Skip to Content

Manroot / Paul Mariah Collection

Identifier: PCMS-0049

Scope and Content Note

The Manroot/Paul Mariah Collection, 1889-1996 [bulk 1966-1995], primarily covers the editorial and business records of Manroot magazine and Manroot Books; correspondence between Paul Mariah and other poets and activists; material related to Paul Mariah's personal and professional life; and material collected from gay, prison, and religious activism groups in the Bay Area and nationally. Materials include manuscripts, production material, original artwork, photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, ephemera, flyers, financial materials, medical records, last will and testaments, personal documents, and letterpress blocks. Of particular note is the correspondence series which is the largest at 728 folders and contains both letters sent to Mariah and Manroot, but also Mariah's carbon copy responses; material related to his work on the Kinsey Study of Deviant Socialization in San Francisco, 1969-1970; Mariah's research and notes on his Robert Duncan Bibliography; and the Robert Duncan and Society for Individual Rights material located under community involvement/gay liberation movement.

The collection is organized into seven series.

Manroot is broken up into two sub-series: Manroot Magazine and Manroot Books. The magazine contains all material clearly designated for issues one through twelve. Materials included are manuscripts, correspondence, dummies, proofs, artwork, negatives, paste-ups, and business financial material such as printer's quotes and invoices. Manroot Books is organized alphabetically by author and within each author organized alphabetically by book title. Obvious book correspondence as organized by Mariah is included in this series, but other correspondence for each author can be found in the correspondence series. Materials found in books are manuscript drafts, production material, galley proofs, artwork and photographs, notes, translations, reviews, and publicity. At the end of the Manroot series is business financial material including mailing lists, paper samples, and invoices not specified for a single book or magazine; grant applications and requirements in alphabetical order including local and national granting bodies such as California Arts Council, Committee of Small Magazine Editors and Publishers, Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, and National Endowment for the Arts; and letterpress blocks from Mariah's antique letterpress machine used for broadsides and hand printed books.

The correspondence series is the largest collection at 728 folders. Mariah maintained continual correspondence with many members of the poetry community, homophile community, and gay prisoners for three decades. Included in the series are letters to Mariah and Manroot and his responses in the form of carbon copies which were often stapled on top of the letter he was responding to. Also included are notes passed back and forth to roommates and colleagues, drafts never sent, photographs, clippings, manuscripts, and personal records for a few of Mariah's close friends who were under his care when they passed. Personal records include last will and testaments, medical records, identification and social security cards, and personal correspondence from family and friends to the deceased. Individuals with personal records located with their correspondence include Kenneth Poff (see Kenneth Poff series), Fred Beauregard, Hunce Voelcker, Helen Luster, Ambi Sextrous, and Lona Noble. Some restrictions may apply to these particular files, see archivist for details. Otto Stone file also contains restricted material including medical records.

Because the correspondence series is so large, it has been broken up into five sub-series based on Mariah's file labels, and within each sub-series the files are organized in rough alphabetical order with individual files for larger or more significant correspondents. The sub-series are 1) Individuals, which contains individually named persons; 2) Poetry and publishing, containing correspondence between Mariah and small presses, publishers, poetry organizations such as Russian River's Writing Guild and Los Angeles Poetry Center, and at the end of the sub-series is poetry flyers for readings and events, broadsides released by small presses, and other poetry community ephemera. 3) Bookstores and distributors contains material from bookstores and large book distributors such as R.R. Bowker; this sub-series mostly contains invoices and business correspondence with some bankruptcy paperwork from defunct bookstores. 4) Corporations and organizations include business correspondence from universities, libraries, directories, and organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Swedish Consulate, as well as larger writing organizations such as National Poetry Awards and Poets and Writers. 5) The family sub-series contains correspondence between Mariah and his mother, grandmother, siblings, and aunts, and group correspondence includes carbon copy letters addressed to multiple family members at once. Greeting cards include birthday, holiday, and anniversary cards addressed to Mariah and Ken Poff that have not been integrated into individual correspondence files to better reflect Mariah's original organization. There is some overlap in the individuals and poetry and publications sub-series that reflect Mariah's labels as well as sometimes decade-long gaps that separate personal correspondence from professional. Paul wrote extensively about his experience taking care of Ken during his five-year battle with AIDS in a large portion of the correspondence, both personal and professional in nature.

