Contact Us

The Poet's Work: The John Holmes Collection

The Poet's World

In a world where much is disorderly, much imperfect, the poet is impelled to...make at least one thing harmonious, orderly, perfect.

– Writing Poetry, p.32

As a teacher and mentor of young poets, Holmes was concerned about imparting the work of writing poetry to his students. Using drafts and notes as well as letters and sketches which are contained in the collection, this exhibit traces the evolution of several poems from first draft to finished product.

Up until the late 1940s, Holmes composed drafts of many of his poems by hand in a series of bound notebooks. The contents of this late notebook have been scanned for presentation here.

One of Holmes' longer and more complex poems, "Map of My Country" became the title poem of his third book of verse, published in 1943. In 1954, Holmes created an extensively annotated version of the poem, which is reproduced here.

Along the Row, Holmes' first book of verse, first appeared in 1929, when Holmes was a student in his final year at Tufts College. Holmes' poems about his time at Tufts were later paired with photographs of the campus taken by faculty member Melville H. Munro. Here, the poems and pictures have been supplemented with audio recordings to open a window onto Tufts as it was in 1929.