University of Texas at El Paso

         Wendy Freedman


Spencer Holst Papers



            This collection holds the papers of storyteller, writer, and painter Spencer Holst. Holst was a fixture of New York’s underground literary and arts scene for almost sixty years, becoming a prominent performer in the 1960s and 1970s. The artifacts in this collection, including manuscript, correspondence, audio and video tapes and compact discs, memorabilia, music and art objects, photographs, inscribed books, and limited and rare editions, reflect Holst’s lifelong commitment to his art and the perpetuation of creativity in the community he was a vibrant force in.

            The collection has been arranged to emphasize some of Holst’s more important professional and personal relationships and accomplishments, including his lifelong friendships and collaborations with the poets Jackson MacLow, Vera Lachmann, and Robert Stock, his wife, the artist Beate Wheeler, Judith Malina and Julian Beck of the Living Theatre, and the composer Tui St George Tucker.




Box 1: Manuscript



Folders 1-13:

loose manuscript pages, typewritten with penciled-in edits, mostly good condition, some very brittle, some stained.


Folder 14:

            Loose manuscript in cut up paragraphs


Folder 15: (this envelope is in box because of the oversized nature of its contents);

            Old, brittle, oversized manuscript of unpublished poems




Box 2: Collected Manuscript


Folder 1: Reader’s copies (in two scripts) of “A Balkan Entertainment”, “The Adventure of the Giant Rat of Sumatra”, and “The Frog” 


Folder 2: Script of Holst’s “Charlie Morrow’s Bracelet” to be read with Jennifer Farbar


Folder 3: various manuscript for “Unpierced Pearls Strung”.

                        1 draft of “Charlie Morrow’s Bracelet”.

                        1 draft of “Unpierced Pearls Strung”.

                        2 copies of the second reader of A Book for Two People, one on white              

            paper, one on blue cardstock.


Folder 4:

3-ring binder containing manuscript of “Charlie Morrow’s Bracelet” with edits in pencil.


Folder 5: box full of printed pages of “Charlie Morrow’s Bracelet” in a state of some disorder.


Folder 6: Complete manuscript for doublebook of “Unpierced Pearls Strung”, including a correspondence from Holst to George Quasha with his proposal for its publication, with its contents page and introduction/explanation


Folder 7: Computuer-printed manuscript pages of early stories, including many found in 13 Essays


Folder  8: Proofs of The Zebra Storyteller


Folder 9: Manuscript for Brilliant Silence, including only the first six parts, Balanced Boulders


Folder 10: Proofs of Brilliant Silence


Folder 11: Unidentified mock-up of paragraphs and sentences glued to paper; the glue is dry and the sentences no longer stick to the paper.


Folder 12: Box including various drafts of paragraphs and sentences with inked-in notes in the margins


Folder 13: Miscellaneous writing by Spencer Holst

Draft of autobiographical blurb

            Photocopy from a book of a memorial written for Paul Blackburn

            Cut-and-paste manuscript of Chapter 7 of “The Institute for the Foul Ball”


Folder 14: 1 3 ½” disc, labeled “Holst: Unpierced Pearls Strung For 2 Readers”


Folder 15: Sentence and Paragraph cards


Folder 16: Unglued Sentences


Box 3: Subject Files



Folders 1-8:

            Alphabetical by Last Name of Subject


Folder 1: Jorge Luis Borges

Letter from Don Yates to Burt (Britton?) describing reading a story (probably Spencer’s) to a delighted Borges, 5/17/1976


Folder 2: John Cage

            Original typewritten poem to Spencer Holst signed by John Cage


Folder 3: Lawrence “Doc” Holst/ Holst family

            Clippings of articles by Doc Holst

            Family obituaries

            Genealogical research on the Holst family done by Mary-Ella Holst

            Poem by Ruth Holst


Folder 4: Mary-Ella Holst

Annotated Bibliography of Unitarian Universalist Contributors to Literature for Children

