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University of California Berkeley 


\ X 


Josephine Miles 

Regional Oral History Office 
The Bancroft Library 


JULY 1974 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

University History Series 

Josephine Miles 

An Interview Conducted by 
Ruth Teiser and Catherine Harroun 
in 1977 and 1979 

Copy no. / 
Copyright (c) 1980 by the Regents of the University of California 

TABLE OF CONTENTS Josephine Miles 




INTERVIEW I 7 July 1977 

High School 18 

University 27 

INTERVIEW II 15 July 1977 34 

Study at Berkeley 41 

Poetry Groups 48 

Ph.D. and Los Angeles 62 

INTERVIEW III 21 July 1977 76 

Beginning to Teach 76 

Courses and Students 95 

INTERVIEW IV 28 July 1977 108 

English Department 108 
Publishing and Research 

INTERVIEW V 4 August 1977 

Public Contexts 139 

Developments in Poetry 149 

INTERVIEW VI 11 August 1977 170 
Writing Poetry 

Values and Standards 182 

INTERVIEW VII 18 August 1977 194 

Committees 194 

INTERVIEW VIII 25 August 1977 200 
University Professors, Readings, Journeys 
Neighbors and Family 

Arts and Other Ideas 236 

INTERVIEW IX 22 February 1979 246 

Winding Down 246 


Excerpts from "Bibliographical Introduction to Seventy-five 262 

Modern American Authors" September 1976. Gary M. Lepper 

News Release from Office of Public Information, 1/24/73. 266 

Josephine Miles awarded title of "University Professor". 

Program: The Sixty-third Annual Faculty Research Lectures, 268 

Lecturer for 1976, Josephine Miles. Subject, "Where Have . 
Goodness, Truth, and Beauty Gone?" 

Article from The Monday Paper, October 13, 1978. "Miles Honored 272 
with Top Award for American Poet." 

IMAGES OF CALIFORNIA. A Session with Josephine Miles, Poet; 273 
A Report and Interpretation. By Jim Hughes, March 22, 1979. 

List of Ph.D. Dissertations - Josephine Miles Director. 280 

"A Profile of Josephine Miles", by Katharine Livingston, 1973. 281 


INDEX 331 

INDEX Books by Josephine Miles discussed in the interview 344 


Under a continuing grant from the University of California, Berkeley 
Foundation, the Regional Oral History Office has been conducting a series of 
interviews with persons who have made a significant contribution to the 
development of the University of California at Berkeley. Many of the inter 
views receive additional support from University departments and offices, 
special alumni groups, and individuals who wish to honor a particular 
memoirist. A list of University History interviews is appended including 
an earlier group conducted in cooperation with the Centennial History Project, 
directed by Professor Walton E. Bean and later by Verne A. Stadtman, Univer 
sity Centennial Editor. The University History interviews have also 
benefited greatly from the expert advice and assistance of Richard E. Erickson, 
Assistant Chancellor, Development; and J. R. K. Kantor, University Archivist. 

The oral history process at the University of California at Berkeley 
consists of tape-recorded interviews with persons who have played significant 
roles in some aspect of the development of the West. The purpose is to 
capture and preserve for future research their perceptions, recollections, 
and observations. Research and the preparation of a list of proposed topics 
precede the interviews. The taped material is transcribed, lightly edited, 
and then approved by the memoirist before final processing: final typing, 
photo-offset reproduction, binding, and deposit in The Bancroft Library and 
other selected libraries. The product is not a publication in the usual 
sense but primary research material made available under specified conditions 
to researchers. 

The Regional Oral History Office is under the administrative supervision 
of Professor James D. Hart, the director of The Bancroft Library. 

Willa K. Baum, Department Head 
Regional Oral History Office 

Harriet Nathan, Project Director 
University History Series 

February 1980 

Regional Oral History Office 
Room 486 The Bancroft Library 
University of California 
Berkeley, California 



Josephine Miles s academic career can be outlined briefly in this way: 
B.A. University of California at Los Angeles, M.A. and .Ph.D. University of 
California, Berkeley, Professor of English at the University of California 
at Berkeley, and University Professor. Beyond that however, she is a teacher, 
scholar, and poet of unusual success in each field of endeavor. The effec 
tiveness of her teaching is indicated by the accomplishments and loyalty of 
her students. The effectiveness of her scholarly work and her poetry is 
indicated by the list of honors and awards they have brought her. Her biblio 
graphy indicates the scope of her work and her remarkable industry. 

Because of her outstanding career, suggestions that Professor Miles be 
asked to create an oral history memoir came from many sources within and out 
side of the immediate University community. The idea was mentioned to her 
some years before actual discussion of such an interview began early in 1977. 
At first she considered delaying it until after her retirement from the Univer 
sity English Department in 1978, then agreed to make time for it during the 
summer vacation period in 1977. Consequently, the primary series of interview 
sessions was held weekly beginning on July 7 and ending on August 25, of that 
year. To those eight sessions was added a ninth on February 22, 1979. Between 
the eight and ninth sessions she had retired from teaching, had an illness, 
won a major national poetry award, and had experienced some change in routine 
and circumstances, as she indicated in the interview. 

The interview sessions were held in the living room of Miss Miles s home 
near the University campus, a comfortable and hospitable room reflecting 
Josephine Miles s own attitudes. The interviewers had known her for some years 
and welcomed the opportunity to interview her. As can perhaps be deduced from 
the interview, they admire her and enjoy talking with her. Nevertheless, Miss 
Miles s attitude toward the interview was entirely professional, and she shaped 
it, through her taped conversation and her editing of the transcript, to the 
final result that she considered proper. Her candor, her intellect, and her 
wit are evident throughout. 

In editing the transcript, Miss Miles deleted a few passages, added 
several, and made minor word changes, but it remains in general, close to the 
narrative and discussions as taped. Some rearrangement of the sequence with 
in two sessions was necessitated, however, by a recording error which required 
Miss Miles s recapitulation of one section of her reminiscences. And, dis 
satisfied with the section headings made by the interviewers in editing the 
transcript, she made those which are used here. 

Many of Josephine Miles s friends contributed informed suggestions for 
subjects to be discussed, among them Geraldine Knight Scott, Mel G. Scott, 
J. R. K. Kantor, and Robert Hawley. Marilyn White of the Regional Oral History 
Office undertook bibliographic and other research and checking, Lee Steinback 


transcribed the tapes and final typed the manuscript, and Mr. Kantor, Univer 
sity Archivist, proofread the final work. 

Individual friends and admirers of Miss Miles joined a number of organi 
zations in making this interview possible. 

Ruth Teiser 
Catherine Harroun 

January 1980 

Regional Oral History Office 

486 The Bancroft Library 

University of California at Berkeley 



James S. and Mildred Ackerman 

Associated Students of the University of California 

The Bancroft Library 

Robert E. Beck 

California Association of Teachers of English 

Arthur W. and Finette Foshay 

Catherine Harroun 

Dr. James D. Hart 

Stephanie Opid Holton 

Helen Schevill 

Geraldine Knight Scott 

Mel Scott 

Ruth Teiser 

Luella Winkler Topping 

Katherine Towle 

University of California, Berkeley Foundation 

University of California, Berkeley, Department of English 

Names listed as printed on checks 











B.A., University of California, Los Angeles campus 
M.A., University of California, Berkeley campus 
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley campus 

Instructor, University of California, Berkeley 
Assistant Professor, University of California, Berkeley 
Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley 
Professor, University of California, Berkeley 
University Professor of English z * 

University of California 

1958-60: Chairman, Campus Committee on 
Prose Improvement, Berkeley 
1963-64: Member, Committee on Research, 

Academic Senate, Berkeley campus 
1968-71: Member, Committee on Privilege 
and Tenure, Academic Senate, 
Berkeley campus 
1968-71: Member, Chancellor s Committee 

on the Arts, Berkeley campus 
1970-71: Member, President s Conur.ittee 
on Search for Chancellor, 
Berkeley campus 

Administrative Service: 
Professor Emeritus 

Honors and 
Awards : 


Phelan Felloe in Writing, 1937-38 

Research Fellow in Literature, American Association of 

University Women, 1939-40 
Guggenheim Fellowship, 1948-49 

Judge of National Monroe Award for Poetry, 1950 
Judge of National Shelley Award for Poetry, 1951 
Judge of National Gauss Award for literary scholarship, 

National Institute of Arts and Letters Grant for Poetry, 


Blumenthal Award for poetry, 1959 

Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies, 1965 
D.Litt., Mills College, 1965 

Fellowship, National Foundation on the Arts, 1967-68 
Commendation, California Association of Teachers of 

English, 1970 
Fellowship, Academy of American Poets, 1978 

James Russell Lowell Prize, Modern Language Assn.,, 1975 

American Society for Aesthetics 

American Academy of Arts and Sciences 

American Society for Aesthetics and Art History 

Linguistic Association 

Modern Language Association 

Phi Beta Kappa 

INTERVIEW 17 July 1977 


[begin tape 1, side 1] 

Teiser: You were born in Chicago, June 11 
Miles: Nineteen eleven. 

Teiser: You said that you had worked out your family background at one time 
in a family tree, was it? 

Miles: My father was the youngest of nine children, and the eldest, or the 
second to the eldest, named Herbert, when he was retired had nothing 
else to do. He went over New England reading gravestones, and he 
worked this out. So he sent me a copy, and I copied that down onto 
a small piece of paper, which I periodically lose and then find 
again. So I do know a little bit about what he discovered. Would 
you like to have me tell about that? 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: Well, the two names in our background that connected were John Chipman 
and Hope Rowland. They met on the Mayflower. [Laughing] Then Chipman 
was the main line that my uncle traced down to where I think it was 
Sarah Chipman married William Odber Smith. (I don t think you re 
supposed to switch like that, from masculine to feminine line, but 
that s what my uncle did.) This was after maybe, I don t know, four 
or five generations. 

After the Mayflower, they lived in Providence and they were 
merchants, I m sure the very worst type of sugar-triangle merchants. 
Then they were Tories, and when the Revolution came they all went up 
to Canada. So they were Canadians, and William Odber Smith was a 
druggist, a pharmacist in Saint John, New Brunswick. My father, 
though American, was very loyal to Canada. 

Miles: Then, Ella Victoria Smith, who was something like Smith s daughter 

or granddaughter, married somebody by the name of Frederick Billing, 
who was I think recently over from England another English visitor. 
But my grandmother married I m getting this mixed up, I guess. 
[Pause] My great-grandmother it must have been that married four 
times. One of her other husbands named Miles adopted Frederick 
Billing, and so from this my grandfather s name was Frederick 
Billing Miles. 

They had nine children. The eldest stayed in Toronto and was a 
minister, and then Herb, the one that did the research, lived in 
North Carolina, was a businessman. There were three daughters, one 
of whom was married to somebody by the name of Todd. My father was 
the youngest and always felt a little weighed down by this family 
lineage. He lived around the corner from my mother around somewhere 
the street names I remember hearing about are Thirty-second and 
Calumet and Cottage Grove Avenue in Chicago; those are familiar names, 
anyway. He used to pursue her to school and stick her pigtails in 
the inkwells, and there are many long stories about how obnoxious my 
father was through the years. [Laughter] 

Teiser: What were your parents first names? 

Miles: Reginald Odber Miles and Josephine Lackner Miles. They I guess had 
a very nice group of friends, and I guess he went with one of her 
friends. They knew each other for maybe twenty years and were 
engaged for maybe five, because he had no money (he never went to 
college he never even finished high school) and he was out looking 
for work. He finally got some little money as an insurance agent, 
and then they were married. My mother, meantime, had been teaching 
school in a private school in Cleveland. She had had a career in 
education. She had got a scholarship from school, a scholarship to 
the University of Illinois, but my grandfather wouldn t let her go 
there because that was oil money, Rockefeller money. So she finally 
went to the University of Chicago, which is [laughing] Rockefeller 
money too, but it was near home. I think the fact that she was 
going to be nearby made a difference. 

Teiser: Was that grandfather given to acting on principle? 

Miles: Very much so. My mother s side of the family were Germans from 

Bavaria and Prussia who left Germany at the famous time when they 
were rebelling against too much dominance. They were, while not 
related to Carl Schurz, they were part of the Carl Schurz group that 
came over. I think four brothers named Lackner came to Milwaukee, 
and they were coppersmiths; they had been coppersmiths in Bavaria, 
so you can guess what they did in Milwaukee. That was sort of fun; 
apparently they just all worked for one of the big beer barrel 

Miles: My mother s relatives, I m not sure I guess they came a little 

later. They seemed to just quietly come to Chicago or Wisconsin. 
Their name was something like Grossenheider; Julius Grossenheider 
married Matilda Hoevener. I remember my great-grandmother s name 
was Matilda Margareta Dorothea Hoevener Grossenheider! My grand 
mother, Louise. 

One of the brothers, Joseph, was the father of my grandfather, 
whose name was Ernest. Ernest went to the University of Wisconsin, 
studying to be a doctor. The story is that he was drafted to come 
down to Chicago to inoculate people after the big fire. There I 
guess he met my grandmother. (This may be a fusion of incidents, 
but just so it gets to be in the story.) He settled down in Chicago 
as a doctor. Their parents stayed with them, and the parents were 
very dominantly German and didn t want the children even to learn 
English. So my mother, at the age of five, ran away from home in 
order to learn English. [Laughter] She went to the local 
kindergarten. So her portrait is one of general independence and 
quest for knowledge and curiosity, and so forth. My father s 
portrait is one of enjoyment and teasing and love of sports and 
general humor, and a kind of independence not related to academe 
(which he always made fun of) . They were very much in contrast as a 
couple. So that s where I got born. [Laughter] 

My father was then doing pretty well in insurance and was sent 
by the Connecticut Mutual to start an office in San Francisco, and 
manage an office in San Francisco. So we came out on the train when 
I was nine months old, and we lived up here on Le Conte, rented a 
nice old brown shingle flat on Le Conte. We were here for four 
years. The second two years we had a house on Claremont Court, and 
my two brothers [Richard and John] were both born here. A lot of 
our nice early childhood memories go back to those four years. 

But then they sent my father to a supposed promotion to be head 
of the office in Detroit. That didn t work out so well because by 
that time I had really harrowing arthritis, and so I didn t do very 
well in Detroit. I had been born with a dislocated hip, and they 
hadn t known about this. One of the bones of contention in my 
family was that my grandfather, who was a pediatrician, didn t 
notice it for nine months. So it was set here by a method called a 
Lorenz method, which was experimental, I guess. I guess it would 
have worked all right, except that I got a cut an intern gave me a 
cut when he was changing a cast, and he covered it up with a cast 
and it got infected. That supposedly though nobody really knows 
is where I got the arthritis, and that developed here [in Berkeley]. 
But apparently, maybe at least, the cold of Detroit made it a lot 
worse. So then I had a really bad time when I was, say, four and 
five and six and in there. 

Miles: Then we did go back to Michael Reese Hospital, where my grandfather 
was working, and we went to other hospitals and so on and so on. 
Finally, they said there s nothing to do but let me be happy in a 
warm place, and we could go to either Miami or San Antonio or Palm 
Springs. My parents didn t know any of these three, so they just 
closed their eyes and chose in the dark. I ve always been glad they 
chose Palm Springs. So that s where we went then, when I was about 
six and my brothers were four and two. 

Teiser: My, that was a responsibility to uproot a family and 

Miles: Very hard. But because they said I wouldn t possibly live. So that 
there was no point of saving a life, but just letting me be 
comfortable. Yes, it took a lot of nerve. I think it was very nice, 
in the sense that my father had turned from being a really big-shot 
businessman, overworking, to being with the family a lot on the 
desert. We had a very good, quiet half-year on the desert, and the 
hot springs did me a lot of good. But the sad part was that nobody 
had very much good sense about what to do after that. So my 
arthritis did go away, and I rode all over the desert on what would 
be politely called today a tricycle, but in those days unfortunately 
was called a kiddie car. Do you remember when it was called a 
kiddie car? 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: A little wooden contraption. I loved that independence, and I would 
just scoot between the mesquite bushes out on the desert and get 
lost, and had a really fine time. But I got stiff to the shape of 
that kiddie car. Then they decided I was okay, and we went back to 
another office insurance job in Chicago. When the winter came, I 
got stiff again, and then also I couldn t get unbent from this 
position. Then we had to start all over on how to unbend me, and 
then I went through, until I was about twelve, a series of casts and 
operations and various drastic methods because the doctors there had 
just got out of World War I, and what they d learnt about orthopedics 
was very drastic, not very adaptive to a small kid. We had to pull 
up again very sad and come from Evanston to Los Angeles. We 
rented a house in Los Angeles. My father took up a new and 
relatively minor insurance job for him, and we struggled along for 
a while. I didn t get any better. 

After a summer at Balboa, we came up here to a specialist named 
Sherman, and I got a huge floor to ceiling cast. Then we went and 
lived in L.A. , a very charming little house on a street called 
Latona Avenue, which is a wonderful little street. It was a one- 
block street, and it turned out to have on it the most amazing group 
of people. My father just found it because the house cost I think 
$1500. It had a beautiful view of the Pasadena Hills. Just a 
beautiful place in general. 

Josephine ("Jo") Miles, 1915 

Jo and her brothers 

Keniston Avenue, 1926 or 1927 
standing from left: Richard, Jo, 
Josephine, John; seated: Reg 


Miles : 



Miles : 



On that street lived one of the editors of the L.A. Record, which 
was a really fighting liberal paper, by the name of Reuben Burough; 
and Madeline Ruthven, who was a scenario writer; and Francis Beebe, 
who wrote the Tarzan stories for the movies; and the cartoonist of 
Krazy Kat , and various other 

Oh, one of my heroes I 

Really? I should have known. He never spoke to us, see; he never 
became a friend. But we admired him very much. And also very nice 
assorted kids, especially Welda Dower who became a very good friend 
of mine. We roamed the hills. I had by that time a wheelchair, and 
this great little character pushed me all over the hills in return 
for my telling her stories. We d push the chair off the tops of the 
hills and roll down after it. It survived. So everything got very 
happy around that time. We lived there for about four years. Do 
you want me to go right on from there? 

Yes. How old were you then? 

We left there when I was twelve. There was a school right at the 
end of the street the Latona Avenue School. A lovely place. My 
brothers went there too. The L.A. school system sent home teachers 
up to teach me. By that time I couldn t sit, but I could stand or 
lie. My mother couldn t teach me how to write; I read all right, 
but I had to have a teacher to teach me how to write. Then 
gradually I got a wheelchair and they let me come down there to 
school I mean, a very broad-minded principal, a lovely woman by the 
name of Mary Nagel, and lovely teachers. I can emphasize this 
without sounding Pollyannish because when we moved to the Wilshire 
District, the school there said that I couldn t possibly come; it 
would be too much trouble. The Latona Avenue School really was rare. 
I did get an education from ten to twelve. 

Let me go back and come back up to this point. How old were you 
when you learned to read? 

I was probably around four. 

How did you happen to, do you remember? 

To learn to read? Well, I looked at the page and I said, "Hmra. I 
know what this says. It says Chicken Licken (or Little?) says the 
sky is falling 1 ." And, sure enough, that s what it said. [Laughter] 
I ll put parentheses to this: Two years ago, when I was in 
Riverside, which was a very favorite stamping ground of ours when 
we were a little older, I had a real memory binge, and I wrote down 
a lot of these little things in poem form. They re not good poems, 
but I might show them to you some time if you wanted to see them. 

Miles: As you say, you re not interested in anything that s already 
written down, but this was one of the things that I started 
thinking about and I wrote down I must have written down about 
fifteen or twenty remembrances of my youth and my past 

Teiser: I didn t mean that we weren t interested in anything that was 

written down. I meant that you needn t say anything that s on the 
record, in print. 

Miles: Yes. But anyway, another thing that I remember this was in Detroit. 
Well, in Berkeley, when I was four, I still remember being very 
excited with some books called The Twin Books, the Dutch Twins and 

Teiser: When you were four?! Had anyone read to you? 

Miles: Oh, of course I couldn t read those. They were read to us. 

Teiser: When did they start reading to you, do you know? 

Miles: I must have been three or four. My mother, see, was very I didn t 
mention all about my mother s education. She worked with John Dewey 
in Chicago. After she got her B.A. in Chicago, she went to Colonel 
Parker s School, which was a liberal, permissive education Deweyan 
school, and Dewey was there. Dewey lectured and she went to his 
lectures, but actually it was Colonel Parker that made the school 
structure. So she was very gung-ho about methods of teaching and 
learning and stuff, and I m sure she read to us just as soon as we 
had ears. She wasn t fond of poetry, but she did read things like 
A Child s Garden of Verses and ballads. There was one book she read 
out of called Poems Every Child Should Know, which was the source of 
my poetry. Then these Twin books she read to us. That s all I 
remember, except I loved to have those read to me. 

Then in the East, in Detroit, when I was so really very sick, 
she read to us a lot of [laughing] Bible stories. I guess she 
thought it would be good for me to have a little religion before I 
left. She had been a great seeker religiously. Her father had been 
orthodox Lutheran, and she had rebelled against that. She had been 
going around to Unitarian, Congregational churches. She had gone 
with I think a young Unitarian theologian for a long time who 
everybody said was just her type, which they didn t think my father 
was. So she belonged to the Unitarian church in Detroit, and she 
read us all these marvelous little red books of Biblical stories 
which I remember. 

I remember them so vividly because I was so resentful of the 
whole religious picture, I mean of little aphorisms like "God helps 
those who help themselves." I felt I was working hard enough and I 
wasn t getting enough help from anybody. [Laughter] So my whole tour 
with religion was rather argumentative. I just kept saying, "I think 
somebody can do better by me than they are doing." 

Miles: Another thing that I remember is that a cousin that I had gave me a 
red balloon. I was delighted with it, of course. But for some 
reason she said to me, "That s a balloon, and you spell it b-a- 
double 1-double o-n." Phew! It was just like the world exploded 
for me. "You mean you can spell things?" I don t know why I was so 
amazed. But that was really much more exciting for me than the 
actual reading I did at that time too. And I do know I still 
remember the book with Chicken Licken in it, and Chicken Little, 
and the trolls. A marvelous little book. We don t own it any more, 
unfortunately. But that was my reading book, which I read because 
it had been read to me so often. But that balloon thing! I don t 
know why that was so exciting. Oh! I couldn t believe it. It was 
the rhythm of it that was so interesting to me, not just the fact 
that you could spell, B-A-DOUBLE L-DOUBLE O-N. Oh wow. 

My dad loved ragtime. He had a small Victrola and all those 
funny old records of that time; they were all war songs. This fitted 
into this too it was this rhythmic thing that had something to do 
with it too. 

I remember when we lived in Palm Springs we lived right next 
door or right near one of those corrugated iron garages where they re 
always beating on the corrugated iron. Rather rhythmically they were 
fixing cars and stuff. I just remember that I thought they were 
playing "Keep the Home Fires Burning" on this garage. So anyhow, I 
began seeing rhythms in sounds that I heard. So that s my literary 
history. [Laughter] 

Teiser: That s fascinating. 
Miles: It was exciting. 

Teiser: You said that your mother couldn t teach you to write, but you did 
learn to write then when you went to the school? 

Miles: They sent a teacher up. This was a school system that had home 

visitors. The first teacher they sent up was to teach me to make 
pine needle baskets. (This was one of the lesser successes of the 
L.A. school system.) [Laughter] She was a very nice person I guess. 
But I sure wasn t good at pine needle baskets. She brought the pine 
needles, she brought the raffia, she brought the enthusiasm. And I 
did make six pine needle baskets. But that didn t go too well. 

Then finally they sent me a teacher to teach me how to write 
penmanship. It was easy once she got me I think I did it quite 
fast. I don t know; I think it was that my mother s writing was 
rather old-fashioned and Germanic. There were a lot of letters that 
I d never seen anywhere, and I just felt a little too wary of it. 
Or maybe I just needed the Parker system was what I got, and that 
was a real system. Real simple. 


Teiser: Did that open up anything to you then? 

Miles: Handwriting? Let me think. No, it actually didn t. I mean, I did 
a lot of but that [not being able to write] hadn t held me back. 

The first poem that I wrote, I remember, was when we first were 
living in L.A., and it was 1918 or the beginning of 19. It was a 
celebration of the return of the soldiers from the war, and I wrote 
a poem about that. "Soldiers are coming over the sea..." 

Teiser: Do you have a copy of it? 

Miles: Yes, I have a copy.* I think I printed that; either I printed it or 
my mother printed it. But I remember sitting at the kitchen table 
and licking the pencil an awful lot. I think maybe I printed it. 
But I didn t feel held back by my lack of script. [Laughter] 

That s another part of the literary scene, that when I was at 
Evanston let s see. What is the sequence here? Yes. A year 
before I wrote that poem, when I was in Evanston one beautiful 
summer, there was a family of girls next door, and they tried to get 
me interested in the Saint Nicholas magazine. It was a very 
interesting resistance; I just would not be interested. I d love to 
know why. I just thought it was too hard for me. They did all the 
jokes and puzzles. Do you know what the Saint Nicholas looks like? 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: Well, you ll know, then, what a great thing it was. I m afraid to 
look at it again. So these little girls, who were maybe nine and 
ten while I was seven and six, they showed me all this stuff and 
they lent me copies, and I diligently avoided reading them. It was 
so fascinating to know why I just don t know. 

But that next Christmas in Los Angeles, my parents gave me for 
Christmas two magazines. One was the John Martin s Book, which was 
much younger, which I loved. 

Teiser: Oh, I loved that. 

*Soldiers are coming 
Over the sea 

Coming to their land so free 
Coming to the land of flowers 
Coming to the land of snow 
Coming to some happy hours 
No war, No. 

Harroun: We had that too. 
Teiser: Maybe Saint Nicholas was too old for you. 

Miles: I was going to say and then Saint Nicholas again. I think just 
those six months did make a big difference. I don t know why my 
mother persisted on Saint Nicholas, but anyway that little amount of 
time did make a difference. So that really started me off being 
serious about writing, because they would assign they would say 
that "for three months from now the topic will be Neath Spreading 
Boughs ," let s say. Well, I didn t dig this situation for months! 
I would write a poem on the current topic and send it in. I guess 
I probably printed these myself, and I probably did three or four of 
these during this winter and spring of 19. They sent them back and 
explained that I was supposed to look ahead and see what was going 
to happen next. So when I got in this cast and we moved to Los 
Angeles the second time from Balboa, and I had nothing else to do, 
everybody trotted out their Saint Nicholas thing and said, "Why 
don t you try for the three months ahead now?" So I did, and so I 
got a silver badge, which sounds pretty sensational. That was my 
serious writing contribution s beginning. 

Teiser: Did you save all of your poems that you had submitted? 

Miles: Yes. I didn t then, but we had a sitter I had to have a nurse in 
those days, a very wonderful woman by the name of Miss Babcock, 
about whom I ve written a poem called "Doll." She was terrific. 
She was a theosophist. She was very good at just not pushing or 
pulling or anything, but she would just save these things. So I do 
have them. I m sure my mother or I wouldn t have saved them. My 
dad the first time I got a check, the first thing I wrote that I 
got money for ($1.70) my dad would have saved the check [laughing], 
not the story but the check. That was a couple of years later. 

Teiser: Did you go on writing poetry, then, after that? 

Miles: Yes. 

Teiser: You just started and didn t stop? 

Miles: Yes. Also anything else you want to mention that was in the Saint 
Nicholas mystery stories, rabbit stories, what have you. 

Teiser: You wrote a lot. 

Miles: I wrote a lot. And wrote plays. This lovely school, this Latona 

Avenue School, they were going to have a I forget the order, which 
was which they were going to have an opening of a new building, and 
they asked me to write a play to help celebrate the opening of the 








Miles: new building. It was Thanksgiving time. So I wrote a play about 
Thanksgiving. They were wonderful no pressure. I even have a 
review which Reuben Burough of the Record wrote of that, in which 
he very nicely and ironically reviewed the whole thing, and sort of 
suggested that there were other people beside me involved [laughter], 
putting on the staging and the whole thing, but nevertheless 
mentioning that I was the author of the piece. 

Then you were able to write a playable play. 

Yes, it was a playable play. It really was. 

Had you read many playable plays, and seen many? 

If I had, they were in the Saint Nicholas , is all I can say. 

Had you been to the theater? 

Nope. Oh. No, but I know what happened there. When I was so sick, 
in Evanston, my mother had belonged to a play reading group, a 
neighborhood play reading group. In the dining room was a dining 
room table with a white cloth over it. I would get in under the 
white cloth with my kiddie car it sounds kind of impossible 
[laughing] that I was that little, but I guess I was and they 
would sit around the table and drink coffee and read plays. This 
was just marvelous, of course. And guess who that was they were 
reading? It s amazing to think. It was Eugene O Neill, and this 
was the beginning of the Provincetown Players. So those gals were 
really up on things, this little neighborhood in Evanston. That s 
where my parents were hoping to live forever, until they had to pull 
out of there because of the winter snows. But it was a lovely place. 

Teiser: And you dug Eugene O Neill at that early age? 

Miles: Oh, did I dig Eugene O Neill: He had a play called Oil. It s about 
a wife that goes crazy. The husband is a sea captain, and he takes 
his wife. You re not supposed to take your wife on the ship, but 
she wanted to go very badly. They got stuck in the ice up north 
some place, and she goes crazy. Oh, it was sublime for a little 
six-year-old. [Laughter] Just marvelous. Yes, I guess that s how 
I got on to the play situation. 

Plus the Beebes. When we lived on Latona, then we had this 
Tarzan of the Apes man doing scripts; we were all in the swing of 
that too. 

Teiser: Did you read the scripts, or did you talk to him, or- 


Miles: No, but we did an awful lot of play-acting. The Beebes had huge 
boxes of clothes to dress up in. They had three children and we 
had three children, and we just had infinite numbers of performances. 

Teiser: Ah. That s where you had practical stage experience. 

Miles: That s right. You re right, you re so right. 

Teiser: You didn t have people entering and exiting at the same time. [Laughs] 

Miles: I realize now what is going to be difficult in oral history is to 
stay back there because not more than two months ago I met an old 
lady eighty-some years old who was one of the directors of the 
Pasadena Community Playhouse. She and I shared memories, just this 
recent time, about the Pasadena Community Playhouse that would 
really chill your bones how could we both remember all this! It s 
so hard to stay back there because as I was a child and lived near 
the Pasadena Community Playhouse, it s not that I ever went, really, 
but that I heard about the plays and the actors from my parents. 
Like Androcles and the Lion was one of those. And then we put on 
Androcles and the Lion. She was in Androcles and the Lion (and this 
was like, say, 1920). She became one of the directors of the 
Playhouse. I just have a feeling that there are all these marvelous 
strands that go through. 

I met her down at a trailer court in Laguna. [Laughing] She 
was living in a trailer court in Laguna. 

Okay. Where are we now? At Latona Avenue School. 

Teiser: I stopped you at the age of twelve and said let s go back. 
Miles: So we leave Latona Avenue School 

Teiser: Yes. After that, you had not been able to go to school for two 


Miles: That s right, yes. 

Teiser: You were studying at home, then? 

Miles: Yes. Oh, it was so negative! You have no idea. My mother said to 
the principal down there, "Well, maybe she could do some writing at 
home, and you could write her, correspond with her. A teacher could 
write her about other you know." So well, yeah, okay, if she wants 
to. So my mother decided I could write they were studying 
California history, so my mother decided I could write a play on 
California history. I spent that whole winter in this new house in 
the Wilshire suburbs writing this damn play on California history, 


Miles: which we then tendered to the Wilshire Crest School. (No, that s 
not the name of it. I ve blocked out the name, maybe Windsor. 
Anyway.) And they just never even mentioned it! Never even 
acknowledged the receipt of it. I just stress it because so much 
of my life was so happy that it s just incredible to me how it was 
not the run-of-the-mill; it was just luck. There was nobody in that 
school that was pleasant to me, or that would let me get through the 
eighth grade or anything. 

This was all out in the sticks, out toward Wilshire and La Brea. 
My father bought a house out there because he thought that when the 
Third Street streetcar came through, there d be a big real estate 
boom. (I mention this because this forward seeking was like my 
father.) And the Third Street streetcar still hasn t come through. 
[Laughter] There has been a boom, but that didn t do it. 

Teiser: Let me go back and pick up another thing before I forget it, because 
it relates a little to this. You said your father would have kept 
your first check for $1.70. How old were you when you received that 
great sum? 

Miles: This Miss Babcock this was on Latona, when I was, say, eight to 
twelve, maybe I was ten she had her eye on this little magazine 
that printed children s work, besides Saint Nicholas. It was done 
by the Beacon Press; I forget what it was called. I don t think it 
was Youth s Companion; I never cared too much about Youth s 
Companion. But it was another children s magazine that she got for 
me at the library. They just asked children to write things and 
hand them in. I did, and they paid me for this, to my surprise. 
That really delighted my father. It s not that he was so mercenary; 
it s just that he felt that my mother was so theoretical that it was 
necessary for him to be practical. This was what he kept stressing 
all the time being practical. 

Teiser: What was the piece? 

Miles: It was called "The Princess Who Could Not Dance." A very sad little 
story deal. I have a faint feeling that a lot of it was copied from 
some place else. I have a feeling that it was not original, and 
that I sort of remembered it from some place, and I ve always 
wondered where that was. But I ve always had a soft spot in my 
heart for plagiarists [laughter], because I m sure I didn t make up 
that thing from cover to cover. [Laughter] 

That reminds me, though, of another important thing to mention 
good things in Los Angeles is that, both on Lucille Street, when I 
was seven, and Latona later, all during those five years, the public 
libraries near our house were absolutely angelic about helping my 
mother pick books for me to read, finding out what I liked and then 


Miles: sending more. My mother would take a trip down and they d find out 

what I liked and then they d send me more. I kept reading this way 
really constructive. I was very opinionated. One time one of the 
librarians wrote me a little note and said I hadn t liked one book 
that she d ever sent me. [Laughter] She just wondered why we 
differed so in our opinions. I thought that was so nice of her. I 
don t think I wrote her back, but I sent a message by my mother what 
was wrong with her choices. I had a great fondness for her. 

Also, Madeline Ruthven, the scenario writer that lived on our 
street, came up and read to me. About a year or two I was flat on 
my back in this head-to- foot cast, and she came up and read to me. 
A total stretch of utter boredom. She was reading me Melville (and 
I guess I was nine or ten) , and she read Omoo, Typee, Moby Dick 
thank God I got out of that cast before she got to Pierre! [Laughter] 
But that must have done me good, and I m sure that some love of the 
classics crept in. 

Teiser: [Laughter] Maybe just fortitude. 

Miles: Oh, what a funny choice. 

[end tape 1, side 1; begin tape 1, side 2] 

Miles: I would like to bring in one point about reading aloud. My mother 
read aloud to us all this time, till we moved to the Wilshire 
district. And so my brothers were on this too. It was kind of 
interesting because they didn t like it anywhere nearly as much as 
I did, but they did like it. We tended, because of the majority 
rule, to hear an awful lot of boys books rather than girls . I had 
hardly any girls books because it was two to one. We had the 
Treasure Island kind of thing, but I didn t get much of the girls 
book kind of thing until later. They didn t like poetry, either. 
So she mostly read, I guess you d say, classics of the Treasure 
Island kind. 

One other thing I should mention because it should not be put 
aside from my literary history, that I was very eager to be an opera 
singer, and I wanted to write the opera songs that I sang. My friend 
Welda Dower, who lived down the street, was a year or so younger than 
I am. Welda played the piano, and she had a music book with songs 
in it like "Beautiful Dreamer" and "Tenting Tonight" and "La Paloma," 
and we really went to town on those songs. [Laughter] So she would 
play the music and I would make up the words. None of those ever 
got written down because her mother felt that the words weren t as 
good as the music, and that I should improve before we wrote them 
down. But we had an awful lot of fun doing this, and I really 
wanted to compose words to music. That was my major ambition, not 
only then but all through even college, with the big bands. You may 
be glad to know that I was a contributor to the words and lyrics of 
the big band of Ted Fiorito. 




Teiser : 
Miles : 
Teiser : 

You were? 

Yes. He never actually played any of them, but he kept thanking me 
for sending them. [Laughter] 

Both words and music? 

No. See, Welda gave me the idea of using other, old tunes. Then 
we d adapt we d get new words that we thought were more interesting 
than the old words for the old tunes. Then I would take some of Ted 
Fiorito s tunes and give them new words. Pretty awfully done, but 
still, he was a very nice person. He was playing at the Coconut 
Grove, which was near our house, and the two or three times that I 
did this, he would write me little notes saying, "These are very 
nice words. They don t quite fit our needs, but keep on trying. 
Love, Ted." [Laughter] 


Pretty nice, huh? [Laughter] So that was my movie star stage. 

Did you see movies much? 


You were in a movie environment. 

Yes. On Latona, which was in the backwoods area in South Pasadena, 
the movies hadn t really hit yet, and we saw very few and they were 
very crummy. Indeed, that s when my father felt we should move from 
there, that it was an area that would not grow and improve, and so 
indeed it hasn t. It s mostly paved over now with the freeway, 
though the corner store where we bought penny candy is still there. 

Last month I was going down the hall at Irvine, and to the 
fellow that was pushing my wheelchair I said, "Where did you grow 
up?" He said, "I grew up around Sycamore Grove in South Pasadena, 
and nobody s ever heard of it, on Avenue Forty-three," and I said, 
"That s where I grew up." Coming toward us in the other direction 
was a professor who said, "What did I hear about Avenue Forty-three 
and Sycamore Grove? That s where I ^rew up." Isn t that an 
interesting coincidence? That was this hole-in-the-wall place, a 
place where Chicano squatters squatted in the river bed, in the dry 

So it was a very interesting area, and my father was right to 
leave it and to go to the Wilshire district, but it was a terrible 
wrench for all of us, just a terrible, terrible wrench. So that 
gets us back to the movies and when I m fourteen, because now we did 



Miles : 





go to the movies because we had nothing else to do. Now suddenly 
we had no friends, no nothin . So we went to the movies, because 
we were now near Hollywood and the Ritz Theater and La Brea and 

You and your brothers were quite companionable? 


Liked to do the same things in spite of the little gaps in age? 

Yes. There wasn t too much we could do together, but that was the 
thing we did do together, was go to the movies on Sunday afternoon. 

And listen to stories, be read to. 

Oh, that s true. When we were still on Latona, my father had the 
boys help him with the yard work. It was always very awful because 
he always lost his temper. But then as a reward, after dinner, he 
would take us to Grauman s Egyptian Theater. It was a big event! 
I remember now. In other words, there was no movie near us, but 
we d go way over to Hollywood. So, yes, the Egyptian and the 
Chinese Theater were absolutely major events in our lives. 

But then more when we went together, just my brothers and I in 
the Wilshire district. When we were in our teens, we went just to 
the local theaters. That s just when talking was coming in. This 
wasn t the big epics kind of thing, but this was more Clive Brook. 
Remember Clive Brook? 


Really neat English comedy. 

Did the movies influence you in any way? 

I can t think how. [Laughter] I ve written a lot of poems about 
movies, though. But I don t think I have a very cinematic mind; I 
don t think I m all that visual. On the other hand, I don t think 
the movies are very much interested in what would you say? low key 
dialogue, which is what I d be interested in. [Laughter] 

I m just thinking again of your lyrics for Ted Fiorito. I m 
curious that you should have picked that up. Well, I suppose 
perhaps not, in view of your father s ragtime and 

It was very much my father. It was also Welda, my good friend. But 
she had to practice the piano every day. And the fact that we both 
thought we had beautiful voices, and we would get together with this 
book of songs and sing them together. Oh, it must have been a nest 
of singing birds. [Laughter] 


Miles: A sad part oh, a really sad part was that in school they never 
really learned that I couldn t read music for this very reason. 
They would teach us "do, re me so, fa me so, la so," and that would 
be the way to read the notes that went with that tune. But I would 
just learn that immediately, and they didn t know I didn t know what 
I was reading. And I never have learned to read music, and it s 
been a really mental block in my life. So now I should jump ahead 
and tell you how I didn t learn to read music when I was on 
sabbatical a few years ago. You don t want me to do that now, do 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: You want to do it now? Well, when I took my sabbatical, since I 

couldn t go to Europe, I would go onto the campus by another gate, 
so that nobody would know I was there. One of my sabbaticals was 
to learn how to read music. It was very hard to find a course that 
was easy enough, because I didn t have piano. That was one big 
thing the problem that I couldn t play piano. My brothers didn t 
want to; if we d had a piano around, it would have been nice, but 
they wanted sports. 

Finally, the wife of a colleague and I, who were both looking 
for something very, very easy, found the really depth of simplicity 
in the whole Music Department, a course for teachers, Music 110, 
taught by Jack [John M. ] Swackhamer, a really nice guy. He did it 
by voice. So he would just have the students sing, sight-sing the 
notes, and sometimes go up to the piano. He gave a lot of little 
quizzes, which I faithfully took. The most I ever got was 40 percent, 
but that was not too bad, considering the mental block I d built up 

I cannot hear the difference between a high note 
If I say "do re" I don t know which is higher and 
At the end, he wanted us to compose a tune to our 
own words. I had loads of words waiting for tunes, but I d never 
composed a tune, you see, as I said before. So I had these words 
that I was very fond of. I had a kind of tune in my mind, but I 
didn t know how to get it onto paper. This was one of the most 
exciting things I ever did it was kind of like Helen Keller 
[laughing], except it didn t work out so well. 

All night long I tried to think what would be the right notes 
for those words, for what I was trying to do. I didn t really 
believe in tonic and dominant. In the Music Department, people are 
always saying, "Obviously you can t end there," and I would want to 
say, "Why can t you obviously end there?" I didn t have any of the 
conventions. So I decided I d start with three s and I would have a 
beginning and ending on three instead of on one. I thought it would 
sort of float. 

all those years, 
and a low note, 
which is lower. 


Miles: I d wake up in the middle of the night thinking, "Oh, but that 

seventeenth note in there, that can t be that; that has to go more 
down . " 

Anyway, I finally got this thing down on paper and handed it 
in. When it came back to me, Jack had marked it in red and said 
that it was very interesting, and he said, "It has a floating 
quality. I don t know if you realize that." Well, that was very 
complimentary. He said, "It s not really orthodox enough to do much 
with. It s kind of a fragment and one doesn t quite know where it s 
going." Well, it was all okay. I agreed that was about the best I 
had done. He marked one place as being very bad, which I knew, 
another place as being very good, which I was thrilled by. 

