The University of Rochester's Rare Books and Special Collections Library has acquired the current archive of BOA Editions, Ltd., a Pulitzer Prize-winning, not-for-profit publishing house in Rochester that continues to receive international acclaim for its work.
Since its beginning in 1976, BOA has published more than 170 books of American poetry and poetry in translation. The Rare Books and Special Collections Library finalized the purchase of the BOA archive representing 10 years of publishing (1996-2005) this month; the first collection of the BOA archive (1976-1995) is held at Yale University's Beinecke Library.
A particularly deep and diverse collection for a small publishing house, the archive is rich in manuscripts, annotated manuscripts with authors' corrections and correspondence, as well as publishing ephemera: galleys, original cover art, photographs, and sales catalogs. The current archive comprises materials gathered from BOA's five distinct publishing venues: the American Poets Continuum; the A. Poulin, Jr. New Poets of America Series; the New American Translation Series; the BOA Pamphlets Series; and the American Reader Series.
"If the archive contained just the records of one of these series, the acquisition would have deserved serious consideration; the fact that it contains the complete archive from all venues made it all the more important and attractive," said Richard Peek, director of the Rare Books and Special Collections Library. "BOA has been successful for many reasons, not the least of which is its continuing efforts to publish poets from diverse cultural and aesthetic backgrounds."
BOA's Executive Director George Wallace remarked: "For 30 years, BOA Editions, Ltd. and the University of Rochester have pursued education and literary excellence separately. The housing of BOA's archive at the University marks the beginning of a partnership that will help BOA and the University achieve their separate and shared goals. I am very excited about this collaboration."
BOA has taken pride in publishing little-known poets, some of whom were ignored by other publishing houses; for example, Carolyn Kizer's Yin had been turned down by nearly every major publishing house but won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. BOA's publication of Rose by the then unknown poet Li-Young Lee won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award, and established Lee as one of the country's most prominent young writers.
Other works published during the last 10 years include books by Lucille Clifton, Louis Simpson, W. D. Snodgrass, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sam Hamill, and, following his death, A. Poulin, Jr., who was the founding publisher and president of BOA Editions. Also included in the BOA catalog are works by Hyam Plutzik, William Heyen, Anthony Piccione, and David Ignatow, all of whom have their papers in the University of Rochester's Rare Books and Special Collections Library. In addition to seeing its poets and books win awards year after year, BOA itself won the 2001 New York State Governor's Arts Award for overall artistic excellence, the only New York State not-for-profit literary publisher in 38 years ever to receive such an honor.
BOA experienced a particularly important growth period from 1996 to 2005 when it published approximately 80 books, an impressive output for a small press. Each year saw the publication of several major books of poetry, which quickly won critical acclaim as BOA books were either short-listed for major awards or were award recipients. For example, Lucille Clifton's Blessing the Boats won the National Book Award in 2000; Li-Young Lee's Book of My Nights won the William Carlos Williams Award in 2002, and this year's The Orchard by Brigit Pegeen Kelly was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, as well as being short-listed for both the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the National Book Critics Award.
Peek pointed out that the research potential offered by the BOA archive is great—the history of BOA as a successful publishing house is a research project in itself—and the archive will be of great interest to anyone studying poets and poetry, the writings of people of color, how the small press publishing business happens, and anyone interested in researching Rochester businesses as well.
"In addition to providing the University of Rochester with a wealth of research materials, the acquisition of the archive also will significantly strengthen our relationship with BOA and BOA poets, to the mutual benefit of both the University of Rochester and BOA," he said.