Conversations…A Journal of Religious Concern. Vol. 1, No. 1, Fall, 1981. Ed. Mary-Ella Holst, with poetry and eulogy to Martha Bartlett by Mary-Ella Holst with drawings by Beate Wheeler

e-mail from Mary-Ella to Spencer concerning her genealogical research



Folder 5: Vera Lachmann

            Cards from Vera to Spencer and Bea, c.1974-1980

            Catawba anniversary album with photographs

            Self-portrait sketches of Vera Lachmann

Manuscript of poems in English and German by Vera Lachmann and English translations with Holst’s pencil edits by Spencer Holst

Items pertaining to Lachmann’s translationof Sophkles’ Philoktetes including correspondence between Holst and “Maurice” concerning the translation, 1974


Folder 6: Harry Matthews

            Glowing, hand-written fan letter from the American ex-patriot to Holst


Folder 7: Jackson McLow

Type-written poems by Jackson McLow

Duo Drawn from Spencer Holst’s story “The Santa Claus Murderer” written for Spencer and Mary-Ella Holst by J.M.

Writings on Spencer and his work by J.M.:
typewritten introduction to Spencer Holst Reading “55 Small Visions” on 7/14/1974

            Introduction to a reading 1/22/1994

            On “Charlie Morrow’s Bracelet” 4/22-26/1997

 Letter to Spencer dated April 15, 1987

“A Vocabulary for Carl Fernback-Flarsheim drawn 2-3 January 1968” by Jackson MacLow inscribed “With love to Boy and Bea”

American Poet  Winter 1999-2000. Includes Robert Creeley’s citation awarding J.M. the 1999 Tanning Prize


Folder 8: Robert Stock

            Typewritten poem “Epistle to Spencer Holst”

            Typewritten poem “The Infinite” for Spencer Holst, signed “with great affection”

            Facsimiles of typewritten poems

            Photocopy of obituary for Robert Stock


Folders 9-19:

            Alphabetical by Subject Heading


Folder 9: Announcements of Books/Readings

Newspaper listings and advertisements for readings and the publications of books, chronological 1960-2000


Folder 10: Correspondence

Including correspondence from various friends, Station Hill Press, various publications and collaborators, Robert Sievert and Nannette Domingos, fans, drafts of letters from Spencer, chronological 1968-2001


Folder 11: Miscellaneous

Clipping from Mexican newspaper of Einstein’s quote in immortality (believed by Spencer to have derived from the story he sent the scientist in the previous weeks entitled “Immortality”)

Facsimile of hand-written poem “For a Dead Lady” in memorium Ree Dragonette, by Barbara Holland

Gift from Charles Mills to Spencer Holst: Photostat of a page from his Second String Quartet

Mock-up of program of performance featuring Spencer, Nannette Domingos, and Sally Gross 1/17-18/1987 with hand-written edits by Spencer Holst

Record of Vaccination for small pox in New Orleans 7/7/1956

Short work by Kathy Acker a.k.a. The Black Tarantula, The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula (Some Lives of Murderesses) (Community Congress Press 1973)

Galley of quotes featuring “Five Hundred Yellow Cabs” by Spencer Holst

Galleys of “On Hope” for American Way magazine


Folder 12: Newspaper Articles/Publications by Spencer Holst

            Clipping of Spanish-language paper’s printing of “The Mirror Story” 1/3/1995

“Circuit ‘Walking’ Preacher Stricken.” Provenance unknown (probably The Toledo Times)

“Girl, Thirteen, Dazzles Mother, Taxi Driver With Magic.” The Toledo Times. 2nd news section: 1948.

“Not Much…During…” Provenance unknown (probably The Toledo Times)


Folder 13: Obituaries/tributes to Spencer Holst

“Remembering ‘Boy,’ bohemian, writer, and magician,” a tribute by Garry Goodrow to Spencer Holst.

            New York Times obituary


Folder 14: Painting Titles


Folder 15: Photographs

Photograph of five-year-old Spencer with Detroit Tiger’s 1st baseman Harry Davis, 1931.

            Photos of Spencer, friends, family, and fellow performers

Negative of photograph of Mexican newspaper featuring quote by Albert Einstein.


