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Guide to the Brooklyn Poetry Circle collection ARC.015

128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11201

Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Jessica Nauright

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 22, 2011
English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Finding aid revised and entered into Archivists' Toolkit by Nicholas Pavlik,  , June 16, 2010

Historical Note

The Brooklyn Poetry Circle was founded in 1935 by Marie-Louise d'Esternaux, Maude Clark Hough, and Laura Spofford Wiltsie Lake. d'Esternaux's parents, Countess Ethelyn d'Esternaux and Count Max d'Esternaux, were active members of several artistic societies, and became especially close friends with the poet Edwin Markham. Markham encouraged the society and actively promoted it until his death in 1940. Other established poets also participated in the society during its early years and helped to define its aesthetic, the most well known being Maude Clark Hough and Anna Hempstead Branch, poets whose work is characterized by the use of simple ballad meters and by the predominance of traditional religious and family themes. The aesthetic defined in the Circle changed little over time. The Poetry Circle promoted and admired formalist poetic techniques, as well as poems with religious themes, until its dissolution in the late 1990s. The group's regular activities included two major annual events, a spring luncheon and a Christmas party. In the early years of the Circle, members often attended various cultural events around New York City, and participated in the New York World's Fair in 1939. The Circle also held monthly meetings, generally in the home of one of the members. Each month a poetic theme was assigned, and each member would submit a poem to the official critic several weeks before the meeting. For many years during the 1940s and 1950s, the critic was Gertrude Ryder Bennett, an author notable for writing many books and poems about the history of Brooklyn. Most active members of the circle joined in the relatively early years of the institution's history and remained members throughout their lives. During the 1980s and 1990s, very few people applied for membership, and the aging Circle members voted to disband in 1997.