Joel Climenhaga papers

Identity elements

Reference code

US US kmk U2001.02

Level of description



Joel Climenhaga papers


  • 1912-2001 (Creation)


68.00 Linear Feet, 103.00 Boxes

Post-Fire Oversize Extent:
Boxes 76-78 (12.5 x 14.5): 509S: 19/12/2

Name of creator


Biographical history

Joel Climenhaga was a writer and playwright, as well as a professor of theater at Kansas State University. After being born in Zimbabwe in 1922, Climenhaga’s family moved frequently throughout his childhood. Climenhaga began his writing career in 1937 by writing short stories and poems, many about his childhood in Africa. From 1939 to 1941, he attended Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, but he did not graduate. In 1942, Climenhaga moved to California to work at Upland Lemon Growers Association. He entered the U.S. Army in 1945 as a conscientious objector and was discharged in 1946. From 1948 to 1950, Climenhaga attended Chaffey College in Ontario, California, earning his A.A. in Theater Arts, Art, and English in 1949. Climenhaga then attended UCLA from 1950 to 1956, earning his B.A. in Theater Arts in 1953 and his M.A. in Theater Arts in 1958. While at UCLA, Climenhaga wrote the play “Marriage Wheel,” which won the Samuel Goldwyn Award, and in 1956, he published his play “Heathen Pioneer: a comedy in one act.”

After completing his studies, Climenhaga was a visiting professor at Wilmington College and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. From 1963 to 1968, he was an Associate Professor of Speech, Drama, and English at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri, where he was also the chairman of the Department of Speech and Drama from 1964 to 1968. In 1968, Climenhaga became an Associate Professor of Theatre, as well as a member of the graduate faculty, at Kansas State University, a position he would hold until 1987. Climenhaga also served at K-State as the Director of Theatre from 1968 to 1987 and the coordinator of the New Play Program from 1972 to 1987.

Climenhaga continued to publish his plays and writings while at K-State. This included the works “Hawk and Chameleon” in 1972, and the “One Man’s Frontier” column in the “Flinthills Journal” based in Wamego, Kansas from 1979 to 1980. Other works of his published throughout the 1970s include “Awakening,” “The Back Shelf Dispatch,” “Below Ground Level,” “Counsel for the Offense,” and “Greenage.” From 1981 to 1987, some of his newspaper columns were broadcast over K-State’s radio station, KSAC, in a bi-monthly program entitled “One Man’s Journey.”