Folder 16: Posters/Handbills

Many drawn by Beate Wheeler, advertising Holst readings and other events, chronological 1962-memorial 2002


Folder 17: Programs

Catalog for auction of modern paintings, drawings, sculpture, and manuscripts by artists including de Kooning, Allen Ginsberg, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and John Cage to benefit the Living Theatre

Programs for performances by Holst and others, including Holst’s performance at the Carnegie Recital Hall, chronological 1961-1999


Folder 18: Reviews

Reviews of Spencer Holst’s books and readings and press releases, including those by Diane Wakoski, Raymond Mungo, and Joseph McElroy of the New York Times, chronological 1962-1995


Folder 19: Rosenthal Award

            Ceremonial program honoring award recipients 5/18/1977

Letter from Dwight MacDonald informing Spencer that he has been awarded the Rosenthal prize with personal note

Rosenthal Award citation from the American Academy and Institute of Letters



Box 4: Books by and including stories by Spencer Holst


By Spencer Holst:

            25 Stories (Spencer Holst, 1960) self-bound, fragile but in good condition

Ten Thousand Reflections (Dan Saxon, 1964) Series No. 3 of the Poets of Le Metro Series, mimeographed in Holst’s handwriting, good condition, slightly stained

On Demons (Doctor Generosity Press, 1970), paperback, good condition, cover in good condition, clean pages with some edits in pen

The Language of Cats:

(McCall 1971) hardcover with dustjacket, jacket

slightly torn and stained, pages clean, binding strong

(Jonathan Cape 1971) hardcover, no dust jacket, dog eared, stained, binding good

(Avon 1971) mass market, written in, pages yellowed, dog eared, cover creased, binding weakening

El Idioma de los Gatos y Otros Cuentos. Trans. Ernesto Schóo (Ediciones de la Flor 1972), paperback, binding fragile, pages yellowed, but cover and pages overall in excellent condition

El Idioma de los Gatos y Otros Cuentos. Trans. Ernesto Schóo 2nd paperback edition with prologue by Rodrigo  Fresán published 1995, very good condition

Spencer Holst Stories (Horizon 1976), hardcover with dustjacket, jacket stained, otherwise in excellent condition

Prose for Dancing (Station Hill 1983) translucent slip cover, inside cover by Beate Wheeler, numbered and signed by Spencer Holst (40 out of 100)

The Zebra Storyteller: Collected Stories (Station Hill 1993) paperback, dirty, curled, glue weakening


            By Spencer Holst and Beate Wheeler:

13 Essays 60 Drawings. (by subscription, 1960) self-bound binding fragile, some pages torn, in good but very delicate condition

Sixteen Drawings & Something to Read to Someone (signed by both, Station Hill Press 1980), paperback, cover, binding, and pages in excellent condition


            Special Homemade Editions:

                        Into the Quiet Pool of the Forgotten. 11/4/1961

“Bullfinch and Goblin”, a birthday edition for Vera Lachmann 6/23/year unknown) probably made in the 1960s, 1 with slip cover made by Beate Wheeler


            By Vera Lachmann with translations by Spencer Holst:

Golden Tanzt Das Licht Im Glas/Golden Dances the Light in the Glass (Castrvm Peregrini Presse 1969) 0hardcover with dust jacket, in good condition

Namen Werden Inseln/Names Become Islands (Castrvm Peregrini Press 1975, hard cover with slightly ripped dust jacket, in good condition, signed by Lachmann and Holst

Halmdiamanten/Grass Diamonds (Castrvm Peregrini Presse 1982) hard cover with dust jacket, good condition, signed by Lachmann and Holst




            “The Zebra Storyteller” in:

Fantastic Worlds: Myths, Tales, and Stories ed. Eric S. Rabkin (Oxford UP 1979), p 460 inscribed “this book belongs to Bea Holst (from S. Holst)”

Norton Introduction to Fiction, 2nd. Ed., ed. Jerome Beattie (Norton 1981), 3


            “Brilliant Silence” in:

Flash Fiction ed. James Thomas, Denise Thomas, and Tom Hazuka (Norton 1992), 17. Inscribed “for Beate from Spencer”


            “On Hope” in:

Sudden Fiction International ed. Robert Shapard and James Thomas (Norton 1989), 51, no dust jacket

Twenty One New Short Stories ed. Thoms Tepe (Ernst Klett Shulbuchverlag 1999), 37.