I was reading this, and I was in a department meeting of ours. 
Somebody tapped me on the shoulder, and here was Bud [Bertrand H. ] 
Bronson sitting behind me, who is a very revered and austere figure 
in our department, and one of our elder statesmen and, as you 
probably know, a really marvelous musician and an authority on the 
ballad. He said, "What s that piece of music you re looking at, 
there?" I said, "Oh, Bud, forget it," and I put it in my book. But 
he reached over, took it out and looked at it, and chuckled during 
the rest of the meeting. 

Then he got up and came around after the meeting and said, 
"This little thing of yours reminds me of something. I don t know 
whether you know it or not, but it has very many of the qualities of 
another well-known piece of music." I said I didn t know. He said, 
"Well, I ll sing it to you," and he hummed this beautiful thing. 
Oh, I loved it! Tears came to my eyes, and I said, "Bud, you know, 
you re a very sardonic man, but this was pure kindness, pure 
sympathy. What is it?" He said, "The Japanese national anthem. 
[Laughter] Isn t that funny-sad? 

Teiser: [Laughter] How curious! 

Miles: I thought that was good. I was so taken aback. You couldn t get a 
better character study of Bud Bronson than that story, because it 
has all the sympathy but all the barb in it too. It was a real 
shock for me, but it was funny. I think that s the last thing I ve 
done with words and music. 

Oh no no, I didn t. That s right. During Cambodia, Jack 
[Swackhamer] asked me to write some words to a piece that he wrote. 
I did, and that was very thrilling. The kids rewrote a whole 
concert to protest Cambodia. All the pieces were new; they just 
didn t do anything they had been planning. The chorus did this 
piece, with my words and his music. I was sitting next to a 
colleague of Jack s who told me the whole thing was no good, but I 
was in seventh heaven I thought it was beautiful! [Laughter] 




Oh yes, that s right he wrote the music to my words, by the way. 
Yes, he turned it around. 

So I guess that s the end of the story of my music career. A 
very important story in my life, feeble as it is. 

It s not really so separate from 

No, no. All these strands keep going through. 

So now you want me to go back to when I m fourteen? 

High School 

Teiser: Now back to fourteen. 

Miles: We lived near a new junior high school where my brothers went to, 
but it was too far for me to get to. So I was sort of stymied out 
there in the oat fields. It was interesting because they were 
building new little gerry-built houses, and the sound of hammering 
just a sense of construction going on. But it clearly stood out as 
a depressing year for me. I was supposedly taking exercises, taking 
trips over to the other side of town to get some exercises, which I 
was sure weren t doing me any good. By this time I had braces on. 
I had plenty of energy, but I didn t like the exercise, I didn t 
like the trip on the streetcar (my poor mother lugged me on the 
streetcar, on the bus), and I was doing this writing for this school 
and I knew they didn t care. I was thirteen, and nothing seemed to 
be adding up in any direction. 

Then we went down to Coronado Beach for the summer, which we 
had done before. We stayed in a place called Coronado Tent City. 
Were you ever there? 

Teiser: I ve seen pictures of it. 

Miles: Yes. There s a hotel. They ran this tent city down on the strand 
below the hotel, and they had hotel service linen service and so 
forth every day. The cottages were made out of palm thatch and 
canvas, and they had little tents behind if you wanted to cook, 
which my mother did. Very delightful, simple, informal summers. 
Nice and warm. These did me a lot of good. I learned how to swim. 
Again, I couldn t learn from my parents. 

My father s idea of how to teach you to swim was to hold your 
face down in the water until you struggled enough so that you d come 
up for air or something. After a few bouts of that, we quit. But 


Miles: we got a college student to teach me, who taught by teaching how to 
float, and I learned actually to swim about a hundred yards, the 
side stroke. She would help my mother during the summers, one of 
the best of our many-odd mother s aids. 

Across from us lived a family (I don t remember their name at 
the moment. [Added later: It was Schuck]) They had two daughters 
who, by coincidence, were going to L.A. High, which was about two 
blocks from where we lived, and where my father had been aiming for 
all along when he bought this house, because he thought eventually 
we could all go to L.A. High. Well, these two girls were going 
there now, so they took me under their wing. They said, "Sure, she 
ought to go to L.A. High. She s smart enough to go to L.A. High, 
even if she hasn t been through the eighth grade." 

That seemed to be just idle chatter. But when we went back, 
it turned out that one of these girls was on what was called the 
Girls Senior Board, which was an elected, very august group of 
senior girls, and she had mentioned it to the girls principal, who 
called my mother up and said why didn t my mother come over and 
check it out, and maybe I could come there. Wasn t that good? 

So I was rescued from my ivory tower, and she said that she 
could let me into L.A. High on the basis of these papers that I d 
saved, the stuff that had been printed, the Saint Nicholas stuff 

One big thing I had won. My eighth grade teacher, the one I 
was pulled away from when we moved, was a kind of old battle axe, 
a marvelous kind of teacher you read about, with a shirtwaist and 
that stiff, ironic presence. She gave me a magazine called The 
Bookman. Did you ever see The Bookman? It was a rather stylish, 
Clifton Fadiman type of thing of the twenties. She brought this to 
me and said, "Why don t you read this? There s a contest in here 
for young writers under eighteen, on favorite books that they might 

Again, I avoided this, I resented this magazine it was too 
hard for me. After all, it was an adult magazine. But I did 
finally settle down and write that favorite book thing, and I won 
it. So this really did impress Miss Wolverton. 

Teiser: What was your favorite book? 

Miles: Oh, come on, now. Don t ask me that. [Laughing] This is 

embarrassing. It was called Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard. 
I really did love that book. It s by an English writer; I can t 
say her name, which is very bad of me. [Added later: Eleanor 
Far j eon] The prize was another book, and what I asked for was The 
Three Musketeers. It showed that I had grown up slightly between 
twelve, thirteen, and fourteen. 


Teiser: That impressed the high school? 

Miles: Now this was high school, yes. I guess I went four years to L.A. 
High, 24 to 28. They didn t let me skip a grade, but there were 
freshman subjects given (I guess that s the way it was). I can t 
remember whether I was there three years or four, but I know I had 
to take all the beginning stuff, which normally I would have got in 
junior high, like algebra and beginning Latin or beginning French, 
and grammar and all those things. This vice-principal wielded a 
certain amount of power over me, which I had a hard time with. She 
thought, since she d let me in, she could make me take a real 
classical course, which I wouldn t have chosen. So this way I 
willy-nilly got a lot of college preparatory work done except they 
didn t make women take math in those days, which they should have. 
Now they realize that s a great difference between women and men in 
education, in jobs today. 

Teiser: I didn t realize that. 

Miles: Oh yes. There are some beautiful statistics on the subject. It s 
right there, after algebra and geometry, that women get sidetracked 
into low-paying jobs forever after. That was okay with me; I 
wouldn t have been an engineer anyway. 

Teiser: Did you like Latin and French? 

Miles: Well let s see. I didn t like English; teachers were very 

sentimental. I loved chemistry mostly the nature of the teacher. 
I didn t like Latin very well until I got just a marvelous the best 
teacher I ever had. His name was Dr. Walter Edwards, and he taught 
Latin and Greek. I took everything he taught. 

Teiser: Greek too, did you say? 

Miles: Yes. The story was that he had a Ph.D. and that he preferred 

teaching high school students. I don t know what actually was the 
story. I think he had dyspepsia, and maybe he just didn t have the 
health to teach in college, or maybe he didn t publish enough. 
Anyway, we accepted the idea that he liked us better than college 
students. He was such a marvelous man, and not in any way that I 
can define. He was not encouraging or enthusiastic; he just assumed 
that you were very interested and the stuff was very interesting, 
and you would do an awful lot of work and he would do an awful lot 
of work. We published a Latin paper called The Nuntius, and every 
body would write in Latin for that. It was just a kind of quiet, 
crabby assumption that things would go on in this way. 


Miles: In my Virgil class, there was I can t say his name quite, but he 
became editor of the Christian Science Monitor Kevin somebody 
Hendricks? He was editor of The Nuntius. John Cage, the famous 
music guy. And a man who s a demographer at Berkeley, in history 
and sociology, Woodrow Borah. So there were four of us, just 
contemporaries there, who turned out to keep on working very hard 
in the literary world. So it must have been a pretty good class, 
and he probably did get quite a bit of work out of us. 

Teiser: You were reading Virgil in high school? 

Miles: Yes. We read Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, beginning Greek. So I was going 
to be a classics major. When I got to college, when I went to UCLA, 
a very nice man there, who taught all those things, did not inspire 
me any at all, and demanded memory work, which I didn t have. So I 
quit being a classics major overnight. But it shows 

Teiser: You really were, through high school, going to be a classics major? 

Miles: Yes. 

Teiser: What were you going to do with it? 

Miles: I didn t know! I didn t have any career plans. I don t remember 

talking about career, even with my brothers either; I think we just 
talked about schooling at that point. I don t think the job market 
was quite as oppressive as it is now. I don t ever remember 
thinking about what any of us would do with these things. All I 
remember is that my dad would say, "You must get away to college. 
You must go somewhere to college where you get away from home and 
get some new experiences and somebody else can help you beside your 
mother. The boys must go to Stanford." Those are the only things 
I remember at that level. 

Teiser: Your mother had a great deal of theoretical education, and he still 
wanted education for all of you the best. 

Miles: Yes, despite the fact that he made fun of it. 
Teiser: Stanford was expensive. 
Miles: Was it really? 

Teiser: Pretty expensive for most people. It was for your family [speaking 
to Harroun], it was for my family. 

Miles: Really, was it? In the thirties? This would have been 28, 29. 
Teiser: Oh, yes! You were in the class of 29, were you? [to Harroun] 


Miles: You must have been there before Dick and John were. Two things: 

One was that my brothers ran a laundry business there, and so they 
earned quite a bit (it was easier to earn money then) . And secondly, 
it was the Depression, and everything was so rock-bottom anyway that 
my mother didn t know where the next nickel was coming from because 
my father had died in February of 29, which was like a month before 
the crash. When things went into probate, my dad was feeling pretty 
well off, and feeling that he had done pretty well by us and could 
get us to college. But when things came out of probate, which was in 
that fall, we had nothing. But my brothers were on their way to 
college and 

Teiser: By then were they established there? 

Miles: Well, no! Mother just thought she d be phoning and having them come 
home any minute. But that money was funny money. You know, I mean 
you kept eating on less and less, you kept spending less and less, 
and they kept stringing along on their laundry. They never even 
borrowed from Stanford. I know she didn t have much to give them. 
It was curious. Many people have said that they don t remember what 
they lived on. But dividends persisted. 

We do remember as we reminisced about it, one big event was that 
whoever was home, like in the summer I know my brother earned a 
dollar a day for a long time on an ice truck, one of my brothers, 
and my mother got up at five o clock to take him to work. This kind 
of thing, you know. Our big event was to go out to dinner on Sunday, 
and that dinner cost a dollar, and that we just ate for hours. So 
you see how different. [Laughter] 

I sort of skipped over high school here, but I guess that s 

Teiser: Let s go back to high school a little more. You didn t like English 
classes, but did you participate in any other literary journals 
besides the Latin one? 

Miles: Yes. I was involved in the literary stuff. The high school was 

divided by floors. The sciences and the languages were on the second 
floor (I had to climb up one flight of stairs), and English and 
History were on the third floor, which was really very hard for me 
to get to. I could climb stairs then with help, but it was awfully 
hard. So I postponed as much of English as possible and did a lot 
of languages and sciences whatever I could on the second floor. 

I remember writing a poem at the end of my junior year which 
was called "To Dr. Edwards, on Going to the Third Floor." This said, 
"I am going now to the third floor/Where sniffing flowers gracefully 
is the thing to do." I ll spare you the rest of it, but anyway that 
was my attitude. Everybody up there was just very appreciative and 


Miles: There was a woman, to whom I m always unfair, who had studied at 

Columbia under Hughes Mearns, creative writing. He was one of the 
first to stress teaching creative writing to children, and free verse. 
I ve never looked into that book. I took her course in creative 
writing, and somehow it was unfortunate; I was rebellious against it. 
I did show her my work. My mother kept thinking she should see my 
work, and I took the course. But I sat in the back with the boys, 
i and we would make fun of all the poetry about sentiment. We kept 

telling her, "Why don t you let us play Muddy Waters ?" Finally she 
said, "If you wish me to, I will leave the room, and then you can 
play Muddy Waters ." And we all said, "Hooray!" [Laughter] 

This is nothing that I think of with great pride. On the other 
hand, I still do resent the kind of teaching that she did, which was 
so sentimental. 

The other influential teacher was a sorority woman who stressed 
college excellence and getting to college and being a Theta and 
getting all A s, and was a really wonderfully rigorous teacher. She 
was our senior teacher, and she taught Beowulf and Chaucer and 
Shakespeare wonderfully well. This is where all my friends and I 
were together, and we worked on the literary magazine and the 
literary annual no, that s right we didn t work on the paper, we 
worked on the annual. 

I remember it was my idea that instead of having all us A 
students in the interview, we should talk to the kids that never got 
into the annual. They were represented by those who were always 
found off-bounds smoking at some place like Marchetti s or something, 
which was down on Vermont Avenue and supposed to be a very bad place 
to be found out of bounds. My idea was we interview these guys. So 
we had rather a struggle over that annual. 

My best friend, a friend who was editor, was both pulled in my 
direction and pulled in Miss Lavayea s direction. That was a very 
interesting tension between lady-likeness, which Miss Lavayea was 
always stressing, and having fun, which I was stressing. 

Teiser: You were on the having fun side. 

Miles: I was on the having fun side. The girls in that high school were so 
nice. I belonged to the rival club, not to my best friend s club, 
not to Miss Lavayea s club, but to a rival one called Scribblers. 
[Telephone rings] So these were literary clubs, definitely. 

Teiser: Who won? Did you interview the boys off-bounds? 

Miles: Yes, we did. But it was all toned down; it was milk and water by the 
time we got through with it. But we did do it, yes. 


Teiser: What was your friend s name? 

Miles: Which friend? 

Teiser: That you were just saying your best friend who was in the other club? 

Miles: Her name was Franklyn Royer. Her name is now Franklyn Bradshaw. 
Just to show how my theory is that things extend in curious ways, 
she s coming to see me on Saturday. I see her maybe once a year or 
something like that. She s retired from teaching, and her husband 
is retired from editing, and they live in Los Angeles. I saw her 
when 1 was down south, and she s a really interesting person still. 

A lot of my senior year in high school I mention this because 
I suppose it was literary, and I suppose I wrote a lot but it was 
so sort of torn between a lot of this feminine club rivalry kind of, 
people hurting people s feelings. I had some friends that were kind 
of light hearted and satirical. I was known in my high school 
senior year as being just much too cynical for my own good. You 
know, I was about as cynical as Snoopy [laughter], but that s the 
way they put me down there so I wouldn t make too much trouble. 

(While this is on my mind, I suppose I might as well go into it.) 
Then my dad said, "You need to get away and get with a more lady-like 
society. You should go to Scripps and have a girl help you there, 
and get away from home." So we went out to Scripps and looked it 
over. I was all applied and inned and accepted and went out to see 
the dean and see the place. I took one look do you know what Scripps 
looks like? Well, it s got a nice, high wall and a bunch of banana 
trees Spanish cloister kind of thing. I said, "No. Uh-uh." Then 



This was on the way to the desert where we camped a lot. All 
during this time, my father was a great camper and swimmer. We were 
either always at the desert or the beach. They thought being at 
Scripps would be nice because they could stop and see me on the way 
to the desert. I really didn t buy this whole picture. I remember 
the sense then of making a real decision that day that I just 
definitely wasn t going to Scripps, I was going to UCLA. 

So I went on to UCLA with all my friends. 

I m going to tell you that you ve been talking for an hour and a 
half and 

Can I talk for fifteen minutes more? 

You certainly can, but I don t want you to be too tired, 
give you a chance to stop if you feel like it. 

I want to 


Miles: Miss McKinney [the housekeeper] has to leave at a certain time, and 
I have to be ready for her to leave. So that s my only barrier. I 
have to stop at five to five. 

Teiser: I ll stop you when this tape runs out, which will be about ten 

Miles: All right. 

So we all, us literary people, traipsed out to UCLA, which was 
still on the old campus at Melrose and Vermont. We had a nice bunch; 
there were about four women and three men, three boys, who were good 
friends and worked on literary stuff. We graduated [from L.A. High] 
together and had a nice graduation party. The next day we had to go 
and take the Subject A exam at UCLA. 

I remember that it was famously said that the high school 
literary people always flunked the exam. I was so curious as to why 
this should be. Here was this lovely auditorium. The sun was 
filtering in, and this nice professor was explaining to us. They 
handed us the list of questions. It came over to me, and it was 
absolutely clear why the literary people flunked because the two 
alternatives for topics we were to write on were, one, "Music in the 
Home" (which I knew all my friends were going to write on, and which 
I by this time had learned to avoid), and the other was "The Uses of 
Science," about which I knew very little. But obviously I knew that 
I could pass. In other words, it seemed so funny to think with all 
the trouble we ve had about and I ve been involved with Subject A 
ever since all these years it was so obvious then, and it s been 
obvious ever since, how much trouble is made by teachers not 
understanding what they are handing a student . 

So all my friends fell for this absolute trap, which was music 
in the home (which wasn t meant to be a trap, of course), and they 
all did flunk, and I passed. I said, "The uses of science are 
fourfold." Now, I didn t know any more about what the fourfold was 
going to be than the man in the moon. But I just sat there chewing 
my pencil till I thought of four, and then those were four paragraphs. 
So I was a clear thinker. 

Teiser: But the people who chose music just waded around formlessly? 
Miles: That s it just waded around. 

*But the interview was actually continued on another tape. 


Miles: We might get over with, in this short time, something that goes with 
high school. A very hard part of my life was that my father had very 
high blood pressure and felt that he should get compensation from his 
insurance companies for his disability, and that he should retire; he 
couldn t work any more that s what the doctor said. The insurance 
companies didn t want to give it to him because it would make a 
precedent, because he didn t have anything visibly wrong with him and 
high blood pressure wasn t understood in those days (I guess it still 
isn t, too much) . 

So we went through, in my high school years, very, very 
difficult illness by my father and persecution by the insurance 
companies. (I m sure if I had more time, I would take too much time 
with this, so I won t.) 

It was a real cops and robbers thing. They rented a house that 
we had for rent, and they took me out for rides and pumped me. It 
was a real spy story. We would drive to the desert, and they would 
follow in another car, and report on what my father was driving, how 
fast he was driving. We finally had a trial, at which my father won. 
But then the lawyer laughed at him and said, "Well, just collect. 
Collect from the Aetna Life Insurance Company." 

So that made kind of a running accompaniment to two or three of 
my high school years, where I would often go to high school in tears, 
as would my brothers too, because my father would have been so sick 
the night before, and my mother wouldn t know what to do. He d be 
determined to fight this battle and talk to his lawyer and oh my, 
it was very hard. Yet all the time we d keep going away on these 
holidays, to beach and desert, where he would feel better and he 
would relax. 

Very briefly, what happened was that finally a young lawyer 
this lawyer that won the case was so bad, but a new young lawyer 
sent him to Johns Hopkins. There was a very famous psychiatrist 
there by the name of Adolph Meyer, and then Meyer wrote a letter to 
the Aetna Company saying that he would hold them responsible for my 
dad s life. So he was paid up, and that s probably where we did get 
the money to send the boys to college, except that, as I say, much 
drained away in that crash of 29. But my father did die within a 
year. In other words, we didn t get much money because that was 
supposed to be insurance that would go on with a disability. Having 
won his case, so to speak, and having settled down and felt happier 
for about a year, he did have a massive stroke and died. At the 
beginning of our college lives, we were left with, in a way, a kind 
of peace and quietude because it was wonderful not to have those 
terrible headaches around us all the time, but on the other hand 
with a tremendous empty space, and then also with my mother s 
responsibility financially and so on, that she couldn t cope with. 


Miles: Women in those days were just laughed at in terms of jobs. She 

would then have been in her forties, and they paid no attention to 
her teaching record. She tried to go back to UCLA summer school and 
get teaching work, and everybody just laughed. 

So that s kind of a sad theme that runs through. I don t know 
how it affects the literary scene at all. I just really don t know. 
Yet I think it s important to mention because it colored our lives 
very much. It probably brought my brothers and me closer together 

Teiser: Let s start next time with UCLA. 

Miles: Okay. We were supposed to get there today. [Laughter] 
[end tape 1, side 2] 


[begin tape 2, side 1] 






Now back to UCLA, 
take Subject A? 

What happened to these other kids? They had to 

They had to take Subject A, all these literary people. 
Was there no objective test that pulled them up? 

I can t remember, but the essay test was what really counted. It 
still should. It s all such a farce they didn t do well. But we 
should have been prepared, we d been taught so well. But the 
question wasn t I mean, a kind of inoculation never took place to 
what is clarity, what they wanted I don t know, it s hard to explain. 
But they re still doing it. 

Anyway, this was on the old campus, a marvelous old place. 
Whenever I find people who went there, we always get sentimental. 
It was ivy-covered and small, and green lawns, and had quite an old 
university atmosphere. 

Not at all like Scripps. 

Absolutely not. It absolutely looked like an adult spot. That 
could have been a hard year for me because my friends were rushed to 
sororities and everything, whereas I didn t have any sorority 
function. So I just went to classes. But they would take me to 
lunch and tell me all their troubles. lLaughter] So I had a really 


Miles: very nice year, whereas they didn t; some of them were miserable. 
In fact, Franklyn left UCLA and went to Arizona where she could go 
into a better sorority. The sorority problem just ate them all up. 
But I ve always thought it was very nice that they sort of bridged 
things over for me. 

Teiser: Where did you live? 

Miles: Where did I live? Oh, I was at home. My parents felt this wasn t 

good for me, to live at home. But the alternative was that we got a 
boy well, that was very nice too. My mother was going to drive me 
over, which was not a good idea. I was sitting in Dean [Charles H.] 
Rieber s logic class, and the boy who was sitting next to me, with 
whom I fell just totally and utterly in love, turned out to be 
president of the DU house. He said, "Why don t the DU s help you 
through college? It would be a good job for them, and it would be 
good for you." I said, "Great." So he said, "Okay. What s your 
address? I ll send one around tomorrow." From then on, I had boys 
helping me*, and he just started that out, just like that. 

The first one s name was Clarence Sansome, and I fell in love 
with him too. I had two tremendous admirations there. Clarence, 
however, was suspended or failed or something for using the word 
"raspberry" in a comic article he was writing; that was considered 
off color. So I lost him for a while, but later he came back. 

They drove me out there, and then I d have lunch with my friends, 
Roberta Denny, Dorothy Ayres, Frances Williams, Franklyn Royer. I 
just found college so exciting in the sense of not literary, though 
it was just exciting in terms of geology and astronomy. I had a 
professor from Lick Observatory up here, an interesting geologist. 
Ralph Bunche was there; he was a T.A. in political science. Just 
all these doors and windows were opening. 

Then we went on to the new campus, which was just two, three, or 
four buildings, dusty, Mexicans ploughing the ground, not much in 
town. But this lovely ride out every morning with these nice boys, 
nice to talk to, interesting. I think that year the boy played on 
the football team Frank Lowe helped me and we talked a lot about 
the football team. Of course that was great. I used to go to the 
games . 

Then I did send in some poems to the campus literary magazine, 
and they were accepted. A fellow by the name of Armine Mackenzie was 
editor of the literary magazine, and he accepted the poems and told 

*For a list of helpers, see Appendix. 


Miles: me I was a very good writer. I had a feeling the world was mine, 

and I admired him very much too. I fell in love with everybody all 

That s just about all that happened. The English courses 
weren t all that great, and an advisor had told me not to take 
English take everything else but English. I took that seriously. 

Teiser: On what basis? 

Miles: Well, he was the math advisor, and he just told me that. You know, 
you sit at a trestle and the kids go through, and you tell them 
things. He told me, "If you want to write, don t take English." 

Teiser: Judging from the fact that you were a writer? 

Miles: Yes. I told him I wanted to be a writer, I guess. 

Teiser: Did you consider yourself a writer by then? 

Miles: I don t know. Maybe I did. It sounds as if I might ve. 

Teiser: You d written by then more than most people write in their whole 
lives, I suppose. [Laughing] 

Miles: I hadn t printed anything anywhere, though, except in the high 

school annual. But this math man just said, "If you re interested 
in literature, take other stuff." I don t remember thinking of 
myself as a writer, but maybe I did. 

So I took a lot of interesting courses in other fields. I even 
remember making a bet with a boy that I could pass an accounting 
course if he could pass an English course. We did things like that. 
I took accounting. Just funny stuff. Just had a lot of fun. 

Then, in my junior year, it turned out that there were upper 
division clubs. One was the Women s Honorary in English, and one 
was called the Manuscript Club, which was coeducational. I remember 
going to class, dropping a pencil, and this boy who was walking by 
me picked it up, handed it to me, and said, "We want to ask you if 
you ll become a member of the Manuscript Club." Oh! He s a good 
friend of mine still, and he s just retired from teaching at Fresno. 
But that was so marvelous. And the women asked me to belong to this 
women s club [telephone rings] 

Now I was sort of plunged into both Women s Honorary kind of 
thing, which had a nice sorority feeling; we were just nice as 
friends, as women. But we also put on plays and read Shakespeare 
and talked about books. There was not much inventive writing. I 
don t remember anybody much that was an original writer; maybe one 
or two. 


Miles: The Manuscript Club was full of goofy people. We would meet at night 
at people s houses all over the area Santa Barbara, down the coast, 
driving to hell and gone. We came back now to the Pasadena Playhouse 
scene; we went to a lot of plays in Pasadena. I just remember those 
last two years about being in a car, talking our heads off about 
literary things, putting out not too much writing, but talking a lot 
about writing. So that s really about all there is to say. I think 
I had some poems printed, and I think I won a $5 prize. I don t 
think I sent anything out. I don t think I had any sense of the 
outside world of literature. I don t think I read many magazines. 
I don t think I d ever heard of T.S. Eliot, though it was now 1930. 
I can t imagine who we read. We were reading maybe Edmund Spenser. 
It was very un-hip. I think I was reading Walter Savage Landor, and 
one of my good friends was reading Pierre Loti. We were kind of 
esoteric about things. Oscar Wilde was very influential still, 
Swinburne was very influential. Los Angeles was not exactly up on 
things, because this was 29, 30, and 31. We should have been 
aware of Eliot and.. 




The magazines were rather unhelpful. My mother took a magazine 
called The Outlook, and there was some current stuff in that. But, 
as I say, I can t remember that we were very exploratory, but of 
ourselves. We d read things to each other, and that whole sort of 

Were any of the faculty people friendly with you? 

Did you meet them 

That was just coming to my mind. Since there was no graduate work at 
UCLA, the faculty was rather aloof. We weren t the substitutes for 
the graduates; they just didn t have graduates. When we came to the 
point about going to graduate work, I had no idea that I wanted to. 
(That answers your early question.) I simply didn t want to be a 
student or a scholar or a writer or anything. I think I wanted to 
read books and write poetry and have my friends. 

I asked my favorite professor, "What should I read in the next 
years after I ve graduated?" He said, "Just plunge yourself into 
[George E.B.] Saintsbury." I can t imagine a less helpful suggestion. 

Teiser: [Incredulous] Saintsbury?! 

you see. 

But he was thinking of Saintsbury as an aesthetic critic, 

My friends, then, had to think of jobs. They finally went up to 
Berkeley. Oh, I know I then was supposed to have some operations, 
which I had put off till I was twenty-one. The surgeon wanted to do 
them when I was twenty-one. So I was committed to a year of hospital 









and operations. That was another not too happy year because the 
operations didn t work very well and, as you know, the therapy is 
kind of a drag. My brothers were away, and my friends were away. 

I did, however, start reading books then of a new type that got 
me interested in scholarship, like [William] Empson s Seven Types of 
Ambiguity, and novels of Kafka. I probably grew up a little bit in 
that year in terms of my reading, because I began thinking about 
poetry in a different way, so to speak. A man by the name of Owen 
Barfield wrote a book called Poetic Diction that I was crazy about. 
That too has had interesting later repercussions. There are now in 
the world, and in Berkeley, and in Santa Cruz, Barf ieldians, who 
consider themselves a rare breed. Just a few people in general have 
read Owen Barfield and been inspired by him. 

Had you then, in that year, been reading and thinking along such 
abstract lines, along such theoretical lines? 

That year, you mean? 

I mean until that year. 


No, no. This was a big thing. I don t remember much of that, 
our college, we had a major English three-hour, six-hour 
comprehensive that we worked towards for two years, where we were 
supposed to know all of English literature. It was that kind of 
thing, you see. The history of English literature was our guide 
it came up to Hardy. So, to come into the new 

Maybe he was pointing you in the direction you later took when he 
suggested Saintsbury. 

Maybe that was at least a step forward. But fortunately I didn t 
take it. [Laughter] But yes, I got into a more modern world. I 
went down to the L.A. Public Library when I could; part of the time 
I could walk, and part I couldn t. I went down to that wonderful 
L.A. Public Library, which I could get into by the back ramp. So I 
started educating myself, reading down there. Then my friends came 
home and said, "Well, Berkeley s not very good. We knew more at L.A. 
than we know at Berkeley, but you d better come up there. You re 
just languishing down here, so you d better come back with us." 

So I did, which was very, very hard on my mother because she 
didn t want to come up here. She had a world in the College Women s 
Club. Yet by that time there was no real way for me to try to break 
away from family; I needed her and she needed me by that time. 
Furthermore, my brothers were at Stanford. So that conspired to 
help me break away from UCLA, which was good. I m very glad I didn t 
get stuck in Southern California without a sense of the next year 








Miles: they did start graduate work at UCLA, and they were awfully hard on 
their new people. My friends who stayed there took years and years, 
and gruelling courses to get through. Whereas, we came up here and 
again had a very good time. And we were pretty good because we had 
had this very hard comprehensive. So we all got our master s in one 
year, which was considered unusual here. Not that we did all that 

To go back to your doing well, you were Phi Beta Kappa, were you not? 


Were you selected in your senior year, or before? 

No, it was in my junior year. 

You were getting good grades down there 

My mother was a Phi Beta Kappa, and she kept getting letters from 
them. So we just threw this one away, because she didn t pay much 
attention to them. [Laughter] I didn t know I was Phi Beta Kappa 
until it was almost too late [laughing] because we threw this thing 
away. I might have been looking for it in my senior year, but I 
certainly wasn t in my junior year. A lot of these writing people 
were already Phi Beta Kappa, so that it was no great change; it was 
almost the same group of friends. That was when I had the bet with 
my friend that he could pass English and I could pass accounting. 
But the true blue merit showed up in that we both passed! 

I needed good grades because I got very impatient with certain 
courses, and some courses I just didn t do well in. 

Teiser: Like what? 

Miles: English. [Laughter] 

Teiser: The perfect qualifications for an English professor! [Laughter] 

Miles: Right, right. So UCLA was I m just so glad it happened because it 
was a very liberating and freeing influence in terms of friendships 
and all types of people, much more varied people than I d known in 
high school, very strange people, strange problems it was just a 
fine, human place to be. But I think I learned more myself in the 
following year, though I wasn t so happy doing it. 

Teiser: Were you writing that year too? 

Miles: Yes. That s when I think I started writing fairly seriously. When I 
came up to Berkeley, it was that work that people at Berkeley looked 


Miles: at, and it was that work which, so to speak, made my literary 

friends at Berkeley. From then on, the writing that I did was more 
of a kind. That s what I feel~I haven t looked back to see if 
that s true. 

Teiser: Was it published? 

Miles: Now there you have a new story. The story of Ann Winslow is a 
beautiful story.* That should start a new time. 

[end tape 2, side 1] 

*See page 49. 


INTERVIEW II 15 July 1977 
[begin tape 1, side 1] 

Teiser: There were a couple of things that we were wondering about, from 

things you spoke about last time. One was, you said that when you 
were a youngster being read to, because you had two brothers, you 
heard mostly boys books. Then, you said. Did that imply that later 
you went on to reading girls 

Miles: Yes. When I could read by myself, I gorged myself on all the Betty 
Barton in the Andes kind of things. In Coronado, where we spent the 
summers for about five years during those years, as soon as I was 
able to walk around on braces, we would go into town. There was a 
marvelous little library in Coronado. You know that great Carnegie 
free library thing? Well, here was just a model one small building 
in a little park, one aisle straight down the middle to the back, 
where sat a little old librarian in a green eye shade. On either 
side were shelves, maybe twenty shelves on each side; one was 
fiction and one was nonfiction. I would always turn toward the 
fiction side, and she would always say, "Tsk, tsk, tsk," from down 
the back aisle. [Laughter] I read just series after series after 
series, when you do, around nine, ten, eleven, twelve. Just really 
ate up series of girls books. [Tape off for a moment] 

When I went to L.A. High and had this rather free program, 
because I was not in any special grade level, I spent a couple of 
hours in their library every morning, just reading. That was so 
exciting because these were semiadult books, and I could wander 
around this big room. There were books there for high school 
students, but they were at the level of oh, who would you say? 
Well, Jack London and who was the woman who wrote The Bent Twig? 
I know Fannie Hurst was one (that s not the one I m trying to think 
of). Ruth Comfort Mitchell is the name that comes to me, but there s 
a better name. So I read these more adult, I suppose who knows why 
they were in that library? Maybe because they were considered easy. 
But Fannie Hurst was very exciting, and The Bent Twig person Dorothy 


Miles: Fisher and James Cabell, and lots of names I forget now because I 
never went on with them later. But I would just go around the room 
picking out all these strange names, and these would mostly still be 
fiction. That was great. 

After having all these, until I was about eleven, I suppose, 
having all these books brought to me or read to me, the independence 
of walking around a room and picking them myself was just out of this 
world. Really fine. 

When I was at UCLA, the library was unavailable physically; it 
was just too hard to get into. So it was not till when I could use 
the downtown library that it got very exciting again. That was a 
wonderful place, that downtown library in Los Angeles. 

Teiser: You mean UCLA had closed stacks? 

Miles: No, no. I just mean it had a lot of stairs. They didn t build it 
personally for me, that s all. 

Teiser: I see. You said that one of the reasons you didn t like your English 
in high school was that the teacher was sentimental. 

Miles: Most of them were. 

Teiser: How do you define "sentimental" in that use? 

Miles: Most of the teachers that I related to English were it s hard to 
think of the right terms, except in that poem to Edwards quoted 
earlier [p. 22] where "sniffing and sniffing thoughts is the thing 
to do" appreciative, isn t this lovely the traditional thing, you 
know. Fading into the sunset, symbolism, all that kind of thing. 
It wasn t a direct observation of what was going on in the text, but 
immediate overresponse, and so on. Whereas the Latin professor, Dr. 
Edwards, was so good because we didn t sit around talking about how 
great it was we just read it. That was what was so good. Let it 
speak for itself, in other words. 

Teiser: Does that fit in with your high school reputation as a cynic? 

Miles: Yes, that s why. I kept fighting back on this. They would say, 

"The stars in this poem indicate aspects of eternity," and I would 
say, "The stars in this poem indicate stars." This was considered 
cynical. [Laughter] 

Robert Frost was very nice on this later. He was here visiting, 
and somebody said to him, "Isn t your apple-picking poem really about 
death, Mr. Frost?" He said, "Boy, I know how to spell death: 
d-e-a-t-h." That was my attitude in high school. 


Teiser: After our last interview, off the tape, you were telling us about 
the fact that when you sought admission to UCLA, the dean of women 
said that it would be impossible. Would you tell that again? 

Miles: When I decided to fight the battle of the big university, along with 
my friends, instead of going to a small college, I went with my 
mother out to see the dean of women, because that was the tradition, 
since the dean of women at L.A. High had let me in and had been the 
one that had helped me. I did the same thing at UCLA, but the dean 
there said she wouldn t advise it because I d have to ask too many 
favors, and she thought it was right that I should go to a small 
college where I could be protected. So I was weeping heavily as I 
went out the gate. The cop had let me in, and so this cop I guess 
he was waving us on and then he sort of stopped and said, What s 
wrong? Why are you crying?" I said, "Because the dean of women 
wouldn t let me come here because I d ask too many favors." He said, 
"What favors do you have to ask?" The ones that were on my mind, of 
course, were very trivial; it was just a matter of registering. I 
said, "I d have to stand in line to get registered, and I d have to 
get permission to drive on the campus." He said, "You get somebody 
to stand in line for you, and I ll let you drive on the campus." 

So he did, for the rest of the four years. In other words, I 

guess he reported this to the police authorities and nobody ever 

bothered us. A friend did stand in line. Later I was invited to 
talk at some YWCA party and met the dean of women there, and she 

literally said, "What are you doing here?" which I thought was very 

funny. (UCLA was already so big that she hadn t even noticed. Oh, 
she probably had.) 

But it was curious. I have to speak in tribute to the cops, 
since I had so many fights with them during the sixties. [Laughter] 

Teiser: I think I said something about the fact that persistence pays, or 
determination pays, and you responded with a larger 

Miles: Generalization? [Laughing] 
Teiser: What was it you said? 

Miles: Oh, well, this is a common thing to say: I think determination 

probably makes room for luck. I did have some determination, and 
I certainly had an awful lot of luck. 

Harroun: Do you remember the name of the dean of women at UCLA? 

Miles: Let her be nameless. [Laughter] I m sure she was a very good dean. 
Deans of women were never the thing I got along with best. 


Teiser: You said that, I believe it was, that as an undergraduate at UCLA 

you were somewhat impatient with the English courses. Did you say 

Miles: Well, let me see. That isn t quite the way I would put it. As in 
high school, I don t think the English Department was the best 
department at UCLA. After all, aside from the poetic and sentimental 
side of English in high school, we had very good college preparatory 
work from this senior teacher that I said was so involved in 
hierarchy and so on. But she was a very good drill master. We 
really read Chaucer, Beowulf, Ruskin, and so forth, with great 
intensity and thoroughness, and learned how to write about them. 
UCLA was using young men getting their master s at [U]SC, for 
instructors in freshman English. One of them read The Rubaiyat to 
us all term, for example; there was a lot of slack in that. There 
was a woman in sophomore English who graded us on how well we pasted 
up our notebooks; I didn t paste up my notebook very well, so I 
didn t do too well for her. 

There were two or three very stunning teachers there, one of 
whom I missed by sort of accident, and that was Carlyle Maclntyre. 
He was a poet and a very good poet. But by the time I could have 
taken him, I didn t because my friends were all taking him, and he 
said to them that I had some reputation for poetry but nobody could 
write a poem who couldn t take to the road. So I felt sort of 
abolished from his cosmos. That was the days when people did say, 
"He s a poet. He s worked on freight trains and garbage trucks and 
has had experience." 

I took this very seriously, and I felt that I was in a sense 
doomed by not riding the freights. This was the slight early 
Whitman-Pound side of poetry at UCLA, and I really missed it. It s 
too bad, because I just felt put off by this guy. 

Then there was this really stunning lecturer from Harvard whom 
we all worshipped. Very good. (Do you want names of these people?) 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: His name was Alfred Longueil. Every lecture was a treat. These 

friends and I in these two clubs that I belonged to would faithfully 
go to his classes and take everything that he taught. He did a 
beautiful job. Probably the most famous person was Lily Bess 
Campbell, who was a Renaissance scholar, in tragedy. Again, I 
didn t get into her good graces very well; I wasn t a Renaissance 
scholar in tragedy, and I wrote poetry which she thought was kind of 
a threat to scholarship. The very nice woman who taught creative 
writing well, these two women didn t speak to each other. I didn t 
want to get caught on either side of that trap, so I just took both 
of their courses steadily. Also Carl Downes, a true teacher. 


Miles: There was no "in group" because, as I said before, the undergraduates 
didn t function as graduates there; nobody paid all that much 
attention to them. Miss Campbell was nice to us, and she invited 
some of us over to lunch and talked about our future. When I said 
I might do graduate work, she said by no means; she said I was 
interested in poetry and you shouldn t mix up those two. The nice 
lecturer, Alfred Longueil, said, and everybody sort of said, "Don t 
mix up poetry and scholarship." And so, of course, would Maclntyre 
have said that. So there was a pretty unanimous feeling. I listened 
to them, and I didn t plan to do graduate work. But, as I said, my 
friends went up to Berkeley to get MAs or to teach or whatever, and 
perhaps to get PhDs. Then after a year of a couple of leg operations 
which didn t work out, I think the person who most encouraged me to 
go to Berkeley was my doctor, because he wanted me to get out of the 
moping state I was in and just get out of there. He noticed I had 
done well with education in high school. He was a very humane man, 
John C. Wilson. He was head of the American Orthopedic Society. He 
wasn t a butcher type, as some of my earlier doctors had been. He 
very humanely said just honestly said, which they probably wouldn t 
do today because of malpractice suits that the second operation he 
did he shouldn t have done, it was too experimental, it didn t work 
on me, and so on (it was on my other hip). So I was really 
discouraged, because these were the operations that were supposed to 
have put me back into commission so that I could get up and down, and 
so on. So I felt pretty stuck, and he said, "You d better go with 
your friends up to Berkeley and study because at least you can study." 
That was the advice counter to what I had from all the academic people 
who were so intelligent about it. Lily Bess Campbell said, "If you 
go anywhere, don t go to Berkeley." They considered at UCLA that they 
were very professional and scholarly and that Berkeley was rather 
aesthetic, critical, and so on criticism in the sense they didn t 
think much of. She said if I went anywhere, I should go to either 
Harvard or Chicago. That was impossible because of the weather. 

Looking back, it sounds like a pretty terrible dilemma. But 
when you re young, I guess, you ve just got to take action. I was 
aided by the circumstances that my brothers were at Stanford and my 
mother thought it would be nicer to be nearer to them. And my 
friends were very helpful and encouraging. That is why I went into 
some sense of doing scholarly work. The more serious nonsuperficial 
or nonpractical reason is that I got excited by these books I d read 
in this year I was at home, and suddenly knew now what I would like 
to ask to study, and that is the function of language in literature 
as Owen Barfield had talked about it in his book called Poetic Diction 
and as Empson had talked about it in Seven Types of Ambiguity. So 
now I knew really something I wanted to study, and that was naturally 

Teiser: These were the two central books. Were there others at the same time? 


Miles: Maybe John Livingston Lowes s Road to Xanadu. And I. A. Richards. 
Teiser: Were you reading poetry too? 

Miles: Well, you see, this is an interesting question. I was in a curious 
kind of limbo because UCLA really hadn t caught up with the modern 
world of poetry. We were very well trained in Shakespeare and 
Renaissance drama and Spenser. In the Renaissance course we read 
no John Donne whatsoever, which shows that they hadn t even caught 
up with new trends in old poetry. I was in a very good scholarly 
world from UCLA I mean, in a sense of literary history (sources 
and analogues was always the big question). But I had my own 
makeshift world as far as modern poetry went. 

