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John Ciardi: The Vince Clemente Collection

Collection Number
SC 371

OCLC Number


Donated in June 2003 by Vince Clemente.

Extent, Scope, and Content Note 
The John Ciardi Memorabilia: The Vince Clemente Collection is comprised of one cubic ft. of  program and exhibition flyers, newspaper clippings, periodicals, books, and broadsides related to John Ciardi. 

Arrangement and Processing Note
Processed by Kristen J. Nyitray, August 2003; updated March 2014 and May 2019.


Restrictions on Access
The collection is open to researchers without restriction.

Rights and Permissions 
Stony Brook University Libraries' consent to access as the physical owner of the collection does not address copyright issues that may affect publication rights. It is the sole responsibility of the user of Special Collections and University Archives materials to investigate the copyright status of any given work and to seek and obtain permission where needed prior to publication.  

[Item], [Box], John Ciardi Memorabilia: The Vince Clemente Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, Stony Brook University Libraries.  

Historical Note
In June 2003, Vince Clemente, an acclaimed poet and professor, donated approximately one cubic foot of John Ciardi memorabilia to Stony Brook University. The collection is comprised of program and exhibition flyers, newspaper clippings, periodicals, books, and broadsides which provides insight into the literary and personal life of John Ciardi.

John Ciardi was born in 1916 in Boston, Massachusetts, and was the child of Italian immigrants. He attended Bates College and Tufts College (now University) and received his master's degree from the University of Michigan in 1939. He was the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, among them The Collected Poems of John Ciardi (University of Arkansas Press, 1997), The Birds of Pompeii (1985), The Little That Is All (1974), Person to Person (1964), and Other Skies (1947). Ciardi is perhaps best known for How Does a Poem Mean? (1959), which became a standard text for college and high school poetry courses. He also wrote an acclaimed translation of Dante's Divine Comedy, was a regular commentator on National Public Radio, and served as editor of Saturday Review for many years. He began his career teaching English at the University of Kansas City, and, after serving a three-year term in the Air Force, went on to teach at Harvard University in 1946. He remained at Harvard as the Briggs-Copeland Instructor in English until 1953, when he accepted a position at Rutgers University. In 1961, Ciardi broke with the educational establishment to devote himself to his own literary endeavors, although he remained an active and visible member of the academic community through lectures, poetry readings, and appearances on educational television. He began writing children's poetry as a way of getting his own children interested in reading. These works, especially I Met a Man Who Sang the Sillies (1961), became tremendously popular. Ciardi was a vocal proponent of exposing poetry to mass audiences, and he made a conscientious effort to address the average reader through much of his work without sacrificing complexity or formal intricacy. His verse, which often eschewed contemporary poetic trends and the "elevated" themes Ciardi associated with romantic and sentimental sensibilities, gained a large public following. Ciardi's awards and honors include a grant from The Fund for the Advancement of Education and the Prix de Rome from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. He died of a heart attack in 1986 in Edison, New Jersey, but not before composing his own epitaph: "Here, time concurring (and it does); / Lies Ciardi. If no kingdom come, / A kingdom was. Such as it was / This one beside it is a slum."

Vince Clemente stated: "Paumanok, aboriginal name for Long indeed poets' country. Walt Whitman was born here in 1819 at West Hills. His ancestral home still stands; I serve as a trustee of his birthplace and worked at the very desk he used when he taught at Woodbury, Long Island, as a nineteen year old schoolmaster. Whitman was my first poet; I began reading Leaves of Grass at fifteen, walking under the New Utrecht El in Brooklyn, New York. He remains for me an abiding presence, a `gauge and tally' of my poems.

"As a Long Island poet-editor-critic, I carried these voices with me--these, my good ghosts, who have taught me that Paumanok is indeed a sacramental universe. As Mount culled his pigments from his native Setauket-Stony Brook sandstone, I culled my poet's music from these voices out of the past--out there, beyond the fog banks.

"Finally, John Ciardi, the hero of my manhood, remains the father of my spirit. He was also a cherished friend. My book John Ciardi: Measure of the Man is payment of a debt long sustained. Ciardi taught me the holy calling of the writer's vocation, that `clean white paper, waiting under a pen/ Is a gift beyond history, and hurt, and heaven.' I will continue to write about the man and his legacy as long as I live."