            “Three” in:

America a Prophecy ed. Jerome Rothenberg and George Quasha (Vintage Books 1974), 582.


“Sextiofyra Upptakter” and “Världens största vag” (“Pleasures of the Imagination” and “The Largest Wave in the World”) in:

Pegasen fran Prarien. ed. Peter Trachtenberg (Hammarström & Aberg 1983), 23, 268


By Beate Wheeler:

            Drawings by Beate Wheeler (Hawk’s Well Press 1963) with written introduction        

            by Spencer Holst


Box 5: Magazines containing pieces by and about Spencer Holst, including some notable items:


            Poems Collected at Les Deux Mégots. Dec. 1962, collected and mimeographed in the       

            authors’ own handwriting by Dan Saxon


Poets at Le  Metro. Vol. 7 Dec. 1963, collected and mimeographed in the authors’ own handwriting by Dan Saxon


Poets at Le Metro Vol. 11 Feb. 1964, collected and mimeographed in the authors’ own handwriting by Dan Saxon


Box 6: Audio and Visual Recordings


Reel-to-reel tapes

1 reel, 1/4” magnetic tape, with accompanying sheet identifying it as a segment for WBAI’s “Deeply Colored Stones of Very Short Prose” 6/25/1972, produced by Ruth Rotko: Holst reads Virginia Woolf, the I Ching, Franz Kafka, Thomas Jefferson, Jackson MacLow, Baudelaire, &  Spencer Holst; envelope containing the tape identifies it as “Westbeth Reading Tape.” Tape not heard.


1 reel, 1/4” magnetic tape, labeled as a segment for WBAI’s “Deeply Colored Stones of Very Short Prose” 4/25/1972: produced by Ruth Rotko, 7 1/2 ips, mono, 31 mins.: Holst reads Turgenieff (sic), Baudelaire, Yeats, Woolf, Garrique, and Spencer Holst. Tape not heard.



1 reel, ¼” magnetic tape, labeled “There are Different Kinds of Writing” for broadcast on WBAI 2/14/year unknown, Spencer Holst reads and Tui St. George Tucket plays bass recorder: 7 ½ ips. Tape not heard. Tape not heard.


1 reel, ¼” magnetic tape, in WBAi-issue box, info on back, (Recorded excerpts from Greta Garbo) crossed out, on front in Spencer Holst’s handwriting box is labeled “Hunger Camel?”


1 very short reel, ¼” magnetic tape, illegible label


1 very short reel with, ¼” tape, note inside front and side of box labeled “Asia House—Chinese Music”, back labeled “Spencer Holst “Oranges”


1 reel, ¼”, labeled “Vera—Poetry reading”


1 reel, ¼”, in small box, unlabeled


2 tiny reels in an unlabeled Speedball pen box


Audio Cassettes

“Spencer Holst: New School Reading” (Nov. 2, 1971)


Side A: “Spencer Holst: 5/28/1998” Side B: “From page 22 to end”


“Spencer Holst”: Side A: “There are Different Kinds of Writing” and “The Music Copyist: Part I” Side B: “The Music Copyist: Part II”, “Bullfinch and Goblin”, and “Bullfinch Music”


“Spencer Holst Interview/ Reading with Jennifer Farbar” WRPI radio, 6/21/2000, with Julia Laurie


“Spencer Holst and Tui St. George Tucker” New Wilderness Audiographics. Side A: “There are Different Kinds of Writing: Part II” (with music by Tui St. George Tucker performed by Pete Rose and David Carp, recorders) and “The Largest Wave in the World” Side B: “Bullfinch and Goblin” “First Sonata for Solo Recorder ‘The Bullfinch” by Tui St. George Tucker, performed by Ralph Zeitlin and “The Music Copyist”


“Reading of Spencer Holst Stories at the Open Center” read by various readers, including McLow, Charles Morrow Associates, 5/22/1993


“Spencer Holst: Secret of Senility”


“Charlie Morrow’s Bracelet: Spencer Holst Reads Spencer Holst” Other Media, 1993.


