Isabella Gardner Papers, 1915-1981
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Biographical / Historical Note

Brief notes on Isabela Gardner are found in Who's who in America, v.35, 1968-1969. Born in Boston in 1915 of a well-connected family (she is the niece of Isabella Stewart Gardner, art collector, and a cousin of Robert Lowell) she attended Foxcroft School in Virginia and, on her graduation, the Embassy Theatre School in London, studying acting under Eileen Thorndike (see Series 4, this collection) She acted in England, then in the United States, in New York, Chicago, on tour and in summer stock, largely in character and comedy roles (see poem, Not at all what one is used to..., in West of childhood) She came to Chicago during the second World War, married and lived there for 16 years until her marriage in 1959 to Allen Tate.

In 1950 she published her first poem, Triolet, in American Mercury, and thereafter, in 1951, became associated with Poetry magazine under the editorship of Karl Shapiro; the association ended in 1956 when Shapiro left Poetry for a position at the University of Nebraska and the editorship of Prairie Schooner. Her correspondence reflects her friendship with a now-established group of poets who lived and worked during the 50's in Chicago: Shapiro, John Logan, Paul Carroll, Reuel Denney, Galway Kinnell, Wallace Fowlie, others. Birthdays from the ocean (Houghton Mifflin) appeared in 1955, The looking glass (University of Chicago Press) in 1961 and West of childhood (Houghton Mifflin) in 1965. The looking glass was nominated for the National Book Award in 1962. In 1959 Alfred Rizzardi translated a group of Miss Gardner's poems into Italian, published under the title Un altra infanzia. An unpublished novel, The family tree is mentioned in Miss Gardner's professional correspondence (Series 3/1) as is a short story, The duet. Since 1965, Miss Gardner has been in residence at Yaddo, given poetry readings undered the aegis of The Poetry Center, New York (other readings have been given with Allen Tate, Edward Dahlberg, James Wright) and taped poetry for the Library of Congress, Harvard and Yale. A list of reviews and articles on Miss Gardner follows; those by Edith Sitwell,Paul Carr and John Logan are particularly useful. An essay on Miss Gardner also appears in Ralph Mills Jr. Contemporary American Poets, Random House, c.1965.