Climenhaga left K-State in 1987 to become a professor of Theatre Arts and English and the coordinator of the New Play Program at Tarkio College in Tarkio, Missouri. He worked at Tarkio until 1991. Throughout this time, he published multiple collections of poems, as well as the newspaper column “Dear Good People.” After briefly working for one year from 1991 to 1992 as professor of Theatre Arts and coordinator of the New Play Program at Teikyo Westmar University in LeMars, Iowa, Climenhaga retired in 1992 and moved to Bisbee, Arizona. In retirement, Climenhaga remained active in theater and writing, including serving on the Board of Directors of the Bisbee Repertory Theatre. Climenhaga died in 2000, and his work “Eighty Six Thousand Five Hundred and Fifty Three: a Sequence of Journey Poems” was published posthumously in 2001.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The Joel Climenhaga Papers (1912-2001) consist primarily of his literary works and correspondence to and from family and friends.
The Biographical Series consist of two boxes which include Climenhaga's baby book, family genealogy, obituary, and memorial service program, and 1987 Kansas State University retirement tributes.
The Correspondence Series is made up of fourteen boxes and arranged alphabetically. Climenhaga was a prolific and voluminous writer. He corresponded with Mina Cooper, Carlos Cortez, Charles Jones, George Moberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Kenneth Patchen to name a few. Within the Charles Jones correspondence there are letters by LBJ (Lyndon B. Johnson) and from people who opposed him agreeing with the NCAAP- these letters were signed by "a white Christian" or "a white, white, American." There are twenty-four folders of correspondence between Climenhaga and Fred Shaw. The two men planned to turn their correspondence into a book titled The Mephisto Addenda. Before this could manifest, Fred Shaw passed away. The Climenhaga's were good friends with Kenneth and Miriam Patchen and there is extensive correspondence between the two families. The sub-series "Correspondence to Poetry Magazines" is listed alphabetically by magazine title and consists of one box.
The sub-series "Correspondence Log" is arranged chronologically and is stored in eighteen boxes. It is similar to a journal as Climenhaga made personal entries on specific dates and if those dates corresponded with writing or receiving a letter, the letter was included. Names of those who Climenhaga corresponded includes Marlon Brando, Milton Bernard, John and Emma Climenhaga, Mina Cooper, Norman Fedder, Henry Miller, Kenneth Patchen, George Savage, Fred Shaw, Wesley Van Tassel, Myrna Wolfe, and Kenneth Woodroofe. These letters were pulled from the alphabetical listing by Climenhaga. It is not known why Climenhaga separated these letters.
Literary Works is comprised of twenty-two boxes that contain Climenhaga's plays and poems, as well as fiction stories and essays. During his lifetime Climenhaga had at least seven columns in various newspapers and newsletters. Three of his columns One Man's Frontier, One Man's Journey, and Dear Good People often had the same material while the introduction was sometimes different or a sentence or two rearranged. One Man's Journey was also broadcasted on the KKSC Radio station at Kansas State University during the 1980s. Climenhaga was a notorious recycler of paper. He often used recycled paper which can be confusing to researchers. If researchers pay close attention, however, they just might find that "recycled" paper useful after all, as it could be a part of another story, poem, etc., whether written by Climenhaga or one of his many friends or colleagues. Climenhaga wrote his first poem at age six. By 1989, he had written approximately 2,500 poems of which 1,200 had been published in various magazines and journals. Volumes of his published poems include: The Age of Pollution; Belief in Chaos; Hawk and Chameleon; The Month of the Shadow on My Heart; Ninety-Nine Messages from Separate Places; None of this Really Matters a Great Deal Now; One Hundred and One Songs are Promised for Tomorrow; Preliminary Walk into the Sweat of Dying; Report on the Progress of the Bearded One's Homework; Spontaneity is a Deceiving God; and The Thirteenth Winter.
Subject Series is contained in seventeen boxes and is organized alphabetically. It includes names such as Charles Jackson Jones, Jr. who was married to artist Molly Ramolla, Kenneth Patchen, and Larry Smith. It also includes programs from plays produced, written, and directed by Climenhaga. Other programs include plays produced at the Purple Masque Theatre, Kansas State University; by the Pine Cone Players, Grand Lake, CO; and at UCLA.
The Photograph and Slides Series consists of one box and includes photos of the 1976 Pine Cone Players, Grand Lake, Colorado, production of Mark Twain. Photos taken at the Purple Masque Theatre, Kansas State University include the 1981 production of Kenneth Patchen's Don't Look Now, the 1989 production of Dust-Storm Wedding, and Climenhaga's own play the Marriage Wheel. The Slides consist of Kenneth Patchen's art poetry.
Comprised of seven boxes, the Media Series includes cassette tapes, reel to reel tapes, VHS videotapes, and computer disks. The computer disks contain some of Climenhaga's manuscripts that were incorporated in the Literary Works Series. The cassette tapes include interviews with Ben Nyberg and Jonathan Holden, 1985 letters from Charles Jones, and Climenhaga's 1980s One Man's Journey recorded at KKSU radio, Kansas State University. The reel to reel tapes includes several different readings from Patchen's Don't Look Now. The VHS tapes include the "50th Anniversary of the 1939 Pottstown High School Graduates" of interviews with Earl "Yogi" Storm, Dr. Joel Esner, and Raymond Elliott conducted by Bill Achatz. Climenhaga was unable to attend this anniversary gathering where he and others were inducted into the Alumni Honor Roll. Climenhaga created a video to be played at the anniversary program and it is included in this series. The tape Miriam Is Not Amused, a film by Kim Roberts, 1996, is a profile of the life of Miriam Patchen with interesting information about her husband Kenneth Patchen. The most interesting tapes in this series, however, are the interviews with Joel Climenhaga. The one that stands out the most is the one created by the Manhattan, Kansas Art Councils, 1992, where John Biggs interviews Climenhaga.
There are some very interesting interviews with Joel Climenhaga, especially the one filmed by the Manhattan, Kansas Arts Council titled Joel: Creative Profile. Another VHS tape of interest is Miriam Is Not Amused, a film by Kim Roberts, 1996. This is a profile of the life of Miriam Patchen with interesting information about her husband, Kenneth Patchen.
Scrapbooks are contained in one box. The most notable is the Marriage Wheel by Joel Climenhaga with his notes written on the sides of each page. Another item of interest is the 1983-1988 Travel Journal. Climenhaga kept notes of his summer travels, how many miles he traveled, where he traveled to, and when and where he stopped to eat.
The Oversize Series is made up of one box that includes art, art poetry, poetry, and program posters. Notable sketches in this series are the drawing of Joel Climenhaga by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the greeting to the Climenhagas from Carlos and Marianna Cortez in 1972. Kenneth Patchen's art poetry shows up in Lee Artz's "Passion for Peace," Peace Works, Mid-Peninsula Peace Center, Palo Alto, California and in Steven Ratiner's "The Picture Poems of Kenneth Patchen," California Living, 1983. There are four Kenneth Patchen poems included: "The Way Men Live Is a Life," 1944, "A Poem For Christmas," 1961, "What I'd Like To Know Is, 1967" and "A Mercy Filled and Defiant Xmas To All Still Worthy To Be Called Man," 1970. Program posters from the Kansas State University Purple Masque Theatre that are interesting include Mark Edward's Larger Than Life, 1978, Cindy Helfertstay's From Heaven to Hell, 1978, and Chloris Killian's 1981, The Dust-Storm Wedding. Other items of interest include Climenhaga's 1987 retirement certificate from Kansas State University and a letter from the then Provost, Owen J. Koeppe.
Stored in twenty boxes, the Printed Material includes Climenhaga's poetry magazines, published by him under his publishing company, Transient Press, and other research journals and books.

System of arrangement

The collection is organized in nine Series: 1) Biographical; 2) Correspondence; 3) Literary Works; 4) Subjects; 5) Photographs and Slides; 6) Media; 7) Scrapbooks; 8) Oversize; and 9) Printed Material.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restrictions: All materials are open for research.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

The Joel Climenhaga Papers were donated to Kansas State University by his widow, Zoe Climenhaga in 2001. It received accession number U2001.02.

Immediate source of acquisition

Acqusition Source: Zoe Climenhaga
Acqusition Method: Donation.
Acqusition Date: 20010201

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Related descriptions

Specialized notes

  • Citation: Preferred Citation: [Item title], [item date], Joel Climenhaga papers, Box [number], Folder [number or title], Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

Alternative identifier(s)

Archon Collection ID


Description control element

Rules or conventions

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Sources used

Archivist's note

Finding Aid Author: Cynthia Harris
Processing Info: The collection was processed by Cynthia Harris, Manuscripts/Collections Processor and Tamara DeRossi, student assistant.
Publication Date: 2009-11-30

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Physical storage

  • 5" Flip Top, Letter: Box 1, A83411994331
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  • Cubic Foot Box: Box 1 Videotapes, A83412020274
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  • 16x20: Box, A83411998296