“Good Enough to Eat” Julia Laurie, WRPI radio, 9/15/1995




2 video cassettes. 1 with the word “mystery” written on the cover in Spencer Holst’s handwriting


1 Sony video tape, V32, for helical scan video tape recorders, “Double Take” Henry Alan/Spencer Holst


Compact Discs


“Balanced Boulders” for Grete Sultan, live performance at Westbeth, Dec. 11, 1999. Words by Spencer Holst, music by Roger Tréfousse. Spencer Holst and Jennifer Farbar, narrators, Music performed by Singletree (Helen Campo, flute; Marcus Rojas, tuba; and Pablo Rieppi, percussion)


“There are Different Kinds of Writing, Part II” Spencer Holst reading and Tui St George Tucker playing quartertone recorder duos, New Wilderness Audiographics.



Box 7: Books Inscribed to Spencer Holst


            By Jackson MacLow:

22 Light Poems (including “3rd Light Poem: for Spencer Holst, Beate Wheeler, & Sebastian Holst—12 June 1962”, Black Sparrow Press 1968)

Stanzas for Iris Lezak (Something Else Press 1971)

Four Trains (Burning Deck 1974)

36th Light Poem in Memoriam Buster Keaton (Permanent Press 1975)

Phone (Kontexts Publications 1979)

Asymmetries 1-260  (Printed Editions 1980)

                        From Pearl Harbor Day to FDR’s Birthday (Sun and Moon Press 1982)

Is That Wool Hat My Hat? (Membrane Press 1982)

                        Bloomsday  (Station Hill 1984)            

                        Representative Works: 1938-1985 (Roof Books 1986)

                        Pieces O’Six (Sun and Moon Press 1992)

                        20 Forties (Zasterle Press 1999)


            By John Cage:

                        M: Writings ’67-’72 (Calder and Boyars 1973)


            By Julian Beck and Judith Malina:

                        Paradise Now (Vintage Books 1971)


            By Judith Malina:


            The Enormous Despair (Random House 1972)

            Poems of a Wandering Jewess (Handshake Press 1982)

            The Diaries of Judith Malina 1947-1957 (Grove Press 1984)


            By Julian Beck:

                        The Life of the Theatre  (City Lights 1972)

Chants de la revolution (with elaborate inscription, Union Gênêrale D’Êditions 1974)

Daily Light Daily Speech Daily Life. (Edizioni Florida 1984)

            Semipermeable Membranes: Twenty Songs of the Revolution (Bliss 1984)


            By Armand Shwerner:

                        The Work, the Joy, and the Triumph of the Will (New Rivers Press 1977)


            By George Quasha:

                        Somapoetics (The Sumac Press 1973)

                        Word-yum (with elaborate inscription, Metapoetics Press 1975)


            By Naomi Replansky:

                        Ring Song (Facsimile of Scribners 1952, 1962)

                        Twenty-One Poems Old and New (The Gingko Press 1988)


            By Ree Dragonette:

                        Parable of the Fixed Stars (Allograph Books 1968)

                        This is the Way We Wash Our Hands (Calliope Publications 1977)


            By Rosé:

                        Poetraits (Z&F Press 1973)

                        The Pearl Upon the Crown (self-published, no date)


            By Theodore Enslin:

             Etudes (The Elizabeth Press 1972)


            By Allen Katzman:

                        The Immaculate (Doubleday 1970)


            By David Antin:

                        Definitions (Caterpillar 1967)


            By Sidney Bernard:

                        This Way to the Apocalypse (The Smith 1969)



Box 8: Books Inscribed to Spencer Holst



            By Olga Cabral:

                        The Green Dream (Contact II Publications 1990)


            By Allen Planz:

                        Wild Craft (Living Poets Press 1975)


            By Rochelle Ratner:

                        A Birthday of Waters (New Rivers Press 1971)

                        Sea Air in a Grave Ground Hog Turns Towards (‘Gull Books 1980)


            By William Kushner:

                        Night Fishing (Midnight Sun 1976)


            By Marguerite Harris:

                        A Reconciling of Rivers (El Corno Emplumado 1972)


            By Tony Cohan:

                        The Flame (Acrobat Books 1983)

