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Jean Nordhaus literary papers

Identifier: MS2328

Scope and Contents

This collection contains correspondence, poetry, teaching materials and other paper records. There are two distinct groups of documents: the personal files of Jean Nordhaus and the files of the critique group she co-founded, the Capitol Hill Poetry Group. Nordhaus' personal files include correspondence, drafts and final versions of Nordhaus', her friends, and the Capitol Hill Poetry Group members' poetry. The Capitol Hill Poetry Group's bank account information, book manuscript, book deal related documents, an autobiographical organizational history, photographs, and press clippings. In addition there is event information including invitations, programs, notes, exhibition catalogues, an audio recording (on cassette), and speaking preparation for workshops, conferences, readings, and literary festivals; research, interviews, and drafts of speeches and book introductions. The material dates from 1975 to 2013. Items in the collection cover Nordhaus' engagement in the literary scene, especially in Washington, DC's Capitol Hill Poetry Group, and reflect both administrative and creative aspects of her work.


  • Creation: 1975-2013

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical Note

Jean Nordhaus was born in Baltimore, Maryland and received a BA in Philosophy from Barnard College and a PhD in German Literature from Yale University. She moved to Washington in 1964 and became engaged with the DC poetry community in the early 70’s, while teaching English at what was then Federal City College (today UDC.) She co-founded a critique group on the Hill, the Capitol Hill Poetry Group and started attending readings at the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare Library. (Stanley Kunitz was Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress at that time and lived during his tenure in a townhouse on 4th Street, SE.) In the late 70’s Nordhaus became Dance Editor of The Washington Review of the Arts (Bernard Welt was the Poetry Editor) and soon after began writing dance reviews for the Washington Post.

From 1980-83, and again for a year during the 1991-92 season, she served as Poetry Coordinator at the Folger Shakespeare Library. During her tenure, the Folger started a second lunchtime poetry series called the Moveable Muse, with weekly readings at alternating downtown locations: the Renwick Gallery, the Phillips Collection, and other venues. She also published a monthly listing of poetry events and news called the Poetry Clearinghouse. While at the Folger, she organized a 2-day conference on the translation of poetry featuring George Steiner as the keynote speaker and coordinated the PEN Faulkner Award for Fiction during its first year in Washington.

Her first full-length collection, A Bracelet of Lies, was published by Washington Writers’ Publishing House in 1987. She served as president of the cooperative press for 6 years, from 1988-94. In 2010, she became Review Editor for Poet Lore. Her other books include:

Innocence, (Ohio State University Press, November 2006), winner of the Charles B. Wheeler Award

The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn, an extended biography in verse of the 18th century German-Jewish philosopher (Milkweed Editions, 2002)

A Purchase of Porcelain, Kinloch Rivers Chapbook Contest Winner, Published by the Poetry Society of South Carolina, 1998.

My Life in Hiding, (Quarterly Review of Literature, Volume XXX, 1991), winner of Colladay Prize.

A Language of Hands, (chapbook) SCOP Publications, 1982 ISBN 0-930526-05-8 $3.50, out of print, although I have a few copies.

In translation: The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn, tr. Moshe Dor, Carmel Publications, Israel, 1996. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Poetry, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, and the New Republic; and in anthologies including Best American Poetry, the Pushcart Prize Anthology and The Other Side of the Hill I and II.

Beltway Poetry Quarterly, 5 poems, Volume 5:2, Spring 2004:


1.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This collection contains the personal files of Jean Nordhaus and the organizational files for the Capitol Hill Poetry Group. The Capitol Hill Poetry Group is a critique group that was co-founded by Nordhaus along with Shirley Cochrane in Washington, DC in 1975. The collection covers the period of 1975-2013, and includes personal, administrative, event-related, and creative documents.


Organized into 2 series: Personal files, and Capital Hill Poetry Group files.


Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Source of Acquisition

Gift of Jean Nordhaus, Accession June 3, 2014 (2014.07)


Jean Nordhaus literary papers, 1975-2013
University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

George Washington University Gelman Library
2130 H Street NW
Washington DC 20052 United States of America