Paul Engle letters and enclosures to Alex Williams

Biographical and Historical Notes

Paul Engle (1908-1991)

American poet and educator Paul (Hamilton) Engle (1908-1991) is perhaps most widely known as the founder and longtime director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and as the founder of the International Writing Program, both at the University of Iowa. Engle was nominated for a 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the International Writing Program.

Paul Engle’s first published book of poetry, Worn Earth, received the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize in 1932. Engle continued to write poetry during the remainder of his life, contributing to numerous periodicals, publishing fourteen volumes of poetry, and editing the collected poetry of other poets.

In 1990, Engle, who also wrote several novels and works of nonfiction, was honored with the Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.


"Paul (Hamilton) Engle." Contemporary Authors Online. Biography In Context. (accessed June 25 , 2013)

Alex Williams

Alex Williams, who lived in Toronto, Canada, collected work written by Paul Engle. His correspondence seems to have begun in 1947 when he inquired about Engle's book Worn Earth. Over the next fifteen years, Engle wrote to Williams and enclosed a number of his printed pieces, such as Christmas poems, reprints, and booklets.


Information derived from the collection.

Scope and Content Note

American poet Paul Engle (1908-1991) wrote to Canadian book collector Alex Williams regarding his published poems and frequently enclosed copies of his privately printed work.

In addition to the printed pieces of poetry written by Paul Engle (and frequently inscribed to Alex Williams), this collection includes two substantive letters, one postcard and two brief notes written by Engle.

The brief notes conveyed greetings and accompanied the items which Engle had enclosed. The postcard was sent in 1953, from New York City, where Engle was spending a year writing and enjoying the East Coast.

The first letter of substance was written on February 22, 1947, in response to Alex Williams’s inquiry about Worn Earth. Engle wrote that Worn Earth has been out of print since 1933, but he also enclosed "a handful of sonnets as a token of friendly feeling."

In the second substantive letter, written on May 26, 1951, Engle thanked Williams for a poem, handwritten by English poet Edmund Blunden, which Williams had sent to him. Engle further discussed a dedicatory poem he had written in a book which he had given to American author and anthologist Edward J. O’Brien, and which Williams had recently acquired. The remainder of the letter focused on Engle’s recent publications and the items he had enclosed with this letter.