The Other work series contains two significant projects that Mariah worked on that were not related to Manroot. For approximately a decade, Mariah worked with Ray Rice to organize Robert Duncan's Bibliography, compiling more than 500 pages toward the final product that was eventually edited by Robert J. Bertholf and published by Black Sparrow Press in 1986. Material included in the Duncan Bibliography file include correspondence, copies of card catalog entries, handwritten notes, index cards bearing single entries, and articles written by Duncan. Also included in other work is material related to the Kinsey Institute's San Francisco Homosexual Study: A Study of Deviant Socialization. Materials include training material for field work and interviews; questionnaires for parents, siblings, and subjects, personal preferences, and personal adjustments; notes pertaining to cross referencing partners and roommates; correspondence and gift acknowledgement forms from Mariah's donations.

Activism and community involvement includes material related to the homophile movement/gay liberation movement, prison reform, and poetry workshops. Gay liberation sub-series contains material related to gay rights organizations from the Bay Area, California, small organizations across the United States, and national groups. Of particular note is the material related to the Society of Individual Rights (SIR). Paul Mariah was a chairman under the adviser, Robert Duncan, 1967-1972, and Manroot was born out of a SIR poetry workshop. Other organizations in this series include G40+, Gay Community Services Center, Gay Liberation Front, National Gay Task Force, Council on Religion and Homosexuality (Mariah was president, 1972), First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, Unitarian-Universalist Gay Caucus, Bay Area Comprehensive Health Planning Council, Center for Solving Special Social and Health Problems, San Francisco Association for Mental Health, and Family Services Agency of San Francisco, among others. There are also files on AIDS, gay resources, conferences and symposiums, serials, correspondence, memorabilia and ephemera, and event flyers.

The prison reform sub-series contains material related to Mariah's struggle for recognition of prisoners' rights after being released from prison in 1964. He set up correspondence outlets for gay prisoners, gave poetry readings for prisoners, wrote articles and gave lectures on prisons and sexuality and spent time in a residency program at the Academy of Prison Arts (John Paul Minarik). This series includes material related to the above mentioned, as well as correspondence from prisoners, both poetry submissions and other queries, and includes serials Connections and Amnesty International.

Paul Mariah hosted and led poetry workshops for the three decades he lived in the Bay Area. The sub-series poetry workshops contains material related to SIR poetry workshops and workshops Mariah co-led with Helen Luster in her home in Santa Rosa in the 1980s. The two folders of manuscripts from workshops contain gaps in years and material. Other workshop material may be scattered throughout Mariah's manuscript material.

Kenneth (Ken) Poff, 1937-1987, was Paul Mariah's partner of 15 years. Poff was a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and was discharged for homosexual activity in 1958. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, went to school in Erie, Pennsylvania, and had been a passenger agent for United Airlines for 18 years. Poff died after a long battle with AIDS. Mariah took care of Poff during his illness and their experience is well documented through correspondence, medical records, notes, and poetry throughout the correspondence sub-series individuals, as well as in the correspondence in this series. Of particular note in this series are the discharge papers from the Navy, 1953-1985. Also included are United Airline insurance records, taxes, bank records, will and testament, funeral records, correspondence between Poff and his mother, Ethel Poff, and correspondence between Mariah and Ethel Poff, who stayed in contact until approximately 1990.

