Collection K/PP106 - MOTTRAM, Professor Eric Noel William (1924-1995)

Key Information

Reference code



MOTTRAM, Professor Eric Noel William (1924-1995)


  • 1935-1994 (Creation)

Level of description



500 boxes or 5.0 cubic metres

Scope and content

The archive includes the papers, correspondence, diaries and manuscripts, recordings, research material and publications of Professor Eric Mottram and spans the period 1928-1995. Covering his own creative work and academic publications, it also reflects his wide-ranging cultural investigations in the field of twentieth century American and English literature, film, music, art, theatre and popular and material culture. A major series of files about named authors and poets covers figures as diverse as Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Charles Olson, Ezra Pound, Jerome Rothenberg, Muriel Rukeyser, William Burroughs, Basil Bunting, Bob Cobbing, Roy Fisher, Bill Griffiths and Tom Raworth. Also of particular importance are a series of original tape recordings, mainly made by Mottram, of poets reading their work. Linked to this material is a rich series of little press publications and little magazines. The two chief aspects of Mottram's own work are reflected in his artist notebooks and essays. The former run from 1979-1988 and contain draft poems, notes on a whole range of research topics, with inserts of postcards, press-cuttings, photographs, cartoons, artworks and postage stamps to create a rich wallet of collage effects. The essay series, including published and unpublished material and supporting notes, reflects his wide-ranging contribution over nearly half a century to the teaching of American and English literature. Major groupings within the archive are as follows: personal papers including appointment diaries, 1951-1995, and correspondence with Ted and Joan Wilentz, 1963-1994; papers reflecting Mottram's own poetry including notebooks, and manuscripts, 1956-1995; papers reflecting his publications including reviews and collaborations, 1952-1988; editorial papers notably for The Poetry Review; correspondence with and/or papers relating to twentieth century creative writers, 1928-1998; little press publications, 1954-1998;little magazines, 1942-1998; papers relating to academic teaching, research and administration, [1952]-1994; Mottram's essay texts and associated material, 1947-1995; promotional material for literary events and from publishers, 1945-1958; artworks and posters, 1953-1994; photographs by Mottram, 1950-1995; and recorded material notably including original recordings of poets from both sides of the Atlantic reading their material, 1950-1998.

System of arrangement

Mottram arranged his archive by both physical type and theme. Neither approach was entirely discrete. Editions produced by little presses, for example, might be grouped together by press title or placed in a labelled plastic bag with cuttings, typescripts, and letters by or about a named author. Some groupings, box files, bags and shelf contents reflected obvious and less obvious themes, whilst others containing fliers for estate agents and pizza vendors reflected a simple chronological accumulation. There is no evidence, in these latter cases, that Mottram intended to follow Andy Warhol's example and deliberately file the entire contents of his desk from time to time. Mottram was well known for his ability to draw ideas and make connections from and between the most disparate sources and in seeking to provide an accessible arrangement for the collection we have been mindful of the need to respect Mottram's arrangement wherever possible. The resultant sections are outlined in the Scope and Content. It should be noted, however, that a quantity of the material is undated and detailed cataloguing remains to be completed for some sections. Notes have been made on the original locations of the material within Mottram's house and are available on request in the reading room.

