Glen Stemmons Coffield papers , 1943-1981

Overview of the Collection

Coffield, Glen, 1917-1981
Glen Stemmons Coffield papers
1943-1981 (inclusive)
45.5 linear feet, (53 containers)
Collection Number
Coll 217
During World War II, Glen Stemmons Coffield (1917-1981) was an intern at the famous Civilian Public Service (CPS) camp for conscientious objectors, Camp Waldport, whose Untide Press published two of his books of poems. Later, he was an active force in the Beat and San Francisco Renaissance scenes throughout his creative career. The Coffield Papers contain Coffield's essays, periodicals, plays, poems/poetry-books, prose and miscellaneous work.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

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Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Glen Stemmons Coffield was born in Prescott, Arizona on June 5, 1917. He started writing poetry while a sophomore in high school. After high school (around 1935), he attended Central Missouri State Teachers College (CMSTC) in Warrensburg, Missouri. Soon after entering the college, he became president of the English Club and edited Spring Flight, the college literary magazine. Coffield also played on a national championship basketball team while in college. In 1940 Coffield received his B.S. degree in education from CMSTC.

At the start of WWII Coffield declared himself a conscientious objector and the Selective Service placed him in the Civilian Public Service Camp (CPS Camp) program. The CPS Camps for conscientious objectors were largely administered by the "Historical Peace Churches": Mennonites, Brethren and Friends (Quakers). Coffield was initially placed first in CPS Camp #7 in Magnolia, Arkansas; while there, he contributed poetry to the camp newsletter Peace Pathways. Late in 1942 or early in 1943 Coffield was transferred to CPS Camp #56 at Waldport, Oregon. The Waldport Camp was home to the "Fine Arts Group," of which Coffield became the activities coordinator. Other artists who stayed at Waldport were book designer Adrian Wilson, architect Kemper Nomland, Kermit Sheets (founder of "Interplayers," the San Francisco theater group), poet Kenneth Patchen, painter Morris Graves, novelist Henry Miller, and poet William Everson (Brother Antoninus). The Waldport Camp gained national attention with the founding of the Untide Press by Harold Macket, Everson, and Coffield; its motto was: "What is not Tide is Untide" (Tide was the name of Camp Waldport's official newsletter). Untide Press published two of Coffield's books of poems: The Horned Moon and Ultimatum, as well as William Everson's book of poems, X War Elegie.

After the war Coffield studied privately at the Hopwood Poetry Library of the University of Michigan. From 1945 to 1947 he acted in three little theater groups in San Francisco. In 1947 he moved back to Oregon and started the Grundtvig Folk School, a "humanist school in the woods," on the Columbia Gorge near Eagle Creek. This lasted until 1954, after which Coffield attended Portland State College for one summer session, and continued his studies at the Hopwood Poetry Library. In 1960, Coffield started the publication of his literary quarterly The Creative Review, while in 1961 he began additional graduate studies in Poetry and Criticism at the University of Oregon. He finished his graduate studies in 1964, after which he started publication of The Creativity Newsletter.

In 1964 Coffield spent some time in San Francisco, where he was the House Manager of the Firehouse Repertory Opera Company until 1966. While in San Francisco, probably late in 1965 or early 1966, Coffield was knocked into the air by a hit-and-run driver. Coffield developed blood clots in his brain, heart, lungs, and right leg, and complications from his injuries resulted in his partial crippling. After the accident he moved back to Carthage, Missouri. Due to his injuries, Coffield did not resume working on his publications until late in 1968. Late in 1972, Coffield's mother became very ill; Coffield took care of her and her house, which left him little time for his poetry projects. His mother died on Aug. 1, 1973.

Shortly after her death Coffield experienced further health complications which totally disabled him for another year and a half. It was June 1975 before Coffield was able to work on his publications. For the rest of his life he needed crutches. Coffield died at the age of 64 at Missouri State Chest Hospital on June 17, 1981, shortly after his admission there.

Coffield's lifelong activities were mainly writing poetry, publishing poetry periodicals, providing submitted poetry with comments, suggestions, and critiques, and the promotion of poetry in general. He also painted (especially during his period in San Francisco); however, none of his paintings are included in this collection. He painted and sold over a thousand pieces, including one titled 500 Views of San Francisco. His paintings have been shown in art exhibits, including the Civic Center Art Show in San Francisco. Coffield also wrote a few plays, wrote the words for two musical comedies, composed music for an opera (The Sleeping Beauty), and composed sixty jazz symphonies.

Some people called Glen Coffield the first hippie. A photo of him presents the startling image of a white Rastafarian with long tangled locks, full beard and intense eyes. He is represented in the poetry section of We, the People (the yearbook of public opinion), Who's Who in Poetry in America, Poetry Digest, and Living Ozark Authors, besides his many books and publications.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Coffield papers contain Coffield's essays, periodicals, plays, poems/poetry-books, prose and miscellaneous work; course materials for instruction that Coffield offered by mail; papers relating to Coffield's publications; and materials from Coffield's "Quantification of Quality" system of creative thinking. The collection also contains writings by other people that were compiled into book form by Coffield, along with assorted publications in which Coffield was interested.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • American literature--20th century
  • American poetry--20th century
  • Poets, American--20th century
  • World War, 1939-1945--Conscientious objectors--United States

Personal Names

  • Coffield, Glen, 1917-1981

Corporate Names

  • Civilian Public Service. Camp #56 (Waldport, Or.)
  • Grundtvig Folk School