Two American Poets

Wallace Stevens & William Carlos Williams

From the

Collection of Alan M. Klein

The Alcestis Press Collection

Ronald Lane Latimer was the founder and publisher of the Alcestis Press, which operated from 1933 to 1938. Four issues of the Alcestis Quarterly were printed in 1934 and 1935 and fewer than ten limited edition books, of exquisite quality, were published from 1935 through 1937. Despite the short period of time in which it operated, Alcestis had an outsized influence on the development and history of Modernist poetry. The Alcestis Press published two books by Stevens – Ideas of Order and Owl’s Clover – two books by Williams – An Early Martyr and Other Stories and Adam and Eve and the City – and books by Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, John Peale Bishop and Willard Maas.

Stevens carried on an extensive correspondence with Latimer, using Latimer as a sympathetic reader as Stevens worked out the development of his ideas on the nature and place of poetry during the mid- 1930s. Stevens credited Latimer with stimulating much of his poetry during this period. Williams was more circumspect in his interactions with Latimer. He had first encountered Latimer when Latimer was going by his birth name – James Leippert – and publishing literary journals while an undergraduate at Columbia University. Then Leippert began using the name Martin Jay, Mark Jason and finally Ronald Lane Latimer, among other pseudonyms. This chameleon-like quality of Latimer made Williams wary of him, as it did others who dealt with Latimer (see item #14, a letter from Stevens to Witter Bynner).

Ultimately, after the Alcestis Press ceased operating, Latimer traveled to Japan, studied Buddhism, returned to the United States shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, became a Buddhist monk in Los Angeles, subsequently studied at a divinity school in Berkeley, became an Episcopal priest, worked in New Jersey, Santa Fe and Florida and died in Florida in 1964 at the age of 55. His correspondence is held in the Special Collections Research Center of the University of Chicago. The bulk of this trove came into this collection recently, directly from Latimer’s descendants.

For more information on the publications in this Collection, see Stevens and Williams Together: The Alcestis Press Collection.