I had bought for myself some years before a book that meant a 
great deal to me and probably conditioned everything I did for years. 
It was called the Home Book of Modern Verse by Burton Stevenson. 
Then I imagine that there was an awful lot of fairly easy lyrical 
poetry in that book. So that s the poetry I was still reading. I 
was a little stuck there. I had read all the standard I mean, you 
know, the people in high school, and we d heard Vachel Lindsay had 
come to read to us, and I knew about [Carl] Sandburg and I knew about 
[Edna St. Vincent] Millay, which I didn t like at all (she was my 
teacher s favorite), and so on. I mean, I knew the modern world, 
but I suppose the only living connection I had with it was that I 
still took this magazine, The Bookman, which my eighth grade teacher 
had started me out on. They had poems often in The Bookman which I 
really loved. They were by people who today I would not consider 
very good; they were people of too easy lyrical a turn. One name 
I think was maybe Dana Burnet, is what occurs to me; I m not sure 
that s right. I can still say some of these: "Here all the 
valleys now are dim with sleep/And roadways have forgot the feet of 
men." It s that kind of poetry much like what we heard yesterday.* 

Teiser: [Laughter] By the lover of Millay. 
Miles: Right! You put two and two together. 

There were others I remember. Lynn Riggs was a poet I liked 

very much. Lynn Riggs later wrote Green Grow the Lilacs, which 

became the basis for Oklahoma! So you see there was that kind of 
musical lyricism. 

*At a reading by Martha Bacon Ballinger, held in the English 
Department lounge . 


Miles: My reading was not very sophisticated, and my writing too then was 
rather a kind of my own because I wasn t writing in any particular 
context. I didn t know any poets but my friends who were poets; we 
were all ignorant together, so to speak. I think I had met 
Hildegarde Planner, who lived in Altadena. I think we had lunch 
together. I liked her work very much (I can t remember whether I 
liked it then or later.) But for that year, I don t think I learned 
much about poetry; I learned more about literary criticism. But I 
wrote quite a lot. People like Margaret Widdemer and Sara Teasdale 
. and Elinor Wylie. [Interruption] 

Teiser: You were discussing the poets whom you were reading, and having 
lunch with Janet Planner 

Miles: Hildegarde, her sister. 

Teiser: (Sorry.) How did you happen to meet Hildegarde Planner, incidentally? 

Miles: My L.A. High teacher took me to a meeting of the American Pen Women, 
a lunch of the American Pen Women, and she was reading there, 
lecturing. So she was very nice to me, and I always liked her work 
very much. 

Teiser: But there seems to be an indication in what you say that you were 
recognized as a young poet 

Miles: By this L.A. High teacher, yes. She belonged I think to some Los 
Angeles group, and I think she sent a poem of mine to a magazine, 
where she had a friend, called Lyric West. But my sense was that 
how do I say it? I had no sense of poetry in that city or around 
me. I was very, very upset by those upholstered League of American 
Pen Women people, and I was fighting back for some reasons; I m not 
sure what they all were. But as I say, I didn t like the kind of 
poetry my teacher liked, and I didn t like that luncheon at all. 
Hildegarde Planner was okay. I didn t have any real sense of what 
was going on in poetry. I had heard of Poetry magazine and I did 
send some poems to Harriet Monroe during that year I was at home, 
and she sent them back and said, "These are interesting. Send some 
more." You talk about my determination. I mean, that killed that 
right there. I would never have dreamed of sending another poem to 
Poetry magazine. That was just total rejection as far as I was 

So I was really inexperienced and really unrelated, and I just 
didn t have a sense that there was poetry in that town, except for 
what my friends and I were writing. 

Teiser: Did you have a sense that there was elsewhere? 


Miles: Oh, not too much. The Bookman was it. I would cut poems out of The 
Bookman and I made a kind of collection, and I knew that the writers 
who were in my anthology, my Burton Stevenson, I knew they were alive 
and writing. 

Oh yes another thing I did, I remember now. I sent a batch of 
poems to John Farrar, who was editor of The Bookman this was my 
Bible and said, "Are these any good? Would you consider these were 
good poems?" He said, "Well, they aren t yet but they probably will 
be some day. Why don t you put them away in your desk and let them 
rest for a while," whatever that meant. It was a nice enough letter, 
but again it closed a lot of doors for me. So I made these little 
tentative attempts, but they weren t anything very much. 

In a way, I stress this because the contrast with Berkeley was 
so great. When I got to Berkeley, suddenly everything and everybody 
was just in on the act up here, writing. 

Teiser: This was what you didn t know existed, really? 
Miles: Yes. 

Study at Berkeley 

Teiser: When you came to Berkeley, you were going to study English? 

Miles: Yes. 

Teiser: You were going to get a master s? 

Miles: Yes. 

Teiser: Were you going to get a Ph.D. too, do you think? 

Miles: Not especially. I was doing this pretty blind. I agreed with my 

doctor I wanted to get away from the town. And I wanted to be with 
my friends, and they encouraged that. So I d just give it a whirl. 
It was just really a little adventure, that s all; a chance to get 

Teiser: You had lived, of course, in Berkeley earlier. Did you still have 

Miles: That was another good motive too: I was eager to get back to 

Berkeley. I had always loved it, remembered, had good remembrances 
of it, yes, marigolds, brass, Chinese dishes. 


Teiser: Had you had associations with university people at all when you 
were here earlier, in any way? 

Miles: I was three years old when I was here. [Laughter] 
Teiser: Oh, I d forgotten that. 

Miles: I went to something called the Partheneia, which was dancing in the 
Eucalyptus Grove in Greek costumes, which was supposed to be very 
famous. I remember being present in that. Yesterday, Martha 
Ballinger said that she too was terrifically impressed by that when 
she was a child. 

Of course, my family knew people who were connected with the 
university not necessarily university, though. So when we came 
back up here, my mother knew the only one I guess was May Cheney, 
head of the appointment services. She was related to a whole lot of 
Cheneys in Chicago. Bishop Cheney was the one that I was christened 
by. There was that tenuous little connection. 

May Cheney was a little discouraging after my first year here 
(I didn t do very well, and I didn t like it very well). She said, 
"Well, did you get all A s?" I said, "No, I didn t. I hardly got 
any A s." She said, "Then don t bother to stay, because you have to 
get all A s here if you re going to get anywhere." She was kind of 
the horse s mouth, but it was a little discouraging too. 

Teiser: Did you say you got your master s in just a year? 

Miles: Yes. 

Teiser: So although you didn t get all A s, you still worked hard? 

Miles: Well, I was so well trained from UCLA we all were. There was a 
group of maybe five or six of us. Do you want their names? 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: They were good people. There was Earl Lyon, Jim Wortham, Clair 

Hamilton, Bob Orem, Howard Crofts, Jewel Holder, Mary Alice Jaqua 
just a group of five to ten people. We had all studied for this 
comprehensive at UCLA together, which was a six-hour comprehensive 
that we considered very hard, and we d spent a year studying for that 
together. I mean, it was easy enough; the master s was just more of 
the same. 

Teiser: You were strong in the history of English literature. You d had 
those basic courses 

Miles: That was good old UCLA. They re still good on that; they re still 
very strong on that. 


Teiser: What more was required of you here for a master s, or was that 
about it? 

Miles: That was it just an hour and a half oral exam. 
Teiser: Did you have to write a thesis at that time? 

Miles: No, just course work and this oral exam. I didn t do too well in 

the oral exam, but we all did well enough. We were not, any of us, 
terribly impressed by this master s because, as I say, we felt we d 
learned it all already, and we didn t feel we learned all that much 
more here. This is not Berkeley; I m describing our arrogance and 
defensiveness, and we were arrogant and defensive. The courses 
that we felt were where you learned the most and were hardest and 
best were in medieval studies. We had very distinguished professors 
here J.S.P. Tatlock for Chaucer and Medieval Latin, and Arthur 
Brodeur for Anglo-Saxon. The people from UCLA who had preceded us, 
an earlier generation, were in that field. I again was making 
wistful attempts to get modern, so I said I wouldn t go in for that; 
I would go in for Modern American. 

Here again, I did not hit it off with the big shot in American 
literature. His name was T.K. Whipple. I never can quite say why 
I don t hit it off with people. I think part of it is just that 
they fear that I m going to ask favors. I think that s kind of a 
reaction that some people have. I think when I didn t do a good 
essay for him, a good study of American literature and I didn t 
know how at all; I had no idea of graduate study when I didn t do 
a good essay for him, I said, "Why is this a B and not an A?" 
Instead of teaching me how to write a research paper, he just said, 
"I thought you were going to put up some kind of protest here." 
That was sad, because I was really very thrown back by that. It 
took me a long time to find anybody to teach me how to do graduate 
work. That really took determination, because they weren t very 
much involved in teaching people how to do anything; they just 
expected them to learn how to do it by the seat of their pants. It 
was too alien to me. 

Teiser: In a sense, then, although Berkeley opened up a great deal, you 
still felt rebellious? 

Miles: Very, yes. And my friends were too. Most of them didn t stay. 

Marjorie Thorsen, which is a name I didn t mention before, who was 
my most admired friend, if not closest, was rebellious about the 
whole year. Many of my friends had wanted to work for the movies 
when we went to UCLA. We had all gone every Friday night to the 
Filmarte Theater to see I forgot to tell you this before when you 
were talking about shows we all went to the Filmarte to see the 
foreign films. It was early Russian stuff. I also forgot to 
remember to tell you before, one aspect of the movies that you 


Miles: asked was I influenced by the movies. Well, no. But a marvelous 
thing, when we were little children, we watched movies being made 
all over town we sat for hours watching Harry Gary jump his horse 
over a rickety bridge and land unharmed, and we watched Francis X. 
Bushman and Theda Bara make love on a rock for hours. [Laughter] 
I was thinking of influence, and this wasn t influence as far as 
I know, but it was tremendous entertainment when we were kids. 

Teiser: Let me just ask you another question before you move on from this. 
Not very many people are given young the insight into movie-making, 
or anything else, that you would have by seeing things remade and 
remade and remade until they were right. Most children don t have 
a concept of how things are arrived at in that way. Did you think 
that that stayed with you? 

Miles: That s very perceptive, and very important. Where I became conscious 
of it is the way my friends differed from people up here, or got 
along with people up here, in terms of criticism. We were all 
thoroughly imbued with criticism now in our own sense of criticism. 
"Well, let s go to this thing called Old Siberia at the Filmarte 
Friday night, which is supposed to be absolutely terrible, to see 
how they handle that scene where the cossack comes down that road." 
In other words, that famous buggy going down the stairs in Potemkin 
this was something we were aware of. That shot, which is now a 
famous shot, I remember talking about when we came out of the 
Filmarte. So my friends were very oriented to this. I don t know 
whether they d watched films being made as I had earlier, but they 
wanted to write for the movies. 

Marjorie went back and got a job answering the phone at MGM, 
and she worked herself up to head of the reading department, which 
was a very big job. Later she got married and went back to the 
East Coast, leaving all that interest behind. 

But that was an alternative to many of us, and Marjorie threw 
over a scholarship here for going back and doing what a lot of us 
had wanted to do anyway, which I wanted to do too, except I didn t 
know how. (My niece, Jody, just won a UCLA award for film!) 

A couple of other friends went back and became principals of 
grammar schools. Some of them went back into social work. There 
was still a lot of that in the thirties, with the Depression. Clair 
Hamilton went into real estate in Lafayette, a second home for us. 
I think only Jim and Earl stayed on. Earl was determined to get a 
PhD. Jim didn t know, finally went to Princeton. I was just sort 
Of floating. 

Mary Alice was the daughter of the president of Scripps, and 
her father wanted her to do this, so she was doing this sort of for 
him, I think, and was really not wanting to. 


Miles: So we were not the most enthusiastic bunch you could imagine; we 
were just sort of slaving away. Earl Lyon, who was very, very 
poor, had to make a world for himself, I guess, and he loved 
scholarship he loved music even more I think he was the earnest 
one, the one that sort of held us together, mostly by being very 
critical of everything we did. We never did things well enough. 

So we gradually all learned to work hard, those of us who 
stayed, to get out of the modern field, where we didn t know how 
to operate, and to get into medieval studies, and to work on the 
Medieval Latin Dictionary. It was quite a stepping into cold water 
that we all had to do there. 

We re there talking about the scholarly side. I could go on 
with that a little further, or I could also say that there was 
another side to my life, which was poetry. Which would you rather 
have me do at this point? 

Teiser: Whichever you think follows better. 

Miles: Maybe I could just say briefly that, to go a little further fast, 
at the end of my first year I was really so uninterested, and I 
didn t know what to do. I guess it was inertia that kept me here, 
plus the fact that everybody said, "You ve taken all the trouble to 
move up here, and the house in L.A. is rented, and you sure can t 
go back horns right now." So I decided to even take a course in 
summer school just to cheer myself up. I had this lovely Professor 
Willard Farnham. He thought of summer school as teaching teachers, 
and there wasn t much point in being very hard; he just told 
everybody to do something they d like to do. I decided to study 
George Meredith, who was a poet I liked. I apparently did that 
well at least he was perceptive to see that I cared, and he was 
very, very comforting and nice about that paper. That was the first 
kind word I d had up here, really. Well, no, that s not fair: 
J.S.P. Tatlock, the medieval man, wanted us all to work on the 
Medieval Latin Dictionary, and I didn t want to get trapped in that. 
He said, "Look, the only future for you is to do research somewhere. 
You might get a job on this dictionary and be a dictionary worker." 
Great, great! I couldn t have cared less. I still wasn t thinking 
about money or work because my father had left his will to my mother 
to say that I should get all the money there was in the family so 
that I didn t worry about working and so that my brothers didn t 
have to be responsible for me; that they were suppoed to be 
absolved of all responsibility for me by not getting any money, 
which I think is good psychology. 

So at none of this time did I have any sense of, "I ve got to 
earn my living," even with the Depression, because I was cushioned 
by the family structure here. I didn t want to work on the Medieval 
Latin Dictionary, and I said, "Oh no, Mr. Tatlock, I m only 


Miles: interested in poetry." So this nice man, big shot as he was, came 
up to my house with a whole stack of terribly obscure medieval 
Latin poems that he d unearthed from the Rolles Series and so on, 
so I could be happy working on his dictionary but doing poetry, 
which was really charming. I m telling you this because you see 
how colossal our arrogance was, that though I did that, I never 
really did take him seriously. 

In my second year, then, however, I did plunge in more to this 
whole business of trying to do what I wanted to do, which I was 
doing so badly, which was just to talk about the language of poetry. 
Arthur Brodeur, who was the other big man in the medieval field, 
said, "What you propose is nonsense." I don t know whether he or I 
said, but we made a bargain that I was supposed to work the first 
half of the term on what I wanted to do this was some study of 
medieval poetry I should do a paper for the first seven weeks on 
what I wanted to do. Then if he saw no merit to it, he would tell 
me and I would do another paper his way, in order to get a grade. 

So we did that. That was really, I think, fascinating, and 
very broad-minded of him, and he was not a broad-minded man. So I 
did this paper, and 1^ felt that I did very badly, that I didn t find 
out what I wanted to find, it was all impossible, I just didn t know 
where I was at, it was a swamp. He said, "You re right it s no 
good. Let me tell you what to do now. Do this whole material my 
way." I did, and it was fascinating. I got all excited about doing 
it his way, which was the orthodox way, and he was very much 
impressed with the paper. He gave me an A and said, "This is just 
fine, great, great." 

In other words, I finally got happy by giving in to this, 
collating of four Morte d Arthurs. This was the first time I d 
really done the scholarly method, because the summer school was just 
a sort of pleasant essay. Now I had two steps in a good direction. 
Now we were all still to be medievalists. 

[end tape 1, side 1; begin tape 1, side 2] 

Miles: So we all worked away on this. It was all languages and chores and 
languages and chores. We had fun by going to San Francisco and 
doing all those great things that you could do in San Francisco for 
50C an evening in those days, like Italian restaurants and good-time 
music. But we all worked very hard. These boys, Jim and Earl, were 
so hard up for money. They were getting $50 a month, and they had 
to live on that, as teaching assistants. So we did everything very 

Then a shift came for me in that I took a seminar from Merritt 
Hughes, who left here and became pretty famous as an editor of the 
Milton concordance; he went to Wisconsin. Now I could combine 


Miles: interest and method for the first time. He was helpful. We had 
a wonderful seminar with awfully good people in it, including 
Francis Drake, and Barbara Gibbs from Stanford, who belonged to the 
whole [Yvor] Winters school, and others of her friends. It s that 
thing you come to graduate school for the excitement of what you 
can call professional work as distinguished from amateur. That is, 
the amateur, which I had been for so long, was just liking things 
and doing them my way. But this professional you know, relating 
to a whole hard-working field. Hughes was very good at telling us 
how to do this. 

Hughes did say that we would never work among the big timber; 
that that had all been worked over, and all we could do was work 
among the underbrush. That was his sense of scholarship in the 
mid-thirties, which is interesting because it didn t turn out quite 
that way. So working among the underbrush in seventeenth-century 
poetry, we did some fascinating stuff. 

I knew that was good work, and so I wrote him a note and asked 
him if I could do a dissertation with him. I really wanted to. 
Well, he didn t answer me and didn t answer. So, kind of despair 
set in. I figured I still hadn t learned how to do it right, I 
guessed, and so on. 

Then one day he came up to me. I was sitting in the car 
waiting to go home. I remember so vividly he came up to the car 
and said, "I didn t answer you because my whole life was in doubt. 
I ve been considering this position at Wisconsin, and I didn t know 
what to say," and so on. I said, "Well, I guess I ll go back to 
L.A. because I don t know who to work with here, and I don t want to 
get trapped in all this medieval research forever." I felt that it 
would have been rather too clerical for me. He said, "The man to 
work with here is somebody named B.H. Lehman." I said, "Oh, him!" 
like that because he taught the modern novel and I had no part of 
that. He was also supposed to be sort of a playboy and a 
psychoanalyst, and a lot of things I wasn t interested in. 

He said, "Don t say, Oh him. 1 He s the man around here that s 
got the energy to make something of this department, which is still 
struggling out of years of depression and lack of money and lack of 
leadership. He s going to be the leader, and I m just telling you 
this way ahead of time. I would suggest you go and take a seminar 
with him and work with him. While he knows nothing about what you 
want to do in poetry, he will listen and he will help you." 

This was a great message. I then went and asked Mr. Lehman 
If I could work with him and he said no. He said I wasn t mature 
enough; I just didn t know where I was at yet. Come back later. 
Even so, somehow I had a feeling I could eventually convince him, 
so that didn t discourage me too much. Then I don t remember quite 


Miles: what happened. I was still working along in other courses, and 

maybe three months later, at the beginning of the fall or something- 
I don t remember he wrote me a note and said he d read some poems 
of mine in the New Republic and decided I was now mature enough to 
take his seminar. That began a long many years of working 

Poetry Groups 

Miles: This might bring me back, then, to poetry. Is that an okay 

Teiser: That s a swell transition. [Laughter] 

Miles: Now I go back two years or three years to 1933 again, when I came 
up in the fall of 33. Some friend I guess maybe Earl or Jim or 
somebody had shown some of my poems to a fellow graduate student 
named Francis Drake, who had liked them. He was a poet here and in 
the Yvor Winters group here with Howard Baker. 

When I came to town, Francis Drake, after maybe a couple of 
weeks or a month, called me up and said, "I m a graduate student 
here at Berkeley, and I would like to invite you to join our poetry 
group." Well, this was old familiar stuff, and I said fine. "We 
work with Yvor Winters and Howard Baker, and I must tell you frankly 
we feel you re a good poet and we d like to have you join the group, 
but you re going to have to change your style a good bit to feel 
comfortable in this group." 

Again with this arrogance that I look back on with such dismay 
and amusement, and which I always remind myself of when I talk to 
graduate students who are the same way now, I said, "Thanks anyway," 
and hung up. So that didn t pan out, and I m really glad it didn t 
because I would ve had to change my style. And I would ve 
enthusiastically because those were fine people. I would have got 
very much caught into that, and I just am glad I didn t. 

Then, there was a younger group of young professors on campus 
that weren t in this hoity-toity graduate stuff at all. They weren t 
teaching graduate courses; they were teaching freshmen and stuff. 
We called them the Boy Critics, and their names were [Gordon] 
McKenzie, [James M.] Cline, [James R. ] Caldwell, and [Bertrand H. ] 
Bronson. As you know, most of them have since become well known, 
and were a great quartet. 


Miles: We graduate students not only me, but the rest we never even gave 
them the time of day. You know how graduate students are to young 
instructors nobody could be lower. So we didn t even speak to 
these gentlemen because we were so busy cultivating Arthur Brodeur 
and J.S.P. Tatlock, and T.K. Whipple, who were the three big men, 
all of whom were very good and outstanding in the whole country but 
who represented a tradition that was different. 

Jim Caldwell was married to Katherine Caldwell, whose mother 
was Sara Bard Field, who was married to Charles Erskine Scott Wood. 
That was a whole literary group, related to the New Masses, to 
Robinson Jeffers, to the Benets, to liberalism in the Bay Area, to 
George West and Marie West and the fighting newspaper in San 
Francisco, the Call-Bulletin. George West was editor of this. 
Which reminded me of my old friend on the Record in Los Angeles, 
my neighbor. (That was a bit later.) Anyway, that was a whole 
working group of friends, good friends. 

Jim Caldwell read some of my poetry, maybe through Francis 
Drake; I don t really know. Jim invited me to his house. I think 
he was the sponsor of a little poetry club on campus that was 
rather struggling and not very active, and he was trying to 
resuscitate it. So he invited this group and me to his house. We 
read that evening some poetry. I don t remember whether Francis 
Drake, who was the real leader in poetry here, also came to that 
or whether he limited himself to the Winters I think he was in 

Anyway, that evening was very exciting because this particular 
group liked my poetry, and Jim and Kay [Katherine Caldwell] liked 
it. I remember Kay passing me a cookie and saying, "This is the 
first time that I ve really thought that I wanted Jim to work in 
poetry around here, because it s not the thing to do; you re 
supposed to be a medievalist. But now I think maybe, after hearing 
all you people, poetry has a future at Berkeley." That was 
exciting and fun. This was still all in my first autumn here. 

But, you see, it developed so separately because it was never 
really part of my chore of figuring out how to do the graduate work. 
And it burgeoned at a much faster speed, so that everything opened 
up in poetry right then, early. It was different from the 
scholarship, which took me about three years to figure out. 

Teiser: Where does the Ann Winslow story fit in? 

Miles: It could come right now, it could come right now. In my Anglo- 
Saxon class, which was filled with people that we from UCLA all 
said, "There s nobody here that we even want to say hello to," 
because they looked so grubby everybody looked so grubby to us I 
We were more Hollywood types, you seel 


Miles: One of the grubbiest was a woman named, indeed, Verna Grubb. She 
was a little lady, all sort of wirey, with her hair skewed up in a 
knot on the top of her head just looking like a cartoon. She came 
up to me one day in the Anglo-Saxon class and said, "I hear you 
write poetry." I said yes. She said, "Can I see some of it?" 
My attitude was, "So why bother?" But I brought her some, and she 
said, "This is very good." I said, "I m glad you like it." She 
said, "I have decided to start a magazine called College Verse. I 
don t think enough time is spent on young writers in this country, 
and I m going to spend some time and edit this magazine called 
College Verse." 

I m so angry with myself that I never found out more about her 
who she was, where she came from, why she had these ideas, what her 
backgrounds were, how much she had done before she came to Berkeley 
Cshe came here to get a master s). I simply wasn t curious, which 
is maddening, because I was fighting her off all the time because 
none of us felt that Verna Grubb was a very important part of our 

She then also organized this poetry club that Jim Caldwell was 
sponsor for, and he wasn t too thrilled with having Verna Grubb 
organize his club either. She was humorless, she was just a 
grinding little lady pushing things through that nobody wanted to 
push through. She was really fascinating. I often have thought I 
would try to write about her, except we all ignored her so much. 
We related to her only when she related to us. Fascinating thing; 
we just never learned about her. 

She developed this poetry thing into an every other Friday night 
thing or Monday night thing or something, at Senior Women s Hall. 
We invited speakers. We immediately had the Stanford people up. 
Winters read his poetry, and Janet Winters read her poetry, and 
Kenneth Rexroth. Immediately we were in the soup I mean everything 
was circulating. Jim was pretty breathless, but he went along with 
it. He taught a class in poetry then, and I went to that class, as 
did Jeanne McGahey. I don t think I took it for credit. 

Teiser: Was this an undergraduate class? 

Miles: Yes, it was an undergraduate class. As a graduate, I think I just 
audited. But he was a very, very fine teacher. We met at the 
Caldwells house now and then, and that was always nice to have that 
feeling of knowing somebody in the faculty. 

Then Verna Grubb announced she had changed her name to Ann 
Winslow because it was a prettier name [laughter], and that she was 
going to do an anthology of modern younger poets. So we all said, 
"Oh, come off it." The College Verse was bad enough, and we didn t 
like the work in it too well either. 


Teiser: She had actually published it, then? 

Miles: Yes. I don t know whether this was volume one that we saw, or 

whether she d already done it I m vague about that, I m sorry to 
say. She wanted us all to be in it, and we didn t want to be in it. 

Teiser: Were you not in it? 

Miles: No, no. Oh, you didn t ever say no to her. I mean, you might say 
no five times, but the sixth you gave in. We didn t want JE didn t 
want and I think some of the others didn t want to be in a college 
verse [publication]. We were now graduate students; we wouldn t 
bother with college, and so on. 

She was going to do this anthology, and she was going to write 

to leading teachers of English and poets all over the country and 

ask for nominations. Then she was going to write to the names, and 

they were going to send their stuff, and she was going to assemble 

an anthology and get somebody to publish it. This all seemed to us 
so absurd. 

However, I remember a year or two later being up in her attic, 
which was really an attic you could hardly breathe up there it was 
so low-ceilinged. She had manuscripts spread out all over the floor 
of this place, manuscripts staggering from pile to pile. These were 
the manuscripts that people had sent her. This process had worked: 
These English teachers and poets had sent her names, she had written 
them, they had replied (showing how desperate everybody was, 
because they knew nothing about her) . She had meantime got an okay 
from Macmillan to publish it, and she was now making up the actual 

I apologized to her. I really said, "I can t believe what I 
see in front of me. I can t believe you pulled this off, and I think 
you re terrific." 

I have it in front of me*, and I might read you some of the 
names of these unknowns that she pulled out of the hat in 1935. If 
I just quickly read you the would you like to have me do that? 

Teiser: Yes, yes! 

*Trial Balances, Ann Winslow, ed. 

New York: The Macmillan Company, 


Miles: George Abbe, Ben Belitt, Anna Bennett, Elizabeth Bishop, Charles 
Butler, Martha Champion, J.V. Cunningham, James Dawson, Reuel 
Denney, Chloe Doubble, Helen Goldbaum, Beatrice Goldsmith, Alfred 
Hayes, Philip Horton, C.E. Hudeberg, Lillian Inke, Hortense 
Landauer, Milicent Laubenheimer, Robert Lowe, James McQuail, 
Josephine Miles, Clark Mills, W.R. Moses, Kerker Quinn, Theodore 
Roethke, Muriel Rukeyser, Winfield Townley Scott, Don Stanford, 
Cyrus L. Sulzberger, Jr., Lionel Wiggam, and T.C. Wilson. 

Now, there s about forty poets, and over twenty of them are 
widely known today, so widely known that they have long 
bibliographies. How did she do it?! I think that s absolutely 
miraculous. When you think of all she rejected! I mean, she got 
hundreds more. But she must have had just some wonderfully 
instinctive, driving taste. 

And then, furthermore, she wrote and asked leading critics and 
poets to write introductions to these (that s what sold it to 
Macmillan) , and for a wonder they accepted. Mine was introduced by 
Jessica Nelson North at Poetry magazine, to whom she [Ann Winslow] 
had sent some of my poems from the previous year, which they had 
published. She started doing that; she started going around saying, 
"I like these poems. Let me send them to Poetry " or New Republic 
or wherever. And then they would be accepted! It was an open- 
hearted time for writers. I think maybe things were sort of dead 
in L.A., and it wasn t all my fault. Maybe they had been briefly 
up here too. I d have to do more study to find out (this is what 
I was interested in yesterday). If they were reading the Iliad to 
themselves, maybe things weren t popping exactly up here either 
[laughter], in the wake of the Witter Bynner era. 

Teiser: [Laughter] You re talking about members of the English faculty at 
Berkeley who were reading the Iliad for recreation.* 

Miles: At the same time, at the same time, you see. Maybe things weren t 
exactly quick and popping then. There must have been some reason 
why all the gates were open to us, besides just her energy. 

So Macmillian did this, and these very nice people wrote these 
introductions. As you might guess, Marianne Moore did one for 
Elizabeth Bishop; Wallace Stevens did one, William Carlos Williams 
did one they were all so generous. And these are fun to read now, 
looking back. I guess Yvor Winters well, you know, all sorts of 
people. It was a very thriving little thing. 

*Mrs. Ballinger had mentioned that her father, Leonard Bacon, and 
another faculty member had often read the Iliad together. 


Miles: This book came out and was very well reviewed. Then a particular 
break happened to me, which was a little embarrassing because I 
think it was too close to home, Sara Bard Field said she liked 
these poems. She was a judge on the Shelley award, which is a 
national award, and she proposed my name to the other two judges. 
I don t know who they were, but they accepted this nomination, which 
I m sure they wouldn t have thought of all by themselves. So I got 
the Shelley award that year for the poems that are in this book. I 
think that was pretty flukey, but nevertheless it was a big help. 
That was in 35. A big help, that is, in getting my first whole 
book published, which was then in 39, and that Macmillan.* 

So that s how easy that was. Isn t it funny how some things 
are hard [laughing] and other things are easy? You just never know. 

Teiser: Was it easy, or was it just that it was cumulative? 

Miles: Well, I don t think much had accumulated, though. I came up here 
with a few poems, and I came up here with a lifelong habit of 
writing. But it was all fairly juvenile. I did win this $5 prize 
at UCLA for our literary magazine, and that poem is in here, "Sea." 
So it was fairly adult. But I didn t have much to go on, like 
publication or acceptance or associates or anything like that. It 
seemed pretty much out of the blue, I would say, when I got here 
that is, the recognition and the circulation. 

Ann Wins low sent some poems to [William Rose] Benet at Saturday 
Review, and again I think maybe there was a little in-group clout, 
because the Benets were great friends of the Caldwells. I later met 
Benet at their house. And to be treated as a "poet" was just really 
heady and very interesting and exciting. It didn t help at all with 
my scholarship, however, [laughing] as you know. 

Then, even more exciting, she sent the best response that I 
enjoyed the most was Malcolm Cowley at the New Republic. He accepted 
a batch of poems and wrote me a wonderful letter. That was really 
tops for me. I think Scribner s accepted some, and various other 
places, I don t remember. 

Then Hildegarde Planner was made a visiting editor of poetry 
for the New Republic. She asked for one of mine, and that sort of 
brought our friendship back into play. 

Now you d better ask me a question because I m at this peak of 
success [laughing] and I don t know where to go from here. [Laughter] 

Teiser: I m surprised that the Winters group was so important in Berkeley. 

*Lines at Intersection. 

Miles : 


That s because of Howard Baker, 
doing graduate work. 

Howard and Dorothy Baker were here 

Teiser: I see. 

Miles: Howard was very loyal to Winters. 

Teiser: And I believe in the interview by Rob Wilson in the Daily Californian 
of February 1, 1974, you spoke of the collision, or the contrast or 
whatever, between the Berkeley people (your group) and the Winters 

Miles: No, it wasn t that. Berkeley was more of a mixing ground. The 

contrast or the clash I don t know what I said there*, but you can 
read it to me if I deny it this time the contrast was between 
Rexroth s group in San Francisco and the Winters group. That 
developed a little later; I m not quite sure of the date maybe in 
the forties. 

Let s see. What did I know about San Francisco in the thirties? 
I don t think I knew much about San Francisco in the thirties. I 
don t know who was over there and who was active. Maybe Rexroth 
was. But San Francisco versus Stanford was the contrast. 

Berkeley was all mixed up, because we had not only the Bakers, 
we had Lincoln Fitzell, who was kind of a Winters-ite. Then the 
other side, of course, was Colonel Wood and the Caldwells, and this 
relation to the Benets; I guess that was the San Francisco people. 
And George West and his wife, though that, as I say, came a little 

That San Francisco group was radical politically and, as I say, 
they published in the New Masses. They published the free verse 
Whitman tradition, which Winters wasn t fond of. The Colonel and 
Sara Bard Field, his wife, were I think rather loyal followers of 
Whitman. She was also a rather loyal follower of people like Edna 
St. Vincent Millay and Genevieve Taggard and Sara Teasdale. In 
other words, she also had a more crisp, lyrical style, so that she 
was part of those two groups as they sort of intersected a kind of 
woman s group and a kind of liberal group. She published two or 
three books, as I remember, through Random House, and was really a 
strong representative I mean, if I were ever doing an anthology of 
early twentieth century poetry, she would be, I would say, an 
important part in it, partly because she s herself and partly 
because she s very typical of a way of writing which the Yvor 
Winters group, which was just developing down at Stanford at that 

*For what Miss Miles did say, see the copy of this article in the 


Miles: time, was opposing. They talked about those long, loopy lines as 
being careless and sloppy. They talked about Jeffers as not being 
the best model. There are these conflicting values. 

Philip Rahv in the Partisan Review once wrote an article 
called "Paleface and Redskin," saying there were two traditions in 
American poetry or literature, and Redskin was the Indian-Whitman 
tradition, Paleface was the T.S. Eliot-rather anemic library 
tradition. Though Sara was ladylike, a recluse to some degree at 
"The Cats" [the Woods estate at Los Gatos] with her husband, 
nevertheless she belonged, charmingly enough, to the Redskin 
tradition. She had been a suffragette and chained herself to lamp 
posts, and was a real fighter, and followed in the Whitman line 
that her husband followed in. 

That was the scene I came in on, and in all its changing 
forms, that s still the scene. That is, in the fifties, what we re 
talking about with Sara and the Colonel is what Allen Ginsberg 
renewed. As you notice, he was able to renew it in this area, 
because this area is always rather receptive to it. Whereas other 
writing going on in this area in Ginsberg s time, in the fifties 
and sixties, was a much more conservative, neat, and controlled 

I don t want to overdo this, but since you raised the question, 
it is kind of interesting. I mean, I don t like dualisms; I don t 
believe in things being split in two. But what I do believe in 
I think that a lot of vital action is taken in rejection of things, 
and so you often do get one mode that s kind of fighting another 
and thriving just because it s fighting it. These aren t really 
dualisms, but they are leading trends and then minor oppositions 
coming in which they themselves grow. Those can change from time 
to time. 

The neat tradition (these names are I should have thought of 
more constructive ones) would be something like the haiku tradition, 
as one kind, or the Yvor Winters tradition, as another kind. Or 
Jim Caldwell s tradition or who are people writing now? Leonard 
Nathan writing now. Or a lot of the middle range of poets today 
writing. James Wright, [Richard] Wilbur, say. There s a kind of 
control to their forms. 

Then if you take, on the other hand, Robert Ely and the 
surrealists and the whole Spanish-American tradition, that would 
again be on the other side. 

So, without forcing it, you do get the pull and tug between 
kinds of control and kinds of widening out, exploration of new 
ideas. So us chickens were just wandering around in here in the 


Miles: middle, in Berkeley. Berkeley didn t have a center. We met with 
all of them, and we wrote these various ways. Through Barbara 
Gibbs and that seminar, I got to know J.V. Cunningham. I think 
she was married to him at that time. They were putting out a 
magazine called the Magazine. Achilles Holt, and so on. That 
whole group was strong right then Don Stanford and you can tell 
me the names. One of them, Charles Gullans, teaches at UCLA now. 
One is Alan Stephens at Santa Barbara. 

I remember later when J.V. Cunningham was editing poetry for 
the Chicago Sun he wrote me and said, "I d like to print some stuff 
from California except, as usual, the stuff in California is so 
loose and sloppy, and the lines are so long, and it takes everybody 
so long to say anything." I wrote back and said, "Yes, most of the 
papms that I know, or the friends that I have are writing that way." 
I sent him I can t remember now what; I don t think he did print 
any of it. But that s the way that tradition continued. The long 
line versus the clipped line, if you want to be really oversimple 
about it. But Winters came over here and read to us, and so did 
Janet Lewis [Winters]. So we weren t quarreling with them. They d 
come up and talk to us. But Berkeley was just Winters always said, 
"Why is Berkeley such a mess?" That was his attitude. But we 
weren t coalesced as opponents or anything like that. 

Later Rexroth did sort of stand up against him. Then, in the 
forties, we developed that whole different set of poets that was 
related to San Francisco, under Rexroth, like Tom Parkinson, 
Robert Duncan, Philip Lamantia, Madeline Gleason, James Broughton, 
and that brings in a whole other sector. They were the ones that 
welcomed Allen Ginsberg when he came. That s the San Francisco 
poets. Also the activists Rosalie Moore, Jeanne McGahey, Robert 
Horan. Berkeley was always a little too academic for the San 
Francisco poets and not academic enough for the Winters poets. So 
we were always a little bit in the middle. 

Teiser: But you yourself went your own way. You were not writing in a group, 
really, and nobody else was writing like you. 

Miles: I don t feel that I was in a group, no. Tom Parkinson has often 

wisely said that this was a good thing; that except for the Winters 
people and a certain fidelity to Rexroth, we ve never had factions. 
We didn t have factions or feuds everybody has accepted everybody. 
[Michael] McClure has asked me to read at his class, I ve asked 
McClure to read at my class, and you know how different we are! 
It s a really nice general openness about poetry. When you hear 
about all the fights and factions in New York, say, on the whole I 
think we have been able to avoid that. 

Teiser: Your speaking of reading poetry, was there a tradition for 

instance, did anyone read poetry at UCLA when you were there? 


Miles: Read aloud, you mean? You mean having readings? 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: I can t think of anything farther from their thoughts. 

Teiser: When were you first aware of poetry readings here? 

Miles: In this club that Jim Caldwell and Ann Winslow worked on. 

Teiser: As I remember, the method of reading of Winters and Cunningham and 
so forth 

Miles: Was rather crabbed. [Laughter] Well, yes, that took a long time. 
When we did read at this club by club I mean it was about a 
hundred people that would meet there we d stand up and read a 
poem and sit down; it was that kind of thing. There wouldn t be 
readings, except when Winters came, or some visitor. Then he 
would read for a longer time. 

I see now. You mean "reading" in a special sense of how to 
read the stuff aloud. 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: It was assumed that a poet was not a good reader of his own work, 
and that it was rather a curiosa to listen to a poet read, because 
we knew he would be bad. Winters was not good. Jeffers was not 
good. Nobody thought of themselves I thought of myself as 
absolutely terrible, and I don t know anybody who felt he was a 
good reader. Except the tradition there was the Vachel Lindsay 
tradition, and then I d had that at high school. (By the way, we 
had Frost come and do that, and Sandburg. But that s very special.) 

In about 1940, Harvard published a list of a series of 
records called Harvard Vocarium I think it was about then and I 
bought all those for my poetry classes. We would play them, and 
they d come over here on an afternoon and we d run through these 
Harvard Vocarium records with the point, "You re not going to hear 
a good reading, which we don t know what that is, but you re going 
to hear the poets voices and that ll be interesting." Williams 
was very dry, cummings was rather interesting in an odd way, 
Elizabeth Bishop was really dry, Marianne Moore sort of impossible, 
and so on. We didn t have yet any [Wallace] Stevens. 

Maybe this is an example of when things got exciting: Some of 
my students were over in a record shop in San Francisco and I 
think it s records that did this; the kids were going more to 
record shops they were in a record shop in San Francisco, and the 


Miles: man who was running the thing or the counter said, "Here s a 

curiosity. Here s a record of James Joyce reading Anna Livia 
Plurabelle ." Well, James Joyce was already, was very, very big 
and important to the students. He played the record, and as he 
took it off the machine he dropped it and it broke. He broke a 
slice out of it, so that there were still a few lines around the 
center that were operable. One of my students asked him if he 
could take that part home and bring it to the class. That was the 
golden nugget of our class for five or six years. [Laughter] We 
would play the little inner grooves of that Joyce record! I think 
that s the first example of what you re really asking: When did 
reading become a kind of treasured thing? Because he read 
beautifully, so interestingly. 

Now when I play a whole real Joyce record, I get ho-hum, yawn, 
yawn. The kids couldn t care less, because he was old fashioned, 
the recording is old fashioned; it s not in stereo, you know. It s 
funny to think how much these meant to us and how now they ve all 
been wiped out by stereo. 

An interesting thing is that Robert Duncan, who grew up at 
Berkeley but was a little anti-alma mater (and I use the word 
advisedly), also felt that my poetry class was too alma mater, and 
he would kind of ride herd on this so that I didn t spoil any of 
the good possible students coming along. He and Jack Spicer would 
always come over when we had our poetry records here, because I 
would say, "Listen, now listen. Doesn t William Carlos Williams 
have a tin ear?" That made them furious, because they felt that 
William Carlos Williams read his stuff beautifully. 

That has been a major development [Robert] Creeley, you know, 
and this sort of Williams tradition of reading where you re sort of 
choppy and effortful, which I didn t care much for. But they 
wanted to be sure that my students were not subjected to my tin ear, 
and so they sort of chaperoned Williams through my classes 
[laughing], all during the forties and fifties, or however long we 

Later, of course, recording increased immeasurably, and now we 
have all sorts of poetry. The big poetry reading, as I remember, 
began in the forties at you can help me with the name of this 
gallery. Madame 

Teiser: Marcelle Labaudt, Madame Lucien Labaudt. 

Miles: Madame Labaudt. That gallery is the first that I remember. Madame 
Labaudt had poetry readings there that we crossed the Bay to listen 
to. Robert Duncan was again a leader, Madeline Gleason, Jim 
Broughton was very important. Those were very exciting. Then when 


Miles: did the Poetry Center start? Ruth [Witt-] Diamant and the Poetry 
Center brought Dylan Thomas out, you ll remember, and that made a 
big difference. 

Teiser: This is the Poetry Center at San Francisco State? 

Miles: Yes. And we had Dylan Thomas here too twice, and that was extremely 
exciting. So I m sure he did much to foster the 

Teiser: You didn t consider Dylan Thomas retrogressive? 

Miles: We_ didn t? No! No. But that s a good point, Ruth. I think he 

was, but at the time we didn t know it. I think the reason he was 
hailed with such total abandon by us all was because he wasn t all 
that new and he wasn t all that hard to take. He was just new 
enough so that we could feel he was new and just love him dearly, 
because it wasn t hard to adapt. He just really swept the town. 

