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John Wieners collection

Collection MS-1994-032: John Wieners collection


  • Creation: 1952 - 2008
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1953 - 1968

Scope and Contents

The John Wieners collection includes correspondence between John Wieners and his friend and mentor Charles Olson, with whom Wieners studied at Black Mountain College. Their letters date between 1955 and 1967 and discuss poetry, metaphysical concerns, the literary scene in Boston and New York, Black Mountain College, mutual friends, and fellow poets including Robin Blaser, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Gerrit Lansing, Frank O'Hara, Michael Rumaker, and Jack Spicer. There is also a small amount of correspondence related to Wieners's attendance at Black Mountain College. The second, smaller set of correspondence in this collection is between Wieners and his friend Robert W. Greene, whom he met at Boston College while working on the literary magazine the Stylus. Wieners wrote to Greene from 1955-1958 about Black Mountain College, his poetry, mutual friends, and life in San Francisco and Boston. The Robert W. Greene - John Wieners materials also include later correspondence in which Greene recalls his friendship with Wieners, and notes compiled by Greene that identify many of the places, people, and incidents referred to in Wieners's letters.

This collection also contains manuscripts by Olson, Wieners, and Michael Rumaker, as well as fliers and a newsletter pertaining to Charles Olson, and a bibliography of Olson's works. Several of Wieners's manuscripts are notes taken in Olson's classes at Black Mountain College.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

John Joseph Wieners was born on January 6, 1934, to Albert Eugene and Anna Elizabeth Laffan Wieners in Milton, Massachusetts. Wieners was raised in a middle-class Irish Catholic household and attended Boston College, where he worked in the library, wrote for the Heights, and was literary editor of the Stylus. He graduated with an A.B. in English in 1954. Feeling that his traditional Jesuit education had not allowed him enough time to pursue his literary interests, Wieners attended Black Mountain College from 1955-1956, where he studied with Charles Olson and Robert Duncan and met Robert Creeley.

In 1956 Wieners returned to Boston and worked as an actor and stage manager for the Poets Theater in Cambridge and as a library clerk at Harvard’s Lamont Library. He also founded and edited the literary magazine Measure (1957-1962). In 1957 Wieners moved to San Francisco with his lover Dana, arriving during the flowering of the Beat poetry movement. In San Francisco Wieners encountered many authors and poets, including Michael Rumaker, Robin Blaser, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Spicer, David Meltzer, and Jack Kerouac. However, his relationship with Dana did not survive the move, and a heartbroken Wieners retreated to a cheap boardinghouse and composed The Hotel Wentley Poems, published in 1958.

In late 1959, Wieners returned to the East Coast. He was institutionalized for a time in early 1960 and again in 1961. With a grant from the Poetry Foundation, Wieners moved to New York in 1961, returning to Boston in 1963. His second book, Ace of Pentacles, was published in 1964. Encouraged by his friend and mentor Charles Olson, Wieners took a position as a teaching fellow at the State University of New York, Buffalo from 1965-1967. Olson and Wieners had a falling out in 1966, possibly related to Panna Grady, a New York heiress and patroness of the arts who was living with Wieners. Grady became pregnant but left Wieners and terminated the pregnancy. That fall, Grady and Olson travelled to London together. Olson and Wieners later reconciled.

Wieners settled in Boston and, despite repeated hospitalizations for nervous breakdowns in the late 1960s and 1970s, went on to publish some of his most well-regarded books, including Pressed Wafer (1967), Asylum Poems (1969), and Nerves (1970), followed by Behind the State Capital, Or Cincinnati Pike (1975). Two collections, Selected Poems 1958-1984 and Cultural Affairs in Boston: Poetry and Prose, 1956-1985, were published by Black Sparrow Press. Wieners died in Boston on March 1, 2002.


Boston College. Sub Turri, 1954.

Brady, Andrea. “The Other Poet: John Wieners, Frank O’Hara, Charles Olson.” Jacket Magazine 32 (April 2007).

Foye, Raymond, ed. John Wieners: Selected Poems, 1958-1984. Santa Barbara, CA: Black Sparrow Press, 1986.

Foye, Raymond. “John Wieners.” In The Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 16: The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America, edited by Ann Charters, 572-583. Storrs-Mansfield, CT: University of Connecticut, 1983.

John Wieners collection, MS.1994.032, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Mirage: John Wieners issue. San Francisco, CA: Kevin Killian, 1985.

Petro, Pamela. “The Hipster of Joy Street.” Boston College Magazine (Fall 2000): 43-51.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 container )

Language of Materials



The John Wieners collection contains correspondence, manuscripts, and ephemera of the American Beat poet John Wieners (1934-2002). The majority of the correspondence is to Wieners from his mentor Charles Olson, with a smaller amount from Wieners to his friend and fellow Boston College alumnus Robert W. Greene. Letters discuss Wieners's attendance at Black Mountain College, the poetry scenes in Boston and San Francisco, and other contemporary authors including Robin Blaser, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Gerrit Lansing, Frank O'Hara, Michael Rumaker, and Jack Spicer. Manuscripts include poems by Wieners, Olson, and Rumaker.


This collection is arranged in two series: I. Correspondence; II. Manuscripts and ephemera. Correspondence has two subseries: A. Charles Olson - John Wieners materials; B. Robert Greene - John Wieners materials. These subseries are arranged chronologically. Manuscripts are arranged alphabetically by author or title.

Custodial History

The correspondence between Charles Olson and John Wieners passed from Wieners to Sam and Ann Charters between 1967 and 1970. The Charterses sold the collection circa 1986.


Purchases, 1986 and 2004, and gift of Robert W. Greene, 2008.

Related Materials

John Wieners Papers, Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

John Wieners Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library.

John Wieners Papers, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library.

Separated Materials

Books and published materials in this collection have been transferred to the John J. Burns Library book collections.

Processing Information

This collection was reprocessed, incorporating new accessions, in February 2013. It was originally processed by Brendan Coffey in 1994.

John Wieners Collection
1953-2008 (bulk 1953-1968)
Adrienne Pruitt
February 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States