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Guide to the Ronald Johnson Collection

Ronald Johnson papers


Creator:Johnson, Ronald, 1935-1998
Title: Ronald Johnson papers
Dates: 1954-1993
Quantity: 13 linear feet (29 boxes)
Abstract:This collection of Ashland, Kansas native Ronald Johnson's papers reflects his literary and professional writing activities, containing poetry, galley proofs of poetry books, recipes, and proofs for cookbooks. It also contains personal letters from friends, including poet Jonathan Williams and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Language: English

Call Number:

MS 66

Repository: University of Kansas
Kenneth Spencer Research Library
1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence, KS 66045-7616
URL: http://spencer.lib.ku.edu/
Finding aid prepared by alh, 1969. Finding aid encoded by skt, 2008. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2017.
This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2018-04-13 14:18:26 -0500.

BIOGRAPHY of Ronald Johnson

Ronald Johnson was born in Ashland, Kansas on November 25, 1935 to A.T. and Helen (Mayse) Johnson (1910-1993). He spent some time at the University of Kansas, beginning his studies there in 1953 and completing his freshman year, before performing two years of national service in the Army in Georgia, Arizona, and California. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1960 at Columbia University.

In 1964, Johnson published his first collection of poetry, A Line of Poetry, A Row of Trees. He would go on to publish numerous poetry collections, including The Book of the Green Man (1967) and Radi os (1977), an erasure poem Johnson created by excising text from the first four books of John Milton's Paradise Lost. The complete version of Johnson's long poem ARK was published in 1996 by Living Batch Press; ARK is divided into three books, each containing 33 sections.

Johnson also published several cookbooks, including The Aficionado's Southwestern Cooking (1968), The American Table (1983), and Southwestern Cooking: New and Old (1985).

Johnson lived much of his adult life in San Francisco, employed at various occupations to support himself, including bartender, chef, and caterer. During his career he held several guest professorships at universities, including the University of Kentucky and the University of Washington.

Ronald Johnson died March 4, 1998 in Topeka, Kansas at the age of 62. Posthumously, Johnson's literary executor Peter O'Leary published To Do as Adam Did, Selected Poems of Ronald Johnson (2000), The Shurbberies (2001), and a new edition of Radi Os (2005).

Scope and Contents

The Ronald Johnson papers date from 1954 to 1993 and are arranged in two series, Professional writing and Letters. Professional writing is the largest portion of the collection at 8.5 linear feet (19 boxes). It contains poems as well as galley and printers proofs for several poetry collections, including The Book of the Green Man (Norton, 1967), Valley of the Many-Colored Grasses (Norton, 1969), and Ark (Living Batch Press, 1996), Johnson's epic poem. It also contains proofs for two different cookbooks that Johnson authored, as well as additional recipes.

The Letters series consists of 4.5 linear feet (10 boxes) and contains personal letters from friends such as poet Jonathan Williams and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay, as well as other writing colleagues. This series has been sub-divided into four series by correspondent; Jonathan Williams, Guy Davenport, and Ian Finlay Hamilton each have a sub-series, and then there is a large sub-series of general correspondence.

Series List

The Ronald Johnson papers date from approximately 1954 to 1986 and are arranged in two series. Within the Letters series are four subseries, based upon correspondent with whom Johnson was writing.


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Related Material

Ronald Johnson Literary Estate Collection, MS 336, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Robert Johnson holograph books, MS D214, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.



Alpert, Barry, 1912-1977
Baldwin , Gordon, 1932-2006
Benton, Bill
Blaisdell, Gus
Bloom, Harold
Davenport, Guy
Finlay, Ian Hamilton
Grier, Ed
Hoyem, Andrew
Leibowitz, Herb
Rago, Henry, 1915-1969
Taggart, John, 1942-
Van Aver, Philip
Williams, Jonathan, 1929-2008

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Ronald Johnson Collection, Department of Special Collections, MS 66, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Ronald Johnson