Teiser: It seems to me his poetry is almost made for reading aloud, while 

so much of poetry, particularly contemporary, is hard to understand 
in a single reading. 

Miles: Imagism, yes. Imagism wasn t meant for it. On the other hand, 
something like Creeley, who s loved as a reader, but his poetry 
doesn t look as if it was meant for reading aloud. But that very 
chore-like ef f ortfulness is for him part of the pattern. 

Teiser: I just wonder how much poets have written for the page and how much 
they ve written for the ear through this period just what the 
effect the popularity of so-called poetry readings have had upon the 
actual creation of poetry. 

Miles: Probably quite a bit. This relates to something again that would 
take us backward. It s very complicated and I don t even know how 
to talk about it too well. But yesterday, when we listened to 
Martha Bacon Ballinger s talk, she said that her father was 
interested in metrics in the twenties, and that she was still 
interested in metrics. Well, I think that was an era of being 
interested in metrics. I was too young to say I was interested in 
metrics, but I was certainly interested in aloudness, or in sound of 
the Vachel Lindsay type. 

I think this went back to the tradition of [Charles Algernon] 
Swinburne. Swinburne was very alive at UCLA in 1930 in many ways. 
That is, he was really an operating, critical force, through Oscar 
Wilde and Housman. And that sound! I thought there was nothing 
greater in the world than the sound of Atalanta in Calydon. In the 
Saint Nicholas I think a great deal of the poetry was very 
interestingly metrical, with lots of dactyls and anapests; that is, 


Miles: with a lot of that lyrical skipping sound that began, according to 
George Stewart, with Coleridge and "Christabel." 

Somebody should do a really interesting, exciting book on 
anapests and dactyls and this whole lyrical skipping quality of 
poetry up until imagism, and of course, through imagism and after, 
because it didn t just die when imagists hit it. But Pound 
certainly put a big brake on it, and Eliot still has got it very, 
very strongly but pretended or sort of implied that he didn t; that 
is, people didn t treat Eliot as a lyricist, they treated him as a 
free verse writer. 

But free verse was a great blow to this anapestic-dactylic 
tradition. In high school, I was excited by the Saint Nicholas 
tradition, and Walter de la Mare, A. A. Milne, Kipling these are 
what our ears heard, and that s what I like the strongest beat 
possible. The poems I memorized were like that, like G.K. 
Chesterton s "Don Juan of Austria." I could rattle that thing off 
with all its whatever-they-were (it s triple beat dactyls). 

This never did get squashed in me, and I ve never been able to 
be a free verse poet. That has put me apart, really, from a lot of 
people a lot of the time, because I just cannot write free verse. 
I don t even want to. And I ve done lots of experiments with stress 
verse and so on, and I don t write metrical verse, I guess. But 
whatever I do, it s got much too strong a beat for an awful lot of 
modern poets. 

This leads into reading, in the sense of Pound and the 
imagists, remembering that they all were still influenced by their 
grandparents and still were being pretty lyrical as Martha 
Ballinger was saying, when she talked to Richard Aldington, she 
found that he was just lyrical all over the place. (By lyrical, I 
mean stressing a song-like quality.) And that they didn t get away 
from that all the way they intended. But more and more through the 
century we have, until we ve come to something like Ginsberg, which 
is a strong, chanting beat, and it isn t little songs at all. 
That s what it shifted to, and a strong, chanting beat is for 
rendition, for the more bard-like rendition. So it was Thomas and 
Ginsberg and his whole bunch of friends and relations and 
descendants who have stressed the chant as distinguished from the 

Teiser: Thomas? 

Miles: Dylan Thomas; he was very strong on the chanting side. 

You asked about other visiting authors a subject in itself! 
I think I remember Vachel Lindsay at high school a lively chanting 
auditorium full of students! Little at UCLA except Mary Austin, very 


Miles: impressive when I was a freshman, and a Scots educator speaking on 
Burns and asking for the power to let others see us as we see 
ourselves very impressive to me too! Then at Berkeley I just 
missed a very famous visit by T.S. Eliot, but heard a charming 
James Stephens who stretched his wings and crowed, and a very sober 
Thomas Mann. Many of our visitors, tired after circuits of reading, 
weren t sober and weren t as articulate as Dylan Thomas, so I can t 
tell much about them. One evening [W.H.] Auden spent much time at 
the faculty club reminiscing about plumbing facilities he had known, 
and when my helper helped me up to leave, he insisted on helping me 
too so we flew, me off my feet, through a forest of dining tables 
to the back stairs, down which Auden fell, while my helper got hold 
of me just in time. Not daunted, Auden came to say goodbye, and we 
had a nice correspondence after that. 

The [Stephen] Spenders stayed for a year, and I went to keep 
Natasha company while she practiced, all the doors closed, the piano 
reverberating, stirring resonance. Once as Natasha was fixing 
"vegs," a job she hated, we were asking Stephen about his editorial 
work, and what would be his ideal coup. An article by Hitler, he 
said, which surprised me. 

[Robert] Frost and [Carl] Sandburg were pros as readers. Frost 
could hold the whole Harmon Gym in the palm of his hand "Think of 
the Gods, think of the Titans," he said "you remember the Titanic?" 
Pure Frost. W.C. [William Carlos] Williams was old and ill when he 
read, but sterling. Marianne Moore was lively, on the tip of her 
toes to eight hundred students, illustrating rhythm with a fork and 
pie plate, going on to hear Rexroth read to jazz somewhere in the 
city. [Kenneth] Burke, [John Crowe] Ransom, [May] Swenson came, Al 
Young, and Michael Harper.* Some came to my class and were 
unforgettable in their grace. [Galway] Kinnell for one, and Roethke, 
and Robert Peters. [Richard] Eberhart, Muriel Rukeyser, [Robert] 
Lowell, and [William] Stafford were old friends and came more often. 
The San Francisco group [Gary] Snyder, [Robert] Duncan, [Michael] 
McClure, [Lawrence] Ferlinghetti, [William] Everson, [Robert] 
Creeley, later [Stan] Rice, laid them in the aisles, as did many of 
the later benefit readings when the great names were taken over by 
lesser but often talented and popular and experimental ones. 

One other celebrity I enjoyed was Imogen Cunningham. Her 
friend and mine, Griswold Morley, suggested she take my picture and 
she arrived with all the briskness described in Elvis Richey s 
essay, sitting me with a book and photographing flat out. I liked 
the result, but Griswold said no, so she insisted on coming again 
and tossing over me that very cape which Richey mentions, sort of 
making me up quite a contrast! We met various times, at the 
Minerva Restaurant, at Blanche s, at Intersection, at friends , and 
I felt I belonged to her in some way. In her downright way she was 

*Added later: [Leopold Sedar] Senghor, [Jean] Genet, [Pablo] Neruda, 
[Jorge Luis] Borges! 


Miles: not mannered; she was fun, unlike many photographers I ve met. I m 
not easy to picture, so only a few, like my cousin Estelle and niece 
Jody and friend Betty Guy, and you interviewers can make it easy. 

Oh, another remembrance I was thinking of when I was about 
nine I was reading a lot of adventure stories and told the family at 
dinner that the natives threw their old and lame into the river. My 
mother said not to overgeneralize; my father said some natives; one 
of my brothers said some rivers. I remember each of us seemed 
pleased with the way this came out. 

[end tape 1, side 2; begin tape 2, side 1] 
Teiser: Do you have a full bibliography? 

Miles: Yes. Two or three people have made them, just as exercises, at 
various schools. 

Teiser: Do you have copies of them? 

Miles: Yes, at the bottom of a barrel some place. [Laughing] 

Teiser: It doesn t look as if the University library has all your work.* 

Miles: An interesting point I can make there: The University library 

couldn t care less about my work until Jim [James D.] Hart, because 
the head of The Bancroft was a Spanish historian or something. I 
couldn t even give them my stuff for years. It s only when I was 
able to force it on Jim Hart [laughing] that I got some stuff in the 
University library. 

Teiser: He s wonderful at collecting material. 

Ph.D. and Los Angeles 

Teiser: Back to when you were working on your Ph.D. When did the idea of 
your present dual career occur, or did it occur? Did it just 

Miles: No, that is a really wrong concept. I never had a sense of a dual 
career. When all these people in Los Angeles said, "Don t go up to 

*This is an error; copies of all Miss Miles s major works were later 
found to be in the University library. See page 176. 

Addressing a high school teachers 
group at John Swett High School, 
Crockett. March, 1965 

Photo by Ruth Teiser 

Photo by Imogene Cunningham 

Josephine Miles reading notes at interview of August 11, 1977 

Photo by Catherine Harvoun 


Miles: Berkeley and do graduate work; you write poetry, and that s enough." 
I didn t think of that as a career and I didn t want to. I mean, I 
had no desire to ever make poetry a career. I just wanted to write 
poetry as an avocation or whatever you want to call that. You know, 
as an avocation or what s the word? vocational [laughing], as a 
recreation. I never wanted to do anything to systematize it in any 
way, even to the degree of writing book reviews. I never had any 
idea of wanting to be working in the literary world, and I was 
quite defensive about that. So that s one reason I guess I did do 
scholarship, because it felt far enough away from poetry that it 
wouldn t intrude. 

When I read the books that got me interested in analysis of 
poetry in a scholarly way, that still felt far away. It was a way 
of reading poetry to understand something about it, which I hadn t 
understood before; that is, a sense of how an individual 
individualizes himself in his use of language. It was this whole 
interest in language that started growing up. But they were quite 
separate in my mind. I mean they were intentionally separated in 
that, whatever I did with my life, I didn t want to mix poetry up 
with it in the sense of my writing. 

So when I came up here saying, "I want to analyze the language 
of poetry" (and nobody particularly knew how to help me do it), I 
thought of that as quite technical. But I didn t have any 
technique, and that was what was so hard because scholarship wants 
a technique, but they didn t have any technique in this direction. 
It was hard to invent one and nobody, as I say, was very good at 
helping me because they didn t know what I was talking about in the 
first place, and I wasn t very articulate. 

Jim Caldwell, for example, who was so nice in poetry, said, 
"Well, I don t know what you re talking about, and I certainly 
wouldn t want you to work with me because I don t think you can do 
what you re talking about." 

This man Ben Lehman, whom Merritt Hughes recommended to me, 
had some tremendous ability to listen and convert into practicality. 
So I did a paper for him, when we finally got to our seminar. This 
seminar now was all my old friends. This seminar had five people in 
it, and it was a delight. For a year we had this seminar with Jim 
Wortham and Mary Alice Jaqua, Bob Orem, and me, and a guy who later 
became editor of Sunset magazine, Ken Cooperrider. We would meet at 
Ben Lehman s house and read papers, and I kept struggling with this 
seminar paper on Wordsworth s language. 

They all kept saying, "Oh, no. You should write about 
Wordsworth the man." And Ben said, "When are you going to get 
around to writing about Wordsworth the man?" I said, "I don t want 


Miles: to write about Wordsworth the man. He s a dumb man! I want to 
write about Wordsworth s language." I d already tried this, you 
see, with Merritt Hughes in the seventeenth century, so I d had 
some practice there, and Wordsworth didn t fit the seventeenth 
century at all. The questions you could ask about the seventeenth 
century you couldn t ask about Wordsworth. This baffled me, and it 
still baffles me, in that there s a student at Berkeley now working 
for someone else, not me, because I told her not to who wants to 
compare seventeenth century and nineteenth century lyricism. For 
some reason, they re noncomparable in very curious ways. 

So I was stuck with this, I remember, one whole summer. I did 
nothing but work on this, and got nowhere. But gradually I 
developed this idea that, very strangely enough, what Wordsworth 
apparently is doing is talking about his feelings, which is what 
imagists don t want you to do. Imagists just want you to imply, 
present, not discuss. In other words, the tradition I had been 
raised in, and the current tradition, was to imply rather than to 
discuss. Wordsworth was discursive and discussed. 

A book like George Moore s Pure Poetry talks about the poetry 
of the present as being pure because it presents. He gives Wordsworth 
as an example of how not to do it. So that was helpful. 

So I wanted to ask the question, "What did Wordsworth think he 
was doing? If we all agree that poetry shouldn t discuss and make 
statements, what did Wordsworth think he was doing? Why did he 
think it was okay?" This developed into a study of his statement of 
feeling and why he was so explicit on his feelings. Wordsworth had 
almost a formula, which was, "I listen to a bird sing, it makes me 
feel very happy, and that makes me feel that the world is unified." 
This kind of very bad but sort of basic summary that I m giving of 
the way he thought was interesting psychologically and went back to 
Locke and the psychologists of the eighteenth century. 

Now, I suppose, in a way, interestingly enough, I could say 
something that hadn t occurred to me before. But now, in what you 
might say was my fourth year of study at Berkeley, scholarship and 
poetry did come together, not so much in terms of my writing of it, 
but the understanding of it, in that I took a lot of seminars in 
philosophy from Will [William R. ] Dennes and Stephen Pepper. They 
were talking about eighteenth century philosophers, and those were 
a very interesting background for Wordsworth. So I began seeing 
how people thought, and things began to jell a little better for me. 
I suppose the Middle Ages had been too far away. 

I had read one marvelous book on the Middle Ages called the 
Rhetoricians of the Thirteenth Century, edited by E. Faral, which 
I do want to mention because I ran into that when I first came to 


Miles: Berkeley and it was kind of a landmark in my life because it was 

such a gold mine of difficult material. That was usable too even in 
relation to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 

So I started studying all of Wordsworth s poetry, and more and 
more methodically saying how he stated his feelings metaphorically 
or literally or exclamatorily or in question or whatever. I 
developed a method for doing this which involved counting, because I 
wanted to show actual proportions, that he did very little else but 
just state literally. I worked away on this in various forms. I 
think I rewrote (speaking of determined) Ben Lehman had me rewrite 
one chapter on this thirteen times. I just never thought I could 
get it clear enough, because I was always writing it too poetically. 
I was always sort of dreaming away, and I was always using figures 
of speech that led me down deceptive paths. He was patient enough 
to really teach me to try to write this analytically, which I didn t 
know how to do; I d never learned freshman composition. All this 
struggle through my graduate years had been that I really didn t know 
how to do what I wanted to do, and nobody even listened to what it 
was I wanted to do. So I had to learn their way, but that wasn t 
satisfactory to me. So he was good not only for me but for others 
in this way. 

Then, while I was working on this, which would be a dissertation 
gradually, I also took a seminar from the Young Critics start now. 
We petitioned to have our Young Critic friends to teach seminars. 
Bud Bronson did one which was in the eighteenth century which was 
just marvelous. So that came together too. The others found they 
didn t like it; Jim Cline was miserable in the one he taught. But 
the other two did some, but especially Bud did this first eighteenth 
century one. And again there were people from Stanford and we all 
worked very hard. It was really exciting. 

Teiser: What aspects of the eighteenth century just poetry? 

Miles: Every aspect. He took it decade by decade, which I m sure 

influenced me later. He said, "Okay, now, there are ten of you. 
Each of you pick one aspect of this decade and report on it." Like 
the architecture, the music, the pottery, the social conflicts, and 
so on, differently for each student for each next decade. This was 
all chore work that we did, but it was chore work that we learned to 
do well. I learned tremendously much how to do things in there. He 
later used this for a massive bibliography of eighteenth century work. 

At the same time (this would be 1935 to 36) I think I might now 
mention something in relation to poetry, which I skipped over. There 
was a new spirit in poetry in the land, relating to the seventeenth 
century, to historicity, through Eliot and John Donne. Eliot was 
having this influence. The Southern Review was established by Huey 


Miles: Long and by Robert Penn Warren and by Cleanth Brooks. Anyway, good 
people on the Southern Review. In 1940, the Kenyon Review was 
established to follow. But anyway, the Southern Review wrote and 
asked me for some poems. This was a big thing because it was going 
to be a big new magazine, and very handsome and good looking and 
full of zing and so on. 

I sent them some poems, and they accepted them with enthusiasm. 
That pushed me way, way over into a new world of poetry, which was 
the seventeenth century. Strangely enough, I would define that as 
falling in love with [W.B.] Yeats a kind of metaphysical tradition 
of Yeats and George Herbert and John Donne. I m not sure how much 
this changed me, but it certainly meant a lot to me consciously. It 
was somewhat under their influence and the influence of another kind 
of poet; I m not quite sure who these would be. W.R. Moses was one 
I used to correspond with. Clark Mills was another. I think this 
happened to me more than it happened to my other colleague poets. 
I don t think it happened to Elizabeth Bishop or so on. 

Oh I know. It happened to the next generation much more than 
to me. It happened at Kenyon College, it happened to John Berryman, 
Robert Lowell that group. That s where it happened, with Ransom. 
Some of the Winters people went along with some of this too. So for 
me, consciously it was a big step. I don t know, as I say, actually 
how it worked. 

Then Ben Lehman decided to get married and go to Europe, and 
that sort of pulled the rug out from under me again. So we decided 
this time we would leave Berkeley and go home, and I could work on 
my dissertation there if I wanted to with some sense that maybe I 
wouldn t, you know. My mother had had a very good time in Berkeley 
because she was active in a club that she enjoyed, and she worked 
very hard in the League of Women Voters. So by now she was 
reconciled to Berkeley. But we still had this house that we owned, 
and my brothers were now back there. There seemed no point in 
staying here since there was nobody to work with, and I didn t know 
whether I d ever finish this thing, and just a lot of things pushed 
us away . 

I took my qualifying exam a little early (that s the big hurdle 
that we had in those days) 

Teiser: Was that a written exam? 

Miles: No, it was a three-hour oral, 
hard to study for. 

Teiser: Was that your final oral exam? 

It was very easy to fail and very 


Miles: Well, they still had a final in those days. Now it s the last one. 
So I took that a little early, I forget the date, somewhere around 
36, the fall of 36 maybe. I took that, and I passed it rather 
miserably because, for one thing, as I complained to them later, 
they didn t ask me questions past about 1400. They just got stuck 
in the Middle Ages. That was kind of unfair since that was not my 
field. But I passed. I think only one man didn t want to pass me, 
and that s because I didn t have the right answer to "What s the 
theme of King Lear?" I said it was something like regal dominance, 
and I was quoting this is sort of fun, I think I was quoting what 
I d learned from Lily Bess Campbell, the great Lear authority at 
UCLA. I still remembered this "regal dominance." 

Well, the professor here thought it was ingratitude, which I 
gather is sort of a nineteenth century idea of the thing. [Laughter] 
Regal dominance was just like a red flag to a bull for him; anybody 
who said that King Lear was regal dominance, and didn t say it was 
ingratitude, just couldn t pass that exam. 

They finally stood around in the hall for a while and talked 
him into letting me pass if I would go and let him give me a lecture 
on ingratitude. That was kind of cute, because of the personal 
conflict [laughing]. My UCLA training never worked very well up 
here. They didn t agree, even on a subject like that. [Laughter] 

My brother had just got through something at Stanford, a 
master s degree in business administration or something. So we went 
over to Julius Castle and drank more martinis than we should ve. I 
remember, driving home, we confided to each other the point that 
maybe other people didn t know it, but both of us really knew 
everything nothing left to learn! [Laughter] The problem might be 
that our total knowledge wouldn t be appreciated, but it was clear 
that we had everything there was to know. 

So we went back home, dragging our theses behind us, and tried 
to rescue this poor little house that had been wrecked by the renters 
since we d been gone. It raised the interesting question, which 
everybody here raised to me you can t go home again. People up here 
don t go back there. You can t go home again. You talk about L.A. 
still as home, but you can t go back there. UCLA was now a new place 
because it was starting a graduate school and I didn t know anybody 
in it, and your friends are all in social welfare or something, and 
it didn t seem like a very good idea. 

I had a talk with Ben Lehman and he said, "You should finish 
this dissertation. After all, I ll be back from Europe some time. 
I don t know when. Also, I never brought this up before, but it s 
nonsense for you not to try to teach." I said, "Well, nobody has 
ever said that before. I ve never done it, and I ve never tried to." 


Miles: He said, "There s no reason why you shouldn t teach. When you get 
your dissertation done, we ll work on getting you a job." That was 
the end of that. I didn t take it too seriously because he was the 
only one that said this. 

But I did go home again, and it turned out to be one of those 
happy surprises. I recommend one can go home again. I just had a 
terribly good time for a couple of years, from 36 to 40, really 
four years. We did over our house with the help of a nice young 
architect and made it pleasanter to live in, and it was exciting to 
do too. We went a lot to the Hollywood Bowl. My UCLA women friends 
were still interesting. They were all working. We d get together 
every Saturday afternoon for lunch. We gave ourselves the name of 
the Little Thinkers, and we would get together Saturday afternoons 
for lunch at some restaurant, and we d spend the whole rest of the 
day and night talking, reading. These had been friends at UCLA, 
and we still were reading guess! Modern poetry? Absolutely not. 
We were still reading Shakespeare. They never did climb out of that 
UCLA syndrome. 

Later I sent them Accent, which was a little magazine. They 
never accepted. They were still historians in their approach. But 
this was delightful to go back to that. They were great people. 
Jewel Holder Brandt some of them had been up here was in social 
welfare. Some of them were teaching. I can t remember who all was 
doing what. But ever since, even when I go back now, they have all 
just been so important in their fields. When I go back, I get 
excited all over again about what those women are doing. They ve 
become authorities on geriatrics or insane asylums or ESP or politics 
or psychedelics. They are a wonderful group. 

It s a strange thing when I say "are" most of them died within 
the last couple of years, right after they retired. I ve kind of 
lost them. Oh, it s really amazing how few are left. Anyway, in the 
past, just recent years, even going back there, it s been so 
exhilarating. A really lucky group. 

Anyway, that turned out to be fun, and I finished my thesis with 
no trouble whatsoever, where I had just got kind of tired of it up 
here. I shouldn t say "no trouble," but I mean I rattled it off. 
Ben was away and I wrote to Jim Caldwell and said, "Okay, I m sure 
I ve studied enough of Wordsworth here to be true about what I m 
saying. He s written fifty-three thousand lines, and I ve done 
thirty-two thousand thoroughly. Don t you think that s a fair 
proportion?" Jim wrote back typical academic side of Jim Caldwell, 
academic side of poets wrote back and said, "It s absolutely useless 
unless you do all fifty-three thousand lines." 


Miles: So I spent months and months getting up every line and, you know, 
no recognition there was such a thing as sampling in those days. 
So I did all fifty-three thousand lines, put them in another chapter. 
Then I got a letter from Ben Lehman saying that he had come back to 
Berkeley and his marriage was on the rocks (he was married to Judith 
Anderson, you know) or, no, I shouldn t say that; it wasn t yet on 
the rocks; she was still there. But that I should hurry up and come 
up there and get my degree and work on teaching. 

At least I thought I d better come up and get the degree. It 
was the time of the World s Fair here, and that was fun too. We 
stayed at the Durant Hotel and went to the fair a lot or that was 
a year later and passed my dissertation chapters around to 
everybody, and everybody thought they were okay. Certainly no 
trouble with the dissertation. So that was okay. Then it was a 
terrible job, of course, to get it typed and collated and this and 
that, and proofread. I spent hours in the library in the stacks 
looking up footnotes. Merritt Hughes had been very scornful of my 
footnotes because I tended to put down the page that preceded the 
page it was on. I mean, for some reason I would read the left-hand 
page number rather than the right-hand page number. So I had to be 
awfully careful about my footnotes. 

It rained the whole time; went to Wing King s for a five o clock 
35C dinner. Got all that chore done and got that thesis in, and got 
four wisdom teeth pulled because I never expected to come here again 
and there was a nice dentist here. So I got my wisdom teeth pulled 
and my thesis done at the same time, and went home for good, because 
I thought they were crazy about the job situation. 

Ben and others said, "No, we ll get you a job at Mills. That s 
a nice, quiet school, and you can come and go there. Or Occidental, 
which is down your way, if you insist." 

Meanwhile, I had decided that what I would do, going back to 
J.S.P. Tatlock, is I would be a research scholar and work at the 
Huntington [Library], I got an entree to the Huntington. I was 
going to go out there, commute, three days a week. I knew the 
research I now wanted to do, in nineteenth century pre-Raphaelites, 
and I was just going to chug away at the Huntington until I got some 
books done. I wasn t thinking about money, but I was going to be a 
scholar. I had developed this protective line at Berkeley because 
I enjoyed graduate study more than my friends did because they had 
to get jobs. I would say, "Look, try to be a little more like me: 
Just try to do it because it s interesting. Try not to always 
worry about the job." I tried explaining, "You have time to read 
this book. It s an interesting book. Don t feel it s not going to 
be bread and butter." This was a kind of protection thing that I m 
a research scholar. I d picked up this phrase. So I went to the 
Huntington to do this. 


Miles: I hated the Huntington. The Huntington was all the things I d been 
fighting all my life. There it was again, all this pomposity and 
guarded snobbery and so on. That s not fair to the Huntington; 
when I m off-balance, that s the way I feel things are. I worked 
out there three days a week, and the pages would come up to me and 
say, "You say you want the following seven books. Now, five of 
these are unopen and uncut. Do you really want them that much?" 
I didn t have enough confidence to say, "Yes." I m glad I didn t, 
because they re probably still unopened and uncut, and they ve 
gained an infinite amount [laughing] of monetary value that way. 
But that side of bibliography didn t interest me, you know. 

So I struggled along with the Huntington. This was a settled 
thing that I was supposed to do, and it clearly wasn t working out 
well. Jim Wortham now had become an instructor at Occidental. He 
said, "Oh sure, we ll gradually get you in. I ll take you to a 
bunch of concerts over there, they will get to know you, and then 
we ll get you into Occidental." Earl Lyon had been a professor at 
the University of Utah and was now at Fresno. At Utah he d met 
Lila Brimhall, who was one of the great Utah families, who was an 
actress. She came down to act at the Pasadena Community Playhouse. 

All the lights went on again for me, which meant the Pasadena 
Community Playhouse, and I remind you that I wrote a play for the 
Latona Avenue School. Now I suddenly realized that was my career, 
to write plays, not to do research at the Huntington. 

Jim and Earl and Mary Alice and I went I don t know how this 
fits into the Little Thinkers, but every Saturday matinee in summer 
probably we went to the Pasadena Playhouse to hear the plays and 
hear Lila. Lila was an absolutely marvelous, dynamic actoring-type 
woman who did the mother roles. She was the size of a barrel, with 
a loud booming voice, a great enthusiasm for life. We d go to the 
plays and the matinees, and then we d go out to dinner with her, 
and just had tremendous fun. 

Gradually it occurred to me that maybe I could study playwriting. 
My friend Marjorie Thorsen was now head of the MGM reading department, 
and she said, "Well, you need more practice. You ve never written a 
line in your life. Why don t you write some plays?" The way I could 
do this was to listen in on rehearsals at the playhouse. 

Meantime, something I ve skipped in all this is that in the 
summers we had a cottage on the outside of Malibu, the side that 
doesn t cost. Our cottage cost $50 a year rent on the land, and $300 
worth of lumber, as my father built it. So it was a very sleazy, 
unenvironmentally acceptable cottage. But we loved it dearly, and 
we spent a lot of time down there. I thought I could go down there 
and write my plays. 


Miles: Then somebody suggested, "Why don t you talk to Gilmore Brown, 
who s head of the Playhouse, and see if he ll let you come and 
listen to rehearsals," which seemed like a beautiful idea. So I 
applied to that and asked him. None of them had ever thought of 
that. They did have trainees in acting, but they d never had a 
trainee in writing. 

This started a whole new thing I was going to do. Now where 
am I in time? You asked me to think about oh yes, now I m home 
with my Ph.D. , right? You asked me about a fellowship I had. 

Teiser: Yes, the Phelan Award. 

Miles: That was not that Phelan. It was just a local campus Phelan. It 
was just $500, to write poetry. 

Teiser: Oh, it wasn t the full year of writing. 

Miles: No, no. But I know what I did do. Yes, I know. Before this 

playwriting bit, or during the same time, I decided to apply for an 
AAUW fellowship because George Potter, who was a very nice man here, 
suggested I should write a he was on my dissertation committee and 
he said that it was clear that a certain book should follow that 
dissertation, which was very creative of him and very good, and I 
agreed. So I wrote, since I was going to be back in L.A. , to apply 
for an AAUW fellowship to write this book. Lily Bess Campbell, who 
was still at UCLA, supported me in doing this. (By the way well, 
I won t go into that. I was going to say that for a while I thought 
of finishing up my Ph.D. at UCLA, but they figured out [laughing] 
I d have to do it all over again.) 

Anyway, she supported me in that. I guess a woman by the name 
of Helen White was on the AAUW. I got the fellowship and wrote that 
book during that year of 38 to 39, or 39 to 40, I guess roughly 
maybe both. Anyway, I met Helen White too, who was at the Athenaeum 
during that time, and had a nice talk with her about scholarship. 
She didn t think I could get a job. She thought that was foolish of 
those gentlemen up at Berkeley to think I could get a job. I mention 
this because this was as a whole true of women, and I ve never quite 
understood why that was. 

I did an interview. Ben Lehman this is a very strange 
afternoon. I came up to visit (this is maybe when I went to the 
World s Fair). Ben Lehman asked me to come up to have an interview 
with Aurelia Henry Reinhardt of Mills. The Occidental College thing 
hadn t worked out. Ben had a lot of influential friends, and he 
persuaded Remsen Bird to interview me for a job at Occidental. 
Remsen Bird couldn t have been more unhappy, and so he spent his 
time talking about scandals in various literary families he had known. 


Miles: We didn t talk about me at all, or jobs, or anything. He said, "Get 

in touch with me later." Well, it was embarrassing, very embarrassing. 

They also made me go to May Cheney and get a dossier made up, 
which was very embarrassing because she didn t think I should try 
this. I don t know what it was about the women; I ve never understood 

Anyway, Ben had a party for me and Aurelia Henry Reinhardt, and 
Judith Anderson was the hostess. That was really some party, with 
Judith Anderson s two dachshunds, and me in a hat, and a lovely fire 
and great refreshments. Otherwise, it was very, very chilling, the 
put-down by Reinhardt. So Ben, having seen with his own eyes that I 
wasn t sabotaging myself, but something wasn t going too well in this 
interview bit, decided that maybe they should give me some practice 
at Berkeley so that they could say that I could teach because 
everybody said, apparently, as he told me later, that I was too 
delicate to subject to the rigors of teaching. That was the phrase 
that they all used. 

I also had an anthropologist friend by the name of Martha 
Beckwith. I don t know whether this was then or later, but anyway 
she thought I should teach at Smith. She persuaded the head of the 
English Department at Smith to interview me, who used the same 
phrase, though this was a couple of years later that I was too 
delicate to subject to the rigors of teaching. 

Ben decided that they should subject me to those rigors and 
then prove that I was still alive. But he didn t want to do this 
too drastically, so first of all he persuaded Earl Lyon, who was at 
Fresno, to let me come and teach a few classes at Fresno. Well 
obviously, I mean, you know I could teach. I mean, this was 
something I had no doubts about personally at all; I just had 
doubts that anybody would be interested. But I didn t have any 
doubts. I had plenty to say to Earl s classes, and they had plenty 
to say to me, and we had no troubles whatsoever. 

That was very good of Earl to help me out on that, and then he 
reported to Ben Lehman that it was okay. I don t know what the whole 
story is. Part of the whole story is that Carlyle Maclntyre had been 
transferred to Berkeley because he d had a fight with Lily Bess 
Campbell. He d been transferred by Robert Gordon Sproul, and as I 
understand it, they figured that if they could have one poet in the 
department, they could have two poets in the department. Oh yes, 
and my book [Lines at Intersection] by this time was published by 
Macmillan, and it had been actually reviewed in Time magazine, and 
I don t think that did any harm. That was an odd I don t know who 
did it. Anyway, now I could be called a poet, and they could say 
they d like to have two poets in the department, representing 
different schools of thought, the Whitman school and the John Donne 
school (which is the way they looked at it). 


Miles: So they worked on this. Will Dennes in Philosophy was very, very 
helpful, and Jim Caldwell, and so forth. I don t know how they 
worked it out. It took some finagling, I imagine, but they decided 
to ask me for a year. You probably wouldn t believe this, but one 
day in the mail, one morning in the same mail there was a letter 
from Gilmore Brown of Pasadena Playhouse saying that yes they would 
allow me to come there and be an apprentice in playwriting if I 
would promise to come regularly every day, and a letter from the 
English Department at Berkeley asking me whether I d like to come 
and try teaching for a year. Long pause. That was such a vivid 
experience to me. I just sat there looking at those two letters. 
I don t know what you think about these two roads, but for me there 
was no problem. It wasn t that I wanted to do one equally to the 
other, or vice versa. By this time, I was so imbued with what I d 
been spending my time on, versus what would have been a wild and 
woolly experiment, that I didn t hesitate. So I decided to come to 

My poor mother! Here we went through this all over again 
selling the house, coming up here again. It was really hard on her; 
that move was really hard on her. Both of us had renewed all our 
friendships, very good friends in Southern California, so we both 
felt very, very sad about leaving that time. But I just decided, 
"This is something I ve got to try." 

Gilmore Brown bought our house at the beach, which was funny. 
That was purely coincidental. We had an ad or something, and he 
answered the ad. So I got to meet him; I d never even met him up 
till then. Mother gave him an A-frame pipe to put on the chimney, 
and I ve never forgotten the gingerly way Gilmore Brown handled 
that A-frame. So that was the end of Gilmore Brown and Pasadena 

Though I might jump ahead to say that in the 1950s I did write 
a couple of plays, and one of them was staged at Cal, in the Studio 
Theater, in a triptych. Three of us had written one-act plays, and 
Bill [William I.] Oliver staged them as a triptych. Mine was called 
House and Home or something like that, some domestic title. They 
were a really big success. The whole series was a success. They 
kept renewing them, which they normally don t do at Cal. People 
standing in line way down to Oxford Street. They put mine on KRON. 
KRON came, and I went over to KRON and watched them adjust it to 
television. It was just a major event 1960 I think this was a 
major event in my life! And also wiped out all regrets and 
hesitations I might have had, because I realized I couldn t stand 
the strain of seeing people interpret my characters their way. I 
would have been absolutely chicken in the drama. As much as I loved 
what Bill did, and as much as I loved the results and what KRON did, 
and all the applause and all the success, those weren t my characters. 
I was spoiled by the fact that you don t know what readers are doing 
with your poetry. Oh, it was torture! 


Miles: So that was a happy ending to that. 

Teiser: Lucky you didn t write for the movies. It would have been worse. 

Miles: Wouldn t it have been! Oh, I often wondered what I would have done. 
Maybe I could have strengthened my heart. I still am friends with 
a young man and woman who played the major parts in my play. They 
teach at Irvine now, and I go to see them every time I m down there, 
and they still laugh about this. They knew they weren t doing it 
my way. 

Teiser: That rounds out your career as a playwright. [Laughter] 
Miles: And it brings me on the verge of coming back to Berkeley. 
Teiser: My word! What an exciting few years those were! 

Miles: Weren t they! Yes, very tense, very intense. Of course, I d 

bottled up quite a bit, just as in that year I d had at home when I 
was lying on my back all that time. I suppose I had a lot of energy 
saved up. My leg had got well enough so that I could walk about the 
way I do now. Well, I shouldn t say that because I was much 
stronger until these last ten years. But I mean I had about the 
same kind of motion. I could walk around the campus with help 
and I could go shopping in Oakland, and things like that. So I did 
have lots of energy and a certain degree of 

Teiser: Independence? 

Miles: ways to spend that energy. The word "independence" I ve often 
thought of, because independence today, especially in relation to 
disablement, means physical independence or personal independence. 
It s very curious, but really, neither of those crossed my mind 
very much. I never really got a break on the physical independence. 
The doctors that I d had that put me into hospitals with stretchers 
and paraplegic devices were so awful that I was scared off of that 
and I never came back to it at a more advanced stage. The most 
advanced state I ever came back to was just some physical therapy. 
But I never got any encouragement in that direction, and as far as 
the personal, I think the death of my father and the fact that my 
mother couldn t get a job and was so interested in the League of 
Women Voters and all that meant that it was perfectly easy for us 
to live together and for her to help me, which she did till she was 
eighty. We always got along. We didn t agree on interests or 
approaches on things, but we really got along very well. So that 
kind of dependence didn t bother me, and my mother gave a sense of 
her own freedom very earnestly and gallantly. 


Miles: My independence began to be, to get enough money, to earn enough 

to be independent that way, and to give my brothers the money that 
my father had left for me. That was fun to be able to pay them 
back. What should have been by theory inheritance, I was able to 
pay that back. So that s the way my sense of independence went. 
But it s funny, isn t it? Today I m almost embarrassed when I think 
how little I ve done with electric wheelchairs. I feel a little 
gap in my life that I haven 1 t cooperated with this whole mechanical 
world more. 

Teiser: Just think you might have used a calculator too on counting words 
in Wordsworth. 

Miles: Oh, I went very deeply into that when I was teaching here. George 
Potter, who was then chairman, said at one point, "You use 
concordances so much, and so much counting, you ought to be able to 
handle this sixty-three shoeboxes of cards for the Dryden concordance 
which Guy Montgomery left when he died." That led me into years of 
studying computers, and I did make a computer concordance. (This 
is later. We ll come back to that.* That s much later.) But yes 
I did, I did go into that kind of machinery. 

[end tape 2, side 1] 

*See page 124. 


INTERVIEW III 21 July 1977 

Beginning to Teach 
[begin tape 1, side 1] 

Teiser: Did you ever correct papers or work as a teacher s aide? 

Miles: No. As I explained, I guess I never wanted to push into that area 
and be rejected; I don t know. Then my father s attitude was so 
nonpressurized, that is, that I wouldn t work, that I just never 
did. I don t know. I would ve liked to; it wasn t that I didn t 
want to. But I used to explain to my friends how lucky I didn t 
have to because I could be interested in things in an altruistic 
way and didn t have to apply everything to meal ticket and job 
getting and so forth, and that was true. When I really got 
interested in the work, I could do a lot that I never would have 
had time for if I d had to do more teaching assisting and all those 
things. Looking back, it s rather absurd because of course now 
everybody has to teach in practice. But not in those days. I just 
felt too much on the fringes of things. I was having a hard enough 
time getting anybody even to accept my papers, much less correct 
other people s papers. [Laughter] 

Teiser: George Stewart, in his book on the English Department,* said that 
when he started teaching, they just said, "Go ahead and teach." 
Nobody told him what to do or anything. 

Miles: That s true. The first batch of papers I had as an instructor 

I really didn t know what to do with, and I asked George Hand, who 
was head of freshman English, if I could read a batch of his papers 
to get the drift, idea. He was really shocked and very angry. He 
said that the way he corrected his papers was none of my business. 
We younger this was now in 1940 when I was first teaching we 

*The Department of English of the University of California on the 
Berkeley Campus. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1968. 


Miles: younger instructors (really I was the only instructor, but the 

teaching assistants and I) would get together and correct papers. 
It was not done in the department. The department was very, very 
lofty; it didn t bother with us chickens very much. 

Mr. Bronson, until his retirement, I think he really felt that 
any ostensible open discussion of ways and means of anything was 
obscene. It was just not the gentlemanly way you worked! 

Teiser: At Stanford, what little experience I had there, which was about 
this same period, I think nobody in the English Department would 
have told anybody how to teach because that would ve sounded as 
if they were in the Education Department, and that was anathema. 

Miles: That s part of it. Well, to tell you the truth, that probably 

influenced me. This first sophomore teacher I had at UCLA, who was 
so big on pasting straight she was the woman for teacher education. 
By one of those ironies, the way you do it well, no education 
[courses] in method for me ever, because she was so bad, I thought, 
that I steered clear of education from then on. 

Teiser: I think there was a legitimate split, wasn t there, between method 
and subject? 

Miles: Well, I don t know. To me it s not legitimate, at all. I think it 
was just unawareness of method, or assumption of method in a 
limited way. It was interesting. It was ironic because Bud 
Bronson was one of the great pioneers in new methods, in the use of 
computers in his ballad studies. They never have been followed up. 
He was a pioneer without a following, and I think this is why. I 
mean he did a beautiful job. The other day I met him and begged him 
to tell somebody about this. It s published and it s known now, but 
he always felt it was something he just knows, pretty weird stuff, 
and he wouldn t talk about it much. Very strange. 

Teiser: Let me go back to the possible teaching at Mills. 

Miles: I think that s when the Lehmans realized that they weren t going to 
get me into a select women s college. I think before that they 
thought, or he thought, that I d been stalling or preventing 
something in that way, but I think then he realized that it wasn t 
my doing; that they were really taking a line about this "too 
delicate to teach" that they really believed. 

A nice aftermath of that story is that they later got a woman 
to be head of the English Department there who had polio. 

Teiser: They also gave you an honorary degree.* 

*Litt.D., 1965. 


Miles: Yes. So in one sense the next generation sort of benefited from my 

Teiser: Then you were speaking of teaching at Fresno. How long did you 
teach there? 

Miles: Oh, that was just a day or two. 
Teiser: Oh, you mean just a day or two?!?! 

Miles: Yes. My friend Earl Lyon, Ben Lehman asked him to invite me to a 

class. So I just went up and spent a couple of evenings in Fresno, 
as we often did because it broke the journey between here and L.A. 
So I went over to his classes I guess one nice, hot, summer day in 
May, or something like that. Went to a couple of classes. They 
were lots of fun, because he was a very nice, humane person, and 
the classes were very lively. So there were no problems. 

Teiser: Did you talk to the class? Did you teach them ? 

Miles: I forget what I talked about. You know, the best thing to do with 
a bunch of people is to throw a couple of ideas into their midst 
and then let them develop them. That s what I usually do. I forget 
now what it was all about. 

Teiser: But by the end of it, you were experienced. [Laughter] 

Miles: Yes. Well, you know, they proved I didn t fall off my chair or 

something like that. Or I think that Mills people and other places 
maybe thought the students might be afraid of me; that the students 
would be panicked or something who knows? It was kind of 
experimental . 

The first class I was going to teach, it was very nice when 
they did start me out at Berkeley when I came up in the fall of 
1940 to try it. They just said, "Bring a box of books and a suit 
case, and don t plan to stay because it may not work." But the 
nice thing was they gave me a regular load. I mean, they just 
didn t give me one class, they gave me four classes! [Laughter] 
Two on Monday, Wednesday, Friday afternoon, and two on Tuesday, 
Thursday, and Saturday morning at nine o clock. That was the 
program they gave the new people, and I thought that was really 
smart of them. 

