Redgrove Papers

Ref: MS 171, MS 255, MS 392, MS 411

Title: Redgrove Papers

The papers of Peter Redgrove, including his working notebooks and correspondence, during the period 1970-2000. There are also two small separate collections of correspondence and other materials from the 1960s and a further collection of material collected by Professor Neil Roberts while researching his biography of Redgrove.

Dates: (MS 171) 1970-1989, (MS 255) 1962-1969 (with 2 letters from 1952, 1 letter from 1953, 1 letter from 1954), (MS 392) 1964-1969, (MS 411) 1960-2002

Level: Fonds
Extent: 171 boxes
Name of creator: Peter Redgrove

Administrative / biographical history:

The main collection (MS 171) consists of the poet Peter Redgrove's correspondence (some 10,500 letters) during the period 1970 to 1989, including correspondence with many significant figures in the world of contemporary literature, together with his complete working papers recording the composition of his work during this period, drafts of several literary works, and copies of interviews and reviews.

The small separate collection (MS 255), some 90 letters and other documents dating largely from the 1960s, comprises mainly letters and some drafts of poems sent to Redgrove principally by other poets, some of them associated with "The Group", and includes communications from Martin Bell, Philip Hobsbaum, P.J. Kavanagh, Edward Lucie-Smith, Alan Marshfield, Peter Porter, M.L. Rosenthal and D.M. Thomas.

The second small separate collection (MS 392) consists of four books of Peter Redgrove´s poetry, 22 letters and several duplicated copies of poems by Peter Redgrove, some with emendations. The material was donated by Dennis Creffield, Painting Fellow and friend of Redgrove at the University of Leeds, whose wife, Dilly, fell in love with Redgrove and became the inspiration for some of his most memorable poems.

The collection of material donated by Professor Neil Roberts on completion of the research for his biography of Peter Redgrove includes letters, pamphlets, typescripts and reviews dating from 1960 to 2002.

Peter Redgrove (b. 2nd January 1932) was educated at Taunton School and Queens' College Cambridge, where he was a founder-member of "The Group", an association of poets originating in Cambridge in 1952 which lasted as a formal grouping into the 1960s. From 1954 to 1961 he worked as a scientific journalist and editor, receiving in 1961 a Fulbright Award as Visiting Poet to Buffalo University, N.Y. From 1962 to 1965 he was Gregory Fellow in Poetry at Leeds University, from 1966 to 1983 Resident Author and Senior Lecturer in Complementary Studies, Falmouth School of Art, and from 1974 to 1975 O'Connor Professor of Literature at Colgate University, N.Y. After that he worked as a free-lance writer and broadcaster. As well as the poetry for which he is best known, Redgrove wrote plays (several of which have been broadcast), and novels. His work won him many literary prizes and awards, including the Queen's Medal for Poetry in 1996.

Redgrove trained as a Jungian analyst, and regarded creative, psychological and scientific work as aspects of the same continuum, and the creative process itself as evolutionary. Dreams and the unconscious were viewed as essential features of human existence. His chief interest, and the theme of his work, was the way in which a creative and imaginative response can be the natural and life-giving reaction to everyday existence. One example of the psychological element in his creative work is The Wise Wound, a study of the significant but "rejected" menstrual element of the human fertility cycle, written, as have been other works, in collaboration with his wife and partner Penelope Shuttle, a creative author in her own right. Peter Redgrove died in June 2003.

Redgrove's Working Method

Peter Redgrove's belief in the creative process as evolutionary, whatever area of human experience it occurs in, was reflected in his working method. The method was one of collection, incubation, and one could say revelation, in the sense that something was disclosed which was not before recognised, and it is this recognition that is all important in Redgrove's work. His inspiration and ideas came from the world around us, which then went through a series of steps and drafts until finally being transformed into one of the forms Redgrove used. His ideas were reworked in different forms, and so for example there is In The Country of the Skin which is both a novel and a radio play, as is The God of Glass, or there is the theme of bees explored in both The Beekeepers and The Martyr of the Hives.

The following is taken from an article by Redgrove in the Poetry Review, Vol 85, No 1, Spring 1995, pages 54-56, and is used by kind permission of David Higham Associates.