                        Nine Ships (Acrobat 1975)


            By Allan Coleman:

                        Confirmation (Adco Enterprises 1975)


            By Harry Lewis:

                         Home Cooking (Mulch Press 1975)


            By Shirley Powell:

                         Parachutes (Mouth of the Dragon Press 1975)


            By Donald Newlove:   

                        The Painter Gabriel (with elaborate inscription, McCall 1970)

Leo and Theodore  (with elaborate inscription, Saturday Review Press 1972)

                        Those Drinking Days: Myself and Other Writers (Horizon Press 1981)


            By Paul Johnson:

                        Killing the Blues (St. Martin’s Press 1987)


            By Bliem Kern:

So It Was Written Thus It Is Fulfilled (inscribed with inserted note, La Maison de La Bléâme 1983)

Nuclear Prayer La Maison de la Bléâme 1978)


            By Alan Furst:

                        Your Day in the Barrel (Athenium 1976)


            By Raymond Mungo:

                        Return to Sender (Houghton Mifflin 1975)


            By Francine Prose:

                        Marie Laveau (Berkeley Publishing 1977)


            By Edward Hoagland:

                        African Calliope (Random House 1979)


            By Frances Whyatt:

                        American Gypsy (The Countryman Press 1983)


            By N. H. Pritchard:

                        EECCHHOOEESS  (New York UP 1971)


            By Carol Emshwiller:

                        Joy in Our Cause (Harper & Row 1974)


            By Barbara Adams Holland:

                        Medusa (self-pubulished, no date)


            By Sharon Olds:

                        Satan Says (U of Pittsburg Press 1980)


            By Suzanne Noguere:

                        Whirling Round the Sun (Midmarch Arts Press 1996)


            Norman Henry Pritchard II, ed.:

                        Friends Seminary Review 1972 (inscribed by Norman Pritchard)


            By Huguette Martel:

                        The Secret of the Gourmandy (MacMillan 1975)


            By Margaret Randall:

                        October (El Corno Emplumado 1965)


            By Margot de Silva:

                        A Geography of the Erotic Body (Fox Press 1974)


            By Judith Kroll:

                        In the Temperate Zone (Charles Scribner’s Sons 1973)


            By Daniel Thompson:

                        Famous in the Neighborhood (Burning Press 1989)


            By Charles Haseloff:

                        Ode to Susan (Peumbra 1972)


            By Helen Duberstein:

                        The Human Dimension (Gnosis 1970)

            The Shameless Old Lady (Ghostdance 57 1994)


            By Harold Holden:

                        The Dialogues of Athing & Other Poems (Inland Books 1993)


            By Pearl Bond and Jim Reed:

                        Woodstock Poetry Review Vol. 2, Summer 1977 (inscribed by Pearl Bond)


            By Richard Zarro:

                        The King of Numbers (Black Circus Press 1970)


            By Russell Edson:

                        The Childhood of an Equestrian (Harper & Row 1973)


            By Tom Savage:

                        Housing, Preservation, and Development (Cheap Review Press 1988)


            By Simon Perchik:

                        I Counted Only April (The Elizabeth Press 1964)


            By Anne Tardos:

                        Cat Licked the Garlic (Tsunami Editions 1992)


            By Eric S. Rabkin and Eugene M. Silverman:

                        It’s a Gas: A Study of Flatulence (Xenos Books 1991)


            Burt Britton, ed.:

                        Self-Portrait: Book People Picture Themselves (Random House 1976)


            By David Rattray:

                        The White Poem (self-published, inscribed January 1971)


            By Mary-Ella Holst:

                        Beyond Dreams of Rescue (Wind Rose Press 1992)


            Trans. and inscribed by David Haberman:

                        Erinna to Baucis (Private printing, 1978)


Box 9: Oversized Items


Spencer Holst’s calendar written on the back of posters advertising a Robert Sievert showing 1/7-27/?


