Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Solt mss. II, ca. 1950–2007, consist primarily of the papers of poet and scholar Mary Ellen Solt (1920–2007), known for helping disseminate the art of concrete poetry, which marries words and typography to produce works in which the verbal and the visual are inextricably intertwined. She was born on July 8, 1920, in Gilmore City, Iowa; her father was a Methodist minister from Yorkshire, England. Originally trained as a pianist, Mary Ellen developed an interest in poetry as a student at Iowa State Teachers College. She earned a bachelor's degree in English literature from the college (now the University of Northern Iowa) in 1941 and a master's in the field from the University of Iowa in 1948. With her husband, Leo F. Solt, a historian, she moved to Indiana University in 1955. She began writing concrete poetry in the early 1960s. Besides teaching poetry and comparative literature at Indiana University, she also published critical studies, notably of the poet William Carlos Williams. After teaching American poetry at the University of Warsaw for a year in the mid–1970s, Ms. Solt spent several years as the director of the Polish Studies Center at Indiana. Ms. Solt edited Concrete Poetry: A World View (Indiana University, 1968), considered one of the major anthologies of the form. At her death, she was emeritus professor of comparative literature at Indiana University, Bloomington, where she had taught from 1970 to 1991.

The collection is particularly rich in drafts of her poetry, and in correspondence with such major poets as Cid Corman, William Carlos Williams, and Louis Zukosvky, all of whom were close friends.

Acquired: 2008

Collection size: 49,000 items

NOTE: Access to this collection requires advance notice. Please contact the Curator of Manuscripts for additional information.

Related manuscripts: Solt mss.

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.