The last series, Ephemera, clippings, miscellaneous contains homophile community ephemera and other material that does not fit into defined categories including saved envelopes for collages. Newspaper clippings and serials are approximately 1.5 linear feet. Newspaper clippings include clippings related to prison and gay reform issues; publicity for Manroot, Paul Mariah, and colleagues; and other various clippings pertaining to his interests or hometown. Serials are mostly gay serials, poetry magazines, local Bay Area serials, and college papers.

Helen Luster's personal literary collection came as one accession nested into Manroot / Paul Mariah's collection. Mariah helped Luster when she was suffering from cancer and took custody of her literary collection as well as some of her personal papers. The Helen Luster collection is fifteen linear feet and has been arranged and described as an individual collection (PCMS-0056). Because Paul and Helen had a professional and personal relationship, her correspondence to Paul and the production material for her last book, Crystal, produced by Manroot, is found in this collection in Manroot Books, Correspondence, and Poetry Workshops.

Helen Luster (1913-1985) was born in Evanston, Illinois. She was a political activist for peace and a poet for three decades. Luster was a co-editor of Trace literary magazine in Los Angeles, founder and president of the Los Angeles Poetry Center in 1966, and co-led poetry workshops in her home with Paul Mariah. She was a student of the Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado for ten years where she was also Allen Ginsberg's personal secretary. Helen Luster was also a student of parapsychology and active in the spiritual community. She was a member of seance and crystal groups and spoke at conferences on the subject of clairvoyance and synchronicity. A lot of her poetry is automatic writing.


  • 1889-1996
  • Majority of material found within 1966-1995


Language of Materials


Language of Materials

Material is mostly written in English with some French and Spanish.

Terms of Access and Use

The Manroot/Paul Mariah Collection is open for research.


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.

Historical Note

The title Manroot comes from Walt Whitman's poem "I Sing the Body Electric": "Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls, man-root."

Paul Mariah, Born Paul Meredith Jones, an editor, poet, gay and prison rights activist, printer, publisher, teacher, and mental health therapist, was born in Benton, Illinois on June 3, 1937. Mariah was the eldest son of Ada Pearl (Kelley) Jones and Herman Jones, and sibling of George W. Jones and Mary Alice Sims.

Paul Mariah graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1959 with a degree in theater and taught junior high school right out of college before spending three years in an Illinois penitentiary for having a homosexual affair with one of his students when Mariah was twenty-two. In prison, Mariah continued to teach inmates in the psychiatric ward, translated poetry into Spanish with his partner, and started writing poetry. In interviews, he reflected upon his prison experiences as crucial to his personal and literary development as well as instrumental to his gay and prison reform activism.

Once released from prison, Mariah moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1964, where he changed his name from Paul Meredith Jones to Paul Mariah. In 1966 he moved to San Francisco and joined the Society for Individual Rights (SIR). SIR started in the early 1960s with the core of activity focusing on the reform of attitudes toward the gay and lesbian communities from both the outside heterosexual world as well as the homophilic community. Issues included legal rights, voting powers, health and disease, community image, and artistic and intellectual expression. Both creative and political figures visited SIR and SIR's official publication, Vector magazine, printed many of these names and issues.

Mariah went back to school to get his Master's degree from San Francisco State College in English Literature, graduating in 1969. While at SF State, Mariah was the personal secretary to writer Kay Boyle, 1968-1969, and Robert Duncan, 1967-1968. With the help of Ray Rice, Mariah began compiling Robert Duncan's bibliography for more than a decade before it was eventually edited by Robert J. Bertholf and printed by Black Sparrow Press in 1986. He became a teaching assistant in English at SF State, 1969-1970, and was a project scheduler and research assistant for the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research's San Francisco Homosexual Study, 1969-1970. This research would be considered monumental in putting to rest some of the psychological myths and stigmas surrounding the homosexual community. Mariah was also a mental health therapist from 1972-1975, working in half-way houses helping ex-prisoners.

