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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)

Series 1: Administrative Records, 1935-1989, undated


0.33 Linear Feet in 14 folders.

Scope and Contents

This series consists of official minutes, programs, and financial statements related to the life of the Circle as an institution. Official bulletins and correspondence - that is, printed material addressing and concerning the membership in general - are included here, but correspondence addressing individuals is filed under "correspondence." Because most of the records in this collection were generated by Marie-Louise d'Esternaux or (the vast majority) by Lederer, the majority of the correspondence is addressed to Gabrielle Lederer. Some of this correspondence does contain poems, the majority of which are included as membership materials or contest submissions. A very few letters are of a more social or personal nature.

Series 2: Personal Papers of Marie-Louise d'Esternaux and Gabrielle Lederer, 1935-1989, undated


0.11 Linear Feet in five folders.

Scope and Contents

This series contains handwritten notes and typescripts produced by d'Esternaux and Lederer, primarily Lederer. As Lederer served as Secretary, her notes are closely related to the records of the Institution, and those interested in the institutional records should also look at this series. In addition to the notes she took at meetings, however, there are many personal notes and sketches interspersed throughout the notebooks.

Series 3: Poems and Writings, undated


0.11 Linear Feet in four folders.

Scope and Contents

The majority of these poems are from the 1940s, based on the names of the (known) poets and the fact that many of them show Gertrude Ryder Bennett's markings and marginalia. Poems whose authors are known are arranged alphabetically by author, while other poems are arranged alphabetically by title. There are some poems written by later members of the Circle included here, as well as in Lederer's scrapbooks. Any user seeking permission to use any poem in a publication must consult with library staff, as the rights status of these poems has not been evaluated.

Series 4: Magazines and Publications, 1939-1985, undated


0.11 Linear Feet in two folders.

Scope and Contents

This relatively small series consists of all printed magazines and booklets in the collection. The Brooklyn Poetry Circle produced several commemorative anthologies which are included in this series. As not all the magazines can be dated, they are arranged alphabetically by publication title. Of greatest general interest is perhaps a rare copy of The Raven Poetry Circle Anthology from 1944 (1).


  1. New York Historical Society. "Guide to the Raven Poetry Circle of Greenwich Village Collection." Accessed July 2007.

Series 5: Ephemera and Clippings, 1935-1989, undated


0.33 Linear Feet in eight folders.

Scope and Contents

This series contains a variety of material. Commercially printed material such as tickets, flyers, stationery, and promotional material for books and publications, forms the bulk of it. A small collection of news clippings, most of it pertaining to the lives and achievements of club members, is included here. All material seemingly unrelated to the structure, social life, or literary life of the institution - including greeting cards, postcards, and sheet music - is also included here.

Series 6: Scrapbooks, 1936-2000


1 Linear Feet in one record carton.

Scope and Contents

The material Lederer collected and presented in these scrapbooks is similar in form and content to the material arranged and described in the previous five series. This series could be seen as the logical and chronological continuation of the previous five, although there is some overlap in the chronology. The scrapbooks are generally arranged in very precise chronological order, and the final binder includes some personal remembrances and histories written by several long-time members of the Circle.

Series 7: Books, 1914-1989


2 Linear Feet in two record cartons.

Scope and Contents

These books presumably represent some portion of the Poetry Circle's library. The first box (Box 3) contains books written by members of the Circle and their associates. The second (Box 4) contains all other books originally included in this accession, all of which were printed by large-scale mainstream publishing houses.

Series 8: Photographs, 1938-1976, inclusive


0.42 Linear Feet in one manuscript box.

Scope and Contents

Photographs in the collection include color photographs of Othelia Lilly's autograph party, June 1976; color and black-and-white photographs of Poetry Circle Christmas parties and annual dinners, some of which are labeled as dating from 1966 and 1968; miscellaneous black-and-white undated photographs of Poetry Circle members at unknown locales; and a black-and-white photograph of several Poetry Circle members (dressed up in costumes of old poets) at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Some of these photographs depict distinguished Poetry Circle members or poets, such as Gertrude Ryder Bennett, Gabriel Lederer, and Edwin Markham. There are also four framed black and white photographs, one being a signed group portait of Poetry Circle founders Marie-Louise d'Esternaux, Maude Clark Hough, and Laura Spofford Wiltsie Lake; two being group shots of Poetry Circle members at the 1938 annual dinner; and the fourth being a signed photograph of Edwin Markham, dated 1938.

View Inventory

Series 9: Oversize, 1935-1978, inclusive


1.34 Linear Feet in one oversize box.

Scope and Contents

This series contains three items: a scrapbook of Poetry Circle founder Marie-Louise d'Esternaux, a large sketch of a flower, and the sheet music for the song "Drew," signed by the poet and lyricist Maude Clark Hough.

Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201