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Marcia Nardi Papers

A new addition to the Marcia Nardi Papers is now processed and available for use. The addition, which the Beinecke acquired in 2004, contains correspondence and drafts reflecting Nardi’s work with John Edmunds between 1972 and 1983 and provides insight into the later years of Nardi’s life.

Marcia Nardi (1901-1990) was born Lillian Massell in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1921, rather than continue her studies at Wellesley College, she moved to Greenwich Village and remade herself as the poet Marcia Nardi. During this period Nardi contributed poetry and book reviews to publications such as the Nation, New Republic, Quarterly Review of Literature, the New York Times, and the New York Herald Tribune.

The birth of Nardi’s son Paul in 1926 and the responsibilities of motherhood required Nardi to curtail her writing in order to earn a living through odd jobs (such as clerking at a department store, waitressing, and proofreading). In her later years Nardi regretted the time she spent working odd jobs rather than writing poetry, stating in a letter to John Edmunds:

As to my own poetry, I am completely submerged in a feeling of complete frustration about it because I am (in retrospect) very bitter about all the wasted time I had to spend on an editor for McGraw-Hill and St. Martin’s Press (nine years) and prior to that, as a waitress and sales clerk, as a result of all the extreme poverty that I’ve had to struggle with at the sacrifice of hundreds of unborn poems (Box 2, Folder 28, January 14, 1982).

In 1942 Nardi met William Carlos Williams with whom she began a correspondence. Williams used Nardi’s letters, which discuss the difficulties of being a female poet in contemporary literary circles, in his epic poem Paterson. Williams also encouraged Nardi to publish her poetry, an endeavor that came to fruition with Nardi’s first book, Poems, published by Swallow Press in 1956.

Yet the publication of Nardi’s book did not provide her with financial freedom to focus on her poetry and Nardi continued to struggle with poverty, health problems, loneliness, and increasing doubts as to her creative abilities. During the 1970s and early 1980s John Edmunds worked with Nardi in order publish a book of her collected poems. As their correspondence documents, Nardi and Edmunds’ relationship went beyond professional, with Edmunds providing Nardi with financial and emotional support.

Nardi and Edmunds successfully compiled a draft of Nardi’s collected poems, however, Edmunds died of cancer before the project culminated in a publication. Although Nardi’s collected poems were never published, her papers contain a draft prepared for publication as well as correspondence reflecting their relationship and the creative process involved in publishing a collection of poetry. (HD)

A description of the collection can be found online: Marcia Nardi Papers and Marcia Nardi Finding Aid Database. Marcia Nardi’s published work can be located by searching Yale's online Orbis database.

Images: Photo of Marcia Nardi from Rossetti to Sexton: Six Women Poets at Texas, edited by David Oliphant, Austin: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, 1992; excerpt from manuscript, "Late Love," Marcia Nardi Papers, YCAL Mss 70, Box 2, Folder 35.

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