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Dave Oliphant papers, 1939-2013 (inclusive), 1970-2013 (bulk).

Identifier: MS15

Collection Scope and Content Summary

The papers document Dave Oliphant's career. The papers consist of extensive correspondence between Oliphant and other poets as well his writings and copies of the publications produced by Prickly Pear Press. The papers also include some biographical information as well as photographs and other personal material.

Correspondence in the Oliphant Papers includes letters and e-mails from many Texas poets, among them Betty Adcock, William Barney, Charles Behlen, Jon Bracker, William Burford, Robert Burlingame, Rosemary Catacalos, Paul Foreman, Ray González, James Hoggard, Walt McDonald, Harryette Mullen, Joseph Colin Murphey, Stan Rice, Tomás Rivera, Del Marie Rogers, Richard Sale, Naomi Shihab Nye, Leon Stokesbury, Carmen Tafolla, Tino Villanueva, Seth Wade, Thomas Whitbread, Susan Wood, and David Yates. Correspondence with Chilean poets includes handwritten letters from Enrique Lihn and numerous e-mails from later generations of poets, such as Alejandro Cerda, Carlos Cortínez, Alicia Galaz, Erick Pohlhammer, Sergio Rodríguez, Francisco Véjar, and Oliver Welden. Letters and cards from Louis Zukofsky are particularly noteworthy, along with correspondence from such poets as Robert Bly, John Bricuth (pen name of John T. Irwin), Frederick Eckman, Karl Elder, Douglas Flaherty, Karl Kopp, David Ray, and Lucien Stryk.

Typescripts and manuscripts of Oliphant's own published writings form an extensive record of his career, along with works by other writers edited by him for various publications. His collaborations with composer Andrew Rudin are also represented in the archive, as are his book reviews, essays, and articles written over several decades for such magazines as The Texas Quarterly, The Texas Observer, The Texas Humanist, Texas Books in Review, Texas Highways, and The Journal of Texas Music History. The archive holds copies of all twenty-five of Oliphant's original, translated, or edited books, with some of these among the eighteen books and two tape recordings issued through his Prickly Pear Press, copies of all of which are also included in the papers.


  • 1939-2013


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Detailed Biography

Dave Oliphant (whose legal first names are Edward Davis) was born on July 18, 1939, in Fort Worth, Texas. He attended elementary school at George C. Clarke until the middle of the fourth grade when he moved with his family to Altus, Oklahoma. After returning to Texas in 1953, he subsequently graduated from high school in Beaumont in 1957, earned the B.A. from Lamar State College of Technology in 1963, the M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1966, and the Ph.D. from Northern Illinois University in 1975. His writing career began in 1959 and he had his first publication at the end of that year in the Lamar Tech student magazine, Pulse. At UT-Austin he became the editor for 1964-65 of the student literary magazine, Riata. In his second issue of Riata, Oliphant published a translation from Catullus by American-Jewish poet Louis Zukofsky, and thereafter carried on a correspondence with this important modernist whose book-length poem "A" is now considered a major American epic. As a student leader, Oliphant was chosen in 1965 to represent UT-Austin as part of a State Department-sponsored exchange program between the University of Texas and the University of Chile. During a month spent in Chile, Oliphant met the world-renowned antipoet Nicanor Parra, and from that time forward he translated the poetry of Parra and other Chilean poets. In 1966, Oliphant returned to Chile on his own, and during his eleven months in the capital of Santiago he met and married his wife María Isabel Jofré. 

From 1967 to 1969, Oliphant was an instructor at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs, New Mexico, until he was suspended for writing a letter critical of the state legislature. After winning his case in a federal court, he, his wife, and their son Darío moved to DeKalb, Illinois, where he taught for five years at Northern Illinois University while working toward the doctorate in English. While at N.I.U., he began his small imprint, Prickly Pear Press, through which for twenty-five years, from 1973 to 1998, he published the poetry of his fellow Texas poets, as well as his own poetry collections and those of two midwestern poets. Teaching for a year in South Carolina and for a year in Mexico at the Universidad de las Américas, Oliphant returned to Austin and began a thirty-year association with the University of Texas, retiring in 2006 as a Senior Lecturer. At different times during his years at UT-Austin, he taught in the English Department, in the Division of Rhetoric and Composition, edited the publications of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, and coordinated the Freshman Seminars Program. Meanwhile, he continued to write, translate, and produce publications through his Prickly Pear Press, including three anthologies of Texas poets: The New Breed (1973); Washing the Cow's Skull (1981); and Roundup (1998). In 1996, Oliphant's Texan Jazz appeared from the University of Texas Press, the first of his three books on jazz history; a fourth, The Bebop Revolution in Words and Music, he had edited for the Ransom Center in 1994.

Collections of Oliphant's own poetry appeared over a span of more than forty years: doubt & Redoute of 1962; Brands of 1972; Lines & Mounds of 1976; Footprints of 1978; María's Poems of 1987; Memories of Texas Towns & Cities of 2000; and Backtracking of 2004. His translations also appeared throughout the decades and were collected in a 1972 special issue on Chilean poetry, which he translated and introduced for Road Apple Review, and in Figures of Speech by Enrique Lihn of 1999, Love Hound by Oliver Welden of 2006, and After-Dinner Declarations by Nicanor Parraof 2008.

- Dave Oliphant


20.50 Linear feet

Language of Materials



The papers document the career of Dave Oliphant. The majority of the papers consist of correspondence, Oliphant's writings, and the publications produced by Prickly Pear Press.


Arranged in five series and two additions:  I. Writings, 1959-2004.  II. Correspondence, 1966-2008.  III. Personal Papers, 1939-2004.  IV. Prickly Pear Press, 1973-2007.  V. Subject Files, 1951-2006. Accession 2008-M-004, 1971-2008. Accession 2009-M-006, 1975-2009. Accession 2010-M-004, 1983-2010; Accession 2012-M-001, 1958-1982; 1997-2012, Accession 2013-M-001, 1968-1994; 2003-2013.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Dave Oliphant, 1975-2013.
Guide to the Dave Oliphant Papers
Compiled by Special Collections Staff
September 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, Mary Couts Burnett Library Repository

TCU Box 298400
2800 S. University Drive
Fort Worth, Texas 76129-0001
Fort Worth Texas 76129
(817) 257-4566
(817) 257-7282 (Fax)