Daniel Berrigan correspondence and Hanoi poems

Biographical and Historical Notes

Daniel Berrigan

Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan is a poet, playwright, teacher, and civil disobedience activist.

Daniel Berrigan, who was born May 9, 1921, in Virginia, Minnesota, entered the Order of Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1939 and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1952.

Berrigan is an award-winning poet who has published nineteen collections of poems. His first book of poetry, Time without Number, published by Macmillan in 1957, won the Lamont Poetry Selection Award awarded by the American Academy of Poets. Drafts of the poems written by Berrigan during his mission to Hanoi in 1968 to arrange the release of three captive American pilots, which were published in Night Flight to Hanoi: War Diary with Eleven Poems, are part of this collection.

Berrigan is known as a peace and human rights activist. One of his most dramatic antiwar actions took place in Catonsville, Maryland, on May 17, 1968, when he, his brother Philip, and seven other Roman Catholic activists seized and burnt the files of potential draftees outside a local draft board using homemade napalm. The group members, who became known as "The Catonsville Nine," were found guilty of destroying government property and sentenced to three years in prison. Daniel Berrigan and several other defendants went underground rather than go to jail. Berrigan was captured in August of 1970 and served eighteen months in the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. Berrigan wrote the courtroom drama, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, and Prison Poems based on his trial and subsequent imprisonment.


"Daniel Berrigan." Contemporary Authors Online. Gale Biography In Context. http://ic.galegroup.com (accessed November 2011).

Additional information derived from the collection.

Elizabeth Bartelme

Elizabeth Bartelme is a publishing agent for Macmillan Company. She worked with Daniel Berrigan on a number of his books, including Consequences: Truth and ..., Love, Love at the End, and Night Flight to Hanoi.


Information derived from the collection.

Ray Roberts

Ray Roberts was an editor at Macmillan Company who worked with Berrigan on his book, False Gods, False Men, published in March of 1969.


Information derived from the collection.

Scope and Content Note

Daniel Berrigan wrote these letters to Elizabeth Bartelme, his editor at Macmillan Company, to accompany enclosed poems, such as the Hanoi poems found in this collection, or to discuss the editing of his books.

Three of Berrigan’s letters are written in regard to Love, Love at the End. In one letter he responded to Bartelme’s suggestions for the book’s title and in another letter, he edited the parable titled "The Tools."

The letters also suggest the friendship shared by Berrigan and Bartelme. In addition to thanking her for lunches and dinner parties, Berrigan mentioned events and people in his life, including his active resistance to the war in Vietnam during the 1960s. He discussed the lack of news from his Order regarding his trip to Hanoi but says, “I wd. never leave the Order, but don’t mind being kicked out on such an issue.” In a letter dated December 8, [1967], he mentioned that he, his brother, and others were “in the midst of another big preparation for Resistence. Hope we all survive.” This may refer to the antiwar action in Catonsville, Maryland, which occurred on May 17, 1968, and resulted in his imprisonment.

The drafts of the Hanoi poems were sent to Elizabeth Bartelme for a book which was published in 1968 by Macmillan as Night Flight to Hanoi: War Diary with 11 Poems. However these poems were first published by Cornell United Religious Work in 1968 in the exact order and wording found in these drafts and titled Hanoi Poems. When the poems were published in Night Flight to Hanoi: War Diary with 11 Poems, the order was changed, the poem “Flowers” was omitted, the title of one poem was changed and a verse of one poem was deleted. The introduction found with these draft poems was not published by the Cornell group nor used in Night Flight to Hanoi. The introduction stated that the poems were: “written on the spot” during Berrigan’s trip to Hanoi from January 31 to February 18, 1968. Berrigan also wrote: “The reader may be sure that references to actual persons, living or dead, are purely intentional - indeed willful."

In addition to Berrigan’s letters and the Hanoi poems, there is one letter from The Right Reverend James A. Pike to Bartelme. The letter included a positive comment for publication regarding Consequences: Truth and ….

The final two letters in the collection were written by Daniel Berrigan to Macmillan editor, Ray Roberts, regarding the 1969 publication of Berrigan’s False Gods, False Men. In one of the letters Berrigan praised the dust jacket artwork created by Corita Kent, a contemporary artist whose artwork appeared in several of Berrigan’s books.