Martha King Collection
Scope and Contents
The Martha King Collection, 1976-1999 (bulk 1983-1995), covers the editorial and business records of Giants Play Well In The Drizzle and other publications edited by Martha King including the Northern Lights Poetry Chaplets Series, as well as personal records for King including manuscripts, correspondence, and poetry community ephemera. Materials in the collection include manuscripts, production material, original artwork, correspondence, newspaper clippings, ephemera, flyers, and financial materials.
The collection is organized into three series: correspondence, Giants Play Well In The Drizzle, and other work. The correspondence series is the largest series at 507 folders and contains both letters sent to King and Giants Play Well In The Drizzle, and King’s carbon copy and photocopied responses. This series includes correspondence, manuscript submissions, proofs, original artwork, and ephemera. Notable correspondents include artist Gerald Burns, Ted Enslin, Jack Foley, Jim Haining, and August Kleinzahler.
The Giants Play Well In The Drizzle series is broken up into two subseries: Giants Play Well In The Drizzle magazine and "The Whole Drizzle," an unpublished anthology based on the magazine. The magazine subseries contains all material designated for issues one through thirty, as well as for a proposed but unpublished thirty-first issue, including correspondence, manuscripts, proofs, and published issues. Several correspondents—most notably Robert Creeley and George Butterick—are not represented in the correspondence series but have significant presence here. The subseries also includes accepted but unpublished manuscripts, and issues of the magazine returned to King by the US Postal Service. The Whole Drizzle subseries contains King’s proposal for the project, which would gather together every poem published by the magazine, as well as financial appeals, correspondence, and other financial records.
Other work is divided into six subseries: Northern Lights, SpotS, The Bubba Mesia, “The greeks were always writing…,” Entropic Paradigm, and Steven Peyster translations of Apollinaire. In 1990, King took over production of the London-based poetry pamphlet series Northern Lights, which was originally published by Michael Carlson. Each pamphlet featured the work of a single poet. The subseries includes published copies of the then-London-based pamphlets, as well as manuscripts, correspondence, production materials, and business records related to the publication under King's editorship. King evolved the publication into a new project, SpotS, which ran for two issues, ceasing in 1995. The subseries includes proofs, correspondence, manuscripts, and production materials as well as mailing lists. The Bubba Mesia, or A Grandmother’s Tale, was designed and edited by King for the Steinberg/Shepherd family as a keepsake recording the family tree and family stories. Included materials are manuscripts, publication proofs, and correspondence between King and John, Sandy, and Betty Shepherd, who spearheaded the project. “The greeks were always writing…” file contains correspondence and manuscripts by King related to the publication of a broadside with Zelot Press. The Entropic Paradigm file contains published copies of the magazine as well as a broadside. Steven Peyster’s translations of Apollinaire contain manuscripts and a photocopied version of the French original.
- 1976 - 1999
- Majority of material found within 1983 - 1995
Language of Materials
Material is written in English, with some French.
Conditions Governing Access
The Martha King Collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the Poetry Collection before requesting photocopies and/or publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Once permission is obtained, most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.
Biographical / Historical
Martha King, a publisher and poet, was born Martha Davis in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1937. King spent her early years in New York City before her family moved in 1950 to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where her father, Lambert Davis, became director of the University of North Carolina Press.1 At the University of North Carolina bookstore, King found a copy of the Black Mountain Review with an essay by Robert Creeley, writing that opened her eyes to the experimental work being done at Black Mountain College. King applied for the summer 1955 session—the second to last summer for the college. Her letter of acceptance read: “Come with what money you have in hand and what you are used to for cooking.—Charles Olson, Rector.”2 That summer, students included Tom Field, William McNeill, Michael Rumaker, and Joe Dunn; faculty included Stefan Wolpe, Joe Fiore, Olson, and Creeley; and independent agents included Dan Rice, Ed Dorn, Jonathan Williams, and Fielding Dawson, who visited sporadically. Although Black Mountain challenged King, it also showed her an alternative path for women, one that legitimized a career as a poet rather than simply as a housewife.
