meeting of the Vermont Library Association.

David Budbill had a lifelong interest in Black American Classical Music: Jazz. This interest has led him to create a performance piece for the spoken human voice and various musical instruments made up of quotations from jazz musicians and woven into improvised music called A LOVE SUPREME: A FOUND POEM FOR BLACK MUSIC. He and various musicians have performed this piece both live and on public and commercial radio. In September of 1991, Budbill performed A LOVE SUPREME with the Marco Eneidi Coalition in North Bennington, Vermont, with William Parker on acoustic bass, in Bennington, Vermont, and in June of 1995 as a New England Foundation for the Arts Showcase production. Most recently he performed A LOVE SUPREME with Kidd Jordan, Hamid Drake, Roy Campbell and William Parker at The 5th Annual Vision Festival in May of 2000 in New York City.

Budbill has been one of the featured poets at The Vision Festival, a week long series of performances of avant garde jazz, dance and poetry on New Yorks Lower East Side since it's beginning in 1996.

Budbill is also the editor of DANVIS TALES, a collection of stories by Vermont's best known 19th century writer, Rowland Robinson. DANVIS TALES was published by The University Press of New England in the September 1995.

Budbill has also written the Introductions for reprints of two of Mildred Walker's novels DR. NORTONS WIFE (1938 ) and THE BREWERS BIG HORSES (1940) both of which Bison Books published in 1996.

In the fall of 1998, David Budbill toured New England with avant garde bassist and composer William Parker performing ZEN MOUNTAINS/ZEN STREETS: A DUET FOR POET AND IMPROVISED BASS. Parker and Budbill performed ZEN MOUNTAINS/ZEN STREETS at New York's Nuyorican Poets Cafe in October of 1999, at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence in March of 2000 and at New England College in Henniker, NH in November of 2000. A live performance, double CD of ZEN MOUNTAINS/ZEN STREETS was released in May of 1999 by Boxholder Records, P.O. Box 779, Woodstock, VT 05091.

Budbill's essay "The Hermit and the Activist" which was originally published in the January 1999 issue of Shambhala Sun was excerpted and reprinted in the July/August issue of Utne Reader.

Budbill is also the Editor-in-Chief of The Judevine Mountain Emailite: A Cyberzine: An Online and Ongoing Journal of Politics and Opinion which is available on his website at

Since 1997, David has been an occasional commentator on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

In 2000, Budbill collaborated with composer Erik Nielsen to create a opera called A FLEETING ANIMAL: AN OPERA FROM JUDEVINE which was performed in October of 2000 at various venues in central Vermont.

The poems in WHILE WE'VE STILL GOT FEET are a continuation of the Judevine Mountain poems begun with MOMENT TO MOMENT. The book was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2005.

The 2010 play A SONG FOR MY FATHER was produced in Vermont in 2010 and California in 2013. It is a memory play inside the mind and heart of Randy Wolf and Frank Wolf, his son. It takes place in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1915 to 1998.

In 2011, Budbill's book of poems, HAPPY LIFE, was published by Copper Canyon Press. It spent 27 weeks on the Poetry Foundation’s Best Seller List between July 2011 and January 2012 and inspired a revival of the Zen Mountains/Zen Streets tour. Exterminating Angel Press published the poem/play PARK SONGS in 2012. An urban relative of Judevine, the action centers on a city park.

Budbill's play DIFFERENT PLANET was first performed as a staged-reading at the Greensboro Arts Alliance and Residency in Greensboro, VT, on August 22, 2014.

David died on September 25, 2016 due to Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a rare form of Parkinson’s Disease.

The novel BROKEN WING and book of poems TUMBLING TOWARD THE END were published posthumously.


33 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The David Budbill papers contain both personal and professional papers of the Vermont poet, author, playwright, and musician.

Shelf location

Library Research Annex; contact for access.

Acquisition Information

Acquired from David Budbill

Separated Materials Note

Financial records were removed from the collection

General Physical Description note

30 cartons, 10 boxes, 2 oversize folders

Guide to the David Budbill Papers
Finding aid prepared by Processor: Elizabeth H. Dow
1998, 2015
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

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)