August 16, 1999
Rome is latest stopover for popular Patchen Archive
By Barbara McKenna
As home to the archive of poet Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972), Special Collections of
UCSC's University Library receives visits from Patchen devotees from all corners
of the globe. But in recent years, as requests to view the works increase both in
the U.S. and abroad, Special Collections head Rita Bottoms has obligingly loaned
select Patchen pieces to several institutions overseas.
|View more Patchen art
|Miriam Patchen (left) and Rita Bottoms at the Fontana di Trevi in Rome
Most recently, Bottoms took two portfolios containing a total of 36 of Patchen's
silkscreen prints to Italy. The trip took place in June. Bottoms was accompanied
by Patchen's widow, Miriam Patchen. The two traveled to the Centro Studi Americani
in Rome where they participated in a public program and exhibition focusing on UCSC's
Kenneth Patchen Archive. Among those in attendance were professor Maria Anita Stefanelli
of the Università Roma Tre, who originally proposed the visit, and two of
her students whose master's work focuses on Patchen.
"Anyone who's doing Patchen research wants to come to UCSC, but it isn't always
possible," Bottoms explained. "For those Italian students, our visit was
an amazing opportunity to see Patchen's work firsthand and to meet Miriam, the poet's
The silkscreen prints are only one part of the archive, which includes more than
150 of Patchen's "painted poems"--colorful paintings that incorporate free-verse
poetry and surrealistic and whimsical creatures and images. The archive also contains
the manuscripts for some three dozen books of poetry and prose published during Patchen's
lifetime as well as Patchen's letters, painted books, papier-mâché creatures,
and recordings of some of his poetry readings.
The silkscreen prints have had a lot of exposure in recent years. In June 1998,
they were the focus of events at two major London venues--a reading at the Tate Gallery
and an exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall's Poetry Library.
In 1997, when Patchen's work was the subject of a special tribute at the Naropa Institute
in Boulder Colorado, both Bottoms and Miriam Patchen were invited to attend as panel
members and to speak about Patchen's work and the UCSC archive. The institute used
one of the archive's pieces on the cover of its 1998 edition of Bombay
Gin, the esteemed literary magazine of the institute's Jack Kerouac School of
While the next Patchen exhibition is not yet planned, Web users will soon be able
to see some of the pieces in the archive when the California Digital Library puts
them online as part of the Online Archive of California (OAC).
Patchen's works are among a few important items being selected for UCSC's inaugural
contribution to the California Arts section of the OAC. The online presence is an
exciting event, Bottoms says, because it will provide the public with immediate access
to some of the archive's stunning images.
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