Leeds University Library

The Leeds Poetry 1950-1980 project

Leeds University Library holds extensive archives (including original manuscripts, correspondence and tape-recordings) relating to poets working at or connected with the University between 1950 and 1980. As a whole, these resources bear witness to a vibrant regional literary culture centred on the University in the post-war period, and have much to offer scholars, historians, and readers of modern English poetry.

For many years, the research value of the Leeds Poetry collections was constrained, largely as a result of deficiencies and inconsistencies in their cataloguing. Records for constituent groups of material were held in different formats, to different standards, and with differing levels of detail; some of the resources were completely unrecorded. Despite the scope of the collections, it was difficult to pursue common themes across manuscript groups, or to investigate the inter-relationships between the poets; much significant information was virtually inaccessible.

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In June 2005 the University was awarded a Resource Enhancement grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), to facilitate a two-year project designed to bring enhanced information about these related archives together and to promote their use. The Leeds Poetry 1950-1980 Project was initially directed by Professor Edward Larrissy of the University's School of English in partnership with Dr Oliver Pickering of Leeds University Library. Professor John Whale became a co-director of the Project in June 2007 when Professor Larrissy took up the Chair in Poetry at Queens University, Belfast. Kathryn Jenner was the Project's Research Officer, assisted by Stephanie Nield from April 2006 to February 2007.

The Project has enabled the creation of a detailed, multi-level, web-delivered catalogue for seventeen related collections, with extensive cross-references and indexes. The interface is provided through the Leeds Poetry web pages, which provide information about the nature of the Leeds Poetry resource and its context, both local and national. During the cataloguing process, items from the collections were rehoused, where necessary, in archival-standard boxes and enclosures as a means of ensuring their longer-term preservation. Recordings of poetry readings held on open reel tapes have been digitized to ensure their preservation and enable access.