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Brooklyn Poetry Circle collection

Call Number



1935-2000, inclusive


Brooklyn Poetry Circle
Hough, Maude Clark
Lederer, Gabrielle
D'Esternaux, Marie-Louise
Bennett, Gertrude Ryder


5.76 Linear Feet in four record cartons. one manuscript box, and one oversize box.

Language of Materials

English .


The Brooklyn Poetry Circle collection contains records and other materials related to the activities of the Brooklyn Poetry Circle and its individual members. The collection includes minutes, correspondence, and membership lists, as well as printed material created for or generated by its member activities (including programs, flyers, tickets, printed anthologies, and newspaper clippings). The collection also contains a very large number of poems written by members of the Circle, the majority of which are undated, and a significant number of which are unsigned. These poems generally date from the 1940s and 1950s, and many bear the handwritten emendations and suggestions of the Circle's official critic, Gertrude Ryder Bennett. Gabrielle Lederer, a long-term member of the Circle who served as its secretary throughout the 1960s and 1970s, compiled extensive scrapbooks documenting the life of the group, which form the largest series in the collection.

Historical Note

The Brooklyn Poetry Circle was founded in 1935 by Marie-Louise d'Esternaux, Maude Clark Hough, and Laura Spofford Wiltsie Lake. d'Esternaux's parents, Countess Ethelyn d'Esternaux and Count Max d'Esternaux, were active members of several artistic societies, and became especially close friends with the poet Edwin Markham. Markham encouraged the society and actively promoted it until his death in 1940. Other established poets also participated in the society during its early years and helped to define its aesthetic, the most well known being Maude Clark Hough and Anna Hempstead Branch, poets whose work is characterized by the use of simple ballad meters and by the predominance of traditional religious and family themes. The aesthetic defined in the Circle changed little over time. The Poetry Circle promoted and admired formalist poetic techniques, as well as poems with religious themes, until its dissolution in the late 1990s. The group's regular activities included two major annual events, a spring luncheon and a Christmas party. In the early years of the Circle, members often attended various cultural events around New York City, and participated in the New York World's Fair in 1939. The Circle also held monthly meetings, generally in the home of one of the members. Each month a poetic theme was assigned, and each member would submit a poem to the official critic several weeks before the meeting. For many years during the 1940s and 1950s, the critic was Gertrude Ryder Bennett, an author notable for writing many books and poems about the history of Brooklyn. Most active members of the circle joined in the relatively early years of the institution's history and remained members throughout their lives. During the 1980s and 1990s, very few people applied for membership, and the aging Circle members voted to disband in 1997.

Scope and Contents

The Brooklyn Poetry Circle collection contains records pertaining to the organizational activities and publications of the Circle, including minutes, annual reports, budgets, and membership lists. As the Circle was primarily a social organization, however, the bulk of the material pertains more to the social history of the Circle rather than its administrative history. The collection adequately covers the entire history, with no gaps in the chronology, although the very early years are documented most completely.

There are several photographs and a small collection of sheet music. Very little correspondence is included. The records have been divided into the following nine series:

Missing Title

  1. Records, 1935-1989 and undated
  2. Personal Papers of Marie-Louise d'Esternaux and Gabrielle Lederer, 1935-1989 and undated
  3. Poems and Writings, undated
  4. Printed Magazines and Publications, 1939-1985
  5. Ephemera and Clippings, 1935-1989 and undated
  6. Scrapbooks, 1936-2000
  7. Books, 1914-1989
  8. Photographs, 1938-1976
  9. Oversize, 1935-1978

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

Rights status of many literary works and reproduction rights for photographs have not been evaluated. Please consult library staff for more information.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); Brooklyn Poetry Circle collection, ARC.015, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Denise Arnaldi, 1990; Virginia Bagliore, 1990; Rosemary Clark, date unknown; Catherine DeRossi, 1989; and Geri Dyer, 1990.

Other Finding Aids

An earlier version of this finding aid, containing more information and a detailed folder listing, is available in paper form at the Othmer Library. Descriptions of images from the collection are available for searching via the image database in the library. Please consult library staff for more information.

Collection processed by

Jessica Nauright

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 11:19:09 +0000.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: English.

Processing Information

The collection was accessioned in three parts: 1989.009, ten folders prepared for the Brooklyn Historical Society by Poetry Circle member Geri Dyer; 2005.05, the final binder in the scrapbook series; and the bulk of the collection, a large donation received in 1998 that never received its own accession number.

The collection has been minimally processed to the series level.

Note Statement

change to complete_series_level


Brooklyn Historical Society


Oversize: ARC.015 6 of 6 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)
carton: ARC.015 4 of 6 (Material Type: Books)
carton: ARC.015 3 of 6 (Material Type: Books)
Box: ARC.015 5 of 6 (Material Type: Graphic Materials)
carton: ARC.015 2 of 6 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)
carton: ARC.015 1 of 6 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)
Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201