"The creative process has been well charted - but is still mysterious. There are basic procedures the artist can use to open up the possibilities inherent in himself and the situation; yet the process can't be forced. Berlioz called it 'careful luck'. 'Inspiration' is thus a composite.
There is always an important unconscious component. Hard work is essential - and it is hard work - but the 'germ' of a piece may seem to come from nowhere, is plucked out of the air. Henry James described the operations of this unpredictable grace in his Prefaces. Creators also agree that work at certain stages has to be incubated: that is, it must be allowed to 'cook' out of view somewhere in the psyche. Next time one looks, at least part of the work may be finished, as though it had created itself.
There is, then, the germ to be caught, which infects one with the fever of the work, the active drafting, the conscious experimentation with words and phrases right down to the last comma and vowel; then follows as deliberate a decision to be patient, to lose the work for a time in unknown regions to see how it fares there; and afterwards, to fish it out again, like Dylan Thomas's 'Long-legged Bait', and find in one's nets - what? a pile of bones or a new-born child...
More soberly, two components are clear: the tension of conscious work, and the relaxation that allows the work to speak for itself. It is best to cultivate a balance and pliability between these two in order to make the best use of one's creative powers; the artist must be adept at both phases of this two-way process of willing, and receiving, of work, and incubation.
I evolved my own system of work because I consider the creative process the most valuable of mental events, and I wanted to make the fullest use of whatever gifts I have. I believe that the process is evolutionary, whether it occurs in art, science or in human relations. Thus, it is 'Faust' which creates Goethe. It is in this way that I believe the creative process can be lived; for example, in answer to the old question 'When is the analysis finished?', that is when is a person functioning properly, Von Franz gave her answer 'When that person lives in a continual state of active imagination'. And to the other old question, put to Rodin by younger artists, 'What do I do when I can't work?', the answer was 'Work at something else.' I wanted a method whereby there would always be creative work to do, always work-in-progress to be taken up. What I evolved is very simple, and like a 'cascade' process in chemical engineering. I have used it for about twenty years, and thus there is in existence, for that time, a complete record in this detail and moving towards this form, of every stage of creative process in all my work: poetry, prose fiction, drama and psychology."

The Redgrove Papers present a unique opportunity for researchers to trace the evolutionary process which allows the transformation of images into poetry and prose. It is a highly significant research tool for students of English Literature and Creative Writing and, due to the large abundance of extra material which Redgrove used in his own research serving to locate his output within a specific historical time, is equally significant to anybody interested in the years which are covered by the collection.

Professor Neil Roberts, of the Department of English Literature at Sheffield, is an authority on Redgrove's work, and has written The Lover, The Dreamer and the World: the Poetry of Peter Redgrove, Sheffield Academic Press, 1994.

The main collection of the Redgrove Papers (MS 171) was the subject of a HEFCE Follett Award in 1995, which resulted in a searchable database. This database has been upgraded and is available through the top right-hand link. There are also links to separate searchable listings of the letters, notebooks, working papers and other materials.

List of correspondents in collection MS 255 only
The figure in brackets refer to the number of items

Bell, Martin (23)
Callow, Philip (3)
Hobsbaum, Philip (8)
Holbrook, David (1)
Kavanagh, P.J. (11)
Kirkup, James (3)
Koestler, Arthur (1)
Lane, Allen (1)
Lucie-Smith, Edward (7)
Marshfield, Alan (12)
Porter, Peter (9)
Rosenthal, M.L. (5)
Thomas, D.M. (4)
Wolfit, Donald (1)

  • Related collections: Redgrove Collection
  • Source: Purchased 1992 (MS 171) and 2001 (MS 255). Donated 2009 (MS 392) and 2011 (MS 411)
  • System of arrangement: By category
  • Subjects: English Literature - 20th century; English Poetry - 20th century
  • Names: Redgrove, Peter, 1932-2003
  • Conditions of access: Available to all researchers, by appointment
  • Restrictions: Certain documents are restricted
  • Copyright: Penelope Shuttle (Peter Redgrove’s own work); otherwise, according to document
  • Finding aids:
    MS 171: Searchable database and listings available – see right hand links
    MS 255: List available. Correspondents listed above
    MS 392: List available
    MS 411: List available
  • Associated material: Other Redgrove manuscripts are held at the University of Leeds Library