I remember my first class was going to be Monday at two, or 
something like that. Jim Caldwell just accidentally dropped by as 
I was eating lunch and said, "What are you going to do in your first 
class?" I said, "I have no idea." He said, "What are you going to 
teach for your first class?" That was a freshman IB, and I said, 


Miles: "I m going to start out with Hamlet," and he said, "That s a good 
idea. A good way to start Hamlet is to ask the students to read a 
little of it aloud and see if they re getting the meaning 
underneath the words, so to speak." I thought that was just so 
nice of him to just drop by like that "I was just walking by and 
thought you d like to talk about your first class." Wasn t that 

I wasn t really afraid or anything, but I did question a bit. 
It s true, my brothers said, "No, Jo, you can t teach because you 
can t control the students. It needs a heavier hand than you have. 
You have to be able to stand up and kind of walk over and lean on 
them before they ll stop reading the Daily Calif ornian." [Laughter] 
So mainly we did think it wouldn t work. 

I did have a little consciousness of this back row, which in 
those days the football team would sit in and also would read the 
Daily Californian during the hour. So I worried a little bit about 
that, but not too much. I asked a couple of fellows in the back row 
to read the first scene (that s the "Halt! Who goes there?" scene 
in Hamlet) and, as Jim Caldwell well knew, they read it very wrong 
because they were just reading words on the page. As I well knew, 
they were smart enough to realize themselves that something had 
gone wrong, so one of the other guys in the back row said, "Hey, 
wait a minute. That doesn t make any sense." So they themselves 
went back over it and read it again right. When you re lucky, 
that s what you get for a good class, and it was a very good class. 
I had no more problems. 

The back-row syndrome lasted maybe eight or ten years, and I 
had a little bit of trouble in the oath controversy: the boys in 
the back row would go around challenging people on their attitudes 
toward Russia. So we had little classroom fights about loyalty and 
so on, but it wasn t anything very much. 

Then, after the war, when the new paperback texts started 
coming out, it was a whole new world. I really think that was a 
revolution, when we didn t have to read out of these big old black 
texts, and anybody, even a fraternity brother, could buy a nice, 
new paperback. You d get challenges from the back row, "Well, that s 
not what Bosanquet says," or "That s not what Berenson says." (Those 
were a couple of new paperbacks.) So no more back-row problems. 

I got a little ahead of what you were asking. 

Teiser: It s much to the point. The first classes that everyone is given 

are compulsory. Were those boys in the back row there because they 
had to be? 


Miles: Yes, 1A and IB. I had it for a couple of years; I forget how long. 
For two or three years I just taught freshman English 1A, IB. Two 
of each. 

Teiser: Everybody had to take it? 

Miles: Well, not everybody, but certain colleges and departments required 
it, enough so that there was a huge load. The English Department 
was very fine in asking all its faculty members to teach freshmen, 
rather than pushing them off on a special crew. That has been one 
of our great redeeming features ever since. 

Teiser: From what I hear, you must have always had rapport with students. 
You must have never felt that there was any particular gap. 

Miles: I think that s true. I ve had a couple of classes, one way back 

somewhere in the fifties, and one last quarter, which I just didn t 
get along with at all. I don t know why. It s just kind of a 
chemistry. I don t mean "at all," but it was just hard going, and 
they weren t particularly illuminated by each other or me, or me by 
them. Just pulling in different directions. But as I remember, 
two out of all those years is not too bad. I mean many students 
didn t like me, but that s more individuals. As far as the class 
goes, the class went all right. The first poetry class I taught 
was maybe about the third year. One of the kids in the class was a 
potter or something. Anyway, she made me a little figurine which 
the class got together and gave to me as a present. That seemed to 
indicate that we were friendly [laughing] , and shows the other side 
too it was a picture of a very recalcitrant horse, like Pegasus 
(like that old drawing on Poetry) , with his feet braced backwards, 
all braced backwards, but his nose kind of over the brink, and I 
(or a figure of sort of a peasant woman) behind him, with hands flat 
up against his rump, just pushing with all my might. And this was 
called, "You can lead a horse." [Laughter] So I guess that covers 
the situation. 

Teiser: In your poetry classes, I can see how your students might have been 
of a mind and could get together for such a project. In your other 
classes, did you feel that you generated among them by your 
teaching a certain group feeling? 

Miles: Well, hmm. It takes a certain amount of time to get a class to a 
point where it does work together. But I don t think you can 
generate it. You may make the occasion for it. I don t think you 
could create it where it didn t exist in any class. In other words, 
maybe it takes three or four weeks. My criterion would be when, 
before class, in the five minutes or so when everybody s gathering 
for class, if they were all talking to each other about the material 
of the class, they then had got together. And of course that doesn t 
happen right away, or usually doesn t happen right away. Then I 
would just be there, and often they would just keep on talking. So 
then they were self-starting. 


Miles: But there again I had a certain amount of great luck in that, I 
think in one of my 1A classes, there were two of the brightest, 
smartest, best people I ve ever had. They sort of taught that 
class with me. It wasn t that they were painfully above the rest; 
it was just that they were marvelous people. I ve lost track of 
them now, but I have kept in touch with a lot of those students. 
Since I ve taught about five thousand students, I hate to think how 
many [laughing] I still know the whereabouts of. 

At the end of 1A, I suggested that they not take IB from me 
because I felt that I didn t know all that much that they could 
spread it over a year. I thought they might as well go get 
somebody else. Perhaps this was a hidden slyness on my part. It 
now makes me laugh to think. At the time it was perfectly generous, 
as far as I knew. But the thing is that these students went on to 
IB and were terribly good, and guess who got the credit! [Laughter] 
I think I probably developed more of a reputation for being a good 
teacher because they came to me that way; it wasn t that they 
learned that much from me. 

Teiser: And did you still carry remnants of the conclusion that you and 

your brother had arrived at, that you knew everything in the world? 

Miles: I think that was mostly that night. Yes, that was mostly that night. 

Teiser: [Laughter] It s easier to teach if you feel you do. 

Miles: Oh you mean because you re not defensive about things? 

Teiser: Well, no. I mean if you feel yourself omniscient, I m sure that 

Miles: There s a kind of teaching that you might relate to that, but that s 
not the kind I ever did, where you lecture and tell them things. 
Now that we have evaluation of classes, we have one teacher in our 
department about whom the students say over and over and over and 
over, "He s afraid of students. He s afraid of discussion. He 
doesn t like to talk about anything but Shakespeare. But he s so 
great on Shakespeare, who cares?" Now, that wouldn t be me; I 
would never be that great on anything, but on the other hand I 
wouldn t be afraid of discussion or talking to the students either. 
I have less often taught informational survey courses and more often 
taught writing courses or reading courses or courses where I was 
trying to teach the students how to do something well, and that s 

When the war came along in the forties, then I had a good 
opportunity to teach different people s courses as they went off to 
war. So I taught a lot of courses I otherwise wouldn t have taught. 
I was not very good at that, because I was supposed to be telling 


Miles: them all about American literature. But I was more, again, trying 
to teach them how to read an American poem or something. 

I remember, on one mid-term, in a class of eighty or so 
students, one of the questions I asked was, "Describe the poem 
The Chambered Nautilus ." I got eighty blank papers. That was 
not an orthodox question in that time. You were supposed to say, 
"The author of The Chambered Nautilus was So-and-so and he lived 
in so-and-so, and the poem was about so-and-so." To ask to 
describe it was just we had not yet developed a methodology for 
criticism in those days. 

So I was really part of doing something new in teaching, I 
mean new in a sense, which wasn t related to lecturing, 
informational lecturing. Eventually I decided I ought to try a 
really informational lecture course, so I made up one in the 
history of the lyric (this was some ten years later) , and I worked 
out an informational course in the history of the lyric. It lasted 
for about two weeks. [Laughter] Then I developed a way of having 
Fridays be the students day, and Friday the students would give 
information on some poet they had chosen, some lyricist they had 
chosen. They were so bad at this that I then had to develop a 
method. They wrote, say, every other two weeks, so they wrote five 
of these Friday papers, and they were so bad! Gradually they got 
better, and so gradually I learned to give them what we called a 
cumulative paper in which they really added up everything they d 
said in the other five, or, what most of them chose to do as an 
alternative, threw all the other five away and wrote a new short 
one on their poet. 

Teiser: On the same subject? 

Miles: On the same poet. I tell you this detail because this is where my 
interest lay, in teaching people how to do things, not in giving 
them data. I did give them a lot of data on the lyricists, but 
still I could only stand it [laughing] for two hours out of three. 

Teiser: You wouldn t mind other people giving them data? 

Miles: Well, if I did, there was nothing I could do about it. [Laughter] 

Teiser: If you hadn t been given data, or gained it yourself, you wouldn t 
have had the basis for teaching that you did, or would you? 

Miles: That s an interesting question. This goes back quite a ways. I ve 
written a poem on the subject. Would you rather hear me, or read 
the poem? 

Teiser: What is the title of the poem? 



It s probably called "Teaching." [Laughter] 
hasn t been published yet. 

I don t remember. It 


Briefly, when I was in high school, there were two very 
handsome boys across the street from me, one of them going to Cal 
Tech, and the other a young married man who was working for Dun 
and Bradstreet. Both of them started flunking out of school or 
their job because they couldn t write a decent report. So they 
came over to ask me to help them. My motivation was high, and I 
was able to help them, and they both did very well. So that s how 
I knew I d like to teach. 

In fact, I used to say, to protect myself, since I wasn t asking 
asking anybody to give me a job, I used to say that my ideal would 
be to teach at Cal Tech because they didn t have any women teach 
there, and I knew there was no problem of reality. I really would 
have enjoyed I did enjoy teaching this young scientist 

How to write? 

how to analyze Shakespeare, how to talk about Shakespeare. So I 
really was interested in helping people read or write or whatever, 
more than telling them. Now you say about people telling me. If 
you think of UCLA, these two brilliant teachers I had were 
brilliant lecturers. But the one for whom I learned to write 
papers a little bit was a very quiet soul, Carl Downes, who never 
even got promoted. He was the one who made us do a lot of writing. 
Then when I came to Berkeley, as you remember, I was very badly 
off for a couple of years because everybody was giving us lectures, 
and they were fascinating, but I wasn t learning how to write, how 
to do graduate work. Professor Brodeur would pace up and down for 
the whole hour, and the subject was Germanic Romantic Poetry, 
which was really marvelous. I learned a great deal from it, but 
I didn t learn how to study Germanic Romantic poetry except as he 
went his way. He was the one who made the compromise with me and 
said, "You try it your way, and then if that doesn t work, try it 
mine." That s when I finally did try it his way and learned how to 
do it his way. 

But it was Ben Lehman that taught all of us how actually to 
work, and to write. In his example, we had an example of a real 
teacher, from my point of view except I couldn t have done it his 
way. He shamed people and he bullied them and all that things I 
couldn t do. But it was very effective, the way he made it work 
with some. Very effective. I guess shaming and bullying doesn t 
hurt as much as it seems on the surface because you realize the man 

Miles: is caring about you and is eager to have you do better. He didn t 
particularly do that with me, but he did that with many others. I 
watched him do it, and I resented it. I didn t think I would 
never teach like him. 

There was a whole shift, a real kind of revolution in graduate 
studies, or in English studies, right around then, too, and I was 
an -early part of that. As I ve said, at UCLA and to a great degree 
at Berkeley, graduate literary studies were sources and analogues 
of whatever sources and analogues of the Faerie Queene, sources 
and analogues of "The Cook s Tale," sources and analogues of 
Wordsworth s "Immortality Ode." This meant, "Who influenced him, 
and what other poems are like them?" This was historical material 
on which you could lecture and on which you could do research. 

But in college, my group of friends, the ones of us who studied 
together for the comprehensive and so on, went around asking 
ourselves, "Yes, but how do you talk about a poem? What do you say 
about it? There it is. We like it or we don t like it. What can 
we say about it?" This may be amazingly baffling to you who know 
the I. A. Richards tradition, but we just didn t know what to do! 
The professors we asked said, "Just do what we re doing." Well, 
but what they were doing was giving us results of full research. 
We just meant that if you look at a poem for the first time, how 
do you know what to say? 

I. A. Richards s book called Practical Criticism came out in 
about 1924, somewhere in the early twenties. We finally got hold 
of that and read it, so we went around saying, "Aha! We have a 
little piece of a panacea here. You ask about the form of the 
poem, the style of the poem, the mood of the poem, and the content." 
This became a little formula. Now, that isn t quite Richards, but 
that s one I remembered that we used, that we adapted from him. 
When I got to Berkeley, that hadn t come up here at all, as neither 
place was very much up-to-date on current literature or on current 
criticism; it was still historic. But Berkeley was much more 
up-to-date than UCLA was. 

There was a young man here teaching by the name of Gordon 
McKenzie, one of the Boy Critics so-called. See, we thought of 
all these these were so much more critical than the UCLA people 
that we felt them all critics, though they weren t very. Bud 
Bronson wasn t at all, really. But Jim Caldwell wrote book reviews 
for the Saturday Review, and Gordon taught a seminar in criticism 
that everybody said was marvelous (I never happened to take it) and 
he wrote a book on criticism. So it gradually started going through 
our skulls that there were critical methods, and there were ways to 
talk about poems. 


Miles: Then I. A. Richards s book, Practical Criticism, which is still very 
lively and interesting, reported giving poems to Cambridge students 
and asking them to discuss them. Students were helpless and gave 
what he called cue responses; that is, responded by: "The first 
line in this poem has a barn in it, and I don t like barns," and 
that kind of thing. [Laughter] 

This all was a new glimmer on the horizon. Then in the early 
forties came out Brooks and Warren s Understanding Poetry, which is 
a landmark in critical teaching. Well, we were ahead of that 
landmark at Berkeley, but nevertheless that s the book we used to 
work from, and that swept the country. But Gordon McKenzie and I 
had already started cutting articles out of the Southern Review 
and the Kenyon Review. You see, these new reviews were coming in, 
part of the same thing; the critical review was also a new venture, 
in a way. Of course, you always had the Atlantic [Monthly] and 
Harper s, but they had become more social discussion. These [newer 
journals] were just focused on literary criticism. So this again 
was a new phenomenon, at least as we felt. 

A little later, when Mark Schorer came out, and Ben Lehman 
was now chairman this was in the middle of the forties all the 
members of the department now said, "Our students don t know how 
to talk about poems." It took like five years to get rolling. The 
whole department voted I guess he inquired among them and they all 
said they would like to have a revision of the whole department 
curriculum with some relation to criticism. 

Teiser: Were you implying that they would not have said that earlier? 

Miles: No, they wouldn t. This was postwar, and even in 1940 they 

wouldn t have said it. Nor would anybody have asked them. Ben 
was characterized by asking them. So he made a committee of 
George Stewart, Jim Caldwell, and me to set up a new English major, 
including criticism. So among others we set up a course called 
Introduction to the English Major, English 100, which prospered 
for many years, which was methods and principles of literary 
criticism. In those days there was no textbook, and there was no 
Xerox either. So Gordon and I had to put on reserve in the 
library the articles we had torn out of journals. It was that 

Then Harcourt Brace asked Mark [Schorer] to do an anthology 
of criticism, sensing that this was a new thing. Mark, who 
realized that we had all the clippings [laughter] he had the 
invitation and we had the clippings suggested that really it 
should be done up by the English 100 staff. We tried that there 
were about six of us but it didn t work too well because we were 
too different in what we knew. Finally it was just agreed that 
Mark and Gordon and I would do it. That was a delightful year or 


Miles: two that we had, 47 to 48 or something like that, making up this 
anthology of literary criticism, which sold steadily for like 
twenty years, which is far longer than the life of the average 

Teiser: What s it called? 

Miles: It s called Criticism; The Foundations of Modern Literary Judgment. 
The phrase "Schorer, Miles, McKenzie" got to be quite well known. 
Often in my later life somebody would meet me and say, "Oh, I know 
you!" And I d think, "Aha! A reader of my poetry." And then 
they d say, "Schorer, Miles, McKenzie." [Laughter] 

Teiser: What year did it come out? 
Miles: Forty-eight, I think. 

Teiser: I don t find it in Stewart s book on the Department of English. 
He has a selected list of books by department members. 

Miles: Nobody s too impressed with anthologies. There are probably no 

anthologies there, are there? That was an influential anthology, 
though. But it was an anthology, which doesn t count for any 
particular credit or scholarly credit. 

Then, to finish up that trend of thought about teaching, we 
had to kill that course off about ten years ago because the 
younger men who came from the East to teach here and to teach it, 
hadn t learned it our way, and there were now too many of them in 
the flood of the sixties to patiently teach them how to do it. 
They had done, at Harvard or Yale or wherever they were, had done 
close reading, which in my rather biased version is that you ask 
the student to read the work, and then you ask a bunch of students 
to read the work, and then you tell them all where they re wrong 
and you tell them how to really read the work. That s close 
reading, and too much of that tends to kind of stultify individual 
enterprise. So we gave up English 100 as an introduction to the 
major. The only one of those basic courses that we still have kept, 
we kept a sophomore survey course and we also kept a senior seminar 
where you learn to write a long critical paper, and that s now 
where we do our teaching of criticism. Except for those who teach 

Teiser: What do you call "photomontage"? 

Miles: During the sixties we had lots of experiments and we had a couple 
of teachers of the senior seminar who did teach Macbeth via taking 
pictures of girls dressed up as witches and stuff like that. 
Didn t work all that well, I don t think. 


Teiser: [Laughter] After every war, you have these experiments, don t you? 
Miles: Yes. 

Teiser: Well, I still go back to this question that I m undoubtedly asking 
the wrong way. 

Miles: Oh, you mean you re asking something I m not answering? I m 
answering other things, huh? 

Teiser: I don t know whether you re evading it or [laughter] 
Miles: [Laughter] Try once more. 

Teiser: How did you learn what the order of characters was in the beginning 
of Hamlet? Did you read it for yourself and ask someone? Who told 
you that it was the changing of the guard? 

Miles: Jim Caldwell. 

Teiser: Somebody told you? 

Miles: Yes, just five minutes before the class. [Laughter] 

Teiser: How did you gain knowledge of Hamlet is what I really mean. In 
order to transmit it, how did you learn it? 

Miles: You see, the word "transmit" is the trouble. Teaching is not 
transmitting. Teaching, as the word "education" indicates, is 
evoking. So you give people clues as to how to read something, 
and then you ask them to read it, and then you discuss it with them 
after they ve read it, to see if they got the drift. 

Teiser: But if they re wrong, how do you get them on the right track? 

Miles: See, I don t believe they re ever that wrong. Those boys knew they 
were wrong because those intonations weren t getting them anywhere. 
It would be very sad if I_ had had to say they were wrong, but 
usually they re intelligent enough to figure it out. 

Teiser: And so you told them how to get straightened out? 

Miles: No, they figured it out. 

Teiser: They figured it was the changing of the guard? 

Miles: Yes. Are you asking about how to evaluate student work? 


Teiser: No. I m asking about the techniques of pedagogy. [Laughter] 


Miles: Well, if you want to stick to this word "transmit" I don t know 
where to go. 

Teiser: I see. All right, that answers it. 

Miles: I did give a bunch of lectures, but I always felt they were rather 
subsidiary. I mean they were just sort of subsidiary information 
to the student doing some work on his own. 

Going back to UCLA, what we were excited by and interested by 
were these lectures by Professors Longeuil and Campbell, and I m 
sure we learned a lot from them, which we tried to apply in other 
ways later. The difficulties, as I said, were often that, if other 
people didn t believe what they had told us, then we too were wrong. 
It s awkward. 

This very nice young professor, Carl Downes, who was never 
promoted because he didn t do any research, was the one that 
taught us how to write papers. That, however, was just at an 
undergraduate level. So we learned something from him. Then we 
learned mostly, I think, from each other, which is what students 
do anyway, in that this little group that I mentioned, when we 
were studying for the comprehensive, we went around asking each 
other, "How do you talk about a work?" In other words, I m saying 
what I said before; I m answering the same way again because it s 
the only way I know. We asked ourselves this question "How do 
you talk about a work?" and we didn t know the answer. We asked 
our teachers and our teachers said, "Well, just what we re telling 
you," that we d read our notes and they would say, "Keats was born 
in such-and-such a time, and St. Agnes Eve is a marvel of 
concision and gorgeous language." Well, this isn t what we meant. 
We wanted to know, "What is that, that that s a work there, that 
we can say something about as an identity, as an entity?" And the 
answer is I. A. Richards; I think he is the man who told us. 

Then we started applying his method when we came to Berkeley. 
We didn t get very far with it because he hadn t been adopted at 
Berkeley yet, except by Gordon McKenzie. Do you see what I mean? 
There was just a long, painful learning process. That s why I 
stress the fact that it was not only a learning process for us, it 
was a learning process for literary history in the country, in that 
social journals were changing to critical journals: Harper s and 
Atlantic were changing to Kenyon [Review] and Sewanee and Southern. 
Here was just a whole new type of stuff being written and 
discussed. We then entered into that, and then that s the way we 
taught . 

Students often would rebel against this and say that we were 
overdoing it, that we were always teaching them how to take a 
clock apart but never how to put it together again. That was the 


Miles: danger of the analytical method. The analytical method now has 
really run itself into the ground because, as I say, the danger 
of using the analytical method is that the professor thinks he s 
the only one who knows how to do it right; then you re excluding 
students from the process and you don t have much teaching going 

Also now the shift has grown toward student response. Now in 
the sixties and the seventies, there s a whole new school of 
criticism, which was sort of initiated at Berkeley 

[end tape 1, side 1; begin tape 1, side 2] 

Miles: The new young critics at Berkeley in the seventies got interested 
in an emphasis called reader response, or transactionalism. Paul 
Alpers, Stephen Booth, Ulrich Knoepf Imacher, Stanley Fish, and 
others were extremely interesting and getting together they were 
sort of our new generation, who are now the middle generation and 
they stressed the involvement of the reader in the work and the 
contribution of the reader to the work. This is good now, because 
the new critics tried to see the work as a work of art that we 
looked at at a distance and analyzed how all the parts fitted 
together. And now the proposal is that one of these parts is the 
reader s own contribution. This gets away from the danger that 
the student is left out of the analysis. 

Teiser: Do you think it s swung back to a good position, to a good point of 

Miles: It hasn t swung back. It s gone to a different point of view. It s 
a triangulation, or something like that. You could say it has 
swung back to Saintsbury in the sense that there s more subjectivism 
in it now. But it s not his kind of appreciative wine-tasting 
subjectivism. From his point of view, the reader would have to get 
in there and change the wine in the cask, you see, to make it 
appropriate to the present. 

There is a lot of new discussion of literary criticism now 
from new points of view. The anthology which we did in 1948 or so, 
and Brooks and Warren s anthology, all of which were vital for a 
couple of decades, are now really out of it. 

Teiser: Did the Brooks and Warren anthology appear before yours? 

Miles: Theirs was entirely different. Theirs was a "how to understand 
poetry," with a bunch of poems and how to read them. Ours was a 
collection of critical essays which talked about how to understand 
poetry, and ours came out of these literary magazines like Ken yon 
and Sewanee and so on. Brooks and Warren s essays were included 
among ours, but also [Lionel] Trilling and Kenneth Burke and all 
the new people. 




When did Edith Sitwell s anthology* appear? 
earlier, wasn t it? 

That was a little 

I think it came out about the same time as Aldous Huxley s, which 
was the late thirties. That s my feeling. 

Did Sitwell and Huxley have any effect upon people here? 

No I mean, not that I remember. Neither did Laura Riding and 
[Robert] Graves s Reader Over Your Shoulder, though that had more. 
But this was more really of an American thing, I think; it didn t 
seem much involved with England. Oh, it may have with some people, 
but it didn t cross my consciousness. And I know that the people 
from England that came and taught in our department and taught 
English 100 were just amazed they d never seen a course like that I 
They really thought it was strange, and they really liked it. The 
discussion of principles of evaluation with a group as a whole 
struck them as not at all cricket from the English point of view; 
it was neither tutorial nor lecture. I guess it was a kind of 
different thing that grew up here and other places around the 
country, very strongly at Yale. Yale has always been very big on 
literary criticism, with [Rene] Wellek and Warren. That s where 
Warren and Brooks went, and then Wellek was already there; he did 
a history of criticism. 

I remember once in a while I d be teaching an English 100 
criticism class, and students from the Yale criticism program 
would come to my class and challenge me tremendously because I 
never believed that the work of art was all that autonomous, was 
totally autonomous; I always wanted to keep relating it to other 
things a little bit strands of context. But at Yale they had 
studied strict autonomy. So we had some interesting fights. 

Also, Ruth, another answer to your question occurs to me. In 
the forties, at Berkeley, was a very interesting growth of a type 
of interest that flared up and died. It s almost dead now, as far 
as I know, but in the forties, perhaps running through the war, and 
parallel to these other magazines I mentioned, there was the 
founding of and the flourishing of something called the Aesthetic 
Society, which was discussion of literary principles and art 
principles. With Stephen Pepper and Will Dennes, and we had dinner 
at the Faculty Club every couple of weeks and had resoundingly 
interesting papers from people. Marguerite Foster, and the 

*Aspects of Modern Poetry. 
Ltd., 1934. 

London: Gerald Duckworth and Company 


Miles: Hungerlands; Isabel Hungerland was in the Philosophy Department, 
and her then-husband was teaching art at [California College of] 
Arts and Crafts, and Margaret Prall in music, and a couple of 
other painters whose names I forget, and what s the name of the 
man in industrial design in San Francisco that has the ferry boat 
office? Made a lot of money, did very well. 

Harroun: Walter Landor. 

Miles: Walter Landor. It was a group of about maybe twelve or so people 
who got together regularly and talked about problems of analysis 
and judgment in the graphic arts, and musical as well as literary. 
That group was really thriving, and we d go over to the city and 
see new shows at the art gallery. I remember seeing, for example, 
the first traveling show of Motherwell, Gottlieb, and Jackson 
Pollock. So that paralleled the readings at the Labaudt Gallery, 
and that helped a lot. You see, we were so interested in 
literature as an art rather than social history that we went into 
the other arts too to try to make comparisons. And that enforces 
my point, that this was a big shift, because this society was 
founded by us. The Aesthetic Journal I think then was founded by 
Thomas Monroe in Cleveland, working out of the Cleveland Museum of 
Art. It began about that time and has thrived since. But in 
Berkeley there are no meetings any more. 

Teiser: How long did they last? 

Miles: In the large group it lasted through the forties. In the small 
group we met at Katherine Rau s house; she was the philosopher. 
Will Holther and Pat Wilson and Diane O Hehir and Donald Weeks 
were various names. Karl Aschenbrenner was the real leader; he 
was in the Philosophy Department. We tried to write a book on 
metaphor. We were all reading each other s papers on metaphor. 
We finished our book, and we must have sent it to fifty places 
for publication. We never did get it accepted, because they said 
the essays were written too separately and didn t relate to each 
other at all, which is so funny because they were all written out 
of total relation to each other. But we never did manage to zero 
in on our audience. But that was an interesting phenomenon. 

Teiser: It was Pepper whose field aesthetics was, wasn t it? 

Miles: Yes. 

Teiser: Did any of the rest of you have it as a specialty? 

Miles: Karl Aschenbrenner. And Katherine Rau, Isabel Hungerland. 

Teiser: They were all in the Philosophy Department? 


Miles: Yes. Some of us did a lot more meeting with philosophers than we 
did with literary people for a while. You see, the other side of 
the literary field and I d better be sure to pick this up before 
I forget about it had begun in the thirties with the Marxist- 
Trotskyites-Stalinists and so on. This was very important at 
Berkeley, and very important in our department, and I just wasn t 
very much a part of it. I kept saying I wasn t interested in 
social problems. T.K. Whipple, and the people whom I didn t 
learn to work with, were on that side. He wanted social history. 

That developed in another interesting way. They developed 
a course called American Studies, both here and at Harvard, which 
was American history and politics and sociology and literature. 
It never did get aesthetic; it never did relate itself to art, 
it always related itself to social action. So, many of my friends 
here at Berkeley during my graduate years were fighting all the 
time about social problems. Many of the poetry meetings we went 
to, the thing would change from poetry to social fights, especially 
because J.S.P. Tatlock s daughter was a poet. She would come to 
the poetry readings. Her suitor was J. Robert Oppenheimer, and 
so he would come to pick her up. If he would settle in and stay 
awhile, then always things would turn to social issues. There was 
that whole side of my life that was kind of around me but I was 
not part of it where, for example, you d see the students marching 
up between Wheeler and the library, and Donald Mackay, who was a 
professor of philosophy, linked arms with the head of some labor 
union, and everybody would call everybody comrade, which we 
thought was very, very funny. 

I just want to mention, in other words, that there was a 
whole other driving force here besides the one that I kept getting 
involved in. That kept on being true in the department. George 
Stewart was in the social side. Jim Caldwell was an officer in 
the ACLU. A lot of the younger men in the department were active 
in that way, without much critical, theoretical interest, but with 
historical interest. 

Teiser: You said that earlier, so far as poetry was concerned, you had 
met Sara Bard Field and C.E.S. Wood, and so forth 

Miles: And they were on the social side. 

Teiser: They gave you your first view of it, was that it? 

Miles: My first view of what? 

Teiser: Of relating art to social 


Miles: I think so. I first read the New Masses in order to read their 

poetry, and I never did read the New Masses steadily. I think it 
was partly a pose; it was just something I didn t want to get 
involved in. I didn t like the long-line debate that went on, 
and it just wasn t a world I really got into. I got interested in 
social problems later, when they became more local.* 

Also, come to think of it, I had very dear friends in Los 
Angeles who did join the Communist party and who were sort of 
pilloried by all this and had to leave the country. It was a 
great mystery to me. Again, I never quite knew what it was all 

Oh yes, and also I taught in the Labor School in the city. 
I was supposed to teach a poetry class to longshoremen (this was 
in the mid-forties). Fortunately it was at the recommendation of 
Dean [Monroe E.] Deutsch, our very much admired classical vice- 
president, because that got me in a lot of trouble later, teaching 
at the Labor School; it was considered a Communist institution. 
What I taught at the Labor School was an evening class in poetry 
which was attended by about seventeen little old Berkeley ladies 
and one longshoreman. [Laughter] The wife of the head of the Ford 
Motor Company was there, and all sorts of nonlongshore type people. 
Let s see, Mrs. May was one of their names. Virginia Rusk. Elma 
Dean. I guess I can t remember all their names, but there were 
lots of interesting people in that. 

Teiser: But you were picked up in some security check, then, later? 

Miles: Yes, a certain amount. Really nothing to bother. It was just 
that it was all sort of laughable because I had no position 
whatsoever. Yes, they came around and asked me what I taught and 
what my principles were, and so on. 

Teiser: You said, when I was turning the tape just a little while ago, 

x not to get you wrong, that you did like to hear lectures. [Laughing] 
Would you say that again? I m not saying it right. 

Miles: Yes. I think big lectures are a great form of education. I do 

like them, and I go to them. It s just that I found so much need 
for the people in the lectures to know how to handle them better 
after they heard them that I just went where I felt the need, 
really. I think I lectured all right. I never lectured to more 
than about a hundred. 

During the forties also we were having to teach the marines 
in special assignment at Berkeley. These were really brilliant 
kids. We taught classes of seventy. So I taught freshman English 

*See page 104. 


Miles: in a class of seventy. Obviously, you re going to have to do quite 
a bit of lecturing there. Lehman developed, and we developed with 
him, a technique for calling on people, for reciting, and we had 
teaching assistants who were responsible for calling on people. 
So I did have a lot of practice in a sort of semi-demi lecture and 
in relation to recitation. I mean, I can certainly rattle on, and 
I have spent whole hours just telling people. As I get more full 
of memories, I do it more, and I don t really want to; the time 
should be theirs, I think. 

Teiser: We heard you give a very good lecture last year. 

Miles: Really? Oh, that was the* but I read that. That was just about 
the only time I ve ever done that. [Laughing] I ve seldom read 
anything before. I was just too scared to deliver that cold. 
Thought I d ramble too much. 

Teiser: You, more than perhaps others, have been interested and willing to 
give time to high school teaching concerns, have you not? 

Miles: Yes. This comes about in a special way. As I said before, I swore 
off of all teacher training because of the teacher I had at UCLA, 
and I stayed sworn off since our department was the same way. We 
had two men who were our liaison with education, Bert Evans and 
Jim [James J.] Lynch. They were friends of mine, but I didn t 
particularly well, they stressed love of literature; they stressed 
the sentiment of love of literature, which was okay. But in 1960, 
which was a year in which I felt sort of as if I d be interested 
in doing something different, I had some friends who were teacher 
supervisors. Their names were Jim [James R. ] Gray, Leo Ruth, and 
Ken Lane, and then there was Dick [Richard J. ] Worthen who was 
visiting here from Diablo Valley College. One of my friends Jim 
Lynch died unexpectedly at a department picnic of a heart attack. 
They developed a teachership in his honor, which was called the 
Lynch Fellowship. We invited high school teachers to come and 
work in our department with us. The first one who came was Dick 
Worthen, and so now develops through the sixties all this interest, 
which was a big matter of accident because of all that, because of 
Dick Worthen and Leo Ruth and Jim Gray. 

*The Faculty Research Lecture, 18 February 1976, titled 
"Where Have Goodness, Truth, and Beauty Gone?" 


Miles: In 1960 they had a meeting, which I remember, in 145 Dwinelle [Hall] 
where various people talked about writing and a lot of teachers came. 
Lots of teachers had been my former students, and it was very 
exhilarating because their questions were so good and the need 
seemed so great for discussion. They liked that meeting so much 
and asked if they could have more. I don t remember the sequence 
from then on, but I know that we also worked together in starting 
the California Association of Teachers of English, and the Asilomar 
conferences, and the chancellor had conferences at Berkeley. In 
other words, these young men were so active and energetic and 
interesting, and they drew me into this. I would never have gone 
by my own free will; I had not gone with Jim and Bert, their 
predecessors in the English Department, because Jim and Bert did it 
a different way. They did it, as I say, more by getting together 
and appreciating literature, whereas this was more a call to 
understand and learn how to teach writing and so forth it was more 

So through the sixties I went to lots of conferences and gave 
quite a few talks, published various papers. I think I ve written 
now maybe ten papers. I just got through some meetings this week 
Jim Gray now has had four years of very exciting things (there s 
probably not enough time to talk about it here, but maybe I should 
later, in relation to current work*). 

Courses and Students 

Teiser: Let s go back to a quantitative analysis of your teaching. Has it 
been an unusually large span of courses that you ve taught? 

Miles: Probably in the middle. Except maybe during the war, I never 

taught any drama or fiction. I decided I d quit meddling in some 
fields, and those would be drama and fiction. So I taught courses 
in poetry and criticism, and prose ^ plus writing. Over the years, 
in general, I guess, this would be my range of courses, though of 
course this isn t all in any one year. We re all asked to teach if 
we possibly can, and we do, a course in freshman composition each 
year, which I ve always enjoyed. So I ve done that. Then for a 
while I taught a sophomore course in Introduction to Language 
linguistics. That got so technical, with [Noam] Chomsky and later 
linguistics, that I blush to think that I was doing it, and I gave 
it up. But it was a very, very interesting course based on [H.A. ] 

*See pages 194-202. 





Gleason. I mean, it was technical enough, but it wasn t the new 
linguistics, so to speak. But in relation to the study of style, 
it was interesting. 

I seldom taught the sophomore survey because I don t believe 
in it. That would be an example of what you were asking me. That 
has to be discussional. But it s like the sampling and appreciating 
texts which I never liked in high school. (Though I did recently 
try a survey I liked called English Literature, 1501-2001 for the 
poor, fragmented graduate students.) So I skipped from the 
sophomore survey over to Introduction to Criticism, the junior 
course. Then also in about the same year would come a course in 
Versification, verse composition. Then also around in there is the 
History of the Lyric, which I taught for a long time. I loved that 
course. (I mention it specially because it was different from the 
others.) Then for a long time I taught senior seminars in a modern 

In the days when we first inaugurated this, we had great fights 
over what modern author we could possibly teach, and finally defined 
modern as being at least some short span dead, and that brought us 
to Yeats. I taught a senior seminar on Yeats for a while. Then 
they actually loosened up and let us teach T.S. Eliot and then 
Wallace Stevens. Then somebody taught Shaw and somebody taught 
Faulkner, and the whole thing opened up. Then every new young man 
or young woman who came here wanted to teach the senior seminar, 
and that was the great cry. So I quit it because I didn t care 
that much. It was fun, hard work and interesting. Nice to get the 
very best students in the department in that senior seminar, and 
nice to get very good papers. But it was a luxury, which they [the 
new people] needed and I didn t. 

Then in graduate work, I taught Introduction to Scholarly 
Method in a course called 200, which was always fought hard by the 
students and which, as soon as they got a chance in the sixties to 
do some strong voting, they abolished. I was not particularly the 
main teacher of it, but they didn t like it from anybody. A lot of 
chore work learning to do bibliography and so on. 

Is that the course you would have liked to have when you were a 
graduate student? 

Oh, absolutely. And necessary. They re all realizing, now that 
they ve lost it, that they need it. We have one young man that 
teaches it so well, and I think they re going to petition again to 
have him do it. But it s a lot of really heavy chore work. 

Then I taught a graduate course in Introduction to Criticism, 
and I guess my main seminar was in seventeenth century literature. 
I know I ve skipped something, but that s all I remember at the 
moment. It s kind of a span. Usually I like to teach almost every 
level of student every year, if I can. 


Teiser: Have some of those courses been connected with the series of works 
that you ve done that I think has just culminated in your 1974 
book, Poetry and Change? 

Miles: No. 

Teiser: That has not filtered over into your teaching? 

Miles: No. Many people say the same thing. Most of us, or a great many 
of us, agree that it s very hard to teach in relation to your 
research; because your research is way, way, way ahead of where the 
students are, and there s no point in trying to bring them up to it 
because they re not going to stay there. Even if you have a 
student helper that you re paying, which I did (I did do that; I 
paid students to do some of the word counting for me) , there was 
never any real desire on their part to ask my kind of question. 
Sometimes I d give them a lecture on what I was doing, and they d 
be interested. But there s just too much of a gulf. 

One time President [Charles J.] Hitch proposed that we all 
teach an extra course. This was a tremendous pressure on personnel 
during the sixties and seventies, and we were really strapped for 
money. Hitch had taken 110 jobs away from Berkeley and given them 
to other campuses, and he suggested that we make up for this by 
each teaching a freshman seminar in our field, without extra pay. 
He was just absolutely astounded at the loud silence that arose at 
that suggestion. I think I was one of the few that volunteered, 
but my purpose was to do it and to show him how absurd it was. 

Did you do it? 

Oh no. He didn t even get to first base with that one. It s not 
all impossible. I suppose this course that I taught, sophomore 
linguistics, was pretty close. But it took a whole quarter just to 
give them the rudiments! The rudiments was what the whole quarter 
was about. Plus, they had no motivation to do the particular thing 
I was doing. I think most of the faculty feels that. 

Teiser: On the other hand, you teach the writing of poetry. You haven t 
stopped writing poetry while you taught courses in poetry, have 

Miles: Oh no. Why would I? As I said, that s always kind of separate, 
because that didn t get tangled up in my teaching. Sometimes a 
poetry class will give me some ideas for some poems of my own; 
often it won t. I just can t tell. It s just unpredictable. 

Teiser: We have a friend who s an artist, George Post, who gives 

demonstrations to groups of people showing how you paint. You 
ought to give a demonstration how [laughing] to write a poem. 



Miles: I couldn t. I wouldn t know you mean go back and say of course, 
he s doing it right there, live. But I couldn t count on any idea 
developing in language. I suppose there s enough that he could do 
in sheer technique to get something on canvas. The closest to that 
is sometimes in the class everybody writes a ten-minute poem, 
something like that. 

Teiser: Do you write one too? 
Miles: Yes, I write one too. 
Teiser: I think that s sort of what I mean. 

Miles: But it s never any good. Usually half the class does better than 
I do. Some people do well quicker and other people do well slower. 

Teiser: Do you think people can learn to write poetry? 

Miles: Sure! [Laughing] How else you mean, can they be taught to write 

Teiser: That s what I mean. 

Miles: A class in composition gives them a bunch of opportunities, one, 
to do a lot of reading, which they might not otherwise have done, 
and two, to experiment and try things that they wouldn t normally 
do, and three, to interact with each other and learn from each 
other. There are lots more what are some of the others? A chance 
to make lots of mistakes and have them recognized as, "That s not 
the way I want to go," kind of thing. In other words, a class 
provides a context for experimentation, with echo answering yes or 
no or something. 

The bad things about poetry classes are, one, if the class is 
mean to each other, if there s too much laceration of feelings. It 
took me a long time to learn how to avoid that, and I think too many 
people today still don t avoid it. A kind of hurt in ego trips goes 
on from one student to another, especially during the early sixties 
when students were very rebellious. 

There s a lot of passion goes on, and a lot of, "I hate your 
work," part of which is ego tripping and part of which is trying 
to find out what you like and what you don t like. So I ve learned 
over the years a way that I do it, which nobody else does. I teach 
a class by having criticism anonymous for the first month, and also 
oral; I don t pass out mimeographed poems and I don t let them see 
the poems. I just read them to them in anonymous clusters, and I 
try to develop their ability to listen and comment. When they get 
to the point where they can say, "That poem really developed its 


Teiser : 

Miles: idea of a journey through space, except in that second line where 
it goes so-and-so," then I know they re at the place where I can 
let them go and get to know each other and criticize each other. 
There s a kind of good criticism that they can develop in about a 

Speaking of a month, I should also say that I ve experimented 
a lot with timing, and it s about the eighth week that s good. In 
class after class, after about a month they sort of get the idea; 
after eight weeks they are really helping each other; they are 
really good. And about the twelfth week, you ve got it. That s 
marvelous. Now we have the quarter system that stops in the tenth 
week. So teaching has become rather silly because the teacher 
never gets to see 

[end tape 1, side 2; begin tape 2, side 1] 

That tape ended. I cut you off. You said that ten weeks 

Yes. Usually in about the twelfth week they re really going well, 
and now that we have a quarter system you never get to see that, 
nor do they. They really just don t, because everything stops in 
the tenth week now, unless you re having a final exam where you 
can ask them to do the thing they ve been doing all quarter. Then 
sometimes now our finals are really superb. But I don t think 
this timing is just subjective. Many people have tried to go as 
fast as they can to get things to work, and it s like forcing 
digestion you just can t do it. To me, the quarter system is very 
bad, and there s nothing we can do about it now because the younger 
instructors even, to say nothing of the students, have all got so 
strong on this idea, "Get it over with fast," instant service, 
that I don t know what will ever give people enough seriousness to 
get back to the fifteen weeks, except maybe in some professional 
series like the law school; it is still on fifteen weeks. 