Prior to founding Manroot, Mariah was the poetry editor of Van Guard magazine from 1967-1968, and Vector magazine from 1968-1969. Manroot magazine grew out of a SIR poetry workshop initiated by Robert Duncan in 1967 to nurture the fine arts in the community and further SIR's goals. Mariah was Chairman of the SIR poetry and writing workshop from 1967-1972. He started Manroot in 1969 with Richard Tagett, who remained co-editor until 1978. After the first two mimeographed publications, Manroot #1 and Manroot Books' first monograph, Odessa Finata, the publication went to offset and letterpress printing. Manroot published once or twice a year until 1981 with translations of Jean Genet as the twelfth and final issue. Manroot offered a voice to the gay community which existed nowhere else at the time. It catered to the lesbian community as well as gay males, and included writers of any sexual persuasion. Manroot published Allen Ginsberg, Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, James Broughton, Gwendolyn McEwen, Leland Stoney, Hunce Voelcker, Andrei Codrescu, and Helen Luster, to name a few.

Concurrently with Manroot magazine, and for many years after, Mariah published chapbooks devoted to a single author under Manroot Books. Nearly thirty poets were published, including Mariah himself. Chapbook poets included Helen Luster, Gerald Fabian, David Fisher, Jack Spicer, Robert Green Ingersoll, Robert Peters, James Broughton, Will Inman, Lynn Lonidier, Jack Micheline, Jean Cocteau, Thom Gunn, Richard Tagett, and Janine Canan. Each book and magazine also contains illustrations as eclectic and/or abstract as the poetry. Artists represented include Robert Berner, Alan Blackman, Jose Laffitte, Martin Isquierdo, Jean Cocteau, and many others.

Mariah's first poem was published in 1965, and his work was published in over seventy poetry magazines in multiple countries over his lifetime. He was a captivating speaker and gave poetry readings and lectures across the country pertaining to his experiences as a gay man in prison, prison and gay reformation, mental and social health issues, and the AIDS epidemic. He translated poems by Jean Genet, Jean Cocteau, Paul Eluard, and others. Mariah was active within religious communities, gay liberation groups, and the prisoner's union. Mariah was the president of the Council on Religion and the Homosexual in 1971, and was an organizer of COSMEP (Conference of Small Magazine Editors and Publishers).

Mariah's partner of fifteen years, Kenneth Poff, succumbed to AIDS in 1986, as did many of his friends and community. Poff served in two wars before being discharged for homosexual activity, and worked for the United Airlines for eighteen years. Mariah took care of many of his friends in ill health including Fred Beauregard, Hunce Voelcker, Helen Luster, Ambi Sextrous, and Lona Noble.

Mariah passed away at the age of 58 years, on January 12, 1996, in Sonoma, California, from pneumonia.


73 Linear Feet (139 manuscript boxes, 2 half manuscript boxes, 11 cartons, 3 oversize boxes, 1 card file box)


The Manroot/Paul Mariah Collection contains the editorial and business records for Manroot including production material, correspondence, and financial records; personal records for Paul Mariah including manuscripts, correspondence, school work, poetry community ephemera; and activism records for gay and prisoners rights.


Collection has been arranged into seven series as follows: 1. Manroot Issues and Books; 2. Correspondence; 3. Other Work; 4. Activism and Community Involvement; 5. Kenneth Poff Personal Records; 6. Paul Mariah Personal Papers; 7. Ephemera, Newspaper Clippings, and Serials; and 8: Manuscript Material.

Acquisition Information

Collection purchased from Peter B. Howard of Serendipity Books on behalf of Paul Mariah's sister, Mary Alice Sims, in 1999.