John Ciardi: Measure of the Man is payment of a debt long sustained. Ciardi taught me the holy calling of the writer's vocation, that clean white paper, waiting under a pen/ Is a gift beyond history, and hurt, and heaven.' I will continue to write about the man and his legacy as long as I live."

Professor Clemente's writings include:
Snow Owl above Stony Brook Harbor (limited edition), Four Rivers Press (Stony Brook, NY), 1977.
Songs from Puccini (poetry), Street Press (Port Jefferson, NY), 1978.
From This Book of Praise (criticism), Street Press, 1978.
(Editor with others) Paumanok Rising (anthology), Street Press, 1981.
Broadbill Off Conscience Bay (poetry), Backstreet Editions (Port Jefferson, NY), 1982.
(Editor) John Ciardi: Measure of the Man, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AK), 1987.
Girl in the Yellow Caboose (poetry), Karma Dog Press, 1992.
This Shining Place (poetry), Birnem Woods Press, 1994.
Place for Lost Children (poetry), Karma Dog Press, 1996.
(Source: Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2003)

Ciardi, John -- 1916-1986
Poets, American -- 20th century.
Poets, American.
Clemente, Vince.


Folder 1: Photographs
1) John Ciardi at Bread Loaf, 1971. Color, 3" x 5".
2) Vince Clemente at Hofstra University: "The Ciardi at Hofstra Exhibit," August 1987. Black and white, 8"x 10".

Folder 2: Memorial Program
John Ciardi Memorial Program, Kirkpatrick Chapel, Rutgers Univertsity, September 24, 1986. Program signed by Vince Clemente, first speaker.

Folder 3: Clippings
John Ciardi and John Holmes from The Tuftonian, Tufts University.

Folder 4: Flyer
John Ciardi: Poet in Residence, Walt Whitman Birthplace, June 3, 1984. Event arranged by Vince Clemente.

Folder 5: Broadside
"Memoir of a Damaged Harp Teacher." Published for Ciardi's June 3, 1984 Residency, Walt Whitman Birthplace.

Folder 6: Hand-drawn Map
Map of "Windsor Village," John Ciardi's Key West, Florida home, for Vince and Ann Clemente, January 1986.

Folder 7: Exhibit Program
"John Ciardi, Man of Letters," Hofstra University Library, Items 1-117 Items of Exhibit from "The Vince Clemente Collection."

Folder 8: Program
Program at Sag Harbor's John Jermain Library: "The Life and Legacy of John Ciardi," October 9, 1999. Lectures, Readings, and Exhibit of John Ciardi items from "The Vince Clemente Collection." Event arranged by Vince Clemente.

Folder 9: Manuscript by Vince Clemente
"Some Lines-Lifelines-in John Ciardi." To be published in The South Carolina Review, early 2004.

Folder 10: Article by Vince Clemente
"John Ciardi: Flowering of the Italian-American Experience," Port Folio, October, 2000.


Note: The books listed below have been cataloged and are shelved in Special Collections.

Vince Clemente. John Ciardi: Measure of the Man (University of Arkansas Press, 1987). First hardbound copy, with notes about the creation of the book, by Vince Clemente, as well as essays signed by the following writers: Vince Clemente, XJ Kennedy, Richard Elman, William Heyen, Norbert Krapf, and John Tagliabue.
Call number: Spec PS 3505 .I27 Z765 1987

John Frederick Nims. Knowledge of the Evening (Rutgers University Press, 1960). This volume belonged to John Ciardi, and includes Ciardi's signature as well as his annotated notes while reading the volume. Included is a December 1994 note from J.F. Nims to Vince Clemente about the text: "A book signed by J. Ciardi deserved better than ending up in the Strand."
Call number: Spec PS 3527 .I863 K6

John Holmes. Map of My Country (Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1943). Inscribed by Holmes to Dorothy Wyman. John Holmes was Ciardi's teacer-mentor-friend at Tufts; appears in John Ciardi: Measure of the Man; Ciardi's Selected Poems (University of Arkansas Press, 1984) is "for John Holmes and Roy W. Cowden, in loving gratitude."
Call number: Spec PS3515 .04445 M3 1943.