General Information

Name of creator


Biographical history

Born in London, 1924; educated Purley Grammar School, Croydon, Surrey, 1935-1940, and Blackpool Grammar School, Lancashire, 1940-1943. Awarded scholarship to Pembroke College, Cambridge but enlisted in the Royal Navy instead, 1943. Served North Atlantic Convoys and as a Sub Lt in RNVR on mine sweepers in Far East (Ceylon, Malaya and Burma), 1943-1947. Scholar of Pembroke College, Cambridge, 1947-1950. BA with First Class honours in both part of Tripos, 1950; awarded Jebb Studentship, Cambridge University, 1950-1951. Appointed Lektor in English, Faculty of Philosophy, Zurich University, Switzerland, 1951-1952. Toured Italy with John Page, Aug-Sep 1952. Appointed Assistant Lecturer in English Literature, University of Malaya at Singapore, 1953-1954. Slow sea-journey home, taking in Japan, Angkor Wat, Cambodia and Egypt, 1954-1955. Lecturer in English Literature, Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Groningen, Holland, 1955-1960. Took up initial appointment for two years as Lecturer in English and American Literature at King's College London, 1960-1962. Toured USA, called on Allen Ginsberg, and made many new contacts, Jul-Sep 1960. Visited New York and Philadelphia, called on William Carlos Williams, Apr-May 1962. Tenure as Lecturer at University of London confirmed, 1963. Inaugural meeting of the Institute of United States Studies at the University of London of which Mottram was co-founder and was responsible especially for the literary and cultural elements of the MA course in Area Studies (United States), 5 Jul 1965. Visiting Fellow at State University of New York at Buffalo, where he was introduced to Basil Bunting, 27 Jun 1966; also lectured at Brooklyn, Bridgeport, Philadelphia and Kent State University, Oct 1965- Sep 1966. Bill Butler on trial in Brighton in August 1968 over obscene publications charges; Mottram speaks for the defence, but Magistrates convict, 1968. Visiting Professor at Kent State University Ohio, Sep-Dec 1968. Appointed Editor of The Poetry Review (the journal of The Poetry Society, London), duties to commence with Autumn 1971 issue, Jan 1971. Visiting Professor at Kent State University, Ohio, Sep 1970-Mar 1971, tragedy of shooting of four students on campus occurred 4 May 1970. Read at Miners' Benefit Reading in Newcastle upon Tyne organised by Tom Pickard, Feb 12-13 1972. Moved in summer from 15 Vicarage Gate W8 to 40 Guernsey Grove, Herne Hill in South-East London, 1972. Appointed Reader in English and American Literature at King's College London, Jan 1973. Visiting Professor at Kent State University, Ohio, Jan - Apr 1974. Speaker at Melville Conference in Paris, 5-9 May 1974. Lectured in Tunis, Apr 10-17 1974. Lectured at Salzburg Seminar in American Studies, Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, 25 Aug to 6 Sep 1975. Gave lecture for Austrian American Studies Association, Vienna, 3 Mar 1977. Editorship of The Poetry Review ceased after intervention from Arts Council of Great Britain in policy at The Poetry Society, 1977. Visited America, including Buffalo, New York, Kent State and San Francisco, 30 Mar-15 May 1979. Lectured at conference in Budapest, 28-31 Mar 1980. Read at Festival of British Poetry in New York, 1982. Appointed Professor of English and American Literature at King's College London, 1 Oct 1982. Teaching at Philadelphia, then tour of US covering 10 states and Canada, May-Jul 1984. Visited Hyderabad (Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages), Sep 1984. Lectured at American Studies conference at Valencia University in Spain, 28-30 May 1985. Travelled to Naropa Institute for Burroughs' Conference; then tour of Colorado, Jul 1985. Lectured at Alcala de Henares near Madrid, Apr 1988. Organised exhibition about aircraft from Sir George Cayley to the Wright Bros (1799-1909) at Polytechnic of Central London for 150th Anniversary of its founding, 1988. (In 1989 the exhibition was shown at RAF Museum Hendon). Co-edited New British Poetry Anthology for Paladin, 1988. Lectured at Sorbonne in Paris, 14 Feb 1990. During May interviewed Robert Creeley on BBC Three. Retired from King's College London with the title of Emeritus Professor of English and American Literature, Sep 1990. Read at benefit reading for Shakespeare & Co, Paris, Mar 1991. Mountjoy Fellow at Basil Bunting Poetry Centre, University of Durham, Jan-Mar 1992. Invitations to Coimbra University, Portugal, and University of Helsinki declined as heart surgery was required in May 1992. Visiting Professor at State University of New York at Buffalo, to help launch their Poetics program, 17 Sep-2 Dec 1992. Conference on Law & American Literature at Coimbra University, Portugal, 1993. Festschrift in Mottram's honour published A permanent etcetera: Cross-cultural perspectives on Post- War America ed. A. Robert Lee (Pluto Press, London and Boulder, Colorado, 1993), 1993. Visit to Denmark and lectured at University of Aarhus, March, and at Helsinki in Finland, early June, 1994. Two anthologies were issued in later 1994 to celebrate Mottram's 70th birthday: Motley for Mottram: tributes to Eric Mottram on his 70th birthday ed. Bill Griffiths & Bob Cobbing (Amra Imprint, Seaham, and Writers Forum, London, 1994); and Alive in parts of this century: Eric Mottram at 70 ed. Peterjon & Yasmin Skelt (North & South, Twickenham and Wakefield, 1994), 1994. Died 16 Jan 1995.

