We are saddened to learn that Bill Berkson died last Thursday in San Francisco at the age of seventy-six. Berkson, a prolific American poet, art critic, and teacher, was also a muse, a world traveler, a lifelong gatherer and archivist, and to many of us in Archives and Special Collections at UConn, home of the Bill Berkson Papers, a literary giant, a generous collaborator and donor, and a friend.
The Bill Berkson Papers comprise over one hundred linear feet of literary manuscripts, letters, drafts of poetry, notebooks, lecture notes, interviews, Big Sky Books and Press records, photographs, audio recordings, broadsides, rare publications, family papers, and personal ephemera.
Used by students and scholars alike, the archive spans from 1959 to 2016 and documents the poet’s extensive body of work, his collaborations in and among the realms of visual art, media, and literature, and his affinities with the poets and artists of the New York School.
Mr. Berkson wrote more than twenty collections of poetry, beginning in 1961 with “Saturday Night: Poems 1960-61.” His most recent book, “Invisible Oligarchs: Russia Notebook, January-June 2006 & After,” a travel journal, was published this year. He is survived by his wife, curator Constance Lewallen; son Moses Berkson and daughter Siobhan O’Hare Mora Lopez, from his first marriage, to Lynn O’Hare Berkson; stepchildren Jonathan Lewallen and Nina Lewallen Hufford; and six grandchildren.
According to San Francisco Chronicle, donations in Mr. Berkson’s name may be sent to Foundation for Contemporary Arts and Poets in Need.