Burnshaw, Stanley, 1906-2005

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American author, scholar, publisher, editor, and teacher; native of New York.

From the description of Papers, 1927-1987, (bulk 1945-1987). (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122547453

Stanley Burnshaw, born in New York City on June 20, 1906, is a poet, critic, novelist, playwright, publisher, editor, translator, and scholar recognized primarily for his poetry and literary criticism. Burnshaw is probably best known as the author of The Seamless Web (1970), a study of the ontology of poetry and an analysis of its role in human life. Burnshaw's father served as the director of a home for Jewish orphans that attracted nationwide attention and a visit from President Taft. Both of his parents had immigrated to the United States from eastern Europe. Burnshaw movingly tells his father's story in My Friend, My Father, Book III of The Refusers (1981). This is the best source for information on Burnshaw's early life, presented through the eyes of his father. My Friend, My Father was published as a paperback in 1986 by Oxford University Press. Burnshaw's mother's flight is recounted in his poem House in St. Petersburg (collected in Caged in an Animal's Mind, 1963).

Burnshaw enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in 1922, transferred to Columbia University in 1924, and transferred back to the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned his B.A. in 1925. He had planned a career as a teacher and writer; however, he took a job as an advertising copywriter with the Blaw-Knox Steel Corporation in Blawnox, Pennsylvania, to support himself and to save the money for a year of graduate study in Europe. During this period Burnshaw wrote poetry, some of which was published in little magazines, such as the Midland, Voices, and in volume one of The American Caravan (1927), an influential anthology of avant-garde writing edited by Van Wyck Brooks, Alfred Kreymborg, Lewis Mumford, and Paul Rosenfeld. Burnshaw started his own magazine, Poetry Folio, in 1926, setting the type himself. During the late Depression era, Burnshaw's poetry and literary criticism reflected Marxist ideas; however, his political works never reflected a doctrinaire rigidity--merely a desire to better the lot of those most degraded by poverty and industrialism by portraying them honestly.

In 1927 Burnshaw went to Europe to study at the University of Poitiers and later at the Sorbonne. During this period he met and began a long association with the French poet André Spire--his André Spire and His Poetry appeared in 1933. The essays and translations in this book reveal Burnshaw's knowledge of European literature and languages as well as Spire's influence on Burnshaw. In 1928 Burnshaw returned to America and worked as the advertising manager for the Hecht Company in New York and continued his graduate studies at New York University. During this time he also wrote some free-lance literary criticism. In 1932, he resigned from the Hecht Company to begin a year's post-graduate work at Cornell University, from which he graduated with a Master's Degree in 1933.

From January 1934 until July 1936, Burnshaw was co-editor, drama critic, and occasional book reviewer for the New York weekly The New Masses. Burnshaw's writings continued to focus on social injustice throughout the 1930s. Two works that exemplify his thematic focus during this period are The Iron Land (1936), which depicts poetically the lives of steel mill workers, and the verse play The Bridge (1945), which explores the consequences of technology distorted by greed. During the late 1930s Burnshaw became increasingly involved in publishing, first as editor-in-chief for the Cordon Company in New York, then as president and editor-in-chief of his own firm, the Dryden Press, which merged with Holt, Rinehart and Winston in 1958. He remained a vice-president and consultant to the house until 1968.

The Revolt of the Cats in Paradise (1945), a satiric, book-length poem, marks his rejection of Marxism as a solution to socio-economic problems. He lectured on Studies in World Literature at New York University's Graduate School of Book Publishing from 1958-1962. During this period, his work reflected a scholarly frame of reference rather than a political agenda; however, he remained politically active and aware of political issues. In 1960 he edited The Poem Itself, a book that imparts an understanding of modern poems in other languages without recreating the poem in English verse; instead, the poems are translated literally and accompanied by an analytical essay that explicates the nuances, idioms, and allusions unique to each work. The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself (1965) uses the same format (literal translation accompanied by an essay) to explicate Hebrew poems for English language readers. He also edited Varieties of Literary Experience (1962), an anthology of literary essays including his own The Three Revolutions in Modern Poetry. His next collection of poetry, In the Terrified Radiance (1972), includes The Hero of Silence, a sequence of poems on the life of Mallarmé. The Hero of Silence was originally published in 1965 in The Lugano Review and subsequently issued as a pamphlet. Mirages (1977), is a collection of poems dealing with modern Israel. It was later included as an epilogue to The Refusers (1981).