Photographs and Artwork:

Childhood photograph from the studio of Lee F. Redman (Detroit) in cardboard frame, inscribed “Boy Holst to his Grandma and Grandpa” (date ripped off)


Photographic portrait of Spencer Holst


Large photographic prints by Norman Saito for The Zebra Storyteller


Large photographic print of Spencer holding black cat signed William Sutter? 1976


1 folder of miscellaneous drawings and paintings by various artists, including several by Mel Fowler and Nell Perret


1 folder of artwork by Beate Wheeler


1 folder pertaining to the artwork of Spencer Holst, including a painting and a reproduction of a painting by Holst


Scroll made by Jackson MacLow of “3rd Light Poem: for Spencer Holst & Beate Wheeler & Sebastian Holst” (tattered and in very delicate condition)


“A Vocabulary for Peter Innisfree Moore” performance piece with score by Jackson MacLow and art piece inscribed to Spencer and Bea 9/15/1975; trifolded, torn


Art piece by Jackson MacLow; “A Vocabulary for Vera Regina Lachmann” 3-4/1974, inscribed for Boy and Bea, May day 1984


Oversized posters and programs



Large scores of Quartertone Recorder Duets 1-V with performance instructions composed and handwritten by Tui St George Tucker, with unglued color ink drawing cover.


Large scores of “There are Different Kinds of Writing” with words by Spencer Holst, composed by Tui St George Tucker, with cardboard cover, coming unglued.


Score of “Summer Alleluia: Hymn for Solstice” by Tui St George Tucker


Score of “Sonata for Solo Recorder” by Tui St. George Tucker, inscribed to Beate Wheeler and Spencer Holst


“A Balkan Entertainment” cut and pasted to musical score


“Balanced Boulders” for narrator, flute, tuba, and percussion. Words by Spencer Holst, Music by Roger Tréfousse. Inscribed to Spencer from Tréfousse, with edits in marker by Spencer Holst.


1 folder of oversized manuscript of poety, see Box 1, Folder 15



Biography of Spencer Holst

            Spencer Holst was a legendary New York storyteller who plied his trade in venues of all kinds, including many of the city’s most renowned performance arenas, in a career that spanned more than forty years. His spirited renditions of his fantastic tales earned him the admiration and friendship of many of New York’s leading avant garde poets and writers, composers and musicians, visual artists, dancers, and thespians, including the poet Jackson MacLow, Julian Beck and Judith Malina of the Living Theatre, John Cage, Allen Ginsburg, Diane Wakoski, Paul Blackburn, Robert Stock, Harry Matthews, W. S. Merwyn, and John Hollander, among many others. He was awarded the Hilda and Richard Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1977 for the second collection of his stories to be published by a major press, Spencer Holst Stories, which was released by Horizon in 1976. His stories have been widely anthologized and translated into numerous languages, including Spanish, French, Japanese, and Swedish. At the end of  his life he became a painter, showing his work in galleries with the same zeal he applied to his readings.

            Holst was born on July 7, 1926 in Detroit, Michigan, to Lawrence “Doc” Holst, the prominent Detroit sports writer, and Ruth Holst, also a journalist and a poet. The pair would have a second child, a daughter named Mary-Ella, in 1934, before their separation in 1940. Holst and his father moved to Toledo, where “Doc” wrote for the Toledo Blade and the now-defunct Toledo Times. In 1942, when Holst was sixteen, he dropped out of high school and moved to New York to write poetry. His first friends there were committed anarchists and pacifists, like Beck and Malina, whose experimental theater company would provide Holst much of his earliest public exposure, though he was far more interested in their company than their politics.

            In 1944, shortly after the 21-year-old Jackson MacLow moved to the city, the two poets met and fostered a friendship that would last a lifetime. In a 1994 introduction to a reading by Holst, MacLow recalled that Holst began telling stories sometime after 1945, occasionally waking one of his friends with a knock to share a tale he had just woven. In this period he also befriended the composer Tui St George Tucker and the German/English bilingual poet Vera Lachmann; he would collaborate heavily with Tucker and Lachmann both through the ensuing decades. Holst served one year in the United States army at the end of World War II and traveled in the Yucatån in the mid-1950s before returning to New York to live permanently.

