Tram Combs correspondence with Agnes Selkirk Clark

Biographical and Historical Notes

Tram Combs (1924- )

American poet Tram Combs (Elisha Trammell, Jr.) was born September 25, 1924, in Riverview, Alabama.

Combs attended the University of Washington from 1943-1944 and in 1945 he received a certificate of professional competence in meteorology from the University of Chicago. During these years he also served in the U. S. Army Air Force as a meteorologist, attaining the rank of 2nd lieutenant.

In 1948, he graduated from the University of California with an A. B. Later he studied electronics engineering at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From 1948 to 1951, Combs worked as an oil chemist for Tidewater Associated Oil Company in Avon, California, and from 1951 to 1952, managed his own Island Studios, Inc.

In 1952, Tram Combs established a book shop, Tram Combs Book, in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. His book shop specialized in material related to the middle and southern Americas.

Tram Combs's first published book of poetry was Pilgrim's Terrace: Poems American West Indian (1957), which included introductions by Kenneth Rexroth and William Carlos Williams. Other books by Combs include: Saints Thomas' & Francis' Cities Songs o' Tram (1958), Ceremonies in Mind: Artists, Boys, Cats, Lovers, Judges, Priests (1959), But Never Mind (1961), Saint Thomas: Poems (1965), and Briefs: Poems (1966).


"Tram Combs." Kinsman, Clare D. Contemporary Authors. Volume 1316, First Revision. (Detroit: Gale 1965). Page 173.

Agnes Selkirk Clark (1898-1983)

American landscape architect Agnes Selkirk Clark was born in Janesville, Wisconsin, in 1898.

From 1915 to 1918, Clark (then Selkirk) attended the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture in Groton, Massachusetts. In her first position, Clark worked in the Des Moines office of Pearse & Robinson as a drafter and planting supervisor, from 1918 to 1919.

Agnes Clark moved to New York City in 1920, where she worked for well-known landscape architect and teacher, Ellen Biddle Shipman for two years. After marrying architect Cameron Clark, she opened her own office at 101 Park Avenue in New York and continued her practice there until moving to Fairfield, Connecticut.

Clark was elected a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1952. Her work primarily includes residential commissions at estates in Santa Barbara, California; Phoenix, Arizona; New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

In the 1960s, Clark and her husband retired and moved to the Caribbean, and later, in 1969, to Guatemala, where Clark died in 1983.


"Ms B91. Clark, Agnes Selkirk, 1898-1983." Landscape Architecture Records. Fairfield Historical Society Library, Fairfield, Connecticut (accessed March 2012).

Scope and Content Note

American poet Tram Combs exchanged these letters with his friend, American landscape artist Agnes Selkirk Clark, during 1958.

Combs and Clark discussed mutual friends, particularly the tragic deaths of Tommy Bishop and Harry Rennell. Clark mentioned other friends, especially those interested in vacationing in St. Thomas, including American poet John Malcolm Brinnin. Clark also discussed her plans to travel to San Francisco, as well as to St. Croix, where she was designing a landscape at Grapetree.

In his letters, Tram Combs wrote about his poetry, particularly the recently completed, "California poems," which were to be published as But Never Mind. He also shared the encouragement he had received from American poet William Carlos Williams and the news that a California radio station planned to broadcast his poems accompanied by jazz. The verso of one of his letters included a version of his poem, "States," and the verso of another letter, has an untitled poem with the first line: "Maggie, a bold--striped calico cat...."