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SFU Library Special Collections: Contemporary Literature Collection


  • Over 18,000 books
  • 1,600 periodical titles
  • 750 poetry broadsides/posters
  • 146 metres of manuscripts
  • 185 journals/serial publications
  • 900 audio recordings of poetry readings


The Contemporary Literature Collection is almost as old as the university itself.

In 1965, the English Department received a grant along with a commission to compile a bibliography of avant-garde magazines. As well, the Department was to begin building a special collection comprised of little magazines, pamphlets, chapbooks, and ephemera representing modern literature for the period 1945 - 1965, with an emphasis on poetry.

The contemporary Literature Collection grew from this nucleus, and in the early seventies the English Department and the Library agreed on a policy to guide the development of the collection:


As a governing principle underlying its existence, the Contemporary Literature Collection expresses a basic and implicit faith in the quality, the integrity, and the significance of post-war experimental and avant-garde poetry. To the extent that this body of work reflects the culture and society of which it is part; to the extent that it manifests and expresses the aesthetic values, objectives and trends of its particular generation, CLC policy will be to collect its most representative publications.

Materials in the Contemporary Literature Collection are of several types:

  • works by selected contemporary poets who exert an acknowledged influence on their peers, and criticism of their writings,
  • works by lesser-known poets committed to experimental methods,
  • translations by authors in the above categories,
  • anthologies,
  • little magazines and periodical,
  • manuscripts, correspondence, and other unpublished materials and ephemera related to writers central to the collection.

The Black Mountain movement, The San Francisco Renaissance, the Beats, the New York School, and the Tish group are well represented, as are the seminal writers Pound, Williams, Olson, Stein and H.D.

A listing of the selected central authors is available from the staff in Special Collections.

All CLC books, pamphlets, magazines and broadsides are listed in the CLC catalogue and serials printout and are indicated by the letters CLC after the call number in the OPAC, and by the code 'D' in the serials printout. Over 900 hundred tapes, including the tapes of the influential 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference, have been indexed.

With the aid of a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, an online catalogue containing over 6,000 entries covering 40,000 items is available. Finding aids are also available for many of the manuscript collections. Manuscript holdings include correspondence of Ezra Pound, the complete archives of poet-playwright Michael McClure, poet-critic Frank Davey, poet Gerry Gilbert, and manuscript material of bp Nichol dating back to 1961. The archives of Talonbooks, Open Letter, IO, Coyote's Journal and 'Caledonia Writing Series' are also available.

Inquiries and contact:

Tony Power 
Contemporary Literature Collection Librarian
778.782.6676 /