In celebration of National Poetry Month, the Anne Blonstein Association and the Poetry Collection are pleased to present anne blonstein continuing. Curated by Maria Cecilia Holt and Alison Fraser, with additional help from Elizabeth Crummins, student assistant to the Poetry Collection, this digital exhibit is based on materials from the Poetry Collection’s Anne Blonstein Collection. Anne Blonstein (1958-2011) was a British poet and plant geneticist who lived in Basel, Switzerland for most of her life. This exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of the collection and Blonstein’s life and work, including juvenilia such as a gradebook and early composition book; materials related to Blonstein’s doctoral and postdoctoral work in plant genetics; notebooks and diaries documenting her expansive creative life and diverse research interests; manuscripts, notes, and drafts of poems; and her extensive correspondence with other writers, family, and friends.
While her collection reflects Anne Blonstein’s meticulous approach to research and writing, it also illuminates her interest in the possibilities of palimpsest. In her notebooks, autograph drafts of poems are hidden beneath typed fair copies that have been taped onto the page, while notes, clippings, or postcards appear on facing pages, creating layers of excavation. In an email pasted into the blue pearl notebook (2000), she addresses this poetics directly, writing to a friend about reading HD’s Palimpsest before confessing, “I’m palimpsesting myself at the moment…” Palimpsest creates its own record and history, reflecting an archival impulse with which Blonstein was long familiar. In a letter to her mother written in 1982, she wrote, “Re. my papers in the garage—you won’t throw them out will you (I’m sure you won’t), and I promise to look through them when I’m home next, though what I shall do with what I want to keep I’m not sure.” Thanks to the generosity and dedication of friends from the Anne Blonstein Association, Anne Blonstein’s papers are now available for public research and inspiration in the Poetry Collection. anne blonstein continuing offers a warm introduction.
This photograph, pasted in Anne Blonstein’s diary entry on September 11, 1996, commemorates when Anne Blonstein met Charles Lock at a conference in Solothurn, Switzerland sponsored by the British Council. Anne Blonstein would eventually ask Charles Lock to be her literary executor and Patrick King, her postdoctoral supervisor at Friedrich Meischer-Institut (see Figure 8), to be her executor. Charles Lock appears in the back row at the far right; Anne Blonstein appears in the front row, third in from the left. See Figure 9 for the full page and complete participant identification.
Anne Blonstein’s book correspondence with nobody (ellectrique Press, 2008) was inspired by Sheila Blonstein, her mother.
Anne Blonstein was formally accepted to the postdoctoral fellowship at the Friedrich Meischer-Institut, under the supervision of Patrick King, on August 25, 1982.
the blue pearl (Salt Publishing, 2003) was Anne Blonstein’s first book-length poetry publication. One image shows the inserted leaf unfolded, the other shows it closed and turned.
In this notebook, Anne Blonstein taped fair copies of her poems over the handwritten drafts.
Anne Blonstein collaborated with the composer Mela Meierhans on a series of works, including canthus to canthus.
Maria Cecilia Holt has a doctorate from Harvard University’s Divinity School. She has conducted research on the “textuality of textiles” as well as on burial and oratory, both in early Christianity and in anthropological accounts of indigenous funeral traditions in Southeast Asia. Holt’s work in organizing Anne Blonstein’s archive began in 2017. By this time, she had worked with John Uecker (James Purdy’s literary executor and last assistant to Tennessee Williams) to facilitate the transfer of significant materials and drafts connected with Tennessee Williams’s last play—In Masks Outrageous and Austere—to Harvard’s Houghton Library (2015). Together with Charles Lock, Holt also worked with Uecker to bury James Purdy’s ashes according to the late writer’s wishes—near to the grave of Dame Edith Sitwell at Weedon Lois, Northamptonshire, UK. Holt’s account of Purdy’s burial was published in the European Journal of Life Writing in 2020.