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Detail from mock-up for cover design for Alice Notley's At Night the States.
Detail from mock-up for cover design for Alice Notley's At Night the States.

The George Schneeman Archive

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The Rare Book and Special Collections Division holds the archive for the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in New York City. This archive, acquired in 2007, spans nearly 50 years from the organization’s founding and includes the administrative files, publications, flyers, readings and workshop recordings, correspondence, and other materials produced by this oldest independent literary center in the U.S. In 2018 the Division acquired a complementary archive of poet and painter George Schneeman. Schneeman holds a special place in the history of the Poetry Project, having devoted nearly 40 years of his artistic life to the organization.

A young George Schneeman working at his typewriter.
A young George Schneeman working at his typewriter.

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1934, Schneeman completed undergraduate studies in English and Philosophy at St. Mary’s College in Winona, followed by graduate studies in English literature at the University of Minnesota. He then enlisted in the army where his language skills landed him a post in Verona, Italy. Although he had been writing poetry for most of his life, it was in Italy that he took up painting while still serving on active duty. Largely self-taught, Schneeman was influenced by Italian Renaissance art, and later in life by Pop-Art and Minimalism. In 1959, he married Kathryn “Katie” Pratt and soon after began raising a family. Upon being discharged from the army, the Schneemans moved from Verona to rural Tuscany, where they’d spend the next seven years living in a simple farmhouse lacking electricity and running water. George continued painting, mostly landscapes, while teaching English, Italian, and art to student groups.

Mock-up for a flyer announcing a reading by Adrienne Rich at the Poetry Project.
Mock-up for a flyer announcing a reading by Adrienne Rich at the Poetry Project.

 

Finished flyer announcing a reading by Adrienne Rich at the Poetry Project at St. Mark's.
Finished flyer announcing a reading by Adrienne Rich at the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s.

In 1966, the Schneemans made the decision to move from Tuscany to New York City, settling into the Lower East Side with their three boys. George had fortuitously befriended two traveling American poets while he was still living in Italy, Ron Padgett and Peter Schjeldahl, and had already collaborated with Schjeldahl on a project. Upon arriving in New York, Padget and Schjeldahl introduced Schneeman to the Poetry Project and he quickly became involved, integrating into the second-generation of New York School poetry and finding a comfortable and appreciative home for his creative output. He worked with writers who figured prominently in the history of the Poetry Project, such as Ron Padgett, Ted Berrigan, Anne Waldman, Dick Gallup, Alice Notley, Bill Berkson, Larry Fagin, and Lewis Warsh among others, and he mixed their words with his art. Some of these collaborations can be found in the book Painter among Poets: The Collaborative Art of George Schneeman (2004).

Cover design by George Schneeman for Anne Waldman's Giant Night.
Cover design by George Schneeman for Anne Waldman’s Giant Night.

 

Mock-up cover design for Alice Notley's At Night the States.
Mock-up cover design for Alice Notley’s At Night the States.

 

1968 wall calendar by George Schneeman. Part of a perfect set, one of four known.
1968 wall calendar by George Schneeman. Part of a perfect set, one of four known.

 

Letter from Ron Padgett to George Schneeman, post-dated October 27, 1969.
Letter from Ron Padgett to George Schneeman, post-dated October 27, 1969.

 

Original silkscreen print portrait of Ted Berrigan by George Schneeman.
Original silkscreen print portrait of Ted Berrigan by George Schneeman.

Over the next nearly forty years, Schneeman collaborated with the Poetry Project and the poets by designing flyers for readings and workshops, posters, calendars, broadsides, covers for magazines and books and by painting portraits of the poets that he befriended. He also donated pieces of his artwork to the Poetry Project for their fundraising events. Schneeman exhibited his work in several galleries, including his own, and received largely favorable reviews from critics. His archive includes many examples of these materials, including mock-ups, finished products, and correspondence he had with the writers with whom he was collaborating. He lived out his life on the Lower East Side with somewhat regular trips back to Italy, which had so obviously captured his artistic imagination. George Schneeman, beloved and respected by so many poets, passed away in 2009 in New York City.

For more information about the archive for the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church or the George Schneeman Archive, send a message to Rare Book and Special Collections Division staff through Ask-A-Librarian.

Obituary card for George Schneeman.
Obituary card for George Schneeman.

 

SOURCES

Wikipedia -– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Schneeman

George Schneeman website — http://www.georgeschneeman.com/

George Schneeman. Painter among Poets : the Collaborative Art of George Schneeman. Edited by Ron Padgett. New York City : Granary Books, 2004. https://lccn.loc.gov/2003026117

 

RESOURCES

Rare Book and Special Collections Division Digitizes 40 Years of Poetry Project Sound Recordings — April 18, 2022 blog post about the Poetry Project.

Junior Fellow Builds Access to Postwar Poetry Archive — July 17, 2018 interview with Junior Fellow Antonio Parker.

 

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