Teiser: Have you ever had two courses end on end? Did students ever 
continue then taking the same course the next quarter? 

Miles: Yes, and surprisingly enough the break happens there too. You lose 
them in the break and they come back, but you can t pick them up 
where they were. 

Teiser: Do you accept anyone in your poetry classes, any students? Or do 
you have certain requirements they meet before they re accepted? 

Miles: We never have enough, we never teach enough writing courses in our 
department, partly because we don t have the people to do it, and 
partly because our department has never been one that wanted to 
have a professional writing program. So they never seriously worked 


Miles: on staffing it. This is the main complaint students have about our 
department. They re still accepting this major that we set up in 
the middle forties, which I think it s about time they didn t. But 
they complain about the writing. 

We allow too many people to go through, petitioning time and 
time again to get into a section and then not getting in. The 
general method is to show some of your work to the professor, and 
then he lets in the fifteen or so that he thinks would profit most 
from the course. I haven t the foggiest idea how to tell who would 
profit most from the course, so I ve never done that. The very 
best writers sometimes are the ones who need the course least. 
Then, since I give the course in a particular way, with weekly 
assignments, it seems too elementary to them, so that I don t want 
to take the best ones. And the worst ones, of course, are kind of 
discouraging; when you see the bad stuff they ll hand in to begin 
with, it s not very inspiring to pick them. I ve never found 
"good" and "bad" a good basis of choice. Sometimes I ve tried 
taking everybody and getting two teaching assistants and trying to 
teach it as a mass course, which Ben Lehman taught us to do with 
freshman English. I don t think that s so bad. They re not all 
too thrilled with it because they get less personal attention. But 
I don t think that s the main purpose of the course anyway. I ve 
done that three or four times, and I m not unhappy with it. 

Mostly what I do is take people for whom it s going to be 
their last chance, either because they re seniors or because they re 
leaving next quarter or something like that. Some of the very 
worst candidates turn out surprisingly well, some of the best 
candidates couldn t care less, and so on. It s not a very 
satisfactory set of choices. 

Lately we ve been trying to fill a real demand, and we have 
five sections now just in poetry, or six or seven, where we had only 
one for many years. 

Teiser: How many students in each section? 

Miles: Oh, fifteen or twenty. And we re starting a sophomore section, 
and so on. 

Teiser: Do some students really just like to take courses in poetry all the 
way through college? 

Miles: Yes. Not many, but they like to write all the way through, yes. 
Teiser: Do you try to make way for them when you see they re really serious? 


Miles: Well it s hard to say. I doubt there are more than one or two 
like that in a quarter. Then I talk to them seriously about 
whether they think they need it; whether it s worth putting 
somebody else out, and so on. 

Teiser: [Pause] I am trying to decide whether we want to open up another 

Miles: Can of worms? 

Teiser: today. 

Miles: What is the can of worms? 

Teiser: Well, I think it would keep you too long if we start. It s the 

types of students and how they varied from decade to decade. This 
isn t so much in relation to actually what you ve taught them in 
the courses, but just the tenor of society as you ve seen it. 

Miles: Oh, that s easy to talk about. I could talk just maybe five or 
ten minutes about that. That would give us time. 

It s easy. I do think in decades. I don t know whether this 
is because of Bud Bronson s course way back then, or whether I got 
into that myself just as some way of dividing things up. It seems 
to me that roughly you can talk about decades as they worked. 
Everybody talks about the sixties, of course. 

Anyway, whether it s a decade or not, when I began teaching, 
it suddenly turned into war in 41. I began in 40, and within 
a year it got very heavy there, from 41 to 45. The University 
of California taught special brigades of marines who were 
stationed at International House, and we had to set up special 
programs for them. They were a delight. Oh wow, were they good! 
And caring 

Teiser: How do you account for that? 

Miles: Well, it was competitive to get in the marines in the first place 
then to keep from being drafted. They were eager beaver types, 
all running for student body president and running for this and 
that a lot of extracurricular activities and wanted to do well. 
And wanted to read everything. Everybody wanted to read Ulysses 
then, as a good freshman book. Of course, now they ve read 
Ulysses, so I don t know. But it was quite vivid then all the 
reading they wanted to do and talk about. 

Then, at the end of the forties came the GIs back from the 
war. They were another kind of delight. Instead of being eager 
beavers ("Let s try this and let s try that") they were mature and 


Miles: they knew what they wanted. Everybody that I know who remembers 

this agrees that from about 46 to 49 was a heavenly time. There 
were 23,500 people at Berkeley, and it seemed like two thousand; 
everybody knew everybody, everybody was friendly. We were doing 
these big freshman courses, but everybody knew everybody there. 
I still see many of those students. [Robert Gordon] Sproul was 
president, and a very friendly president. Everybody just seemed 
to be working hard to do the work he knew he wanted to do. 

Then like a great blast from above hit us the loyalty oath 
controversy, which came not from the students, as you know. It 
was from kind of an accident of the Regents beginning to worry 
about communism at that late date, and Mr. Sproul not 
understanding, and Mr. [James H.] Corley not understanding and 
saying, "Why, sure the faculty would be glad to sign a loyalty 
oath." Then the fat was in the fire. It was announced in June, 
after everybody left for vacation. Jim Caldwell was one of the 
first to see it, and formed a committee of six to fight it. 
Already by the time we got back in the fall, students were being 
quizzical, a little belligerent, "maybe you are a communist" kind 
of thing. If you said anything about mutuality, "do you mean 
mutuality even with Russia?" kind of challenging like this. 

It was not bad, but the faculty was thrown way over on the 
defensive. It was very slight, but there was a kind of heaviness 
to the early fifties, as I remember, a heaviness of the students, 
and I can t quite explain it. After all this wonderful light- 
heartedness and strength we had, they were harder to teach. Maybe 
it was a time of doubt for the whole country. It wasn t for us, 
especially; you see, this had nothing to do with us. If we d been 
thinking about communism, it was ten years back. Nobody was 
thinking about it now. Everybody thought it was old fashioned: 
Why bring that up, for heaven s sake? It was so out of date, and 
we couldn t help but get impatient. Some of us, [Edward N. ] Barnhart, 
Isabel Hungerland, and I started a quarterly of faculty essays, 
Idea and Experiment, to communicate with our alumni. A wonderful 
response for four years, even support from Sproul. But the Alumni 
Association called us Communists and killed it. We flatter 
ourselves it improved the alumni death notices, though. 

Alex Sherriffs organized a bunch of seminars at night, and we 
all went around to the Y and the dorms and this and that, and those 
were not very good conversations. The students knew nothing and 
we didn t know much either. We had little conversations on things 
like censorship, and we weren t prepared and they weren t prepared. 
It was an effort to bridge gaps. We didn t even understand the 
reason for the gaps. 

Teiser: All just because of the loyalty 


Miles: Yes, but that in itself was secondary to McCarthy and I suppose 

to maybe citizens doubts. In other words, the doubts that should 
have come up ten years ago about communism, if there were any, were 
now just getting around to the public and operating. 

Maybe I remember this partly because we were also in a new 
building, Dwinelle Hall, which is kind of a factory-type building. 
So the atmosphere physically wasn t so good; all the seats were 
pasted down and various things were artificial about it. 

Then that eased off and everything went along very nicely 
until there was a cumulative force there in HUAC, and the students 
were all wanting to go to jail and wanting to be dragged down the 
steps of the [San Francisco] City Hall and so forth, and very bellig 
erent. Now they were turning their belligerence not only to us but 
to the outside world. And I did have poetry classes where, as I said, 
I thought they were too hurtful to each other. This wasn t just 
me. Not too long ago, a student came back out of the blue from 
somewhere where he was working at a job in New Hampshire, and came 
back and said, "I would like to take you out to dinner and explain 
why 1 said all those awful things to Mary Ann Jones in that class." 
You know, it haunted him all this time. I wasn t strong on this. 
I didn t stop it; I tried to let it overflow and let itself out. 

Now we began getting the beginning of the hippies and drugs. 
Aldous Huxley came to the campus, and everybody cheered him, and 
they came in and pounded their fists on the desk and said, "Okay, 
you heard what Aldous Huxley said, that irrationality is better 
than rationality, and drugs are better than tea and coffee, and 
what are you going to do about it? You re supposed to be teaching 
us, and yet you re surely teaching us rationality, and that s 
wrong." So there was this kind of challenge. 

Gradually in the sixties, then, this developed into a really 
most glorious time in teaching for me. Many people say not. But 
I had got all these little things three, four, five years earlier 
because I was teaching writing and I was getting more personal 
response earlier. In the early sixties, they were looking for an 
enemy, really. These kids were looking for somebody to fight, and 
they found this in the war in Vietnam justifiably, but I mean 
they were very feisty, and they had no place to go. I don t know 
what was wrong with the public in the late fifties, why it was so 
suspicious and why it wasn t getting good work out of I just 
really have never been able to figure out. In other words, their 
parents hadn t quite sent them to school with the right spirit, 

As they began worrying about the war and worrying about social 
problems, they began to lean on their teachers and ask for help and 
advice and teaching and extra courses, and "Please give us an extra 


Miles: course in the Bible" and whatever. Education for them became a 
kind of solace for all this uncertainty. 

Again, it s a little late and a little odd because in the 
fifties I had got interested in politics through the Grassrooters, 
through grassroots movements against well, you know community 
groups grew up through the PTA and the Democratic party. Got 
integration in Berkeley, and the famous San Mateo grassroots group 
and so forth. Things worked through PTA s community action. So 
in the late fifties I had worked very hard in this kind of thing 
telephoned everybody to get out and vote. This particular 
neighborhood is full of Democrats, but they re southern Democrats, 
so I never had very good results. [Laughing] 

Students politics, then, followed on my politics, so to 
speak, and wiped mine out. What we had done and I was only a 
small part of it what Jack Kent and Jim [Whitney] , good leaders 
of the Democrats in Berkeley, and Byron Rumford, and Carol Sibley, 
who was head of the school board when it was integrated they had 
achieved a turn-over from conservative to liberal control in 
Berkeley. We d sent our first Democratic Congressman, who was 
[Jeffery] Cohelan, substitute for [John Joseph, Jr.] Allen, who 
was a very bad person. So we were sort of happy, you see. 

But then the new young teachers came in from the East, and 
the new students came in, in the early sixties, and said, "That s 
just ghastly, all you liberals! You ve done all these compromises. 
Throw all these people out! Vote against Rumford, vote against all 
these people. It s got to get worse before it gets better. We ve 
got to get rid of Governor [Edmund G. , Sr.] Brown," (who we thought 
was a very good governor), "we ve got to start over and wreck 
everything before we can save it." You would have thought that 
this would have been very hard on us, and it was. Institutionally, 
the neighborhood groups were killed off in Berkeley and defeated, 
and all sorts of really radical people were elected. But on the 
other hand, the students were at the same time very loving about 
all this, and sort of saying, "You re a liberal, and that s not a 
good thing to be; you ve got to be a radical. But we know you 
meant well, and we ll teach you more about it if you ll teach us 
more about Milton." 

So it was a very lovely time for teaching. I taught more 
students, more fast, more motivatedly, more with their aid and 
help than ever before. They d like to come to your house. I 
happened to have a room at school, in Wheeler Hall, that was right 
on the fighting line, and at the time of day, too, which was two 
to three to four o clock. We had lots of tear gas lobbed into our 
room, we had lots of rifles stuck into our room. It was a really 


Miles: war-like situation, and sometimes none of us felt we could take it, 
though we always got orders from the chancellor to stay in our 
rooms. He didn t stay in his room, I say bitterly, but we were all 
asked to. 

I feel bitter about the University of California administration 
during the sixties. The faculty was just thrown on its own and 
given no support or help whatsoever. The students would vote to 
come over here and we d meet out on the patio, and the helicopters 
would come down and scan us from about two feet up, and the kids 
would throw those camellias at them. It was a very dramatic time 
in which my sympathies were so much with the students. I didn t 
see the ones that broke the windows and did the [damage] . I just 
saw the writing classes and the kids who were trying to learn some 
thing in the courses. 

I mention Milton because Milton was marvelous in this time 
the whole sense of war in heaven and rebellion against authority. 
They would learn whole passages of Milton by heart at this time. 
I would ask them to go home and talk things over with their parents. 
They d talk to their parents and come in and say, "I talked to my 
dad, Jo" here s where they started calling you by your first name 
"and my dad said, I don t believe it. You can t tell me what you 
say is true. 1 I d say, Put my mom on. My mom would come on and 
she d say, Don t tell me. I can t believe it. So would you 
write a letter to them? Would you write a letter explaining that 
I was just going around the corner of that building, and I didn t 
know the police were on the other side of the street, and I didn t 
know I was walking into a barricade. I was just going to pick up 
a milk shake." This was the story over and over and over. It was 
just a really exhilarating time, because of students energy and 

This time was also very hard. My mother had had heavy, severe 
strokes at this time, and I had to have lots of help. She was 
frightened by the helicopters, and often we were told we had to 
leave town; we had to leave the street, which was always being 
bombed with tear gas, and we d have to get her out some place. It 
was very hard. The army you read about these experiments the 
army bombed us with tear gas that was not correctable with the 
usual antidotes, so that the eye, ear, nose, and throat men couldn t 
tell us what to use. (I mean I know I have a bum throat now from 
all that tear gas I swallowed.) The cops would bomb us in our 
rooms I And I would say, "Hey, I can t get out of here fast enough. 
If you throw that grenade in here, I m going to swallow all of that 
stuff," and they would throw it because my students were in there. 
So it s a time which had a great deal of adrenalin and antagonism 
and excitement involved. 


Miles: The students would get together to raise money to leaflet their 
constructive work. You always hear about the glass breaking, but 
they raised lots of money to leaflet in the suburbs. My students 
made two or three magazines, which they wrote and printed and 
collated out there on the patio, and stapled, and took out and 
sold. A thousand copies, sold for a dollar a copy. They d sell 
every one, they d get about at least $800, and they d buy anti- 
Cambodia leaflets, and they d go out to San Leandro and they d 
talk to people, then come back and tell about their conversations 
which were lovely! I mean, so much positiveness of the sixties 
will some day I hope come out. Nobody wants to hear it yet. My 
hope is that these kids will be the leaders in the eighties, and 
the eighties will be a very good time, because they ve been through 
the wars, they re experienced, and they re very good at working 

Sometimes we d meet at night at a boy s house, a basement 
apartment over on the other side of the campus. Denise and Mitch 
Levertov sometimes came. One time I remember it got cold and he 
closed the door, and there was an absolute arsenal behind the door! 
Just everything all sorts of guns, bombs, just everything. And I 
said, "I don t think we ought to stay here. Some of those might 
go off." He said, "Those belong to my roommates," and in came 
these two great big black giants and said, "We re going to use 
them right now," and took them all out. Agh! [Laughter] But one 
of those fellows is still now a social worker in Berkeley, working 
with the drug kids, trying to rescue the drug kids. 

Then that drug thing came in too at the end of the sixties, 
early seventies. Again, we got no help. Isabel Hunger land and I 
both had students that we knew were really terribly sick. We asked 
the chancellor (who was a good friend of hers, but not necessarily 
of mine) how to handle these kids in our classes. He shrugged his 
shoulders and walked away. We just didn t know enough to know how 
to handle all the problems we had. I had a kid who insisted on 
jumping out of the window every day, and it was too far a jump; he 
didn t break his leg right away, but eventually he would. There 
it really took the class to figure out how to handle him, and they 
did. I have the greatest admiration for the osmosis with which 
these students worked. If I would say, "We ve got to meet again 
next week an extra time. Who would vote for Wednesday? How many 
would rather have Thursday?" they wouldn t raise their hands. 
They d just say, "Don t hassle us." They d sit there quietly and 
then somebody would say, "Monday night," and they d all nod and 
walk out. It was odd. It was a kind of ESP, which I hope they 

So now we re at the seventies, and I don t know. Their 
strongest quality is panic over jobs and panic over grades that 
lead to jobs. It s very hard to teach people that have to have A s. 


Miles: The whole grade system has got torn up. Not that I believe in 

grades, but I don t believe in making them a mockery either. So 
far, just what I ve been able to do is to tell them what my 
grading would normally be, and then tell them what it would be 
in terms of school averages, and then ask them what they want to 
do about it. So far they ve been mostly until this last class 
they ve been very good. They ve said, "Well, we ll just have to 
work hard enough to raise it from where you re putting us to where 
we want to be," which was fine response. But when you re always 
thinking about that "This poor guy is now working to get this up 
from a B- to a B+ for law school" kind of thing it s a rather 
external way of working. 

I just have a feeling that students, in the last three or 
four years, are desperate about ways and means, and quite 
uncurious. Lack of curiosity is the main problem. Maybe they ve 
just had too much trouble. I don t know. Maybe not enough. 

[end tape 2, side 1] 


INTERVIEW IV -- 28 July 1977 

English Department 
[begin tape 1, side 1] 

Teiser: Let me put on the tape that last week Benjamin H. Lehman died* 
[on 23 July 1977], and you called to tell us, after the last 
interview. . . 

Miles: That I was thinking more about the department and scholarly 

interests than I was about poetry at that point, because I was 
talking to so many friends about his death. So we agreed to talk 
more about that today. 

Teiser: Shall I ask you some things about the personal structure of the 
department when you came into it? 

Miles: The personal structure how do you mean? You mean the people in 

Teiser: Yes. As I understand it, about when you were appointed instructor, 
a man named [Guy] Montgomery was chairman. It sounds as if 
everyone agrees he was not very effective as a chairman, and it 
wasn t until he was replaced that the department came out of a 

Miles: I think it was true of the whole university, in a way; that is my 
impression. Of course, Physics was going great guns, and English 
was doing very well with Tatlock, Brodeur, Whipple, and so on. In 
other words, when I was here as a graduate student, everybody had 
a pretty interesting sense there were lots of good and strong 
people here. But I guess there wasn t much sense of coherence in 
the department; that s why I didn t have a sense of coherence 
either. When Merritt Hughes suggested, when he went away, that I 

*And Mark Schorer a little later, as Peggy Webb s daughter was 
married, the Raleighs daughter engaged, and Carol and Larry 
Sklute s son born. J.M. 


Miles: work with Lehman, it was such a surprise, because he was being a 
prophet at that point, to see that that s where a lot of energy 
would come from in the department. I think the stories were that 
people hadn t been promoted for a long time, but this was the 
Depression. It was this coming out of the thirties. And there had 
been certain quarrels in the department that were known, but not 
what they were about exactly, at least not by the younger people. 
They had these new younger people, Caldwell, Bronson, and so on, 
who hadn t had time to do much yet. So I would say there was a 
strong sense of a future and of a lot of action, but not, as I say, 
much of a center. 

When Ben Lehman became chairman in 45, he had in a sense I 
think already been chairman; I mean, he d been head of the graduate 
students, or something like that. He was turning his energy to the 
department, away from his European trips and his novel writing. 

Teiser: Let me interrupt and tell you what he said in his interview. He 

indicated that because the previous chairman had been reluctant to 
entertain people and get people in the department together in that 
way, he had rather stepped in and taken that function on. Were you 
aware of that? 

Miles: Yes, I was. I was a little hesitant to go to those 
Teiser: During the time that Montgomery was still chairman? 

Miles: Yes, this was in the early forties. I believe I made a big mistake 
by not going to a big party that Walter Morris Hart gave for the 
whole department, which was supposed to be quite a landmark. I 
thought of myself as a very kind of peripheral person. It was 
vacation time, and I was out in the country having a vacation, and 
I didn t come in to this party. That turned out to be [laughing] 
kind of a mistake, which shows how seriously they took that party. 

Also Jim Cline was chairman for two years before he left to 
take a position in the East, and I know he tried too to bring the 
department together more. We had more meetings. He tried to have 
us meet at the Men s Faculty Club, but he ran into trouble there 
because they didn t want to let me in. 

Te i s er : Women 

Miles: Yes. So Ben had meetings at his house in the evening and I remember, 
when they turned out to be fairly serious business meetings, I did 
go, and that was very exciting because it was fairly new for the 
department. Also, a little later, when he recruited new people, in 
45, 46, and so on, he had them to his house and gave them very 
serious talks about their responsibility to the department. This 


Miles: has always meant a great deal to them. In other words, he 

represented a kind of Biblical authority in setting up a sense or 
image of the responsibility to the department, the nature of the 
department as a whole, and was very strong on getting everybody to 
be interested in writing and research. 

I remember maybe it was about 48 or 49, some place in 
there three members of the department got Guggenheim awards in 
the same year. This was a big thing to Ben, and he went to Robert 
Gordon Sproul and said wasn t this a big step forward? Sproul 
said yes and invited us all to dinner. So there was a great deal 
of joyful enthusiasm about steps forward, which is very good. The 
quality of showing interest in and appreciation for what your 
colleagues are doing is a quality that surprisingly few people have. 
I often look around now and wonder how much noninterest seems to 
operate in administrators. I kind of wonder that people get 
anything done, because nobody particularly seems to cheer them on. 
Ben did an amazing amount of that. 

On the other side, he was also very negative. If he didn t 
think people were doing much, he suggested that there was a good 
inexpensive ticket on the next train east. He was very bad to 
people, very unfair to people, he didn t like. Unfair in the 
sense that he made up his mind, and then it either went one way or 
the other pretty extremely. 

So we all worked very hard. The new people who came in well, 
do you want me to tell a little bit more about who was in the 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: From my point of view, there was that Medieval group that was 

strong; there was an American literature group which was strong. 
George Stewart was beginning to write novels now, which was 
exciting, because he had been into Middle English and metrics 
before that. I d become a friend of his through that material. 
Then he wrote East of the Giants which was, I thought, a very good 
book, and maybe his first historical fiction before the famous one. 
Then there were the young men in criticism, as I say, who hadn t 

I think the department was hard to define; that s the whole 
trouble, it was hard to define. 

Also, while I d been away as a graduate student, when I came 
back the department had been sort of wiped out. There d been five 
deaths. The great one was Harold Bruce, whom I d never met (he d 
been away most of the time I was here) , but also everybody just 
loved Harold Bruce. John Ross hadn t died, but he d gone to UCLA. 
And who else? [Thinking] 


Teiser: A man named Robert P. Utter? 

Miles: Utter had been struck by a eucalyptus branch, walking home from a 
conference. And two or three others whose names I can t say now. 
Anyway, these were ones I hadn t known, so it didn t make too much 
difference to me. To me it was, "Okay, let s get going on the 
department I know." 

I think what happened then, in 1945, when I was telling you 
about this reorganization of the curriculum by a vote of the 
department, what that reorganization did was to center things in 
a methodology of study, which was what Ben Lehman was interested 
in. He had the phrase he used a lot in scholarship, to try to 
create "the image of the work." And that, as you can see, was a 
kind of new criticism because it focused on the individual work. 
He didn t particularly care what field that was in. So the 
emphasis on chronology was a little lessened, and the emphasis on 
methodology was a little increased. So we still had our medieval 
historical, eighteenth century, nineteenth century, and twentieth 
century tendency. George Stewart led a fight to call American 
English, to call English literature both American and British. 
Ben supported him on that, and some of the members of the depart 
ment bitterly opposed, if you can believe it, calling American 
literature English literature. We had some of our more foolish 
faculty meetings on this subject. They were some of the earliest 
ones I went to, and I never could believe my ears what we were 
quarreling about I 

That was one of the few major issues we ever quarreled about, 
and it was finally settled by deciding to use the word British 
for purely English and for the British Isles, and then to use 
English when you meant both. Since most of us by that time wanted 
to talk about both together and didn t want even the separation, 
George s fight for American literature per se already seemed a 

little outmoded, 

But anyway, that s one rather foolish fight we 

Another one that came a little later, but I mention it now 
because it was our other major one, was on linguistics. Our 
department is called a department of English language and 
literature, and that really meant to stress language as well as 
literature. In the old days, that was philology, and when I was a 
graduate student we took a lot of philological courses in the 
background of the English language. For example, Anglo-Saxon, and 
old French, and old High German, and old Norse, and so on. Those 
weren t much liked by anybody, and they were gradually eliminated, 
and the whole study of language rather faded. But there were 
always fights about having to have Latin, and about the language 
requirements in general. 


Miles: Then linguistics developed, a fascinating new subject. Ben brought 
Dave [David W.] Reed here from Michigan, who was a standard, rather 
mechanistic linguist going to work on an area study of linguistic 
usage. So Dave, single-handed, in his puristic way, nonmentalistic 
way, as they called it, held back any speculative studies for a 
long time. That s just the way he was, and that s the way the 
Linguistics Department was too. That made me very restive because 
I wanted, and some of us wanted, to study language more in relation 
to literature. But that would have been called mentalistic. 

We finally did get more linguists, a well-known linguist by 
the name of James Sledd, who was a real opponent to whatever was 
going on; he constituted himself the opponent to that. And 
Sheldon Sacks, who was a student of his. Sheldon Sacks was a 
wonderfully strong influence toward speculative linguistics in the 
department. But when Sledd left, in dislike of our department, and 
because of a big job elsewhere, Shelly I think felt it was good to 
leave too, went to the University of Chicago, and now publishes a 
very distinguished critical journal. 

That whole episode in the fifties was our other major 
argument, in which we had many meetings debating the development 
of the field of linguistics in relation to literature. It s still 
fascinating, and it ll take more distance to articulate it. I 
still read the journals. Literary people are still discomforted 
by the mechanisms of linguistics. On the other hand, they are too 
discomforted; they don t learn enough from what linguistics could 
teach them. 

In the next decade I think we had the famous Chomsky here. 
We went to his lectures in Engineering, to engineers, and we really 
worked hard. We had a group that met here at my house for a long 
time to study language and literature. That group continued. We 
took in some anthropologists, and we met for lunch at the Golden 
Bear I forget how often and talked about linguistic and 
literature problems. It s interesting how hard we worked and how 
little progress we made. 

Teiser: Who was in that group? 

Miles: A couple of linguists (I haven t prepared my mind to remember their 
names, unfortunately). Shelly [Sacks] was in it, and later Julian 
Boyd, when he came to our department, and John Gumperz from 
Anthropology, Dell Hymes from Anthropology, who had to leave here 
for the same reason of not developing a real central support for 
the subject. So it wasn t just in our department. And Charles 
Fillmore, who came to our department, finally went into Linguistics. 
The whole thing was very uneasy. I went to more meetings, day and 
night, of the Linguistics Department, under Mary Haas, trying to 


Miles: make it work for me, and also in terms of computer technique and 
so on, and they never reached out a hand to me in any way. I 
mention these negatives because otherwise I would sound too 
cheerful when people did try to reach. They didn t reach out a 
hand to literary people at all. Fillmore, when he left our 
department, said he had to leave us because we wouldn t talk to 
him. And yet we all were asking him, we wouldn t talk to him, 
but he felt he didn t talk the literary language. This is a split 
between language and literature that s fascinating to me, and it s 

Teiser: Mary Haas? 

Miles: Mary Haas was head of the Linguistics Department. 

Teiser: This is my ignorance. I didn t realize that there was a separate 
linguistics department. Had there always been? 

Miles: No. No, I think David Reed helped found it, again, in discomfort 
about English literary studies. In other words, the literary 
people did not support linguistics as enthusiastically as they 
could and should have. I wanted to, but didn t quite know how, 
and they never helped show me how, and some in our department 
thoroughly, just blindly, I thought, closed their eyes and fought 
it because they felt disaster lay that way, into mechanism. As a 
matter of fact, I think they were right. In other words, it still 
hasn t come about that the linguists can help. 

Teiser: The Linguistics Department encompasses all comparative linguistics, 
in all languages? 

Miles: Yes. In fact, it took in the discomfited from almost every other 
department. [Laughter] It s a very interesting phenomenon you 
could talk about it for hours because it s a history of human 
thought where everybody has a certain amount of good will, 
interest, and drive forward, and is constantly stymied by some 
lack of understanding, common goals, communication. It s still 
going on today, even in a little magazine called Style that I 
contribute to sometimes, which is published in the Middle West and, 
as you can tell by the title, is certainly an effort at compromise. 
But it is always, the articles are always full of complaints from 
the linguists that the literary studies are too messy, and from 
the literary people that the rigors of the linguists aren t 
pertinent to literary studies. 

To me this just isn t true. My belief, going back to my 
early research, is that language is the material of literature and 
literature is an art , and all you have to do is talk about the 
relation of art to its material. I don t see any problem. 


Teiser: What happened when that book [S.I.] Hayakawa wrote* became 

Miles: Well, that s a different trend. The English Department always 
had certain waves of interest in teaching freshman English, and 
one of them was semantics, and a number of people did teach 
Hayakawa s book. I taught it for a while. It was okay. It was 
good for its time. 

Teiser: Was it not very elementary? 

Miles: Yes, it was elementary. In those days, any kind of methodology 
of scrutiny was rare, because everything before had been the 
methodology of appreciation. This goes back to Saintsbury again. 
So any methodology of analysis and description and study and 
objectivity was really quite new. The trouble with linguistics 
was it was so objective as to be unrelatable to literary procedures. 

Anyway, I guess we solved the American-British problem. We 
never did solve the linguistics-literature problem; it s still 
strong today. We have now a young man of great inspiration and 
fun who s not a practical leader, so again linguistics hasn t 
developed for us, though everybody likes him and likes what he 
does with it. His name is Julian Boyd. Do you want to ask me 
something, or shall I go ahead? 

Teiser: Go ahead. 

Miles: I was just going to say that the other quarrel that we ve had is 
right in the middle of the whole history of English literature 
eighteenth century where fewer students want to work and where we 
have some very interesting scholars. We have a real split as to 
what that century is all about, and that has caused us some 
degree of trouble, and still does. That s kind of interesting, 
there again: there s a whole era of English literature to be 
described where we divide in how we describe it. So we don t even 
recognize each other s descriptions of some of the materials 

I mention these splits because, on the whole, the English 
Department has never torn itself apart about personalities or 
problems, but it has had some very interesting ideological debates 
which have caused I think productive results in that they raise 
questions for people. The whole thing I mentioned last time about 
readership as a function in criticism, that the younger men have 
raised that too has been very productive. Some have disagreed on 
that, though as a whole I think those younger men have won the 
department over to that approach. 

*Language in Action. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1941. 


Miles: To come back, then, to Ben [Lehman], the most important thing I 
think to say about him in all his tenure of office was that his 
function was always to encourage these debates and these 
differences and these individual productions. He was exceptionally 
good at finding out what somebody wanted to do, and then helping 
him do it. He was not an easy man to describe or to get along 
with. As you know, he had quite a reputation as a playboy in his 
youth, and when I came here I couldn t imagine working with him. 

I think when he took on the job of chairman he was almost 
abashed because he didn t think of himself in that role well, 1 
guess he did speculatively, but I mean in the past he wouldn t 
have been in that role. I think in the department there was a 
good deal of gossip that he d been appointed to this job by Sproul 
because he and Sproul got along. 

Whatever the story was, he really shaped, for five years 
shaped the department into a pattern of operation which would allow 
for everybody to have what he called his window on the sea, which 
is a rather romantic term but which is a very good thing to do: 
that every young person who came here had a course that he wanted 
to teach more than anything else. The whole policy was letting 
you do something you wanted to do very much, and then asking you 
to operate, in terms of staff courses, the way the staff operated, 
and have lots of meetings to make the staff course work as a course. 
That made some good strong ribs in the department; people worked 
together enough there that they knew each other; they weren t just 
all isolated from each other in their own fields, because everybody 
taught two or three, or even four staff courses the central core 
of freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior courses which I 
mentioned before. 

That s really about the main thing to say about him, aside 
from the fact that he went back, with others of his colleagues, and 
did pretty interesting recruiting. He brought Mark Schorer and 
John Raleigh and John Jordan who are some other people I should 
mention? My mind stops at that generation, but I m sure he got 
younger ones too. And he was good at spotting people with energy 
and with interest. He developed in the department very much a 
sense of the department as a unit, as a working unit. 

At the end of his tenure, the problem of the loyalty oath 
struck, and I believe George Potter was chairman. George Potter 
was a very nice, quiet man easily hurt (Ben was quite a bit 
tougher) . George was so hurt by the hatchet men coming to his 
office door and telling him to tell everybody to leave their 
classrooms if they didn t sign this contract that he sort of 
retired from the fighting field. Ben, who was really not that 
opposed to the administration, nevertheless supported the will of 
the department, which was an example of his flexibility. 


Miles: He had an interesting thing he used to say. He said he was not a 
man of principle. He thought principles really wiped people out, 
because they were always forcing them on situations where they 
didn t fit. He was a pragmatist; he found out what was needed and 
then tried to do it. And that was true, because it included other 

Would you like to ask me something there? 

Teiser: Yes. I can read you a passage from his interview* that concerns 
you and also concerns an idea of his that you just mentioned. 

"These young doctor candidates in the period I am 
speaking of" and I think this is the late thirties "turned 
out works, every one printed, every one of distinction. 
Finally, in the 1950s they decided to make an honor volume 
of Festschrift. Each of them contributed an essay and 
published The Image of the Work; Essays in Criticism. I 
cite this again, I hope in no vainglory, because it is 
evidence of how, in those decades, a university professor s 
time and energies were absorbed in something that was at the 
same time teaching and research. 

"What lay behind this volume was that in the seminars I 
always insisted that if they could raise in a reader s mind 
one fully understood image of a work, they were equipped to 
go ahead and do whatever they wished in the way of a 
dissertation. The result of that was that when Josephine 
Miles had a very original idea, which has made her a world- 
famous figure as of this date, and my colleagues in other 
fields in which she wanted to work wouldn t let her undertake 
the enterprise that begins with the statement of emotion in 
Wordsworth. . .1 gladly let her do it, because she had done a 
paper on the image of the work, and I said it was evidence of 

"The whole business of the image of the work was a 
fairly new, certainly a fresh, statement for us here at the 
University of California in Berkeley, and affected the nature 
of our graduate studies." 

*See interview with Benjamin H. Lehman, Recollections and 
Reminiscences , Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, 
University of California, Berkeley, 1969. 


Miles: Yes, I would agree with all that. I ve been stressing here the 
difference between the historical approach at UCLA, which was 
called sources and analogues and here at Berkeley too, though I 
wasn t here then (I wasn t an undergraduate here then) and then 
in the forties the development of the so-called new criticism. 
This was Lehman s version of the new criticism, this "image of the 
work." It was the way he taught it, and it was very effective, 
because he was good at helping one develop that image. 

Teiser: This interview reflects what must have been a very great interest 
in and enthusiasm for original ideas and original approaches. 

Miles: That s right, that s right. That was true not only of the 

teacher but of the administrator. I ve seldom seen an admin is t rat or- 
this is what we ve all been saying as we ve talked about him after 
his death we ve all been saying that we ve seldom seen administra 
tors who have a concept of administration which is to help good 
ideas get going. That s a good concept of administration. Why it s 
so rare, I do not know. But that s the one he had. 

[end tape 1, side 1; begin tape 1, side 2] 

Teiser: I wanted to ask a little about Walter Morris Hart. I think both 
Stewart, and Lehman in a way, indicate that he was a very strong 
figure in the department after he stopped being head, and that his 
influence continued. I gather that he was not considered a very 
great department head but that he did have an ability to find good 

Miles: You mean in the university as a whole? 
Teiser: To bring into the English Department. 

Miles: Oh. It s just a world I don t know about. He was teaching a 

seminar in Shakespeare when I was here, and everybody I knew was 
afraid of him because he had a very biting tongue. I can t even 
remember now the stories, but there were lots of stories about his 
severity. He was a great friend of Ben Lehman s and I think he 
was probably extremely influential in advising Ben Lehman in 
operations, with Robert Gordon Sproul. But that s a world I don t 
know anything about. 

What he had done earlier what I mentioned way back some 
place they had decided to make this a real English Department, 
and by "real English Department" they mean everybody should have 
a Ph.D. to make it an orthodox national department. So they let 
go their brilliant young writers who had only M.A. s Jack [W.W.] 
Lyman, Jack Lyons, Robert Penn Warren maybe as a student, and 
others whose names I don t remember. This caused a great stir 
because these men were very central to the department in I don t 
know when late twenties, maybe? 



Miles : 

Miles : 

Miles : 

I gather and I ve never quite re-created all this that in the 
late war years, say from 15 to 25, something like that, when 
[Charles Mills] Gayley was chairman and I suppose Hart was maybe 
under him and a friend of his, probably there was a great 
flourishing at a very high level of what would be a good word to 
use? Sentiment? It s hard for me to define because I haven t 
been able to tune in on it. Anyway, Witter Bynner was here, and 
there was enthusiasm for literature in a world way. Gayley could 
give courses in the Greek Theater, and Bynner gave courses in the 
Greek Theater, and they filled the place, and so on. The Greek 
Theater itself functioned. It was a time of this sort of world 
literature enthusiasm and of general cultural elevation. Everybody 
was writing, and we mentioned Genevieve Taggard before, who was 
very strong here as a pupil of Bynner s, and Hildegarde Planner, 
Marie West; probably Sara Bard Field remembered some of this. This 
era of elevated, enthusiastic literary response included one of 
the things that impressed me most Langston Hughes. Langston 
Hughes said later, when he came out to Berkeley and read to black 
audiences, that when he came in whenever it was the late twenties 
or early thirties he never saw a black in his audience, that they 
were all people in black ties ; they were black tie audiences. And 
they were the social cream of Berkeley who entertained him, and I 
know that Ben and Walter Morris Hart were involved in that. 

All this elevated world was just nothing when I came here. 
It had all- 
Did that have any counterpart in art nouveau? 

It might. I think it might. It s certainly related to Oscar Wilde, 
if that s related to art nouveau. 

You told me the other day that you had been talking with Jack 
Lyman about these years, was it? 

Yes. He remembers the powerful figure as being Witter Bynner. 
Also these people were good friends of each other. Maurice 
Leseman is another name I remember, and they were passionately 
fond of him. I don t remember or know about him. 

Leonard Nathan, who s a poet here, and I went up to lunch 
with Hildegarde Planner and Jack Lyman to just sort of ask more 
about all of this. Their enthusiasm was still great, and they 
would lend us things and give us things and tell us things. But 
really what they liked so much, it was not in our world. 

Did you read the poetry of Witter Bynner? 


Teiser: Did you like it? 

Miles: Fairly well. I liked it better than a lot of the more George 
Sterling types that were going around. 

Hart was part of that more elevated circle, and he became 
vice-president of the University and was powerful there. Then 
there was a whole problem about the stadium being built. 
[Charles H.] Rieber, another big man on the campus, was so angry 
that he left for UCLA. That whole story the giants talk about as 
if they couldn t communicate it to the layman, and that s when I 
was a layman. So I ve never heard the story of the triumvirate 
that took over from Wheeler. Those are all secret places, I 
gather. Maybe that s part of your sealed material. [Laughter] 
Was Gayley one of those? I don t remember. 

Anyway, Gayley and Hart had this sense of great distinction. 
When I got here, the attitude was that distinction was all back 
about ten years and everything had fallen on rather evil days, and 
"we re trying to reconstitute things with these new young men who 
are still pretty young." They had Tatlock from Harvard and were 
trying to rebuild, but not in a very centered way yet. 

So that s the best I can do for you. Hart, when he retired, 
I know that Ben went to see him a lot, and read to him when he 
couldn t see (in the next generation, Tom Parkinson did this too). 
He was not famous for being fond of taking fools easily, and I 
always felt myself kind of a fool in his presence. But I think he 
did back up Lehman. I mean, I think Lehman asked Hart to back him 
up in my support, and I think he did. But that s all beyond my 
ken, because when I talked to him personally and he never daggered 
me with any of these great repartees that he was so famous for, 
still I was always feeling I was about to be [laughing] the next 

Teiser: Lehman also just said in passing (and I don t remember in connection 
with what in his interview) he had thought that it would be 
unreasonable, in connection with your appointment, to let your 
physical condition stand in the way of the University securing the 
services of your intellect. 

Miles: That was courageous of him. I m sure he worked hard on this, and 
so did Jim Caldwell and so did Will Dennes. I think that once he 
made up his mind that I should teach, and when he found that he 
wasn t going to convince smaller colleges of this, then I think he 
worked pretty hard. It probably took quite a bit of maneuvering 
to put it over. 

Teiser: Of course, the fact that you were a woman too was a problem. 


Miles: That s right, and our department was not all that fond of women, 

Teiser: Had you had any English professors who were women? 

Miles: There weren t any then. I d had them at UCLA. But they wouldn t 
speak to each other at UCLA, so it wasn t a very happy scene. But 
Ben did later, quite soon after I never felt lonesome in the 
department because he quite soon brought in five women who were 
excellent. Unfortunately they were wives, and they were pulled 
away later by their husbands, so that at the time it seemed fine 
but now it seems too much of a compromise. But it was great in 
its day. 

Teiser: He speaks admiringly in his interview of so many women students. 
He must have liked women as you ve indicated. 

Miles: Yes, and I think some of his friends in the department didn t, 
so that it was a kind of an interesting switch that he made. 

Teiser: He spoke admiringly of Sister [Mary] Madaleva. 

Miles: Madaleva, yes. She preceded us; we never knew her. And Agnes 

Teiser: He seemed of a mind to recognize women s intellect; is that 

Miles: Yes, I guess that s right. He liked individuality wherever; he 
appreciated that. He was now sort of eager to make something of 
this department and of the University, in collaboration with 
Sproul, who was also eager to bring it to the fore, and the way to 
do that, evidently, was to compete in eastern terms, which was to 
write for Modern Language Association, to get Guggenheim 
fellowships, to write and publish books. So he encouraged all 
that, and we had a very interesting development of our young men. 
If our young men who came here did too much just reviewing for the 
New Republic or something like that, they would get called in and 
asked, "Where s your book?" There was a lot of real pressure, 
real competitive pressure, and very interesting tendencies in 
publication grew up in the department through not only colleagues 
like Willard Farnham and his Medieval drama but with Jack Raleigh s 
study of American tradition and Parkinson s of Yeats and Jordan s 
of Wordsworth. A whole lot of lines of thought were developed and 
encouraged by Ben, so that even when he wasn t chairman his 
influence lasted over the chairmanships of other people. There was 
a constant emphasis on individual exploration of ideas. 

So, as he said, some of his students later did get together 
and make that collection of essays which were typical of his way 
of working. 


Publishing and Research 

Teiser: If you had just done studies of somebody s poetry, would that have 
been sufficient in the eyes of the department? 

