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Love letters from the archive

By Charley Binkow

The millions of materials in the Ransom Center are as diverse as they are interesting. But everything inside is united by one common focus, the humanities—the exploration of what it means to be human. The artists, writers, poets, musicians, filmmakers, and everyone else whose belongings and legacies live in the archives all captured different aspects of the human experience. They explored the essences of art, of beauty, of tragedy, and perhaps most importantly (especially if you trust John Lennon) of love.

This Valentine’s Day, the Ransom Center celebrates love within the archives. There are innumerable manuscripts, paintings, and other works of art that address the power of love. Here are two items to spark your interest.

In the archive of poet Anne Sexton is a card addressed to her husband, Alfred “Kayo” Sexton, on the couple’s wedding anniversary: “I hope that we can always share our close and warm days of understanding, of giving, sharing and passion.” The Ransom Center has a large collection of letters between Anne and Kayo.

Anne Sexton and husband Alfred, 1968. Unknown photographer. LOOK Magazine Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [Reproduction number e.g., LC-L9-60-8812, frame 8].
Anne Sexton and husband Alfred, 1968. Unknown photographer. LOOK Magazine Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [Reproduction number e.g., LC-L9-60-8812, frame 8].

 

In the collection of Ogden Nash, who is known as one of America’s most lighthearted and comical poets, is a poem to his wife, Frances, on their 35th anniversary. In it he writes, “Just five and thirty years ago I danced with mind astray/and suddenly that sameness was forever swept away.”

Manuscript of Ogden Nash’s untitled poem, noted by the author for their 35th Wedding Anniversary Dinner, June 6, 1966.
Manuscript of Ogden Nash’s untitled poem, noted by the author for their 35th Wedding Anniversary Dinner, June 6, 1966.

 

Manuscripts of love notes and poems within the archives of the Ransom Center come from all over the world, from some of the most prolific and profound lovers.

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Hartley Coleridge’s Valentine’s Day sonnet

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