Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Ted Berrigan papers, 1961-1975

Summary Information


A second generation New York School poet, Ted Berrigan's life and work was heavily influenced by the Beat poets whom he greatly admired. This collection of personal letters and journals allows insight into the poet's thought processes and inspirations.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0113
Bib ID 4079232 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Berrigan, Ted
Title Ted Berrigan papers, 1961-1975
Physical Description 1.26 linear feet (3 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 on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.



This collection is arranged in two series.



The Ted Berrigan collection is divided into two distinct series. The first consists of letters from him to his first wife Sandy during her time in a mental institution in Miami in 1962. Her parents had her committed and had Ted run out of town after learning of their marriage. Most of these letters are typed, but a few are handwritten. Berrigan includes drawings, photographs, and a few newspaper/magazine clippings. The letters describe his work and travels during the two months they are apart as well as his efforts to convince her parents to change their minds. Most of the letters are dated, and there are several envelopes with postmarks. The second part of the collection consists of thirteen of Berrigan's journals dating from January 1961 to March 1975. The journals include both professional and personal aspects of Berrigan's life. He writes of relationships, including his tumultuous marriage to Sandy and his second marriage to Alice Notley. He writes of the influence of other poets and artists, specifically Frank O'Hara and Andy Warhol, both of whom he met. Many of the entries include his poetry and lists of his daily activities. Also included are numerous lists of poems/poets, books, and films of interest to Berrigan. There are many photographs, newspaper/magazine clippings, letters, and drawings (several of which are by Joe Brainard) affixed to the pages of the journals. Friends Dick Gallup, Ron Padgett, Joe Brainard, and Robert Creeley are mentioned frequently. In several of the later volumes, he begins writing from both sides of the journal, leaving several of the middle pages blank.

  • Series I: Letters to Sandra Alper Berrigan, 1962

  • Series II: Journals, 1961-1975

    Each of the thirteen journals cover a range of time from three months to three years within a single volume. A few of the volumes overlap in year covered. Also included in this series is a folder of miscellaneous clippings and letters which were removed from the first two volumes of the journals, 1961 and 1962.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on 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 on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Ted Berrigan Papers, 1961-1975; Box and Folder (if known); Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Material-- At Columbia

Kulchur Foundation Records

Ted Berrigan Papers, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center of the University of Connecticut

C: A Journal of Poetry Archive, Fales Library and Special Collections of New York University

Joe Brainard Archive, Mandeville Special Collections Library of the University of California, San Diego


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

697736 (1978); 297 - 1982: Date of acquisition--1978. Accession number--M78-12.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

697736 (1978); 297 - 1982 Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 04/05/89.

Papers processed Christina N. Manzella, Pratt SILS 2011 07/--/2010.

Finding aid written Christina N. Manzella, Pratt SILS 2011 07/--/2010.

Revision Description

2010-09-29 xml documeent instance created by Carrie Hintz

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

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:"
Diaries Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poems Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
American poetry -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Berrigan, Sandy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bohemianism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Brainard, Joe, 1942-1994 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poets Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Ted Berrigan, born Edmund Joseph Michael Berrigan, Jr. in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1934, was a member of the second generation of the New York School of Poets. After a year at Providence College, Berrigan enlisted in the army. He served in Korea, and, upon his return, enrolled at the University of Tulsa where he received his bachelor's degree in English in 1959 and his master's in 1962.

Considering himself a late Beat poet, Berrigan drew inspiration from American Expressionism. He also embraced the Beat lifestyle, hitchhiking across the United States and experimenting with drugs. His work is most often compared to that of Frank O'Hara, a poet whom he greatly admired and mentioned in his earlier journals.

In 1962, Berrigan met and married Sandra Alpers who was eight years his junior and considered a minor in her home state of Florida. Sandy, as he called her, spent the first two months of their marriage in a mental institution in Miami where her parents had her committed because of the marriage. The two went on to have two children, David and Kate, before separating in 1965, due in large part to Berrigan's infidelities. In 1972 he married poet Alice Notley, and they had two sons, Anselm and Edmund.

Berrigan published his most significant work, The Sonnets, in 1964. That same year he, along with Ron Padgett and Joe Brainard, founded C: A Journal of Poetry. Berrigan also met with success in the classroom, gaining student followings at the various schools where he taught courses in poetry.

Berrigan was in poor health and essentially homebound his final few years after decades of drug use and diet pill abuse. Ted Berrigan died in July 1983 at the age of 48.