            Not until 1950 did Holst begin to write the stories down that he had already been perfecting through retelling. As a result, some of his earliest stories have vanished, like the manuscripts of his early poems. Jackson MacLow first published two of Holst’s stories, “The Zebra Storyteller” and “Bullfinch and Goblin”, in 1954, in the anarchist magazine Resistance.

            In 1959 Holst met the visual artist Beate Wheeler, moving into her apartment on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. Together and with the help of friends, the two printed and bound their first two books, 25 Stories and 13 Essays//60 Drawings, in 1960. Holst sold his books at Living Theatre performances for one dollar. In the same year, the Living Theatre staged a play written by Holst, “The Devil’s Mother”, directed by Malina and starring Lachmann, on a double bill with Holst’s storytelling.

            Holst and Wheeler had a son, Sebastian, in 1962, and moved to Staten Island where they could afford a larger home. There they met the painter Robert Sievert, who was to become another lifelong friend. When Westbeth Artists’ Housing opened in 1970, they applied for residence there and became charter tenants of the building. Holst would often gather with the building’s residents in the apartment of Grete Sultan, the concert pianist who frequently played Cage’s compositions, to play chess and socialize. The community fostered a unique environment for struggling artists to work, live, and collaborate with each other, paying rent that was adjusted to their means. With its many spaces for public exhibition, Westbeth became one of Holst’s preferred locales for staging his readings.

            Though he had had little commercial success, Holst’s notoriety as a performer had been building steadily throughout the 1960s, as he read in coffee shops and libraries, churches and on the radio, and in 1971, his first major collection, The Language of Cats and Other Stories, was published by McCall. The following year, Edicíones de la Flor published a Spanish-language translation in Argentina. The collection of short, sometimes paragraph-length, short stories was well-received critically, and Holst performed furiously throughout the first years of the decade. He would frequently appear with Lachmann, whose German-language poems he was busy translating into English prose, which the two published in three facing-page editions; Golden Tanzt Das Icht Im Glas/Golden Dances the Light in the Glass, in 1969; Namen Werden Inseln/Names Become Islands, in 1975; and Halmdiamanten/Grass Diamonds, in 1982; through Castrvm Peregrini Presse in Amsterdam. The dancers Sally Gross and Nannette Domingos often would choreograph routines to accompany his readings, or Tucker composed musical accompaniment. Mary-Ella, a poet in her own right, was another of his favorite reading companions.

            In 1976 Holst published his second, critically acclaimed short story collection, Spencer Holst Stories. The book contained both “The Institute for the Foul Ball”, Holst’s “unfinished baseball epic,” and a piece that he called, “Pleasures of the Imagination: 64 Beginnings”, the work that would occupy him in his last years of writing. “The Institute for the Foul Ball” was a much longer story than any of his other works, even at the time of its first publication, when it consisted of thirty-one pages and four chapters. In commemoration of the book’s publication, he read the longer piece in its then-entirety to an audience at Carnegie Recital Hall on Saturday, March 27. The next year he added six chapters; it remains the longest piece that Holst wrote.

            “Pleasures of the Imagination” represented another kind of departure from the short short story that Holst had become known for.  He referred to the sentences and paragraphs that filled the final pages of the collection as “beginnings”, stories that never became. As he began to write more and more of these “beginnings” and less stories, Holst’s readings and publications increasingly became composed of such paragraphs and sentences. The project that occupied Holst for much of his last years of writing was a piece he initially called “Charlie Morrow’s Bracelet”, when Station Hill published it in his collected works, The Zebra Storyteller, in 1993, and ultimately “Unpierced Pearls Strung”, consisting of 384 unconnected sentences in six parts at its completion. As emphysema began to make breathing difficult, Holst took to enlisting another reader, often Jennifer Farbar, the wife of his good friend, the actor Garry Goodrow, to trade off sentences with him when he performed the piece. From this new kind of collaboration sprung Holst’s concept of a “doublebook”, a book that would be issued in two volumes for two readers, to be read aloud. Though he urged George Quasha, who ran Station Hill Press, to publish his work in this fashion, he would not live to see his wish fulfilled. One year after the publication of his last book, Brilliant Silence: A Book of Paragraphs & Sentences and 13 Very, Very Short Stories, Holst died, on November 22, 2001, Thanksgiving day.