Rare Book & Manuscript Library

American Poets' Corner Archive, 1984-1996

Summary Information


Poets Corner is an ongoing cultural tradition important to the Morningside neighborhood as well as the commemoration of a range of American writers, not limited to NYC, but brought together under the aegis of a national cultural canon.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1991
Bib ID 14336459 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Cathedral of St. John the Divine (New York, N.Y.)
Title American Poets' Corner Archive, 1984-1996
Physical Description 1.68 Linear Feet (4 document boxes)
Language(s) English .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.



Arranged in seven series:


Scope and Contents

Ballots for the election of poets, correspondence by the poets in residence, DVDs and photos of dedication services, and materials relating to the induction and selection of poets.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Conditions Governing Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts/University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

The RBML cannot provide access to original time-based media material which has not been first been reformatted for preservation. Researchers are welcome to examine archival time-based media items and decide whether they wish to place an order for Audio/Video reformatting. If copyright and/or condition restrictions apply, it may not be possible to digitize a requested item. Please note that A/V reformatting is handled by an outside vendor and typically takes 6-8 weeks.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); American Poets' Corner Archive; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Materials

Daniel Haberman Papers. Columbia University Libraries.


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Barbara Nissman, 2019.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Processed by Patrick Lawlor and Barbara Nissman, 2019.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
American poetry Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
American poetry -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Haberman, Daniel, 1933-1991 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Nissman, Barbara Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poets, American Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poets, American -- 20th century -- Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Content Description

The American Poets' Corner was created in 1984 in the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City and modeled after a similar alcove for writers at Westminster Abbey in London. Located in the cathedral's Arts Bay, the Poets' Corner is made up of stone slabs, both on the wall and on the floor, commemorating (as of 2019) thirty American writers with inscriptions of the writer's name, dates of birth and death, and a memorable quotation from the writer's work. For Hart Crane, his words "Permit me voyage, love, into your hands" were chosen, and Edna St. Vincent Millay is remembered with "Take up the song; forget the epitaph." The Cathedral Poet-in-Residence program has been ongoing since 1983. Poets serve for a term of five years. The poet in turn appoints the Electors, for staggered terms, keeping in mind the original guidelines calling for geographical and genre diversity. Every spring, the Poet-in-Residence invites each Elector to nominate a writer deceased for at least 25 years. The Electors and Poet-in-Residence discuss candidates and engage in balloting until consensus is reached. A line of poetry is chosen to be engraved in the cathedral.

After clicking 'Submit Request', users will login with their UNI and password (Columbia affiliates) or their special collections account (external users). Appointments are required and will be arranged according to each individual repository's policy.

Series I: Correspondence

Box 1 Personal correspondence between Daniel Haberman, Poet-in Residence (1984-86) and Electors: Richard Wilbur, Robert Penn Warren, Dan Aaron, Eudora Welty, Edgar Bowers, Dan Hoffman (3rd poet-in-residence beginning in 1989.)

Box 2 Correspondence with relatives of Emily Dickinson

Box 2 Correspondence of Sandi Mendelson, PR (background material for acquiring endorsements) (letters to Walter Cronkite, Juilliard School, Metropolitan Opera, Office of the President, Office of the Governor, Office of the Mayor, etc.)

Box 3 Correspondence (1983-1988) of Daniel Haberman with Dean James Parks Morton of the Cathedral. Details preparation of Dedication Ceremony, guidelines, etc.

Box 3 Correspondence with Lynn Chase & Marie Bullock (Academy of American Poets)

Box 3 Correspondence of Daniel Haberman with Bishop Paul Moore, Bishop of NY

Box 3 Follow up correspondence and thank you's for endorsements from John Kenneth Galbraith (American Academy & Institute of Arts & Letters), American Philosophical Society, American Academy of Arts & Sciences and other organizations

Box 4 Correspondence about Dedication Ceremony with Gregory Peck and Walter Cronkite

Correspondence with Julie Harris and Eugene McCarthy

Series II: Electors and Induction

Box 1 Original ballots submitted by the Electors to choose the poets for the American Poets' Corner. Includes suggestions by Electors for the inscriptions to be placed on the stones. 1984, 1985, 1986,

Box 1 Mailings from the Poet-in-Residence to the Electors

Box 1 Poets' Corner (1986-1991) (details voting etc.)(DH served as an elector until his death)

Box 3 Washington Irving- material for preparation of Induction Ceremony (November 1983) correspondence with Rev. Bill Eddy of, NY, Washington Irving Society, Cathedral plus publicity material

Series III: Endorsements and Proclamations

Box 2 Proclamation from the Governor of NY, May 1984

Box 2 Proclamation from the Mayor of NYC, May 1984

Endorsements of the Poets' Corner:

Box 2 Archbishop Edward Carpenter of Westminster Abbey

Box 2 NEA on behalf of President Reagan

Box 2 Martha Graham

Box 2 John Kenneth Galbraith/American Academy & Institute of Arts & Letters

Box 2 Galway Kinnell/PEN American Center

Box 2 John Voss/American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Box 2 American Philosophical Society

Box 2 Marie Bullock/The Academy of American Poets

Series IV: Dedication

Box 2 DVD of Poets' Corner Dedication Service –May '84- 2 versions (rough cut plus edited version)

Box 2 CD of musical selections played at Dedication service: Barber by Barbara Nissman, Bach by Michael Tree, reading of Emily Dickinson by Edgar Bowers, Schubert song by Marcus Haddock/Nissman, Bach by Rosalyn Tureck and a selection on soprano sax by Paul Winter and Paul Halley

Box 2 Photos of the Poets' Corner and the Service of Dedication

Series V: History

Box 2 Copy of History of the American Poets' Corner- The First Three Years (1983-1986) by Daniel Haberman, published in Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook

Box 2 Copy of Christian Science Monitor article, Guardian interview with Daniel Haberman by Linda Blandford

Series VI: Programs and Publicity

Box 3 The Cathedral Lecture Series (background etc., includes copy of lecture given by poet John Heath-Stubbs)

Box 3 Programs of Vespers Services for the American Poets' Corner

Box 4 Publicity received for the Poets' Corner Dedication

Box 4 The Poets' Corner- Background material for publicity material to be sent out for Poets' Corner Dedication Ceremony (photos, program, elector's biographies, information about engraving of stones. Information about Westminster Abbey, etc.)

Box 4 Photos from the Dedication Service

Box 4 TLS review of the Poets' Corner plus printed response from electors: Richard Wilbur, Anthony Hecht & Daniel Aaron; response letter written by DH to TLS

Series VII: Daniel Haberman

Box 4 Daniel Haberman Memorial Service at the Cathedral, 16 June 1996

(preparation, publicity- includes correspondence with Julie Harris and Eugene McCarthy)

Box 4 Program for Memorial Service for Daniel Haberman, 16 June 1996

Box 4 New Yorker Cartoon of the Poets' Corner (featuring Dan Hoffman, Poet in Residence and Barbara Nissman, widow of Daniel Haberman), 15 November 1993