Vermont lost three literary giants in the last year: Leland Kinsey, Howard Frank Mosher, and David Budbill. Special Collections is fortunate to house the papers of all three of these authors, and their collections serve as a rich source for
understanding the connections between these writers.
A particularly deep connection existed between Mosher and Kinsey. Their friendship spanned nearly 50 years, dating back to a time when Mosher taught Kinsey at the University of Vermont. Mosher became a great champion of Kinsey’s work and his papers are full of correspondence advocating on Leland’s behalf.
One example of Mosher’s advocacy is from 1995, when a series of letters show Mosher attempting to assist in getting a collection of Kinsey’s poems, Not One Man’s Work, published. As part of this effort, Mosher reached out to a number of writers asking them for letters of support for Leland, including David Budbill.
Budbill’s letter of support for Kinsey’s poems shows the respect he held for the work of his fellow Northeast Kingdom poet. In an excerpt from the letter, Budbill notes:
But perhaps the most touching and powerful of these poems are the ones about family. Whether Lee is writing about pushing his son on a swing—“Swinging into the Night”—or his son’s nightmares—“Night Terrors”—or the light sensitivity he’s given to his daughter—“Sneezes”—or about the farming life his parents led—numerous poems throughout—he writes with a passion and compassion and an accuracy that is both tender and powerful.
The sound, the tone, in these poems stands outside the current anguished shrillness of much contemporary poetry; here instead I hear a kind of formal calm, a gracious and distanced respect toward idea, situation and character that is shocking, practically revolutionary, in its contrariness to what is au courant.
In the papers of David Budbill and those of his fellow poet and great friend, the late Hayden Carruth, one sees a similarly generous relationship. Budbill often asked Carruth for advice on his poetry, and the following letter shows Budbill’s mixed reaction to some of Carruth’s advice on the manuscript for Judevine.
Judevine is both a collection of poems and a play that Budbill created from those poems. Lost Nation Theater, in Montpelier, opened their new season with a production of Judevine, “in honor & in memory of David,” and an opening night gala hosted by Rusty DeWees and Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, with David’s widow, Lois Eby, and daughter, Nadine Budbill, in attendance. Performances of the play continue at Lost Nation through May 7.
The passing of these three writers is a great loss, for their families and friends, and for the many fans of their work. All three leave behind their literary works, and all three had the foresight to leave us with their archives, revealing the stories behind the stories and poems, as well as the deep relationships that informed these works.
Here at Special Collections, we will miss periodically touching base with all three, as well as reading their latest works, but we are honored and deeply appreciative that they selected us as the home for their archives. Our hope is that their papers will be a great source for many years to come for those wishing to gain a deeper insight into these writers and their works.
For more information about these collections, see the following guides or contact us.
Submitted by Chris Burns,