Miles: It would ve by his [Lehman s] definition, and that s where we 

disagreed to some degree, I think. By this time I really liked 
scholarship [laughing], after years of struggle. I really liked 
the stuff; I liked the genre of the scholarly article in MLA 
[Publications of the Modern Language Association of America] . I 
wanted to write for MLA and I wanted to write for scholarly 
journals. He sort of laughed at me for that, and I think he 
thought that if I did monographs published by our press and did 
poetry that he developed the budget committee s definition of the 
creative activity as alternative to scholarly activity. 

We invited here a young man by the name of Milton Miller, who 
had written one fine article on John Milton, but who decided he 
was not going to get a Ph.D. Milton came, and he was supposed to 
be a test case of the fact that he would go ahead and write essays 
and be a literary critic and not have to bother with academe in 
its most rigid [forms]. Actually Milton decided not to do that 
for various other personal reasons, and decided to leave and to 
get a Ph.D. He s now at Riverside. But Ben Lehman wanted to make 
him that sort of case. But I didn t want to be that case; I really 
wanted to do research, because I now had this bee in my bonnet of 
being able to describe trends in usage of English poetry. 

So I was working very hard to adapt to the establishment, 
which was difficult because the establishment might not be as 
eager as Ben or the people here were for new ideas. But as I 
mentioned before, in poetry the Southern Review was a very good 
place for me to relate to. When the Kenyon Review announced it 
was going to publish a special issue on [Gerard Manley] Hopkins, 
I thought, "Aha! Now I can write a study of Hopkins that will 
show how this kind of language that he uses works " So I wrote 
to Cleanth Brooks, who was going to be editor of that special 
edition, and asked him if he would let me try a chapter, and he 
said yes. That was I guess the first serious published essay 
that I had in scholarship. It made a great deal of difference to 
me in the sense that it s widely known now, and that little book 
it s called Hopkins; The Kenyon Critics is still being published 
and I still get royalties on it. This is now thirty years later! 
It was a real early step of its kind. So it does relate to what 
we were talking about before in teaching, because Cleanth Brooks 
was alive to this methodology that Ben was talking about too. 


Miles: Then I also got an article published in Modern Philology or 

something else that was straight orthodox, and I remember Ben s 
laughing at that, thinking then, "That s really unnecessary." 
Then I sent one to MLA and after a while, after some failures, 
I got one accepted there. So he was always sort of amused by 
my efforts to be orthodox. I never became orthodox, but there 
were enough people, not only Brooks but Rene Wellek at Yale and 
Harry Levin and Reuben Brower at Harvard, Samuel Monk at 
Minnesota, who were sympathetic enough with what I was doing so 
that I managed to get a word in edgewise here and there. 

In the meantime, there was a mysterious figure whom I ll 
never know about, I guess. When I was developing the work on 
textbooks and that was an interesting parallel to scholarship, 
because I thought they would fit together there was a man at 
Prentice Hall, and I should be able to say his name, Don ? 
He encouraged me to do a textbook, and then two textbooks. When 
I would do a plan for a textbook, he would send me the comments of 
some anonymous reader that he had read and evaluate me for his 
purposes. He would never tell me who this man was, but these were 
the most marvelous analyses of my work that I ve ever seen. 

Teiser: Actually? 

Miles: Actually. They were just so great! He would never tell me who 
the person was, but they always encouraged him to commission the 
work from me. 

Teiser: What were the two books? 

Miles: One was The Ways of the Poem (first it was called The Poem*) , and 
then the other was Classic Essays in English.** Both of these 
were pretty much eye-openers to me in making the scholarship more 
understandable in terms of actual thinking about it practically. 
I m just fascinated by how much three or four times I ve read 
letters from this anonymous critic I felt "the world is mine" in 
a most marvelous way. So when I wanted to publish one of my later 
books, which was called Style and Proportion,*** which was a 

*Published under this title in 1959, under the title The Ways of 
the Poem in 1961; reedited in 1964. 

**Published in 1961. 
***Published in 1967. 






Miles : 

scholarly book based on what I had learned from doing the Classic 
Essays, this man said, "Okay, I think we owe it to you to publish 
the scholarly book since it is based on the text you did for us." 
After they got it all set up and all in print and everything, he 
was promoted to some high position in Little Brown (he had switched 
to Little Brown, by the way), and the new man who came in, whose 
name I think was Stone, just saw nothing in that book. He said, 
"Miss Miles, this is what I would call a non-book." So when they 
were taken over by some conglomerate and wanted a tax loss, they 
shredded that book as a basis for tax loss. That s one of my 
saddest stories of scholarship because that book represented at 
least ten solid years of work. 

You mean they didn t distribute the whole edition? 
No, they didn t distribute it. They shredded it. 

The University library has one. 

They sent out a few copies, 
most magazines, no. 

It was never received for review by 

Is that right? For heaven s sake I 

So that book is a non-book in that it scarcely does exist really. 
I have one copy; that s all I own. It is legal to write and warn 
the author, which they did. But by the time I answered yes, I d 
like to buy twenty-five copies before they shredded it, they 
wrote back and said, "Sorry, it s too late." So it was really 
kind of the major disaster in my * 

Do they still hold the copyright, or do you hold it? 

Heaven only knows! Oh, I guess I do, but so far I haven t been 
able to persuade the reprint houses to reprint it, and guess why 
because there s no demand for it. Well, guess why there s no 
demand for it? Because nobody s ever heard of it. 

Can t they publish it as a new book? 

But our press [the University of California Press] doesn t it s 
a very expensive book. It s full of plates. No, our press had 
already turned it down as too expensive. This was another bad 
part of the story before I even got to Little Brown; our press 
turned it down because of the plates. Some heroic woman at our 
press who was a major typist with a very super kind of machine 
saw the work and saw that it had been turned down because it was 

*See also page 130. 


Miles: so costly to print, with all these charts, and she volunteered to 
type it just for some kind of photo offset thing, so that it 
wouldn t be too expensive. (I m sorry that I don t remember the 
methodology.) But she was a really heroic person. So then UC 
Press in 1960 did print all these tables, and so all Little Brown 
had to do was reprint some of the tables, so it didn t cost them 
so much. 

I got in a real mess there, from about 55 on, in that my 
charts were so cumulative and the details were so detailed that 
really just nobody had the interest or money to afford them. I 
think now it would be better; I think there are more processes now. 
Still in those days it was expensive printing. That was a very 
hard time for me, around the sixties. I had none of these 
champions like Ben Lehman around any more. I forget who was 
chairman; I think it was Henry Smith, who was a real champion 
too but was baffled by that technical problem. Since my work was 
neither flesh, fish, nor fowl it wasn t linguistics and it wasn t 
aesthetics and it wasn t literary scholarship it was hard to get 
any[thing accepted]. I could always get essays accepted, but I 
couldn t get the data production accepted. 

That might lead me to retrace my steps a little bit and talk 
about another adventure. After Ben wasn t chairman any more and 
George Potter was, Guy Montgomery died. Guy had left sixty-three 
shoe boxes full of cards for a concordance for the work of John 
Dryden, and this was his life work. He had worked with a young 
graduate student from Utah. They hadn t got too far with it. 
Not to go too much into concordance work, but you have to have 
some method of collating to check the accuracy of your 
alphabetization. A lot of concordances have been done "by hand," 
but they re an awful lot of work. Guy had never finished this, 
and the young man from Utah had abandoned it. Our department had 
written to the young man and said, "Would you take this on?" and 
he said, "No, it s not in good shape, and I ve seen the last of 

George, being a rather puritanical man, said, "We don t want 
to waste this whole lifetime, so why don t you take it on since 
you ve done a lot with concordances." He gave me a little 
research money. I worked for about a year on it, and it was 
impossible. The boxes of cards would fall apart, the methods 
wouldn t be clear I 

There was a man by the name of [C. Douglas] Chretien in 
language studies who told about making dictionaries for exotic 
languages with a computer how you could do this, how they would 
do automatic alphabetization you could punch for alphabetization. 
(I can t say that word!) This was quite exciting. This was sort 
of, as I say, when I was fairly new in the department, and I was 
kind of on my own because nobody knew anything about this. 


Miles: I went up to Cory Lab and said, "You ve got the computers up here. 
Can I do anything about making these concordances? This is what 
Mr. Chretien told me " and they said, "Yes, we can do that. We ve 
never done it. We don t quite know how." This would be a long 
story if I told it in detail. But anyway 

Teiser: Don t leave out too much. 

Miles: it took me about five years, I guess. Towards the end of that 
time, we got some pretty good research money to get a young woman 
who was the wife of a navy officer or army officer who was here, 
and was very experienced but had little to do because of her 
husband s presence in the war. So she was willing to do it for a 
fairly small amount, I guess. She worked very hard at this, and 
we learned these computer methods, and we did get this in 
alphabetic shape, and we did get it printed. It actually is the 
first computer concordance. 

Teiser: Did you develop techniques 

Miles: Yes. 

Teiser: that had not been previously developed? 

Miles: Yes. We really did. 

Teiser: Did you ever record them, did you ever give others the benefit of 
your ? 

Miles: Yes. I put it in the introduction. It s so rudimentary. It s 
so rudimentary that our computers wouldn t even print language, 
words; we could only print the line references to these words 
I mean they wouldn t print whole sentences. The concordance 
locates every word for you. Say the word "apple," they ll show 
you every line, every poem in which the word "apple" was used by 
Dryden. Now [currently] any decent concordance, you write out the 
line where apple is used, like "An apple a day keeps the doctor 
away." But all we could do would be, say, "Line 24, poem 7." So 
it s a horrible thing to use I Nobody uses it unless he absolutely 
has to find out something about Dryden. But when computer usage 
for concordances was developed by Stephen Parrish at Cornell, he 
did say that ours was the first; he did acknowledge it to that 
degree. It really was kind of a fascinating little primitive use 
of a sophisticated instrument. 

Teiser: Did I ask you (or did I just plan to ask you) whether the course 
you took in accounting, on a bet, helped you in any of this? 


Miles: I m sure it didn t. I m sure it didn t. [Laughter] I was always 
sort of interested in numbers. What you re really asking is why 
I did so much counting. Accounting was about something else, 
really, but I probably wouldn t even have taken the bet if I 
hadn t been sort of interested. The language of numbers is a kind 
of interesting language. But I use it only in the simplest way. 
My critics now of my work are always unhappy that I make too rough 
transliterations from you know, if it s 75 percent I d just as 
soon call it 80, and all that kind of thing. A rounding out just 
drives my readers crazy. I don t mind rounding out because, you 
know, [laughter] I don t think in what I m doing it s all that 

Anyway, that was a kind of scholarship in which the 
department we made lots of interesting new friends, not only I 
but some of my friends in the department, by working in that kind 
of field. I think there was a Chinese girl up at the lab by the 
name of Penny Gee who was very smart and good. Later, IBM people 
from San Jose came up to interview me, and I ve been interviewed 
off and on ever since by IBM "What can we do to help you?" But 
I ve never been able to connect with them either, though I did 
with Penny Gee. She really taught me 

Bud Bronson did that marvelous concordance he used for his 
study of the ballads, which was awarded some major medal by the 
Queen. I mention these two things to indicate again, while Ben 
would have absolutely collapsed at the very thought of this kind 
of mechanistic work, and even Henry Smith would have, yet they 
supported it in the sense that they let people do what they 
wanted to do or felt they should try to do. 

[end tape 1, side 2; begin tape 2, side 1] 

It was pretty hard to get that first vocabulary of Wordsworth* 
accepted. I know that the press committee that finally voted for 
it was full of suggestions, like one man said throw away the first 
chapter, others said put the first chapter last, others said put 
the middle at the beginning such contradictory suggestions that 
I m sure it was a great trouble to everybody, and it was a trouble 
to me to rewrite it in such a way that it would suit all these 
conflicting recommendations. I managed to do that. 

*Wordsworth and the Vocabulary of Emotion. Berkeley: University 
of California Press, 1942. 


Miles: Then the next book, the one I had written on the AAUW fellowship, 
the Pathetic Fallacy,* went very easily, both in the writing and 
in the publishing. People who hadn t liked the first book at all 
said, "That second book is really fine." I often tell students 
this, and tell them to try to write a second book right away after 
their thesis book because the thesis is usually very painful, but 
once you ve learned how, if you do one fairly quickly then, it s 
fun, because you ve learned how and you can go fairly fast. People 
like and still read the Pathetic Fallacy proportionally more than 
other things. 

Teiser: You said that there was no master s thesis when you were at Berkeley. 
That seems to me a great learning experience , and I think you were 
cheated by not having to write a short thesis then. 


Miles: Well, maybe. I ve never seen a good master s thesis. It seems to 
me it s the wrong stage of your life. 

Teiser: Just to learn how to do something, even if you don t do it well 

Miles: I don t think you can learn how fast enough. We decided and this 
was much debated we decided that you could learn to write a good 
senior thesis because you were very closely controlled by the class 
and the instructor, and that s what we settled for. So we had the 
senior theses, which we still do. In other words, you re right 
that a thesis needs to be done somewhere along the way, and that s 
where we decided to put it. I think it s worked well. A master s 
is supposed to be done in one or two years, and you just don t 
dare we do have them now, and I m horrified when I m on them, 
because they re not very good. There s no time. There s time to 
make a good seminar paper or senior thesis; there s not time to do 
a really solid, developed piece of research. I think that really 
takes three years. 

Teiser: Your Ph.D. thesis didn t entirely prepare you for the book, then, 
the Wordsworth book that you based upon that? 

Miles: Oh, it was trouble from the word gol It was just trouble from 
when I started to when I finished. It was trouble from 1938 to 
41, I guess. But then the one that I wrote in 39 or whenever, 
that came out in 41 also, the Pathetic Fallacy, or maybe 42 

Teiser: Forty-two. 

*Pathetic Fallacy in the Nineteenth Century. 
of California Press, 1942. 

Berkeley: University 


Miles: that was just very easy. Then I developed a whole theory that I 
wanted to follow out, the one of major language. Then I just had 
a built-in job to do every summer. I sat on the patio with my 
little beat-up traveling typewriter that had only three banks of 
keys, and typed out these studies of the language of the poets of 
the 1640s, 1740s, and so on. These were good for getting I wanted 
something too, not only that I liked to do, that I could sit 
outside with and enjoy, but also that students could help with so 
that they could get support grant money and this kind of analysis 
of language they could do. Over the years, in fear and trembling, 
I ve gone back and checked whether they did it well, and on the 
whole I m sure there are terrible errors still but on the whole 
they did beautifully. They were responsible and good people. 

I just did that until about 1951, I guess; for about a decade 
I did that, and then additions through the sixties. 

Teiser: Let me take you back, here. In 1946 two books were published, 
Vocabulary of Poetry and Major Adjectives in Poetry. 

Miles: The Major Adjectives was the third of the trio. Again here I guess 
this was probably Ben s ingenuity. He then said, "This trio of 
monographs could make a book." So, Wordsworth, the Pathetic 
Fallacy, and Major Adjectives was then published as the Vocabulary 
of Poetry. I think that was his idea, and it looked very 
impressive when it came out. Meantime, I had started 

Teiser: Were they rewritten? 

Miles: No. When they were republished by Octagon, I wrote new 

introductions, maybe a page or two in length, giving new data, 
but rather additive, not actually reconstructive. 

Teiser: Then in 1948 two more publications, one in which you participated, 
the Criticism; The Foundations of Modern Literary Judgment 

Miles: Yes, we talked about that last time. 

Teiser: Yes. And The Primary Language of Poetry in the 1640s. 

Miles: That s when I started the study of the 40s in each century. After 
I did the 1640s, Bud Bronson or maybe right along in there said, 
"You can t start there. You can t leave out Chaucer." So either 
before that book or after that book, I can t remember which, I went 
back and did some material some subtitle there says "and earlier" 
or something. I went back to the 1440s or 1340s, roughly; I did 
ten earlier people. And then finally got up to the seventeen-, 
eighteen-, and nineteen-forties, and then published those, and that 
was called The Continuity of Poetic Language, and that came out in 
51, right? 


Teiser: Yes. Also in 51 was the Primary Language of Poetry in the 1940s. 

Miles: That s what I said. They all came out. Then I thought, "Well, now 
I d better look around and see what the forties have to do with the 
rest of the century," because I knew they had something to do with 
it but I didn t know what. So I did a little sampling of all of 
the centuries in the nineties and found the fascinating thing that 
the nineties were all much more toned down; that is, the forties 
were the extreme period of usage, which I d had a feeling for from 
the beginning. That s why I hadn t done the nineties; the nineties 
are more transitional, not so fully characteristic of the 

Then I decided if I were really interested in poetic history, 
which I now was, I d better do this in terms of a coverage of the 
whole century now, and do less of any one group. Like, I guess I 
did thirty poets for the forties; now I will do thirty poets for 
the whole century, or something like that. This came out first in 
a book called Eras and Modes in English Poetry. 

Teiser: Published in 57. 

Miles: That s where I really try to say there is a very interesting, 

definable pattern to the whole growth and development of English 
poetry. That book the University Press refused to back up with 
tables and data, and it was from 57 on to 64 that a lot of my 
misery started because I now had all this data but nobody wanted to 
print it. 

However, because of this heroic typist at the press, they did 
publish kind of a "tabular view," as it was called there in 60 
(that s the big 8 1/2 by 11 typed thing that she did), and then in 
64 they published the second edition of Eras and Modes with some 
of the tables reduced. That was at the behest of the editorial 
committee of the University Press. I don t remember the name of 
the chairman, but he was a real hero to me because he told the 
press that that data was important enough. I never had much how 
would I put this gently? Though the University has published a 
good deal of my work, I don t think that the manager of University 
Press and chief editor ever was happy about having to do it. So 
this was a case where the editorial committee stepped in and 
defended me and really rescued me after years of trouble. 

Then in 67, when Style and Proportion was published, that 
was the addition of prose to the whole thing. Now I was asking 
the question not "What is the continuity of English language in 
poetry?" but also, "How does that relate to the continuity of 
prose?" and "What are all the relations of poetry to prose?" 


Miles: Because everybody had been asking this question by this time. And 
this is the one that fared so ill at Little Brown.* I think it s 
a good book. It got reviews only from people who asked to see it 
especially, and they gave it good reviews, but I think there were 
only two. But I think it is a good book, and sort of the heart of 
the matter for me. That s the book for me. If I wanted to keep 
one, that would be it. But that s the one that sort of doesn t 

Then, before 1974, a number of people had been asking me to 
write essays. They d write and say, "How does your work apply to 
Edward Arlington Robinson?" or to John Donne or whatever. Partly 
initiated by these inquiries and partly initiated by questions of 
my own, this Poetry and Change developed as a series of sort of 
spotlights on special eras and special recurrent literary problems 
and questions and how they would be related to what I was doing. 

That was the book that was published most recently [in 1974], 
and that book and this is so strange, and life is so weird that 
book won the MLA prize for the best historical scholarship of that 
year, 74, which is ironic because the judges were not English 
professors. Mark Schorer was on the committee, but he said he 
stayed out of it. The judges were comparative literature people, 
who ve always liked my work. So here s this same ironic thing! 
When you talk about luck, how fantastic that those judges that year 
would be comparative literature people! But no English professors 
would like my work to that degree; it violates too many of their 
concerns. But these two people that wrote me about why they voted 
for it, liked the very things in it that I_ liked and that other 
English professors wouldn t like. 

I don t mean to say all English professors. Reuben Brower at 
Harvard, for example, was marvelously understanding of what I was 
doing. Many of his students I ve got to know since, and are 
understanding too. But on the whole, I never have really zeroed 
in on any establishment consensus that what I m doing is central to 
literary concerns. 

I wrote one other book, that I skipped. Somebody wrote me back 
about 63 or so and said, "Why don t you do a little pamphlet on 
Emerson for the Minnesota series?" I had written an article on 
Emerson, and they d read the article and they thought it was really 
right. So they asked me to do this book. (I m being anonymous be 
cause I m not quite sure who it was. There were two or three people 

*See page 123. 


Miles: on the board at Minnesota, and I m not sure.) They had this 

Minnesota series going, a seventy-page pamphlet. I thought this 
would be great fun to tackle, use all that I now knew to tackle 
one man, see what I could make of him, especially one whom I loved, 
one of my favorite poets, and one about whom so much wrong stuff I 
thought had been written, and, to be sentimental, one whom I d 
wanted to write about when I first came to Berkeley and wanted to 
write with T.K. Whipple, except that he didn t feel I could do 
that well. So I was very pleased about getting recognized in the 
American Lit establishment after all these years which was not to 

I wrote the pamphlet, forced-draft in one whole year, really 
enjoyed it, and I think I read everything by everybody about 
Emerson, and everything that Emerson had written. All of Emerson s 
lectures and all the data weren t out then as they are now. There s 
been a wonderful amount since, but in terms of what was then 
available I wrote this pamphlet. It was the first thing that I was 
in such a degree of hurry about that as I wrote it, in the summer, 
instead of typing it myself, I gave it to somebody to type a 
typist, in other words and she spilled a bottle of furniture 
polish on it by mistake and it was obliterated. So that was kind 
of an exciting story. [Laughter] I can t ever remember being bluer 
than I was for a couple of days. I phoned the police department 
and asked them whether they could read, with their Sherlock Holmes 
X rays, through furniture polish, and they said I d been reading 
too many pulp magazines. 

I remember my brother we were going out to dinner and I was 
telling my brother about this and he just really couldn t conceive 
of why I was that upset. That was so fascinating to me that 
knowing me as well as he did, his attitude was, "Well, cheer upl 
It s all in a lifetime, you know." [Laughter] However, the ending 
was miraculously happy. I wrote to this very nice editor in 
Minnesota; her first name was Jeanne; I can t quite spell her last 
name; S-i-n-n-e-n or something? Anyway, I must get it right because 
I haven t been that happy with editors I ve suffered with through 
the years, but she was just superb. I told her that this had 
happened and I d just have to bow out or start over. She said, "Do 
you realize" I mentioned I d written the footnotes into the text 
for the first time, to save time and be accurate "Do you realize 
we re not using footnotes? Why don t you just sit down and write 
out of your mind what you remember and skip the footnotes? We don t 
put those in the text anyway." She suggested a few questions that 
might be interesting to ask myself. It was such a nice letter, so 
totally constructive that I sat down and I did I wrote the whole 
thing out in about three weeks. I think it was close enough to 
what I had written in the first place. I mean, I didn t feel it 
was worse; I felt maybe it was even a little more coherent. 


Miles: She liked it okay, and that came out, and that s been by far my 
most successful work.* It s been reprinted a lot and sold a lot. 
Royalties in my life means over $10 a year. [Laughter] So I got 
lots of royalties on that. People have written me about it. 
However, it was never reviewed in any orthodox magazine or 
American literature journal, except there was one little summary 
squib somewhere that said, "A peripheral work was done in this 
field by Josephine Miles." 

Teiser: It s such a small work I was looking at it this morning that 
maybe the reviewers thought 

Miles: Oh no, they reviewed all the pamphlets. It just was I wasn t an 

American Lit person. Never got to be an American Lit person. But 
Emerson is a wonderful poet, and it was a great joy to me to do that 
book. I summarized it one section of it was summarized in Poetry 
and Change . But it s been printed all over the world. I get 
letters from India and Portugal 

Teiser: It s very highly analytical. I m surprised that 

Miles: I am too. It s really a great joke. They buy it because they 

want to know about Emerson s transcendentalism, and because he s a 
big shot in India and Portugal, and then they have to read it, and 
what they have to read is me, and it s very comical because it s 
not what they re looking for. But the nice thing is these readers, 
at least that write me, are very adaptable and [laughing] they say, 
"This is not what I was looking for, but isn t this interesting!" 
and then they ask me good questions. 

I should say, by the way, I would never have had the nerve to 
do all this if it hadn t been for Henry Smith. But he is such an 
authority in the field, and he held my hand; he read it and said, 
"Yes, it is okay to send in." I never otherwise would have done it 
because I didn t feel strong enough in the American literature field. 

I proposed that Emerson wasn t a Symbolist, that he was a 
Metaphorist in the seventeenth century terms, which was his century. 
That still isn t accepted. But Henry said it was true; so great! 
it s true. 

Teiser: I read somewhere that many of your works had been translated into 
many languages. 

*Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 


Miles: Yes, and that s the main one. 

Teiser: I wonder how it translates into Urdu. [Laughter] 

Miles: That s right I ve been translated into Urdu. Also, some other 
essays of mine, or chapters, have been translated into literary 
magazines in Italy and France, where there s a good deal of 
criticism of vocabulary and structuralism. Then my poetry has 
been translated all sorts of amazing places China, Turkey, 
Hungary. I have all sorts of texts that I can t read at all. 
They tell me it s mine, but if it weren t for [laughing] the words 
Josephine Miles, I wouldn t know what it was. Even the line 
length looks different. 

Teiser: Although you say you ve hardly been part of the establishment, 
you ve certainly been diligent, shall I say [laughing], and if 
anyone said you should publish, you have done that. 

Miles: The interesting thing is it doesn t feel like diligence now. I 

mean, when I see that list it looks rather diligent. After I got 
going, after a rather slow, struggling start on all this, for one 
thing critically or historically or whatever word you want to use, 
I was really bothered by the fact that poetry was so misread by 
historians and critics. I was wondering if there wasn t some way 
to get closer to the poem as it works. This is partly like the 
New Criticism, but on the other hand the New Criticism wanted to 
deal with just one poem at a time, and my work does absolutely no 
good at all to one poem at a time; mine is interested in the 
function of one poem in a sequence of poems or in the work of a 
man or the work of an era, the work of a type. So it s a 
generalizing force, and it s for that reason that it wasn t popular- 
in other words, this is going counter to the New Criticism. I ve 
gone to many lectures by visiting celebrities at Cal where I d meet 
them afterwards and the lecturer would say, "Oh, I know your work. 
It s just a shame you don t do it in the way that would be 

Teiser: [Laughter] What do they mean by that? 

Miles: For the linguist, this would be to be linguistic, to do much more 
with linguistic analysis, which to me has always seemed, from what 
I could learn from it, too alien to the text. Or the literary 
critics, most of the reviews of my books say, "This is a pretty 
interesting book and we recommend you read it, but it s because of 
all the tables and charts that she throws in there." So I ve just 
fallen between these two stools all the time, whereas my feeling is 
that it s the bringing of those together that s a good thing to do. 
As I mentioned before, my going to all these linguistics meetings, 
afternoons and evenings of visiting linguists, and then also the 


Miles: aesthetics group that I belonged to for so many years, and also 

various little groups that we had here at other colleagues houses, 
studying some works of literature that we cared about in all of 
these I was always saying, "Can t we bring the sense of art and the 
philosophy of art and the philosophy of language together? Because 
that s what literature is." But the linguists want to say that 
literature is some special aspect of language. They want to say, 
for example, that literary language is rule-breaking language or 
what s the word? deviant, discontinuant , in some way broken off 
from normal language. That s what they want to talk about. And 
they don t allow for the function of the principles of art. On 
the other hand, the principles of art don t allow for the principles 
of language study because they say it d be more like analyzing the 
chemistry of the paint on the canvas. Well, why not? Why not? I 
hope some day this won t be so much like pulling teeth to bring 
these two together. 

So it doesn t seem to me that diligent. If you care about 
something and you want to argue with people and you ve got a lot 
of friends to argue with and a lot of strangers to argue with, you 
just do it as much as you can and you enjoy it. Willard Farnham, 
who was one of our chairmen after Ben Lehman, used to say that his 
justification of publishing was that publishing is teaching at a 
wider range. There s of course been lots of debate against 
publishing, that publishing is a silly demand and takes away from 
your teaching and so forth. But I think Willard s point is true; 
there are various ways of teaching. I wouldn t say I succeeded in 
teaching [laughing], not in the least, but it s something that s 
fun to try. Once in a while you get a letter or a response that 
seems to understand, and that s like having a good student in a 
class that seems to understand, or a whole class, or a whole 
combination of responses sometimes. But it takes a certain amount 
of patience, and you feel nobody s listening and nobody s believing. 
That was very hard with that one book because the relation of poetry 
to prose is so fascinating and so not what people think; that is, 
prose, from my study, the language of prose, or to put it the other 
way, the language of poetry is kind of a seed bed for common 
language. That s not the way most people think of it; they think 
of the language of poetry as an ornamentation of the language of 
prose. To see how this all turns around and works, and how the 
language of poetry is really closest to the language of science, 
because they re both trying to objectify without making statements 
that need defense the way assertion needs, the whole relation of 
one kind of thinking to another, is fascinating to discover. 

Something else I skipped I should mention. Though we didn t 
manage to get Chomsky to stay in Berkeley or agree with us, one of 
his books, a study of the Port-Royal rhetoricians of the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was a great illumination to 


Miles: me. For him it was an historical study, so it wasn t his theory. 
But ideas I read there I suddenly understood, and I remember the 
afternoon. It was one of those great times when things become 
clear. It dawned on me what is the relation between the structure 
of a word, the structure of a sentence, the structure of a 
paragraph, and the structure of a chapter or what have you, and 
how these are all similar units of construction. So this was 
helpful in doing more with the analysis of structure in different 
kinds of styles in both prose and poetry. 

It was also helpful for teaching composition. If you would 
like to know all about how paragraphs work, I would like to take 
five hours out and tell you. [Laughter] They re just a marvelous 
thing. Paragraphs are parts of sentences; paragraphs are 
adverbial phrases or clauses or appositions or modifiers. The 
whole language gets simpler and nicer when you see what they 
understood in the seventeenth century but what we lost in the 
meantime when we staggered into eight parts of speech and a lot of 
nonsense like that. For me it means that what you call diligence 
and I call various explorations now come together and support each 
other, which at least is encouraging to me. 

Teiser: You have not used the word "logic" ever. 

Miles: In what relation? 

Teiser: In your analysis of ideas and the use of words. 

Miles: Okay. Well, I could. Would you like me to try? [Laughter] First 
what I was interested in was what you call lexical. It was words 
and their associations and how they re used, how frequency of use 
tells something about the writer. If those words are connected in 
any way, basically the way you d connect them would be grammatical; 
like you d have parts of speech, you d have a subject and a 
predicate and modifiers and conjunctions and so forth. For a long 
time I stayed away from conjunctions because the writers in the 
field said, "We must divide reference words from nonreference words," 
and prepositions and conjunctions were nonreference. That was a big 
mistake that I tried to rectify in Style and Proportion, because 
nonreference words are heavy, heavy, heavy, both with connotation 
and reference and all sorts of implications. So I accepted too many 
assumptions early and had to go back and learn about that all fairly 
late. But lately I have done more with nonreference terms, what 
they call function terms, and those lead to more studies of 
structure, of construction, and that d be grammar how the parts 
work together to make the whole. 


Miles: Then logic would be how the statements work together. That is, 
if this is true, then is that true? If all men are mortal, and 
Socrates is a man, then is it true that Socrates is mortal? In 
other words, you re relating one statement with another statement. 
Logic is the relation of statement to statement. Sometimes people 
say that logic is the relation of statement to verifiable reality, 
and that s true; that is an interest. You are talking about, "If 
this is true, then is that true?" and you have to talk about truth. 
But basically the way logic works is the interrelation of statement 
to statement. 

And then, the third item in that medieval education unit, 
which was called the Trivium, is rhetoric, and that s the relation 
of the sentence to the audience the tone, the relation of the 
speaker to the audience. 

All of these three enter in to what I am interested in. But 
I ve done most at the lexical level and next most at the 
grammatical level, and so on up. I have done least at the logical 
level because when I get to the logical level, and it s in poetry, 
it s so strongly related to other interrelations of sentences, 
namely of lines and of aesthetic units of interrelation, that the 
logical interrelation just becomes one of many. 

I did, however, do one strongly logical one, which was a 
study of John Donne s poetry, to point out that if you study the 
connectives in seventeenth century poetry, you find out that John 
Donne uses millions more connectives than anybody else. He s just 
an excessive user of connectives, and the seventeenth century uses 
more connectives than any other century. So he is the acme of the 
acme, and in this sense he does represent the century by being an 
extreme like this. Then if you see what those connections are, you 
see that a huge number are alternative or concessive or disjunctive 
connectives like "but," "yet," "though." 

Then, after doing that, I then went back and analyzed the 
structure of his poems and found out that almost every poem maybe 
80 percent of his poetry (that s a guess) turns on such a word, 
either at the beginning of the sonnet, for example, or the beginning 
of the sestet. So the way he writes is: extreme situation, extreme 
situation, extreme situation, but God will turn me to a simpler one. 
So his overstatements and his exaggerations and his very beautiful 
hyperboles are preparatory to a reservation, which he then gives in 
subordinating himself to the theological context. This structure 
characterizes his poetry and to some degree I think characterizes 
what you could call metaphysical poetry. 

So I wrote another article about modern so-called metaphysical 
poetry, and how much of modern metaphysical poetry isn t at all. 
It doesn t contain this negative base, it doesn t contain these 










alternatives, it doesn t contain this whole crucial aspect of 
Donne and the seventeenth century. But some few moderns do a 
little bit. Yeats does. Robert Penn Warren does. But it becomes 
an interesting touchstone then for defining a certain type of 
poetry which you can call logical in that particular kind of logic 
that sticks out because of his disjunctives. 

But there are other interesting kinds. For example, there s 
the logic of comparison or alternation, either/or choice. That s 
a very interesting kind of logic in poetry. Those words are all 
sitting there, waiting for me to get at them [laughing], after I 
get through with you. 

Here we are keeping you from them! 

That s right! You re keeping me from either/or. [Laughter] 

You were saying that you combined or wished to combine some things. 
A case in point: You were just analyzing, speaking analytically, 
but also you were speaking of aesthetics. 

Yes. Once you find out that Donne uses a lot of yets and buts and 
thoughs, then you need to ask, "In the patterning of his poems, how 
do they fit the pattern?" The patterning part is an aesthetic part. 
Why the linguists don t see this, and why we waste magazine article 
after magazine article on fussing about rule breaking, I don t know! 

There are about ten million other things to ask you. 
or shall we ask you two or three more, or what? 

Shall we stop, 

I have to stop in about five minutes. But ask me and see if I can 
talk fast. I wrote several notes down here, but I don t 

Do say them, then. 

One name I wrote down that I wanted to mention in terms of all this 
recently has come out a book which is a great joy to me because it 
is working philosophically in the way that I believe right, which is 
fairly rare for me. It s a new book in the last ten years. It s 
called Structuralist Poetics, and it s been of a certain kind of 
linguistic study which has dealt with substitutable elements in 
literature; that is, structures where you get paradigmatic 
substitutabilities, grammatical substitutabilities. In anthropology 
this is represented by Levi-Strauss; you can have one kind of hero 
substituted for another, one kind of episode substituted in a hero s 
life for another. In grammar it can be that you can substitute a 
pronoun for a noun, and so on and so on. (This is too rough and 
ready.) But this has also troubled critics in America because 


Miles: they re not very enthusiastically structuralist in the abstract 

way, and they haven t done much with it. In teaching the seminar 
in modern critical theory, I m always finding the frustration of 
the students who want to learn about it but then say, "So what?" 
after they ve learned about it, and don t find it very useful in 
their inquiries. 

Now, this fine book called Structuralist Poetics is by 
Jonathan Culler, whose father was a professor at Yale and did an 
article very influential in my life, a critical essay on Bysshe 
(who s an eighteenth century author, a great interesting 
transitional force). Jonathan Culler teaches in England, and this 
book has come out it s a couple of years old and it s really 
cheering to me because what it draws from de Saussure and 
linguistic studies and the structuralists and the whole Russian 
formalism and all the things we ve been working among for the last 
two decades what it draws from that is the function of language 
as providing a community of resources of thoughts, beliefs, values, 
and thus a kind of competence in the people who use it to 
understand and agree with and share with each other. These could 
be the poets of an era, for example. So the sense of community 
of resources resting in language, making for greater communication 
and greater share of values, underlies the studies that I ve done 
in relating a poet to poet and time to time, and extends the New 
Critical idea that you stress just one autonomous poem. It 
breaks up the idea of autonomy, and it goes to the idea of 
continuity, and while it doesn t stress artistic and aesthetic 
patterning, it could, obviously. So it leaves room for what I 
would like to do, or have done, in a way that hardly any other 
theory ever has. So that s a blessing to me and is the sense of 
language that I have in relation to literature that language and 
literature are both resources from which individuals draw, and 
which they draw not only as individuals but as groups and schools 
and types and trends and mostly just as temporal communities or 
more spatial communities. 

That s where I started out, asking about how you define the 
individuality of a poet in Wordsworth, for example. What I 
quickly got into, you define his individuality in terms of his 
relation to other poets through the language that they all 
stressed. So you see we get back to home base there very nicely. 

[end tape 2, side 1] 


INTERVIEW V 4 August 1977 

Public Contexts 
[begin tape 1, side 1] 

Teiser: I didn t know if this was an inadvertent omission last time, or if 
there just wasn t anything special to be said. When we were 
talking about the department, I don t think you said anything about 
Mark Schorer. 

Miles: I did the time before, remember? When I talked about Gordon 

McKenzie and Mark Schorer and I doing the anthology and so on. My 
main connection with Mark was in working on ideas together, and 
criticism and so forth. I suppose I could have mentioned him you 
mean as chairman of the department? 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: I seldom saw him in that role. We had a series of very good 

chairmen, and he was one of them. But as I remember he wasn t an 
initiator particularly; he just, you know, sort of held the fort. 

Teiser: Did the chairmanship then rotate instead of earlier 

Miles: Always the dean is supposed to ask the department whom it would 

like to have as chairman every three to five years, and that s what 
usually happens. What I mean to say, in my memory that s the way 
it s been. 

Teiser: But before that, people held the position longer. 

Miles: Yes. I probably mentioned Henry Smith quite a bit more than Mark 
because he did more initiating. We had more crises during his 
administration that were interesting, like the linguistic fight. 
He later went on to be on committees that I was involved with, and 
so on. I just actually saw Mark much more as a friend than as an 


Teiser: Another thing was the effect of the sentiment that I think came 

from Governor Reagan s office, that teachers should teach and let 
all that publishing stuff go; that that wasn t really what they 
were supposed to do. 

Miles: I followed Willard Farnham s idea that publishing was a very 
important wider form of teaching. 

Teiser: I think we did not discuss it in relation to the state government 
pressure. Didn t they actually put pressure on people? 

Miles: Well, it s always there, and it s worse now than ever. It s much 
worse now than it was with Reagan, with Governor [Edmund G. , Jr.] 
Brown and [John D.] Vasconcellos and Willie Brown and the whole 
problem of affirmative action. 

Teiser: Why does affirmative action enter into it? 

Miles: When you bring up any other criterion except discovery of new 
knowledge, you re in the soup! We are really in the soup with 
them because they have all sorts of different ideas, like helping 
the poor and getting new standards of knowledge and value and 
learning, and developing a sense that knowledge is a dangerous 
thing, that intellect is anti-soul and, oh, everything you can 
think of we are now getting thrown at us. I m not sure you want 
me to talk about it because it takes an awful lot of time to 
unravel. [Laughter] 

Teiser: I was just wondering, in perspective, if this point of view had 
actually cut down on most people s publishing and if it made it 
more difficult for you to do scholarly work. 

Miles: You re talking especially about the Reagan administration? 

Teiser: Well, beginning in the Reagan administration and continuing until 

Miles: It s hard to think of it in those terms. 
Teiser: Then I m misstating it. 
Miles: No, no. [Pause] 

Teiser: Let me go way around the other side of it, then. Am I correct 
that during the Reagan administration there was some attempt to 
make quantitative analysis of teaching how many hours people 
taught, how many hours they were in their offices to counsel 
students and so forth and to increase the number of hours? 


Miles: Oh, I see. Well, this is all media stuff. This has nothing to do 
with us. This is what you read in the newspaper. 

Teiser: Then you say what really did occur 

Miles: Robert Gordon Sproul was a businessman, but he was really 

dedicated to the frontiers of research and to making this a state 
university that was a big research place, especially in the big 
sciences, of course, but in the arts also. The arts never had the 
money spent on them, but they struggled along, and he backed them 
whenever the thought came to his mind. For example, in one of the 
leading anthologies of poetry for the United States, the one edited 
by Hayden Carruth, who was editor of Poetry magazine, about a sixth 
of the poetry comes from the University of California and environs. 
That suggests the strong productivity of this place in the arts as 
well as in science. Sproul was back of that combination, especially 
when it was mediated by the good chairmen that we had, and Governor 
[Earl] Warren. So we always had a sense of total backing and a 
chance to do anything we wanted to try. That was the whole quality 
of Berkeley as I knew it from 1940 to 1960, was that push forward 
on all fronts, which included publishing and teaching, and there 
was no split between them. 

Tom Parkinson used to say that when you went down the halls of 
Wheeler at six o clock at night, all English Department doors were 
open, and at every desk you saw a professor leaning over a desk 
with a student s paper before him and the student listening and 
asking questions about the paper. That s the picture that I have 
of the English Department of Wheeler Hall teaching. That was the 
way Tom got shot by the mad student; as you know, he shot the 
bullet right through the graduate student and hit Tom too.* That is 
the picture: we were that close together with our students. A sad 

We didn t do any less work because we were researching. It 
was one whole big thing that we were doing, and it all went 
together in the sense it was the same subject matter but in the 
sense that we were teaching on these various levels, both students 
in classes and in office and students in Extension and then to the 
people we wrote for and published for in the journals and magazines. 

I doubt there was any split or problem there until the sixties. 
In the sixties what got to us, of course, was the problem of much 
weaker administration. We lost Ben Lehman and other good 
administrators, and we lost the working with the president. Clark 
Kerr was a good man, but Clark Kerr was so busy working on the 
growth of the University, and tremendous growth became a problem 
also. He turned, I think, away well, he was pretty good still, 
however. I remember getting little notes from Kerr and things in 

*The shooting actually took place when Mr. Parkinson had his office 
in Dwinelle Hall. 


Miles: his own writing; he was very devoted to keeping the faculty in 

mind. But in the mid-sixties we lost him too. I think that the 
loyalty oath with the Regents, that was a great big fat distraction, 
and the faculty began realizing that they had problems with 
recognition. Then the dismissal of Kerr, which was another example 
of Regent lack of understanding. 

These were the things that brought to mind that maybe others 
didn t see us as we saw ourselves, that is, very diligent, hard 
working, and involved. 

That s when we had a great deal of violence on campus, which 
I ve always felt was created mostly by Regential and administrative 
blindness. But we had to turn a lot of our time just to choking 
back the tear gas. This was very distracting. And we had to 
teach off campus as well as on. We often had to teach two sections 
of every class because some people wanted to meet on campus and 
some didn t, and we had to handle both; we couldn t disregard the 
minority in terms of the majority. 