Stanley Burnshaw now divides his time between New York and his home in Martha's Vineyard. He received an award for creative writing from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1971, and in 1983 he was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree by Hebrew Union College--Jewish Institute of Religion. The distinguished London poetry magazine Agenda honored him with a Special Stanley Burnshaw Issue with the Winter-Spring 1983-84 issue. In 1986, he published a biography of Robert Frost entitled Robert Frost Himself. The Stanley Burnshaw Reader (1989), provides an excellent overview of his work in poetry, translation, literary criticism, and biography. Three weeks before his ninetieth birthday, the City University of New York awarded him an honorary doctor of letters degree.

From the guide to the Stanley Burnshaw Papers TXRC93-A78., 1927-1987, (bulk 1945-1987), (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Burnshaw, Stanley, 1906-2005. Papers, 1927-1987, (bulk 1945-1987). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn William Harmon Papers (#4568), 1939-2000 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
referencedIn David Ignatow Papers, 1929-1994 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
creatorOf Anderson, Lee, 1896-1972. Papers, 1933-1976 (inclusive), 1948-1972 (bulk). Washington University in St. Louis, .
referencedIn Jules Feiffer Papers, 1919-1995, (bulk 1950-1990) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Burnshaw, Stanley, 1906-2005. Office files of The American Poetry Review, 1974-1984. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Poetry mss., 1954-2002 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
referencedIn Alfred Kazin collection of papers, 1933-1990, 1933-1978 The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.
referencedIn Gay Wilson Allen Papers, 1801-1988 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Halsband, Robert, 1914-. Robert Halsband papers, 1708-1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn New Directions Publishing records Houghton Library
referencedIn Braithwaite, William Stanley, 1878-1962. Papers, 1897-1930 Houghton Library
referencedIn Harry Levin papers Houghton Library
referencedIn Kenneth Patchen Collection TXRC92-A43., 1929-1978 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Idella Purnell Stone Personal Papers and Records of, Palms, Magazine TCRC98-A24., 1922-1960 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Stone, Idella P., 1901- . Idella P. Stone Personal Papers and Records of Palms, 1922-1960. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Adamic, Louis, 1899-1951,. Letters to Alfred Kreymborg [manuscript], 1921-1956. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Kruse, Alexander Z., 1888-1972. Papers of Alexander Z. Kruse, 1890-1972 (bulk 1930s-1960s). Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
creatorOf Barrett, Clifton Waller, 1901-. Collection of offprints from the library of Clifton Waller Barrett. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Yaddo records, 1870-1980 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Stanley Burnshaw Papers TXRC93-A78., 1927-1987, (bulk 1945-1987) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Harmon, William, 1938-. William Harmon papers, 1939-2000 (correspondents B). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Braithwaite, William Stanley, 1878-1962. Papers of William Stanley Beaumont Braithwaite [manuscript] 1904-1935 (1958). University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn New Directions Publishing records Houghton Library
referencedIn John Hollander Papers, circa 1950-2007 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Gregory, Horace, 1898-1982. Letters, 1936-1971 and undated. University of Toledo, William S. Carlson Library
creatorOf Ryan, Michael, 1946-. Papers of Michael Ryan [manuscript], 1957-1990. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Burnshaw, Stanley, 1906-2005. Correspondence to Van Wyck Brooks, 1951. University of Pennsylvania Library
creatorOf Dickey, James, 1923-. Papers, 1940-1990 (inclusive), 1968-1990 (bulk). Emory University. Special Collections and Archives
referencedIn Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962. Additional papers, 1870-1969. Houghton Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Aiken, Conrad, 1889-1973 person
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associatedWith Yaddo (Artist's colony) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Publishers and publishing
Publishers and publishing
American poetry
Poets, American
Jewish authors
Hebrew poetry, Modern
Poetry, Modern
Poetry, Modern


Birth 1906-06-20

Death 2005-09-16





Spanish; Castilian,




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