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Besmilr Brigham papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 1260

Content Description

The Besmilr Brigham papers consists of correspondence, writings, notes and drawings, printed material, personal papers, and audiovisual media documenting the life and work of poet Besmilr Brigham. Materials date from 1931 to 2011, with the bulk dating between 1960 and 1990. The collection contains correspondence with Robert Bly, Robert Duncan, Charles Glicksberg, Richard Howard, James Laughlin, Denise Levertov, and Margaret Randall, among other literary figures, and family correspondence. Writings consist mainly of annotated typescript drafts of poetry, short fiction, and novels. Notes and drawings include research on Indigenous cultures, class notes, travel journal entries, and early poetry and prose by Brigham. Printed materials consist of clippings and scrapbooks used as source material for Brigham's stories, as well as catalogs, pamphlets, flyers, and maps. Personal papers include biographies, fellowship and grant applications, records of publication and reviews of Brigham's work, teaching materials, and files on events and programs involving Brigham, such as C. D. Wright's Lost Roads Project. Audiovisual media consists of cassette and open reel tapes of readings, interviews, performance art, and recordings related to an unproduced lyric drama by Brigham, "Games for an Easter Child," and religious ceremonies of Pascua Yaqui Indians.


  • 1931-2011
  • Majority of material found within 1960s-1990


Language of Materials

In English, with some materials in Spanish.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Box 76 (audiovisual materials): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Besmilr Brigham Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Heloise Wilson on the Danford N. Barney, Jr. Fund, 2015.


Organized into six series: I. Correspondence, 1942-2011, undated. II. Writings, 1948-circa 1990s, undated. III. Notes and Drawings, 1941-circa 1990s, undated. IV. Printed Materials, 1934-circa 1990s, undated. V. Personal and Financial Papers, 1931-2000, undated. VI. Audiovisual Media, 1971-1984, undated.


43.3 Linear Feet (76 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Besmilr Brigham papers consists of correspondence, writings, notes and drawings, printed material, personal papers, and audiovisual media documenting the life and work of poet Besmilr Brigham. Materials date from 1931 to 2011, with the bulk dating between 1960 and 1990.

Besmilr Brigham (1913-2000)

Besmilr Brigham was an American poet and author. She was born Bess Miller Moore in Pace, Mississippi on September 28, 1913 and raised in the Rio Grande Valley region in Texas, later adopting the phonetic spelling of her name: “Besmilr.” Her maternal grandfather was a member of the Choctaw Nation. She graduated from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas, and studied writing at The New School in New York City.

While Brigham was a prolific writer throughout her career, she was most active in the late 1960s and 1970s, publishing her work under the all-lowercase name “besmilr brigham.” During this period, she published two books of poetry, Agony Dance: death of the (Dancing dolls (1969) and Heaved from the Earth (1972). Her work was collected posthumously in Run through Rock: Selected Short Poems of Besmilr Brigham (2000), edited by poet C. D. Wright. She first began publishing her work in 1966 with the submission of the long poem Yaqui Deer to Mexican bilingual quarterly El Corno Emplumado. Her later poems were published in anthologies such as 31 New American Poets (1969) and Rising Tides: 20th Century American Women Poets (1973), and periodicals including The Atlantic, Harper’s Bazaar, and The New York Times, as well as Thomas Merton’s literary magazine Monks Pond. Her work was recognized with a National Endowment for the Arts Discovery Award grant in 1970. Brigham also wrote short stories; “The Lottery Drawing” was featured in The Southern Review (1982) and Mississippi Writers: Reflections of Childhood and Youth (1985).

Brigham married newspaperman Roy Brigham, with whom she had one daughter, Heloise. From 1950 to the mid-1970s, the family traveled frequently throughout Mexico and Central America, Canada, and Alaska. She lived much of her later life in Arkansas. She died in Las Cruces, New Mexico on September 30, 2000.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections as they are acquired, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

This collection received a basic level of processing, including rehousing and minimal organization.

Information included in the Description of Papers note and Collection Contents section is drawn from information supplied with the collection and from an initial survey of the contents. Folder titles appearing in the contents list below are often based on those provided by the creator or previous custodian. Titles have not been verified against the contents of the folders in all cases. Otherwise, folder titles are supplied by staff during initial processing.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Besmilr Brigham Papers
by Brooke McManus
March 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.