University of Rochester

University Establishes Library for Contemporary Writing Center honoring Hyam Plutzik is anchored by collection of poet William Heyen

April 10, 1998

To recognize 20th-century writers and their works, the University is creating a center for the study of contemporary writing. It will be located within Rush Rhees Library, the central library on the River Campus.

Showcased in the new Plutzik Library for Contemporary Writing will be an important collection of contemporary prose and poetry recently acquired by the University from the poet William Heyen of Brockport. This collection of approximately 10,000 items is considered to be one of the finest assemblages of inscribed first editions, manuscripts, and correspondence from major American writers over the past 30 years.

Some of the authors in the Heyen Collection are: Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Wilbur, Robert Penn Warren, William Stafford, Gwendolyn Brooks, Raymond Carver, Rita Dove, May Sarton, Archibald MacLeish, and Elie Wiesel.

A campaign to renovate a portion of the second floor of Rush Rhees Library for the writing center has begun. Family members of Hyam Plutzik, who was the University's Deane Professor of Poetry and Rhetoric at the time of his death in 1962, have made significant gifts to this new project, and additional support is being sought.

The new Plutzik Library will serve as a complementary link to the well-known and long-standing Plutzik Memorial Poetry Series sponsored by the Department of English. The library will also house selected materials from the extensive Plutzik Archive donated in 1976 to the University by Tanya Roth Plutzik, the writer's widow who lives in Pittsford, N.Y.

The Heyen collection was formally acquired by the University in mid-January.

A portion of the interior space of the Plutzik Library will be named to honor recently retired English professor Jarold Ramsey, who served as director of the Plutzik Series for many years. Manuscripts and representative published works of Ramsey will also become a permanent part of the Plutzik Library.

University President Thomas H. Jackson and Provost Charles E. Phelps noted: "The University is very pleased to be able to commemorate Professor Plutzik's local and national legacy through the creation of this facility. The Plutzik Library will be a major addition to the resources offered by the Library to students, faculty, and visiting scholars who are interested in contemporary and creative writing."

Dean of River Campus Libraries Ronald F. Dow added that the Plutzik Library will "bring together the names of three gifted writers and teachers in this dynamic new center. We anticipate that this Library will be a major asset to our campus, to the Rochester community of writers and to scholars around the nation. It is an honor for the Rush Rhees Library to collaborate with the English Department and the Plutzik Family on this important effort to create the Hyam Plutzik Library for Contemporary Writing."

Before his death, Plutzik's career as a writer and poet witnessed much national and international critical acclaim through the publication of such major works as Aspects of Proteus, Apples from Shinar and Horatio, Hyam Plutzik: The Collected Poems was published by BOA Editions in 1987.

The Plutzik Memorial Poetry Series, established in 1962, is one of the oldest, collegiate-based, reading series offering free public access to the work of contemporary writers in the nation. Since its inception, almost 250 noted writers have come to the University to read and interact with the community.

The 1997-98 academic year marks the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Plutzik Series. On April 9, a special offering of the series was held with a reading of Hyam Plutzik's poetry by William Heyen and Jarold Ramsey in Rush Rhees Library's Welles-Brown Room. This reading brought the recent history of poetry at the University full-circle, from its inception in the late 1950s with readings by Hyam Plutzik, to its position today, as one of the University's most prestigious community-based programs.

Family members of Hyam Plutzik have made substantial gifts to establish the new library. They include: Tanya Roth Plutzik ('69 MAS); Roberta Plutzik Baldwin ('69) and Neil Baldwin ('69) of Upper Montclair, N.J.; Alan and Carolyn Plutzik of Walnut Creek, Calif.; Jonathan Plutzik and Lesley Goldwasser Plutzik of New York City; and Deborah Plutzik Briggs ('80 ESM) and Jeffery Briggs ('79 ESM) of Freeland, Md., the children and their spouses of Mrs. Plutzik and the late professor. Support is now being sought from other sources to secure full funding for the library.