Acquisition Information

Series VIII, Manuscript Material, arrived at the Poetry Collection from Leland Stoney in 2017 as a separate accession.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Separated Materials

The following material has been integrated into the Poetry Collection and may be found in the catalog:

  1. The Male Muse edited by Ian Young
  2. A Stone's Throw Volume 1
  3. Homestead Boy by Charles Beardsley
  4. The Idler No 35
  5. Nuki: Lines and Images from the Rubayiat of Omar Kayyam
  6. Born into a Felony edited by Brisby and Shepperd
  7. International Who's Who in Poetry 1972-73
  8. Love Today by Herbert Otto
  9. No Radar / Sin Radar by David Howes
  10. Homage to Pablo Neruda by David Fisher
  11. Poems for the Unconvinced by Thomas Kielek
  12. Abyss: A Collection of Poems, 1973-1974 by William Barber
  13. The Water Circle by James Broughton
  14. Open Sky Vol 1 No 2
  15. Northeast Rising Sun Vol 3 No 14 and Vol 4 No 17
  16. Café Review Vol 3 No 6
  17. Vanguard circa 67; circa June 68; circa July 67; Vol 1 Nos 1, 5, 6; Vol 3 No 1
  18. Report of a Project consisting of a pre-questionnaire etc….. Jan 1, 1979 (Vanguard Press)
  19. Final E by Joyce Holland
  20. North of Manhattan by Jack Micheline – 2 cloth and one paper (inscribed with drawings by JM)
  21. Through the Mill edited by Dale Jensen and Carla Kandinsky
  22. Light Blooms by Michael T. Kelly
  23. Coming darkness by Randy Wilson
  24. My God the Proverbial by Larry Eigner
  25. The Opium Must Go Thru by Charles Potts (limited edition)
  26. The Menace by Thom Gunn (three copies)
  27. Pursuit and Symposium Vol 1 No 1 and 2
  28. Sheltered at the Edge by Jean Pumphrey
  29. The Ladder Aug/Sep 69; Feb-May 71
  30. San Francisco Review of Books Vol 3 No 3/4
  31. Newsletters Vol 6 No 4
  32. Gallimaufry winter 1973-74
  33. Kaldron 6
  34. New Sins 1, 3, 5
  35. Dodeca No 15
  36. The Plowman Issue 5
  37. Bed with cat on front
  38. Aspects No 11
  39. Envoi 34
  40. American Weave Vol 30 No 2
  41. Hymns to Hermes Five copies, Publisher's Proof A (Mariah's copy), publisher's Proof A, Copy 1, text # B and Text copy B
  42. Equal in Desire by Clive Matson
  43. Playboy April 1964
  44. Pennywhistle People Paper unnumbered
  45. Miam No 1
  46. Quixote Vol 4 No. 1 Vol 5 No 4
  47. Nightshade Vol 1 No. 4-5
  48. Personae Non Grata by Paul Mariah – 7 copies: various states and printers
  49. Edge 9
  50. Owl Skat by Will Inman
  51. American Poetry Archive – first series 1975
  52. A Place for Poets Sept 1968
  53. Apparitions of a Black Suit by Paul Mariah
  54. Song of the Godbody James Broughton – publisher's copy
  55. Letter to Robert Duncan While Bending the Bow by Paul Mariah
  56. The Collected Poems of Amnesia Glasscock
  57. The Spoon Ring by Paul Mariah – Helen Luster's copy and singled limited edition
  58. Various Poems by James Mitchell
  59. Odissea Finita by Gerland Fabian
  60. Lucy by Richard Tagett (numbered edition)
  61. Love Poems to an Army Deserter Who is in Jail by Paul Mariah – numbered copy
  62. Cardinal – Poetry Quarterly Vol 2 No 2 and 4; Vol 4 No 4; Vol 3 No 4
  63. Mirage issue 0
  64. We Bumped Off your Friend the Poet Anth
  65. Clitoris Lust by Lynn Lonidier
  66. Oy by Joanne Kyger
  67. Nothing by Katharine Harer
  68. The Vow by Alta
  69. A Lesbian Estate by Lynn Lonidier – signed by author
  70. Being Geniuses Together by Kay Boyle and Robert McAlmon
