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David Posner poems and correspondence with John Ciardi

Identifier: MSS 0099-F0884

Scope and Content Note

American poet David Posner sent these four poems to poet and critic John Ciardi, together with a handwritten letter added to the bottom of a previous letter from Ciardi.

John Ciardi originally wrote to David Posner on May 7, 1958, to return three of these four poems and to explain that although Posner has "a good thing going in them," they were not for the Saturday Review. David Posner's letter, written in response, sent the original three poems plus a fourth back to Ciardi and asked Ciardi to critique the poems. Posner complimented Ciardi on his critical eye with poetry and asked Ciardi to "give me a few notes as to where or how they fall short ... It will help me to make the book better."

The four poems which Posner sent to Ciardi are all numbered poems which were part of a sequence titled "The Voices of Ulysses." Three of the poems are additionally numbered "1," "2," and "3" in pencil in the top left-hand corner. Poem No. 39 does not have an additional penciled number and is perhaps the poem to which Posner referred in his postscript: "there's one I've added!"


  • Creation: 1950-1958


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

David Posner (1921-1985)

American poet David Louis Posner was born August 6, 1921, in New York, to Nell and Louis S. Posner.

In 1945, Posner received his B.A. from Kenyon College where he majored in French and in 1947 he received his M.A. in English Literature from Harvard. After studying at the Sorbonne, he worked for two years with Radio Diffusion Française interviewing famous personalities. During this time, he traveled extensively in Europe and pursued an interest in archeology.

In 1953, Posner returned to formal academic pursuits and studied modern languages at Wadham College, Oxford. Posner also began writing poetry, in fact his poem, "The Deserted Altar," won the Newdigate Prize for English Verse in 1956.

From 1957-1969, Posner was an English instructor and Assistant Curator of Poetry at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He became an assistant professor of English at the University of California and remained there until 1973.

Posner published seven books of poetry, including The Deserted Altar (1957), A Rake’s Progress: A poem in five sections (1967), Visit to the East (1971) and Geographies (1979). Posner was also a life-long collector of first editions of literature until his death in 1985.

"David Louis Posner." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Reproduced in: Gale Biography In Context. (accessed September 30, 2011)

John Ciardi (1916-1986)

American poet and critic John Ciardi, born June 24, 1916, in Boston, Massachusetts, was the poetry editor for the Saturday Review from 1956 to 1972.

Early in his career, John Ciardi taught English at a number of universities, including the University of Kansas City, Missouri (1940-1942, 1946), Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1946-1953), and Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey (1953-1961).

Ciardi was a lecturer in poetry at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference from 1947 to 1973 and the director of the conference from 1955 to 1972.

John Ciardi's interest in Italian literature resulted in his critically acclaimed translations of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, including The Inferno (1954), The Purgatorio (1961) and The Paradiso (1970).

His interest in etymology, word derivation, and linguistic research culminated in a multi-volume work, A Browser's Dictionary and Native's Guide to the Unknown American Language (1980).

Through numerous public readings and lectures, his poetry written for juveniles, and his appearances on educational television, Ciardi was a strong proponent of sharing poetry with mass audiences. In his preface to Dialogue with an Audience, Ciardi expressed the hope that some readers "can be brought to a more than merely general interest in poetry."

John Ciardi died on March 31, 1986.

"David Louis Posner." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Reproduced in: Gale Biography In Context. (accessed September 30, 2011)"John Ciardi." Poetry Foundation. (accessed October 3, 2011)"John Anthony Ciardi."Merriam Webster's Biographical Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1995. Reproduced in: Gale Biography In Context. (accessed October 3, 2011)


5 item (5 pages)


American poet David Posner (1921-1985) sent these four poems to American poet and critic John Ciardi (1916-1986), together with a handwritten letter added to the bottom of a previous letter from Ciardi.


Originally laid in a copy of David Posner's The May-Game (Spec PS3531.O7642 M3x 1946).

Related Materials in this Repository

This item forms part of MSS 0099 Miscellaneous Literary and Historical Manuscripts.

MSS 0614, David Louis Posner papers.

MSS 0099 F0833, Muriel Rukeyser letters to David Posner.

Shelving Summary

Box 61, F0884: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0099 manuscript boxes.

OCLC Number


Processed and encoded by Anita Wellner, October 2011. Further encoded by George Apodaca, October 2015.

Finding aid for David Posner poems and correspondence with John Ciardi
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2011 October 4
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Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

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