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Dan Masterson Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRR
Date: 14 Jun 2006

Biographical History

Elected to membership in Pen International in 1986, Dan Masterson is a recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and the Bullis, Borestone, and Fels awards. Widely published, his 5th book, That Which Is Seen: Poems Based Exclusively on Artwork, is nearing completion. Many of the selections have already appeared in such journals as The Sewanee, Georgia, and Ontario Reviews, Artful Dodge, Ekphrasis, The New York Quarterly, Hotel Amerika, Kestrel, Mudlark, Eratio, Innisfree, Poems Niederngasse, and Inkwell, as well as in two anthologies and a college workbook. He founded and edits and, and has directed the Poetry Writing Program at SUNY/Rockland since 1966. For 18 of those years, he also directed the Poetry Writing program, and created and directed the Screenwriting program at Manhattanville College. Recently, the latter college established its Annual Screenwriting Competition in his name. The complete texts of his first two books, On Earth As It Is (Illinois, 1978) and Those Who Trespass (Arkansas,1991) are displayed on The Contemporary American Poetry Archives site ( His 3rd and 4th books are still in the marketplace. Recently, his work was featured on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac.

Dan Masterson spent his early years in Buffalo, NY, where he started writing poetry in 3rd grade, hiding his work in an orangewood box beneath his bed. A drummer, boxer, and swimmer, he studied at Canisius College and graduated from Syracuse University. He has served stints as actor, narrator, disc jockey, stateside missionary worker, advertising copywriter, and theatrical public relations director. He resides in Rockland County, NY, with his wife, Janet, a psychotherapist. They are the parents of two children and the grandparents of four.

"It's a good life; writing, teaching. I'm trying to turn people on to poetry, in my classes and at readings. There are four elements I look for and try for in a poem: they are memorable language, remarkable images, engaging storylines, and residue of pain or experience. I spend a great deal of time (sometimes 200 hours) finishing a poem. The idea arrives like a chicken bone caught in the throat and it takes a long while to write it out of there. Much of my writing happens at our mountain cabin hidden away, like that orangewood box, in the high peak region of New York State's Adirondacks." (Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2001.)

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Dan Masterson Papers consists of a Writings and Records.

Writings includes drafts of a poetry collection, On Earth As It Is, and worksheets (drafts, notes, and occasional correspondence) for nearly one hundred poems. The most extensive is a 3-ring binder filled with background material for Masterson's poem "Avalanche," which was published in the Autumn 1981 issue of Poetry Northwest. The binder contains over 200 pages of photographs, research notes, word lists, drafts, and a very large wall chart. Many of the worksheets bear on-page revisional suggestions by fellow poets including John Allman and Miller Williams. There is also correspondence to and from journal editors.

Records, consisting of submission records in the form of more than 200 4x5 cards, offers a partial record of the first four decades of the poet's submission/rejection/acceptance history. Journals of first publication include The New Yorker, Poetry, Esquire, New York Quarterly, Crazyhorse, Shenandoah, Poetry Now, Prairie Schooner, and The London Magazine, as well as the Ontario, Paris, Sewanee, New Orleans, Southern, Gettysburg, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Yale Reviews.

Arrangement of the Collection

Poem worksheets are arranged alphabetically by title.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Masterson, Dan, 1934-

Associated Titles



Poets, American.

Genres and Forms

Drafts (documents)
Manuscripts (document genre)
Research notes.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Dan Masterson Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Dan Masterson, 2006, 2009.

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