Academic books: American Studies in Europe (J. B. Walters, Groningen & Djakarta, 1955) (Mottram's inaugural lecture at Groningen University, Holland)

Books on America: American Literature (British Association for American Studies, UK, 1966, as 'Books on America series no. 4') (bibliography) William Burroughs: the algebra of need (Intrepid Press, Buffalo, New York, 1971, as Beau Fleuve series no. 2) and (Marion Boyars, London, 1977). Revised edition, Algebra of need: William Burroughs and the gods of death (Marion Boyars, 1992) William Faulkner (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1971) Allen Ginsberg in the Sixties (Unicorn Bookshop, Brighton & Seattle, 1972) The Rexroth Reader, selected edition by Mottram (Jonathan Cape, London, 1972) Entrances to the Americas: poetry, ecology, translation, edited by Eric Mottram (Polytechnic of Central London, 1975) Paul Bowles: staticity & terror (Aloes Books, London, 1976) Towards design in poetry (Writers Forum, London, 1977) A reading of Thomas Meyer's first ten years (Reality Studios, London, 1985, as Occasional Paper no. 2) Blood on the Nash Ambassador: investigations in American culture (Hutchinson Radius, London, 1989) (selected essays)

Poetry publications: Inside the whale (Writers Forum, London, 1970, as Writers Forum Quarto no. 7) Shelter Island & The remaining world (Turret Books, London, 1971, as Tall Turret 1) The he expression (Aloes Books, London, 1973) Local movement (Writers Forum, London, 1973) Kent journal (published by Mottram, 1974) (10 copies) Two elegies (Poet & Peasant, Hayes, Middlesex, 1974; second edition, 1976) Against tyranny (Poet & Peasant, Hayes, Middlesex, 1975) '1922 earth raids', and other poems 1973-1975 (New London Pride, London, 1976) A faithful private (Genera, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1976, as issue 13) Homage to Braque (Blacksuede Boot Press, [London], 1976) Descents of love: songs of recognition (Mugshots no. 6, card in set, no publisher given, 1977) Spring Ford (Pig Press Hasty Editions, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1977) Tunis (Rivelin Press, Sheffield, 1977) Precipice of Fishes (Writers Forum, London, 1979) (a set of cards) Windsor Forest: Bill Butler in memoriam (Pig Press, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1979) From shadow borders (Twisted Wrist, Paris, 1979, as publication no. 5) 1980 Mediate (Zunne Heft, Maidstone, Kent, 1980) A book of Herne: 1975-1981 (Arrowspire Press, Colne, Lancashire, 1981) Elegies (Galloping Dog, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1981) Interrogation rooms; poems 1980-1981 (Spanner, London, 1982) Address (Shadowcat, [Gateshead] 1983) (text handwritten and illuminated by Maria Makepeace) Three Letters (Spanner, London, 1984, as Open Field no. 2) The legal poems: 29 December 1980 - 30 May 1981 (Arrowspire, Colne, Lancashire, 1986) Peace projects & brief novels, 1986-1988 (Talus Editions, London, 1989) Selected poems (North & South, Twickenham & Wakefield, 1989) Season of monsters: poems 1989-1990 (Writers Forum, London, 1991) Resistances: A homage to René Char (RWC, Sutton, 1991, as RWC 9-10) Estuaries: Poems 1989-91 (Solaris, Twickenham, Middlesex, 1992) Raise the wind for me: poems for Basil Bunting (Pig Press, Durham, 1992, as special issue of Staple Diet) Time Sight Unseen (State University of New York at Buffalo, 1993) Design origins: Masks book two, poems 1993-4 (Amra Imprint, Seaham, Co. Durham, 1994) Inheritance: Masks book one, poems 1993-1994 (Writers Forum, London, 1994) Double your stakes: Masks book three (RWC, London, 1995) Hyderabad depositions (University of Salzburg Press, 1997) Periodical contests: Masks book four (Anarcho Press, Badninish, Sutherland, with Mainstream, St Albans, Hertfordshire, 1997) Limits of self-regard (Talus Editions, King's College London, 1998)

Further bibliographic details of reprints, translations, collaborations and articles may be found in Eric Mottram: A Bibliography, prepared by Bill Griffiths (King's College London, 1999). See also Eric Mottram: A checklist of his poems, compiled by Valerie Soar (King's College London, 1999).

Custodial history

Presented to King's College London by Mottram's brother and sister, Brian Mottram and Mrs Brenda McIntosh, 1996.

Conditions governing access

Open, subject to signature of Reader's undertaking form, and appropriate provision of two forms of identification, to include one photographic ID.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied from open material for research purposes only.

Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Archives.

King's College London holds Mottram copyright but prior permission of other authors and/or copyright holders may be required prior to copying whole or extensive parts of texts.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Finding aids

Summary guide entry and substantial sections of detailed catalogue available online here. The cataloguing of the audio tapes, essays and academic administrative material remains to be completed.

Related materials

King's College Library holds Mottram's library and collection of commercially produced gramophone records.

Related descriptions


Catalogued by Bill Griffiths and Valerie Soar.

Cataloguing of this collection was made possible through the generous support of The Pilgrim Trust, the Principal of King's College London's Discretionary Fund, and the King's College London Development Fund.

Digitisation of audio tapes was made possible through the generous support of Valerie Soar.

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Rules and/or conventions used

Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000.


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