  71. Legacy of Life: Arie and Frankenstein Come to Grips by Angelo De Luca
  72. Editor's Choice: Literature and Graphics from the U.S. Small Press, 1965-1977 – edited by Morty Sklar and Jim Mulac
  73. Paying Poetry Market by Virginia D. Randall
  74. Address at the Funeral of Walt Whitman by Robert Green Ingersoll
  75. Loose Gravel: vol. 1, no. 2, March 1989
  76. Cape Rock Journal: vol. 5, no. 1, Fall, 1967; vol. 4, no. 1, Fall, 1966
  77. Love Poems for Robert Mitchum by Robert Peters – inscribed
  78. Anticipating Machine by J.R. Hougan – (Quixote vol. 5, no. 14)
  79. Dodeca: no. 11, no. 12
  80. The Tomcat: no. 1,2,3
  81. There was a Rustle of Black Silk Stockings by Robert McAlmon
  82. Ways by Steven Finch – inscribed
  83. Practising Angels antho by Michael Mayo – many signatures
  84. Equal in Desire by Clive Matson
  85. Brother Songs: a Male Anthology of Poetry- edited by Jim Perlman
  86. The Spoon Ring by Paul Mariah – lettered and signed
  87. Second Coming Anthology: Ten Years in Retrospect (hard cover and paperback)
  88. Vector: vol. 1, no. 11(w/ Gold Sheet); vol. 4, no. 3-11; vol. 5, no. 1, 4, 5, 7-10, 12; vol. 6, no. 9, 11; vol. 8, no. 1; vol. 10, no. 12; vol. 11, no. 1
  89. Podium: vol. 2, no. 2
  90. Mouth of the Dragon: no. 9, 10, 11/12, no. 19
  91. Driftwood: vol. 7, no. 2
  92. Writers Notes and Quotes: vol. 15, no. 2; vol. 15, no. 4
  93. Northeast Rising Sun: vol. 3, no. 12-13
  94. Maelstro: vol. 2, no. 2
  95. poem card: Dreaming of My Mother's Funeral, I imagine She Consoles Me by Richard McCann, signed and mailed
  96. poem card: Listening to Rain at Night by Vassar Miller
  97. holiday card: We Live for the Poets by Gil Williams, with mailed envelope
  98. Lips On That Blue Rail by Lyn Lifshin, with mailed envelope
  99. Evening passes through the trees by Janine Canan, signed
  100. poem card: the Opportunity of Everything by Pat Nolan
  101. Figure Into Form by Lawrence Fixel, bearing note written to Paul Mariah
  102. broadside: the Vacant Lot and It Set My Mind to Rest by Christopher Russell
  103. broadside: J.J.'s Return by Jim McCrary, signed and numbered
  104. broadside: Emily Dickinson Thinks She'll Have a Talk With He Thinks He's Walt Whitman by Lynn Lonidier
  105. broadside: In my 60th year darkness and love held me to the light by Ruth Weiss, signed and numbered
  106. broadside: For the Vietnamese Buddhists by Paul Mariah, signed and numbered
  107. the Juggler at the Cardtable by Paul Mariah and Jose Laffitte, signed and numbered

Processing Information

Collection processed by Elliot McNally and student assistants Rebecca Chapin, Kamaria Busby, George Tocco, and Emily Anderson. Series VIII, Manuscript Material, arrived in 2017 as a separate accession and was processed by Marie Elia. Series IX, Accruals, 2019, processed by Kolbe Resnick in 2022.

Processing Information

Mold was found throughout the collection. When material was unsalvageable, preservation photocopies were made. Other material was cleaned and vacuumed. Staining on some material remains. Masks and gloves are available for researcher use upon request.


Finding Aid for the Manroot/Paul Mariah Collection PCMS-0049
In Progress
Finding Aid prepared by Elliot McNally and Emily Anderson.
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Local Best Practices
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" Project.

Repository Details

Part of the The Poetry Collection Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)