Among the author's papers housed in Special Collections are those of Nancy Willard (1936-2017). Nancy Willard (1936-2017) was born in Ann Arbor and is an alumnus of the University of Michigan, where she won both major and minor Hopwood Awards (1955, 1956, 1957, 1958) as a student. Although best known as the winner of the 1982 Newbery Medal for her collection of children's poems,A Visit to William Blake’s Inn, Willard in fact wrote for a range of audiences and genres. Over the course of her career, she published dozens of books, including poetry, short stories, novels, essays, criticism, and both prose and poetry for children. She also received numerous other awards and fellowships, including the the Devins Memorial Award (1967), the O. Henry Award (1970), and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award (1977 & 1979).
Across her diverse body of work, Willard’s writing is characterized by dream-like free association and a mixture of sharp details and hazy backgrounds. Willard herself noted that she often re-purposed fragments of her dreams and drew connections between dreaming and writing. Following the narrative tradition of Alice in Wonderland, Willard’s Anatole stories recount the fantastical adventures of a character loosely inspired by Willard’s young son at the time of writing. One of the interesting aspects of authorial archives is the ability to see drafts (sometimes multiple drafts) and compare them to published versions. Below, you can see a draft with further revisions in pen and penceil, as well as the published version of a passage from Sailing to Cythera (1974).
Willard’s Newbery Award winning A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers (1982) is a collection of poems drawn together on the premise (and premises) of an inn run by William Blake. The poems are drawn together loosely as part of a visit to the Inn, and in dreamlike fashion, characters and events re-appear throughout, as when “The King of Cats Sends a Postcard to His Wife” writes “Tell them I have come so far, brought by Blake’s celestial car,” refers back to the collection’s second poem, “Blake’s Wonderful Car Delivers Us Wonderfully Well.”
In addition to the usual varieties of archival material - correspondence, manuscripts & drafts of creative works, copies of lectures and interviews, clippings, etc. - Willard’s collection also includes two-dimensional and three-dimensional artwork, which she created as part of her writing process
The same surreal, whimsical quality that appears in her work for children is also a key characteristic of Willard’s poetry for adults, if somewhat differently directed. This area of her work has repeatedly inspired the Brighton Press' book artists, who have produced several limited edition artists' books featuring Willard's poems, some of which also include photography by Willard’s husband Eric Lindbloom. A number of these are held in Special Collections and images of Poem Made of Water (1992) and When There Were Trees (1999) appear below.