After Black Mountain, King moved west, eventually landing in San Francisco in 1957, where she reconnected with Black Mountain poets John Wieners and Joe Dunn at a City Lights Books reading. It was at this reading that she met artist and fellow Black Mountain alum Basil King, who became her lifelong partner. Wieners provided the new couple premarital counseling on the street by giving them an astrology reading, kissing their foreheads, and assuring them, “You’ll be fine. It works.”3
In 1959, the couple moved to New York City and joined the dynamic social circle of poets, artists, and bohemians who congregated at the Cedar Street Tavern, a group that including Allen Ginsberg, Paul Blackburn, Frank O’Hara, LeRoi Jones, Diane di Prima, and Dan Rice. King worked a series of office jobs, including for an advertising company, a knitting company, and Random House. The couple had two daughters, Mallory and Hetty, while King earned a reputation within the community as a typist, transcribing speeches by Malcolm X, journals by Hubert Huncke, and manuscripts by points with means. After a decade in Manhattan, the Kings permanently moved to Brooklyn in 1969.
In 1975 King published her first book, Women and Children First, published by Two and Two Press, which was co-edited by King and Susan Sherman. It was followed in 1978 by Weather, published by New Rivers Press, which included drawings by Basil.
King has written of this time, “I didn’t play well with others. Instead I played on my own.”4 This independent spirit led to the creation of the magazine Giants Play Well In the Drizzle, which was published from 1983-1993. The title was inspired by a newspaper headline referring to the New York Giants football team. The first two issues were supported by the Assembling Foundation, but subsequent publications were supported by King and donations from readers. The magazine was distributed for free and produced as cheaply as possible: three pieces of paper were printed on both sides, and then folded up three ways, with one leaf left empty for the address and stamp. King created mock-ups using scotch tape and photocopying, and then photocopied the dummy to create an issue. After she had wrapped up production, King wrote to Sylvester Pollet (in a letter found in the collection) that she had published over 200 people in Drizzle, “the wild, the fine, the dirt bags; minimalist zealots, zine-scene hysterics; ancients (like Gael Turnbull, to whose Migrant, of course, Drizz owes parental deference); classics (like Bob Creeley); and even a couple of little kids.”
In the early 1990s, King also assumed editorship of Michael Carlson’s Northern Lights poetry pamphlet series, which featured one poet per issue, moving the publication from London to Brooklyn. King evolved the project into the short-lived SpotS series, which also focused on one poet per issue.
After the conclusion of these editorial projects in the mid-1990s, King published a series of books, including Seventeen Walking Sticks (1997), Little Tales of Family and War (2000), Separate Parts (2002), Imperfect Fit: Selected Poems (2004), and North and South (2006). Of her poems, Burt Kimmelman has noticed both “the elegance and grace” and the “sinew-and-bone detail”5; while Robert Creeley has commented on King’s “acerbic wit and deft humor.”6
1Martha King, "Seventy Years Ago in the South," Big Bridge 17. Accessed 4/27/2017.
2Martha King, "Outside Inside," A Public Space No. 23.
3Martha King, "Outside Inside," A Public Space No. 23.
4Martha King, "Outside Inside," A Public Space No. 23.
5 "Introduction," Imperfect Fit.
6Blurb, Imperfect Fit.
5 Linear Feet (13 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box)
The Martha King Collection contains the editorial and business records for Giants Play Well In The Drizzle, including production material, correspondence, and financial records; materials related to the additional publication projects Northern Lights Poetry Chaplets Series, SpotS, and The Bubba Mesia; and personal records for Martha King including manuscripts, correspondence, and poetry community ephemera.
The correspondence series is arranged alphabetically by the correspondent’s last name; unidentified correspondence is arranged in folders originally organized by King. The Giants Play Well In The Drizzle series is arranged by issue, with accepted but unpublished manuscripts and published copies returned by the US Postal Service appearing last. Other work is arranged by publication.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated to the Poetry Collection by Martha King, December 19, 2016.
No further accruals are expected for this collection.
Collection processed by Alison Fraser.
Duplicate published copies of Giants Play Well In The Drizzle and Entropic Paradigm have been deaccessioned. The following Northern Lights publications have been moved to the general holdings of the Poetry Collection: John Martone's Consequences; Jim Hydock's Make Mouth; and Michael Carlson's Homage to Gibbon.
- Finding Aid for the Martha King Collection
- Finding Aid prepared by Alison Fraser.
- Description rules
- Finding Aid Prepared Using Local Best Practices
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note