Emory & Henry College celebrated Monday a gift of a large poetry collection from a former E&H professor.
The Robert D. and Rachel K. Denham Poetry Collection consists of approximately 2,800 poetry books and magazines. A gift from Denham and his wife, Rachel, has enabled the College to catalog the collection and create a designated area in Kelly Library for the collection, fulfilling Denham’s hopes of enshrining a location on campus for the reading and study of poetry.
Denham recalled his time as a student at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, when he frequented the Harriet Monroe poetry collection in the Harper Library. Monroe had been the founding editor of Poetry magazine, the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world. In 1931 she decided to give her collection of poetry books and the files of the magazine to the University of Chicago. “I wanted to make available to others, especially students, what Harriet Monroe had made available to me––which was books, not just any books, but special books, separated from the others, and enshrined, as it were, in a distinctive place,” Denham said.
E&H President Rosalind Reichard joined Denham in signing a memorandum of agreement that officially establishes the collection. During her remarks she praised Denham for his support of the College and his appreciation of poetry. “We know that all of in this community will enjoy this collection tremendously, now and going forward.”
Items in the collection are divided into four groups: Modern and contemporary poetry, with a trace of fiction and criticism; poetry magazines; poetry books published as a part of the American Poets Project (Library of America), and books on Ekphrasis (a term indicating poetry or other literary work inspired by the visual arts).
Denham expressed a hope that the collection will enhance a love of poetry on the campus, including opportunities for poetry readings. “The verbal arts have needed a special place on this campus. Perhaps this section of the library can become such a place.”
Lorraine Abraham, the College’s chief information officer and director of the library, said the Denham Poetry Collection “brings depth and breadth to the Library’s holdings in the humanities and offers our patrons a gateway to a higher realm of human expression. It is our hope that this collection will encourage our students to find their own voices through poetry.”
Denham taught in the English Department at Emory & Henry College for 23 years. From 1986 to 1988 he was Director of English Programs and Director of the Association of Departments of English for the Modern Language Association in New York City. He has devoted much of his professional life to the criticism of Northrop Frye.
Rachel K. Denham graduated from Emory & Henry in 1975 with a degree in art. She received her MA in art is from New York University, and she holds an MFA from Radford University. For eight years she taught art in the public schools of Smyth County, VA, and from 1991 to 2004 was professor of art at Ferrum College.