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The former curator of Special Collections and Archives at Kent State University is donating hundreds of treasures from a personal library, which he amassed over the past half century.
Alex Gildzen, who moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, following his retirement more than 20 years ago, has spent the past three months packing books and personal papers from his shelves, and shipping them to the Kent State University Libraries department of Special Collections and Archives.
The books are primarily poetry, fiction, and film-related items. One of the rarest is Jonathan Williams’ Plunge in Silence By. This Xerox edition of only 10 copies is the most sought-after piece by that poet. Williams, who was a friend of Gildzen’s, was also a prominent publisher of books under the imprint of the Jargon Society. Other poets who inscribed volumes to Gildzen that are part of this donation include John Dorsey, Paul Metcalf, Thomas Meyer, Todd Moore, and Robert Peters.
Gildzen is himself a prominent poet. His first chapbook, Into the Sea, was published in 1969. His current book, Ohio Triangle, will appear this month from Crisis Chronicles Press. It includes a section of poems about the poet’s years living in Kent.
Among the film pieces coming to Kent are a book about the career of Dirk Bogarde, which the actor signed for Gildzen during a visit to England and a selection of photographs by Jessica Lange, which the actress also inscribed.
Gildzen is also donating his copy of the popular Kent State history A Book of Memories. He asked many of those pictured to sign his copy. Among those are fantasy writer Stephen R. Donaldson, football star Jack Lambert, novelist Henry Van Dyke, astronaut Carl Walz, children’s author Virginia Hamilton, and true crime writers Albert Borowitz and Leo Damore.
Gildzen received his bachelor and masters degrees from Kent. He left his position as staff writer in the University News Service in the fall of 1970 to join the special collections staff in University Libraries. He retired in 1993. During his years at the library he acquired the archives of the Open Theater as well as the papers of directors Robert Lewis and Joseph Chaikin, playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie, silent screen star Lois Wilson, and film historians Gerald Mast and James Robert Parish. For his work he was presented the President’s Medal in 1993.
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Cara Gilgenbach, Head, Special Collections and Archives
cgilgenb [at] kent.edu