Kenward Elmslie

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Kenward Elmslie
Elmslie as a senior at Harvard University, 1950
Elmslie as a senior at Harvard University, 1950
Born(1929-04-27)April 27, 1929
New York City, New York
Alma materHarvard University (B.A. English, 1950)
Literary movementThe New York School

Kenward Gray Elmslie (born April 27, 1929) is an American writer, performer, editor and publisher associated with the New York School of poetry.

Life and career[edit]

Born in New York City, Elmslie, a grandson of publisher Joseph Pulitzer, spent his childhood in Colorado Springs, Colorado, prepped at the St. Mark's School in Southborough, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard in 1950 with a B.A. in literature. He began his career collaborating with composers on operas and musicals in an attempt to bring a contemporary style to classical theater. Among his theatrical works are The Grass Harp and Lola, both projects in collaboration with Claibe Richardson.

His poetry and prose is often combined with the graphical work of other artists. A collection of his writing, Motor Disturbance (1971), won the Frank O'Hara Award for Poetry in 1971. He was awarded the National Endowment of the Arts Award for Power Plant Sestina (1967) and the Ford Foundation Grant.

In 1973 Elmslie began work as editor and publisher of Z Magazine and Z Press, working to promote the work of other New York School artists such as John Ashbery, Ron Padgett, James Schuyler, and perhaps most extensively, long time partnerJoe Brainard. Elmslie's work with graphic artists such as Brainard combined poetry with art to emphasize their interconnectedness; his work in theatre demonstrates his commitment to art as a whole, not only to one medium. Poet Alice Notley says of Elmslie's Routine Disruptions (1998), “this is an icon, for me, of Elmslie's work, its wild funniness, theatricality, brazenness, its love of art and objects”.



  • Miss Julie (1965)
  • Lizzie Borden (1965)
  • The Sweet Bye and Bye (1966)
  • City Junket (1972)
  • The Seagull (1974)
  • Washington Square (1976)
  • Three Sisters (1987)
  • The Grass Harp (1972)
  • Postcards on Parade (1993)

Poetry and Prose[edit]

  • Pavilions (1961)
  • Power Plant Sestina (1967)
  • Album (1969)
  • Girl Machine (1971)
  • Circus Nerves (1971)
  • Motor Disturbance (1971)
  • The Orchid Stories (1973)
  • Tropicalism (1975)
  • The Alphabet Work (1977)
  • Topiary Trek (1977)
  • Communications Equipment (1979)
  • Moving Right Along (1980)
  • Sung Sex (1992)
  • Champ Dust (1994)
  • Bare Bones (1995)
  • Routine Disruptions (1998)
  • Agenda Melt (2004)

Collaborations with visual artists[edit]

  • The Baby Book (1965)
  • The 1967 Gamebook Calendar (1967)
  • The Champ (1968)
  • Shiny Ride (1972)
  • 26 Bars (1987)
  • Bimbo Dirt (1982)
  • Palais Bimbo Snapshots (1982)
  • Pay Dirt (1992)
  • Nite Soil (2000)
  • Cyperspace (2000)


  • Love Wise composer: Marvin Fisher. Recorded by Nat King Cole
  • Bang Bang Tango, composer: Kenneth Deifik. Recorded by Estelle Parsons.


  • Ford, Mark. New York Poets II: An Anthology. Carcanet Press, 2006
  • Bamberger, William C. Kenward Elmslie: A Bibliographical Profile. Bamberger Books, 1993.
  • Notley, Alice. “Elsmlie’s Routine Disruptions,” St. Mark’s Poetry Project Newsletter, 1999.

External links[edit]