So if that s the kind of thing you mean, yes. But this is 
administrative failure to back up faculty functions, and that was 
just tremendous in the sixties. It was because they didn t 
understand what was going on, and they didn t sympathize, and they 
didn t cope. There were a few Regents, of course, who did 
wonderfully well, and there were a few administrators who did, 
notably Lincoln Constance. But they were rare. So we did lose a 
lot of momentum there, except that we also gained a good deal 
through the students, who were so constructive and so active and 
so vital that I suppose we gained back from them more than we lost 
from the administration. 

Then I suppose Reagan came in, and Brown, both of whom are 
highly anti- intellectual people. They re highly abstract; they 
want grassroots, they want trade courses, they want job 
preparation, and they want opportunity for minorities in their 
sense of opportunity, which is instant jobs, and is all very alien 
to a faculty function it s not the job of a university faculty to 
get instant jobs. 

So we have had to spend a tremendous lot of distracting time 
on going up to Sacramento, trying to state our case. A wonderful 
physicist like Bill [William B.] Fretter has jeopardized his 
career to sit in legislative chambers to fight the poison, really, 
that comes from some legislators. I think on the whole the faculty 
has tried to hold its own and has still worked very hard in both 


Miles: You ask about quantitative figures. Well, that s hard to talk 

about. You wouldn t believe it, but accounting, computing, and so 
forth has been very messy in the past thirty years, and lots of 
these headlines that say, "Faculty-Class Ratio Falls" turn out to 
be some wrong computation by some secretary or some machine. Then 
you go up to Sacramento and say, "Look, fellows. Actually it s 
risen," and they say, "Oh, great," but that doesn t get in the 
papers. Much of this whole hassle is really absurd. They re 
trying now to get a formula for measurement which is stabilized 
and secure and checkable and so on. Alan Post everybody says is a 
very good man, and the budget directors. In other words, there s 
perfectly good faith among the intelligent people on both sides. 

It s just that when President [Charles J.] Hitch tried to turn 
over to a very different kind of computational administration, I 
think one thing that happened is he turned it over to people who 
didn t know how to do it, and we got fantastic computational 
reports that had nothing to do with reality, which nobody recognized 
until last year. Things like that. 

So again, I m not sure we ought to go into all this because it 
gets so complicated, and 

Teiser: You ve given us a sense of it. 

Miles: The important thing is, all through the sixties and seventies I lost 
much faith in what I would have called one of my central beliefs 
before, and that was the First Amendment. That is, I think freedom 
of the press is such a vicious force when uncontrolled, as it has 
been by good people in this area. When somebody like Jim Benet for 
many years on "Newsroom"* begins his report on Berkeley, whatever 
it might be about, with a canned sound of kids yelling and screaming, 
you know you ve got distortion. That kind of distortion I guess 
does grow; the distorted complex, the "What is the university for, 
and what are we doing here?" We have so little validity now in the 
media and in public concept that my only hope lies, as I said 
before, that the children of the sixties, when they become adult 
leaders, will revise the tremendous distortions. 

Teiser: They re now just really getting firmly into their careers. 

Miles: Yes. Some of them are already good. We already see them in action. 
Some of my students I already see in legislative action, and it s 
very heartening to see how they re turning things around a little 
bit. It isn t only the Unversity, it s the whole public school 
system that s had terrible problems with the new committee 
legislation and so on. Look at what was his name? the head of 
education that we had for years and graduated anybody so they 

*0n television station KQED, San Francisco. 


Miles: wouldn t get out of their peer group. Again, [Wilson] Riles is 

trying to turn that around. So there s a good deal of hope. But 
we lost so much ground with what was his name? I can t think of 
that terrible 

Teiser: That bigot who was 

Miles: That was the head of the school system here for a long time.* 

Riles I think is a big hope. And [Mayor Tom] Bradley in L.A. is a 
big hope. I think a lot of the black leaders, for example, are 
going to turn around and fight this cheap entrance to universities 
which is now being fostered, and cheap degrees and all that, and 
quantitative mass control stuff. But at the moment it s very, 
very discouraging. 1 think if we didn t all like teaching so much 
[laughing], we d be worse discouraged than we are. But where 
there s usually some kid to talk to who feels he s learning 
something, that makes up for it. 

During the late sixties or early seventies, as an example, we 
had some Regents who were very strongly fighting against the faculty 
because they felt they were I don t know what, really. I don t 
know what their cause was. Oh, they were anti-student-uprising, of 
course. But I used to get telephone calls from all over the state, 
from former students saying, "I ve just been to a Rotary meeting, 
and Edward Teller came and talked to us about your university and 
his. He asked for a moment of silent prayer from all of us, for 
the sake of our grandchildren, that the University would not be as 
subversive as it was as he was talking." And he said, "That was 
very effective against you people up there" (because they always 
say "you people up there;" that s their phrase for us). He [Teller] 
would say, for example, "Do you know what it means when a professor 
does field work? It means he s out on the golf course." Now, when 
that goes to every Rotary Club throughout the state, noon after noon 
during the Cambodia crisis, you ve got a problem! We never knew how 
to solve it. For a while Henry Smith was on a truth squad that 
tried to go around following up. But you can t do that; just like 
restatements in the paper nobody reads them. They re not on the 
first page any more. The power of the press to falsify and not 
retract is so total that I simply can t know what to think about 
the First Amendment. 

Teiser: Is it any different than it was? 

*Max Rafferty. 


Miles: I don t remember this in the forties and fifties. I don t 

remember this of course, Sproul was very popular with the press. 
That was still a time when there was growth and interest and I think 
a kind of intellectual strength. The legislature was very proud of 
the University as one of the best public universities in the 
country. We participated in that pride and growth, and Sproul was 
vocal about it. A faculty member for those twenty years felt very 
much appreciated, and a faculty member in the last twenty years has 
not felt appreciated I mean by those kinds of people. As far as 
the student goes, it s okay. 

Teiser: Earlier, you university people weren t much in the news; you 
weren t there to be distorted. 

Miles: That s right. The media weren t they didn t even call it media in 
those days. We didn t have much television. If you had television, 
it was kind of Edward R. Murrow showing how the illiterate could 
learn to write. It was very touching and, again, it was pro- 
intellect not anti-intellect. It was not using the university as 
a kind of football for controversy and excitement and scare 
headlines and so forth. 

Teiser: Thank you for talking about that. I know that you simplified it. 

Miles: Well, it s probably a lot deeper than I could get there. I probably 
could say, aside from Kerr, who certainly, as I say, had a big job 
on his hands to integrate and handle growth, aside from that, we 
then had chancellors and presidents who were not coming from 
California and I think simply didn t understand or didn t really 
have much interest in California as a state or the function of 
California as a state, or the legislature. I think the legislators 
got turned off from all these people. We had a series of what? 
four or five of them, people to whom we didn t speak, who didn t 
speak to us, whom we never saw, who were always out of town if 
there was a problem, who didn t see there was, seemed to be, lack 
of communication. I m undoubtedly speaking too bitterly about our 
administration during those years, and I can merely say that this 
is truly my view. If I d been closer or farther away, I would have 
probably seen extenuating circumstances. But in the middle distance 
of the faculty, it was a bad scene. 

Even now it s hard, because now we have a president who is a 
faculty member, and a Calif ornian, and this is a fine thing. But 
we have chancellors who aren t, to some degree. Now that I m more 
closely involved in what they think and do, I realize sometimes how 
far away they do seem from our problems. But I think things are 
going to get much better in this way. I think Bill Fretter has been 
quite a hero, and our president, and I think people have so deeply 
realized how bad the problems are now, that I think the problems 
you raise have been now in a sense realized and maybe will be faced 
more seriously. 


Miles: You probably didn t read in the papers that the great scandal about 

something called DSIR [Data System of Instructional Resources], which 
was all the data for the whole set of campuses, all this data was 
reported by a group of officials with the initials D-S-I-R (I don t 
know what that all stood for) . It was a data reporting and 
computing analysis, and it all turned out to be false! It didn t 
use proper statistical modifications and so forth, and these guys 
had the power the power, again, of the computer and Mr. Hitch had 
instituted this as a good thing and it was supposed to be. I don t 
know the history where he got it and why they were so bad and why 
they weren t checked on. So we ve been living a lie [laughing] for 
about ten years, I guess. We ve said over and over, "Look, people, 
this can t be true! It just isn t true, it isn t true." They say, 
"The facts are before you on the computer," and there s this whole 
loss of human relations. 

Anyway, let s say merely that the trouble with asking 
professors to record the hours that they work is that it often 
turns out to be sixty hours a week, and this is no joke! I mean, 
everybody laughs, but it s no joke we do. You have to. You can t 
do all your teaching and all your research without working weekends 
and summers too. So we report this, and then everybody says, 
"Baloney! That can t be true." So it s one of those absurd 
situations that we really like what we re doing so we really do an 
awful lot of it. We re not getting time and a half for overtime. 

Teiser: You work on projects on your own time during the summers, you said. 

Miles: Sure. 

Teiser: Are you able to while you re teaching? 

Miles: You can do little things while you re teaching. You can do little 
bits, sort of work toward a cumulative effect in the summer. 

Teiser: Do you read all the time? Do you just read regularly every day, or 

Miles: Yes. Sure. 
Teiser: Summer, winter 

Miles: Sure. All the time. Despite that, the amount of reading that I had 
to catch up with at the end of this June, I just finished last 
Friday, which is about the first of August. And that was just 
reading that had to be done immediately; it was manuscripts of 
former students nothing to do with current classroom work, but 
manuscripts from friends and former students who wrote to me and 
asked me to check them. You do an awful lot of consulting and 
conferring with people in all that, and books that I had to read in 



Teiser ; 

Miles : 
Miles : 


order to get the answers to questions I was looking for myself. 
So I only got caught up on the most pressing work on the first of 
August. So this morning for the first time I m reading a book that 
I want to read, which is still a scholarly work. It s a book on 
the ballad which I want to read, but it s still scholarly. Oh, I 
did read one book of fiction. 

Do you read fiction for pleasure? 

I used to, after I got through finals, go down to the circulating 
library and get about half a dozen books of fiction and try to slow 
down my speed. I read very fast, and I d get too wound up when I 
was at the end of the year. So I would read these fiction books 
fast, and slow down my speed. But circulating libraries aren t 
what they used to be, either. [Laughter] 

We have paperbacks now. 

Yes, we have paperbacks, right. 

But you don t read for pleasure just right along? 

I have to fight to read for pleasure, 
calls and extra manuscripts. 

I have to fight off phone 

You said you were reading manuscripts of former students, that you 
feel interest and obligation ? 

It s a big burden and it s a big pleasure too. To have your 
students keep writing is of course what you want. This extends 
everything we ve been saying into the second generation. And this 
might be a good place to continue from what we were talking about 
last time, because I did want to mention, when we were talking 
about scholarship and so on, and writing and so on, that this is 
true: graduate students that work with you, you like to have them 
go on too, not just write their dissertations and vanish into outer 
space. I ve had maybe a couple of dozen graduate students, and my 
great pride is that they are not apprentices in any way; none of 
them have ever written books like what I write, or have used the 
same methods, but have used very different methods of their own and 
have worked in all sorts of fields and periods of time. This gives 
me great delight, that each one is very much unlike the others.* 
I guess maybe about a fourth of them have done a lot of good 
publishing, which is an unusually high average. So when they send 
stuff to me to read and check on, of course I m very pleased. It 
takes an awful lot of hard work to keep up with all that; the 
better they are, the more hard work it takes. 

*See Appendix. 


Miles: I say that I just this morning started reading something for 

pleasure, but also this morning I got two letters from two very 
good former Ph.D. s, both saying they were sending me manuscripts 
to read. I won t get to finish this book before their manuscripts 
come. [Laughing] But that s nice. I m both pleased and somewhat 
oppressed. I guess all of us have the problem which we can t seem 
to define to other people, about the accrual of responsibility to 
students as you go along. 

I remember very vividly during the forties when we first 
developed again, when our department was first shaping up in its 
new shape, and after the war when we were thinking of getting jobs 
for students. We placed our first Ph.D. s at Michigan and Princeton, 
and Larry Benson at Harvard, and Bill Steinhoff at Michigan, David 
Green at Princeton, Sheridan Baker at Michigan, and so on. This 
was very exciting, because Berkeley hadn t done much of this 
reciprocity of placements before, and so we were much interested 
too in having them publish. 

When in 1968 we had the hundredth anniversary at the University, 
it was such a bad time for violence that the University hesitated to 
have any ceremonies because they would have been perhaps occasions 
for more violence. So the University played down in a very timorous 
way its own anniversary. But the English Department decided that 
that was wrong. So we asked the University for some money to have 
our own celebration, and they figured we wouldn t get too violent. 
What we decided to do was to invite a dozen of our most distinguished 
graduates to come to a week s celebration and have a dinner and hear 
them. It was fun! It was a really nice idea. We got a big list of 
these and then had a vote as to which ones we would bring. We 
didn t have any great fights; it was pretty clear who they were. 
There were two or three of these first Ph.D. s who had worked out 
very well. Also there were some poets that had done well, like Bill 
Stafford and George Starbuck. And the George P. Elliotts, and the 
Tapers, Bernard and Phyllis, who were working on the New Yorker and 
who had been editors of our literary magazines here. 

So it was in the early or mid-forties that we picked up this 
sense of distinction, of publication and action in our own students. 
There too, some of them left and became extremely good teachers, 
like Al Hollingsworth, who never actually finished his Ph.D. But 
there again, I think mostly we wanted a double standard of hoping 
they d be good teachers and good publishers too. That s the way it 
worked for many of them, a source of pleasure to the department. 


Developments in Poetry 

Miles: Then I might go back from scholarship to poetry, saying that at the 
same time, in the forties, we began a new era for poetry in that in 
the thirties I d been talking about Yvor Winters and Ann Winslow 
and her book. By the way, an anecdote, I got a letter today too 
from somebody I know, Don Bogen, who said, "I m writing a book on 
Roethke. I m working on the Roethke material up here in Seattle, 
and I ran into your poetry in this anthology where he is too." 
(This was Trial Balances.) He said, "It s so amazing to read your 
early poetry that I thought I d write you." So that was it. I 
keep noticing on these days that we talk how things keep coming 

Ann Winslow got her M.A. and left for Wyoming to teach and 
raise dogs (which was a nice switch). In about 19AO, when I came 
back to teach, there was a new group. It seemed new, because I d 
been away for three years. There were these people, a very nice 
group of people studying, doing graduate work George P. Elliott and 
the Bill Steinhoffs and the Tapers and the Ham [Hamilton] Tylers, the 
Benbow Ritchies all friends. The Fretters were in this group, the 
one I mentioned who is now active in physics and in the University. 
And the Jack Murchios. It seems that as I remember things they re 
clusters; I don t know why these clusters happen, but this was a 
very good cluster of friends that I got to know. George Elliott 
helped me, and I suppose that was one way I got to know them. He 
drove for me for a while. We used to meet in the evenings and talk 
about whatever it was we thought important. I think we were still 
talking about how to discuss a poem, which was still a very hot 
subject in those days. I remember that we just nearly fell all 
over ourselves on the subject of [Gerard Manley] Hopkins s 
"Windhover," but that s kind of a vague memory; I can t imagine us 
doing it now. 

Anyway, that group was active in graduate study. Then, at the 
same time, we had Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer in poetry, a fellow 
by the name of George Leite, who started a couple of magazines. 
One was called New Rejections, and this was in reaction to New 
Directions which was just becoming very strong and active and well 
known in the forties. Then he did another one called Circle which 
was pretty important because it circulated throughout the world, 
and we had exchanges with some of those jokester magazines in 
Australia, and we got a sense of poetry s being international. 
Leite was a tremendous entrepeneur; he had a bookstore on Telegraph 
Avenue some angel angeled it for him where the Eclair Bakery now 
is. That provided a very, very active steering center. I remember 


Miles: at one time somebody said, "Where s the Phi Beta office around this 
campus?" And somebody else said, "Oh, down the hall," and he 
pointed it out. And they said, "Oh no, that s the poetry office," 
and it was actually both. Phi Betes were poets and vice versa. 

Speaking of New Directions, James Laughlin came out here and 
was so impressed with all this activity, he said there was no 
place in the country, except maybe Madison, that had this kind of 
poetic activity. That was in 1941, maybe, something like that. 
He published my second book of poems. The first had been published 
by Macmillan; it was a sequel to Trial Balances. Then Laughlin 
started this series called the "Poet of the Month" or the year, or 

Teiser: The month. 
Miles: Was it the month? 
Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: So I think somebody asked me to send to that, and I did, my second 

book, the second collection that I had, and he turned it down. That 
didn t surprise me particularly, but what was interesting was that 
a little later I got a letter from him saying, "Delmore Schwartz is 
one of our editors here, and Delmore Schwartz happened to read your 
manuscript, which I was sending back, and said, No, we should 
publish this ." So I m very happy to think that I was rescued by 
Delmore Schwartz, because I liked his first book of poetry very 
much; it was called In Dreams Begin Responsibilities. 

Laughlin in those days was sort of a traveling salesman for 
his own work. He came out and we had a lot of fun, because he 
decided my titles were no good (my titles are never any good). So 
when I decided this would be called Poems on Several Occasions, 
which showed my academic relation to Bud Bronson and the eighteenth 
century, he said, "We ll have to name these poems for various 
occasions," and so we started doing that "On the Occasion of 
Lighting a Fire in the Grate," and so on. We sat around the 
apartment that I lived in then, and made up these titles, and really 
had a very good time. He was a nice person. 

Muriel Rukeyser was here for a while, and Octavio Paz was here, 
and they decided this should be the translation capital of the 
country, and everything was really humming. 

Now that I had another book in the mid-forties, I decided I 
ought to well, New Directions was doing other types of things 
then, as I remember; I mean I don t remember discussing it with 


Miles: them. But I decided I d like to have this published by Reynal and 
Hitchcock because I liked Karl Shapiro s first book so much, and 
they d published it. So I sent that to them and they accepted it. 

Teiser: Which one was that? 

Miles: That was called Local Measures, and that was about 19 

Teiser: Forty-six. 

Miles: Yes. So things were very prosperous for poetry in the forties, as 
they were in other ways too. This was, remember, a heavy wartime, 
and it made people very conscious of the world around us. We were 
bound to Berkeley because of gas rationing. We were also bound to 
kind of a cave-like atmosphere because we couldn t have lights on 
at night. We were blacked out, and students would rove the streets 
throwing stones anywhere they could see a gleam of light, and 
yelling, "Lights out! Lights out." So there was a sort of reason 
why there was all this intensity, because there was an intensity 
of focus out in the town; people weren t going away for the weekend, 
and they weren t wasting much time. If they were conscientious 
objectors, they were wondering how that would turn out, and were 
working meantime in hospitals and so on, and later were interned 
up at Waldport, Oregon, where Bill Everson and Bill Stafford and 
Gary Snyder and others were; that became a nest of singing birds up 
there. Then they all came back here in the late forties, after 
becoming friends, and they published a magazine called Interim and 
another one called Ark with Sanders Russell, and so on. There are 
just infinite names I could mention, and groups and clusters and 
interrelations here. There s all this sense of, "Well, if we can 
make it through the war, we certainly can make it through the peace." 
In other words, we ll have all this stuff ready to go, if peace 

I remember it was very hard for me to get to classes because I 
had used student help, and the students were all drafted by that 
time, all the able-bodied ones. But I did have a boy that was in 
one of the armed forces on campus, and the armed forces captain very 
kindly let him help me, because he had a car. But he had to come on 
campus at eight o clock in the morning. So all that year I had to 
come on to campus at eight o clock, and my class wasn t till nine. 
So I parked outside of LSB, Life Sciences Building, and had beautiful 
times watching the dawn come between eight and nine [laughing] , and 
the students come to class. It was a very lovely time. I tried the 
stunt then of telling myself to write a poem every Thursday morning, 
or every morning I can t remember what to see if I could be a 
serious kind of person who sat down at the typewriter every morning 
and wrote something willy-nilly. That was my experiment with that, 
and I did. I wrote a poem every whatever-it-was, Thursday or 


Miles: Tuesday or both, for that span of time. A year later I realized 
there were just as many decent ones as there would have been if I 
had written without schedule. In other words, I had to throw more 
than usual away. So I told myself I was right, that I shouldn t 
worry too much about regularity and timing and that. But with all 
these stresses and difficulties, the fact that if you did get away 
for a weekend I remember we went either to the Russian River or to 
Los Gatos when we got enough stamps, maybe once a semester then 
our guys who were soldiers and could get leave would come and stay 
with us. That was both sort of a harrowing time I mean my brothers 
and my friends, the fellows that I studied with who were students or 
teachers elsewhere, would come and spend time with us at either of 
these places, and we d hear all about the horrors of the war. It 
was a time of great tension, but also a lot of drive, I suppose, to 
make up for that tension. 

[end tape 1, side 1; begin tape 1, side 2] 

Teiser: The forties was a period which began many things, then, in poetry, 
wasn t it? Are we today still feeling and seeing the people that 
started there? 

Miles: Well, yes and no. Part of it began in the thirties, of course, 

where Winters and Rexroth were big figures, and Kenneth Patchen and 
Kenneth Fearing, and of course Jeffers. And as I showed you in 
Trial Balances, that was the book of the mid-thirties and that is 
full of people still working today. So I suppose if you looked 
back to the twenties you could even see that stuff began there. 
That s the trouble with me, I was too involved to notice. But it 
doesn t seem so; it seems to me that the twenties was more of a 
time turned, looking backwards. I think part of this is perspective. 

But then what was added in the forties was the generation of 
Leite-Duncan-Spicer et al. Spicer was a very interesting person 
who s much worshipped by poets today. He was in my poetry class 
with five charming girls, and they did him a world of good. He 
later turned away from the whole Berkeley scene, as did Robert 
Duncan, because they felt opposed to it that it was too academic. 
But I know those girls did Jack Spicer a lot of good. 

Another thing we did during those years was to have, to 
continue the poetry meetings that Ann Wins low had had. These now 
we had in the daytime because there were night blackouts. We had 
them on Friday afternoons in Wheeler Hall, and a hundred people 
would cornel Again, for lack of other things to do, but also out of 

Richard Eberhart was over at the Alameda air base teaching 
gunnery, and he would come over. He d published a couple of books 
by that time. He d come over and talk to the students. We had a 
lot of free talks by good people those afternoons. Henry Miller 


Miles: was a fighting phrase; I believe somebody wanted Henry Miller and 
somebody else said we couldn t have him. I don t remember what 
that was all about. (I guess he wouldn t come, for one thing.) 
Tom Parkinson and a poet by the name of Leonard Wolf and I ran 
those for three or four years, and they developed to be so popular 
that we even had sections in addition to this general meeting. 
Talking about contact hours, contact hours were just limitless that 
we spent on this stuff, and very, very invigorating. Later we had 
some quarrels among ourselves because the different poets pulled 
away and wanted to teach poetry in different ways. And toward the 
middle of the decade the war got pretty strained too, so we gave 
those up finally. 

At the same time, then about the same time the chairman, 
Ben Lehman, decided to have another kind of poetry thing going on. 
In Morrison Room in the library he started Monday afternoon poetry 
readings, which weren t like ours. He thought ours were too much 
hoopla. He wanted just quiet poetry readings. Every four o clock 
there would be somebody there, and anybody who wanted to drop by 
Morrison at four o clock on Mondays would hear poetry read aloud. 
He started that under the pressure of the war. These were mostly 
members of the English Department. Just every year we d make out a 
schedule and the people would be there no fuss and feathers. Just 
year after year. That went on for about thirty years. 

Teiser: Was it a different kind of poetry read there, then? 

Miles: Oh yes. They read traditional work they were fond of. It wasn t 

modern. On the whole, it was whatever the poet, the reader, wanted 
to read. But the idea was it was from the treasury of English 
literature. There was usually some Chaucer, some Milton, and 
whatever poet was much liked by the reader. Also we did have some 
original poetry there. During those years, I read probably three 
times there my own, and others of us did. The most elaborate we 
ever got, I think, is that we did a reading aloud of Samson Agonistes 
with various characters, and we had an interesting reading aloud of 
the Bible in a Greek version, an English version, and a Hebraic 
version. There were little variations, but it was the steadiness of 
it that was really so amazing. 

That was suspended on the whole after thirty years because the 
trucks that went up past the library, in front of the library, were 
so heavy and made so much noise that you couldn t hear. So then we 
moved to Wheeler, the Commons Room, where we ve been having them in 
the last couple of years. There they ve grown so popular that 
there s poetry read in there almost every day one way or another, 
and they re in Morrison too. Now all you have to do is sign up if 
you want to read there, and go and read. In other words, from four 
o clock on, the Commons Room is open to sign-ups for any kind of 
literary use. They re either speakers who are planned, or there 
are students who want to read, or whatever. 


Teiser: Read their own work or others ? 

Miles: Read their own work or others , either one. So that has had a 
remarkable steadiness, with a remarkable lack of fuss. 

When the war ended "I remember one ending; I m not quite sure 
which ending it was. It was probably the Pacific sector, because 
both my brothers were in it. So I probably cared more deeply, and 
most of my friends were in the Pacific sector too. I remember the 
kind of tremendous moment. I remember it was about five o clock in 
the afternoon that we heard the news. It was like a marvelous dawn. 
I had the feeling of great emotion that all this work that we had 
been doing for this future, that that future was now with us, would 
dawn upon us; and that all the pressure was off and everything would 
just grow naturally. Somebody had put up the window blinds. It 
was a marvelous feeling of potentiality. 

We had built this little house by that time, under a civilian 
permit for it, because my brothers were in the war. So everything 
seemed gung-ho, ready to go. 

It seems very sad to look back on that and to think that on 
the one hand, yes, we had maybe three, four years of marvelous 
accord, exactly what we all expected, from maybe 45 to 49, 
something like that. The GIs came back; they were great students; 
as I mentioned before, the campus had twenty-three thousand but it 
seemed like three thousand because everybody was so friendly. It 
was really kind of a heavenly time. It seems sad, doesn t it, to 
think that that all was wiped out by the Regent loyalty oath 
attempt in other words, by McCarthy. McCarthy wiped out that 
paradise, and it never happened again. I think he did it pretty 
single-handed, though you must remember, I suppose, that that 
feeling of doubt and fear was in many a heart and that s why he was 
able to capitalize on it. 

So then we moved into a period in the fifties, maybe the last 
year of the forties maybe for three or four years then of our own 
war. Real embattlement again, in a different way, with people being 
hurt and having heart attacks and leaving town and getting jobs 
elsewhere and being in lawsuits. I can t remember my other functions 
at this time at all. We were all so emotionally involved, I can t 
remember anything about those years. Oh yes, heavy teaching, and 
some community politics. 

Teiser: Did you go on writing poetry as well as teaching? 

Miles: Yes, I went on writing poetry. I know I finished up I suppose in 
a kind of mesmerized way I finished up my Continuity of Poetic 
Language, and I went on writing poetry. Quite a bit of that was 
poetry about the war. Then Reynal and Hitchcock had folded by that 


Miles: time, so I sent this around I forget whether I had troubles there 
or not. But then Indiana [University Press] wrote me, since 
Indiana had an angel for publishing poetry, and they started a 
poetry series. The editor was Samuel Yellen of Indiana; I think 
he wrote me. And I sent my book there, which came out in maybe 
55 or 56. He was the editor, a very nice editor. 

Teiser: That s Pref abrications , 55. 

Miles: Pref abrications, yes. So that book was very intensely about 

Berkeley and about the surrounding pressures. Then the sense of 
work was now sort of harder because you had a sense that the 
students were more skeptical of learning, and you had that 
realization that things weren t going to open up as grandly as one 
might have thought. 

Then, at the end of the fifties, there came a tremendous what 
would be the word?~revelation of what those difficulties were going 
to be, as the Un-American Activities Committee got stronger and 
stronger, as we had the ruckus at San Francisco City Hall with HUAC, 
and as the students developed an anti-authoritarian spirit. 

Anyway, that was when I had such a hard time teaching poetry, 
because they were so cruel to each other, so destructive to each 
other s work. I said to the students that it seemed to me every 
time they liked a poem it had the word they refused to accept a 
poem unless it had the word "scream" in it. You see, there was 
this incipience of the violence we talk about now that came very 
vividly in at that point. It would be interesting to trace back 
the whole nature of that blood-thirstiness that came into poetry 
and to the poetry students. 

Then when I said, "Why is it that you like poems that have 
the word scream and obscenities in them?" one boy very intensely 
said, "Miss Miles, I don t know any work more obscene than yours. 
A poet that thinks he can write a poem like a Christmas package, 
and tie some pretty tissue paper around it, and tie a string 
around it, then tie it in a knot, and then hand it to somebody 
what s more obscene than that!" And they all said, "Yeah, yeah. 
Yeah, yeah." {Laughter] So it was very helpful to me. From then 
on I had no trouble, because from then on I understood what 
bothered them. I mean, I don t understand why it bothered them, 
but it was clear what bothered them: easy solutions, simple 
answers, things that looked neat and so on, they just couldn t 

Teiser: Do you think it s valid for anyone to think that your poems present 
easy solutions? 


Miles: On the surface they could have thought that, yes, because my poems 
have very definite endings to them, and they just didn t want 
definite endings. 

Then my selected poems came out in 1960, and it was a rather 
desolate moment, because [laughing] here were my poems. "Maybe 
I ll never write any more. Here I m a very ancient lady of fifty 
now, and this is probably the last book I ll write, and they re 
out they re gone with the wind." This was the feeling I had about 
that volume, because this was the feeling students had about them. 

But as time developed, two different things happened. One is, 
I gradually learned. I just sat around listening to them. I 
didn t try to control them, I didn t try to many of them came to 
me and said, "You ve got to handle this," and I d say, "I don t know 
how to handle this." So I just sat around and listened and let them 
yell at each other. And as I said, many of them have apologized to 
each other since. 

Then further, some of them were very, very good. A fellow by 
the name of Gerald Butler was an amazingly good poet of that 
generation. A fellow by the name of Lyman Andrews, who wasn t that 
violent by any means but belonged in that era. And Diane Wakoski, 
in whom you can see some of that icon-breaking quality, was of that 
period. I remember when we asked Donald Davie to come and talk to 
us, and he talked about meter. I was sitting in the back of the 
room and he was up in front talking about meter, and the class stood 
up and said, "Pardon us. We re going now," right in the middle of 
his talk. So I said, "Those of you who feel you have to, who can t 
bear to listen to these words about meter, go ahead. But that 
doesn t need to be all of you. Don t feel forced by mob action." 
About four people stayed. But dramatic things like that were always 

As time developed, there was a tremendous change. I mentioned 
that there were two things that happened. One was that things simply 
wore down. And the other thing was that as there was more pressure 
on the students from others, they turned to the faculty for sympathy 
and assistance. Or perhaps they were now different students, I 
don t know. But suddenly we found ourselves, many of us, playing a 
new role. I guess not all of us; it was very hard for some people 
now to teach. But for me it became just illuminatingly easy because 
now they felt they needed support, I understood them better, they 
felt I understood them better, and we moved back into Wheeler Hall. 
(We d had ten bad years, as far as environment goes, in that ghastly 
Dwinelle Hall.) We moved back into Wheeler in 63, I think it was, 
and that made a more open atmosphere. So again we had some nice 
peaceful years till about 65 or 66 when the violence started 


Miles: The room that I had was in the basement of Wheeler on the 

southwest side, which meant that it was in the line of fire. 
I think I already mentioned, that became a battleground for about 
five years. I was too dumb to realize I should have asked to move 
to another building. {Laughter] I didn t even realize that up in 
the Engineering Circle there wasn t all this going on that was 
going on in the humanities larea of campus], I just thought it was, 
you know, part of the war. 

Here came then another fascinatingly good group of students, 
again that I think of as a group. Paul Foreman and Hildie Spritser 
and Mary Dunlap and Janice Castro and others who are still working 
today in interesting aspects of teaching or law or poetry or 
publishing. Jim Tate became a department visitor, and a lot of 
people worked for him on a magazine called Cloud Marauder, which 
was very good and different. So again this embattlement had a 
certain kind of power to foster poetry and foster solidarity and 
enthusiasm. I ve written lots of poems about all these things. 
Maybe I say them better there than here, maybe I don t. I ve 
tried them out on some of my friends, and my friends don t think 
they go very well. So I don t know. It s a hard thing to capture, 
this feeling of osmosis that comes from a lot of people in a group. 
But that s what many of my classes had through the Vietnam and 
Cambodian years, where there was a lot of social concern, a lot of 
free writing, a lot of slap-happy writing but also a lot of strong 
writing too. This developed now the era of reading aloud and the 
poetry readings that you spoke of before. 

Jack Niles is another good poet I should mention there who 
was awfully good, as Paul Foreman was and many of them were, at 
just making instant magazines of poetry, which we would sell and 
make money to use for leafleting purposes. 

I then [laughing] fell in with this by trying some pamphlet 
poetry. Robert Hawley asked for some poems for a pamphlet for 
Oyez; Robert Hawley was publishing now doing Oyez. Cody s was 
there, so that had an influence, and the whole growth of paperbacks, 
of course, made a lot of good difference too. So then I tried a 
pamphlet called Civil Poems,* and the students liked that a lot 
better because it was more along their line of interest, and it was 

*Published by Oyez in 1966. 


Teiser: Did you choose the poems for it particularly because you thought 
they were pamphlet poems? 

Miles: No, no, not at alii I was just about to say, it was just the fun 
of writing poems to be published. I didn t choose; I didn t have 
any others to choose. Those were them. 

Teiser: Oh, you wrote those for the purpose? 

Miles: Yes. Yes. And that was a new experience. That s the nice thing 
about pamphlets. That s how the kids started out: "Let s do a 
pamphlet of poems. Okay. Everybody bring a poem by Monday." 

Teiser: You have one on the People s Park controversy in I think it s 
called "Green something."* 

Miles: Yes, there s that one too. I had a lot. The one I liked best was 

the one about how to play a soccer match. An awful lot of adrenalin 
went into that poem, I ll tell you. Anyway, these were all instant 
poems and instant publications, and it was fun, because it was new 
to me. I didn t have to save them up over a five-year span or so; 
they all got published right away. So much so that when the 
celebration of our centennial came along in 1968, I thought, "Aside 
from inviting people here, a nice thing to do would be to write 
some poems for the centennial." So I wrote a book of poems called 
Fields of Learning.** These were not emotionally loaded in the 
same way. They were poems about textbooks. Over a number of years, 
I had always read freshman textbooks for other courses so that I d 
know what the students were reading. A lot of us did that; we d 
help them do their exams in other courses by knowing what they were 
reading in other courses. I loved these basic freshman texts in 
physics and chemistry, and they all seemed to me to be illuminated 
with vitality. So a number of these I made into poems. The book is, 
as a whole, not a success. But I think there are three or four good 
poems in it, but most of them are too flat because the difficulty for 
me is that the subject matter to me is so illuminated I don t care 
if it s flat or not. But it doesn t mean as much to others as it 
means to me. 

*Green Flag, People s Park Poetry, published by City Lights, San 
Francisco, in 1969. (Also poems in Street Poems and American Poems, 
student collections, and Peace and Gladness, edited by Doug Palmer. 

**Published by Oyez in 1968. 


Miles: That book Robert Hawley had trouble with. He was glad to do it, 
but Graham Mackintosh, who was such a fine stand-by printer for 
Robert, was on the rocks at that particular moment and couldn t 
do it, and he couldn t find anybody to do it. Finally I can t 
think who it was some very nice poet (who could it have been?) 
typed it, and then they just did a photo offset. I had fun out of 
that too. I just made millions of copies and gave them to 
everybody I could think of, handed them out on campus, and sent 
them to all the administrators. I never got one acknowledgment 
from one single administrator. I sent them to lots of chairmen of 
departments and teachers of the courses that I was writing about. 
I got fascinating letters from teachers of physics and teachers of 
biology, and so on. Aside from the fact that I didn t turn it to 
any ceremonial purpose the dedication was "In debt to Berkeley" 
and I had quite a lot of sentimental feeling about it aside from 
the fact that Echo never answered back from anybody that 
represented Berkeley administratively and in relation to students, 
both of those pamphlets were lots of fun. 

In the midst of that, then, I guess another book was published, 
is that right? I guess Kinds of Affection was published at that 

Teiser: That was before, yes, 67. 

Miles: This now was Wesleyan [University Press]. My books didn t sell 

very well, and so Indiana didn t want to do a paperback. I was now 
very struck with paperbacks, so they turned me down on the paperback, 
so they said I could try Wesleyan, and Wesleyan did Kinds of 
Affection. That had a fairly good response. This is a very happy 
thing, that I was feeling so dopey about 

Teiser: That was in both hardbound and paperback. 

Miles: Yes, I guess so. But it was sort of funny to think that I was 

feeling so low in 1960 with my selected collected works, that was 
about it [laughing] and then right after that I did so much new 
stuff that was fun and exciting and different. That is the positive 
side, I think, not only for me but for the campus. As I can t 
stress too often (I probably said this on the last reel), the 
marvelous vitality of those days, those years, of the students and 
their creative activities. 

We had then people like Archie Ammons on campus and George 
Starbuck all sorts of good writers, John Logan at St. Mary s with 
Jim Townsend. And very good relations with Thorn Gunn, [Lawrence] 
Ferlinghetti, [Richard] Brautigan, Louis Simpson, Gary Snyder, who 
came and taught for us. 


Miles: We did a lot of experimenting, inviting of new young black writers 
to campus. I m not sure whether this was late sixties or early 
seventies, but we had Victor Hernandez Cruz, David Henderson, 
Ishmael Reed, Al Young, many more, and we worked very early we 
had a committee in our department to get as many black writers 
as we could to visit us. We couldn t get them to stay permanently 
because, on the whole, they didn t want to be tied down. In the 
one or two cases where they would ve, we didn t want them to be. 
But on the whole the best for us was to have visitors and to learn 
from them. George Barlow was another one, and Margaret Wilkerson 
(she s head of the Women s Center now). Anyway, we had all new 
kinds of poetry coming in to the picture now. So the sense of 
poetry in the seventies has been more various from more points of 
view, both inside the department and I guess in the sense of 
poetry in the country too. 

I wrote some articles. I did a couple of studies for 
Massachusetts Review of poetry in 1965. Roughly all the poetry 
published in 65 and all the poetry published in 70. It seemed 
to me that there was a shift there, the kind that I had noticed 
here earlier. The poetry, the books on the whole in 65 were 
rather imagistic, photographic, still-life. I think I used the 
example of catching the quality of an empty package of cigarettes 
floating on a pond in the park. Then in 70 all this had gone 
into action, all waked up and gone in many directions of more 
involvement. Maybe I was imposing this; I hope not. It seemed to 
me truly that the shift that I saw between 65 and 70 in that work 
was like, in a slower, more encapsulated pace, the shift that I d 
seen in Berkeley, say, from the sixties to the seventies.* 

Where it s going now, it s hard to say. I was a judge this 
year of a poetry contest that included we were supposed to read 
all the poetry published this year. The other judges said that 
they thought that we didn t have much good work to work from. We 
had read two hundred volumes apiece, but they weren t too impressed 
with it. The winner was Stan Rice. I don t know if I mentioned 
this before 

Teiser: No. 

*For additional analysis of these decades, see page 180ff , 







Anyway, we had about 150 books to read, and they asked us if we 
wanted any more they gave us the publishers list that came out 
during the year and so I said, "Yes, there are about fifty more 
I d like to read, but mostly small press stuff, not vanity press 
but small press" because I should also mention this growth of the 
small press idea and the West Coast Print Center, and things you 
know about in that direction. So they added these. I was pleased 
that Stan Rice won, and that a small press won. 

What prize was it? 

It s called the Poe Prize. It s supposed to be for the best poet 
of sort of middle years who s published two books or more. 

Rice has published very little, hasn t he? Unusually little for 
someone ? 

Yes, and that was a problem where it was kind of lucky I knew the 
facts. Rice s book was taken by Evergreen that published 
Evergreen Review, that press it was accepted by them (his first 
book, called White Boy) and they held it for five years, every 
year saying that they would bring it out. Then finally they 
returned it to him. I m not sure it was exactly five years; it 
might be four or six. But it was a destruction. It was just as 
bad as murder, as far as I m concerned. Then when his daughter 
died he did the one called Some Lamb. So finally then both of 
those books were printed by local people just people got together 
some money and printed them. One was Mudra Press, and the other 
came out through Serendipity or Book People I m not quite sure how 
it all was. It makes me sad that the Chronicle and the Examiner 
and the Oakland Tribune again, that the press couldn t care less 
and never even mentioned that a local writer had won a national 
award. The sports page doesn t need to be that dominating over 
other kinds of contests. 

But anyway, I raised this point to say that the other judges 
didn t feel we were going in a very clear, good direction, and I 
would guess they re right. Gary I mean Stan. I keep saying Gary 
because I want to say something like Gary Snyder; I think they 
both have a kind of freedom and an emotionality, which is the only 
direction I see that seems terribly constructive. I don t know 
where else. A lot of the poetry from the East Coast seemed rather 
inhibited neat but not gaudy and in kind of a narrow way. 

We had so much poetry here for so long that was gaudy but not neat. 

We still do. We still do. That s right. And that s what I think 
Stan did. So I can t predict now what s going to happen, but there s 
an awful lot of interesting work being done in translation, for 


Miles: example. Somebody like [Pablo] Neruda is very influential. Recent 
national prizes have been won also by others of our people. Diane 
O Hehir just won what s called a break-through prize at Missouri 
Press, which is a new press for poetry. Joe DePrisco won something 
of the same. Don Bogen another student just won a very good 
midwestern prize. And these people are all different from each 
other. They re intensely lyrical, is the term I would assign them. 
But it just seems that a lot is being done here. 

When the National Endowment for the Arts was rather frustrated 
about how to spend money for literature, Tom Parkinson was on the 
board, and he encouraged them to have one of their meetings out 
here, which seemed rather wild to them why come out here and hear 
the same old stuff? But they didn t hear the same old stuff. They 
met in the Alumni House three years ago, I think, when Nancy Hanks 
was still involved, then [Leonard] Randolph, and invited people to 
come and say what they thought was needed, what the NBA could do 
for them. And that Alumni House was just jammed with people 
screaming and yelling and asking for things, which at first 
confused them, and at noon they said they couldn t go on. But by 
afternoon they began getting some messages loud and clear, and by 
evening they were exhausted. 

The next morning, Sunday, they were going to fly back. Paul 
Foreman asked them to his house for an early breakfast, at which 
everything suddenly came clear. We sat around there drinking 
coffee, and everybody began saying, "Oh yeah. Oh yeah, I see. 
That s the way it s got to be." And the issue was, if you give 
money to a press you get bad choices; if you give money to the poet 
he doesn t get printed. So, give money to the combination through 
a chapbook, and that has worked well and with most printers, as 
you know, is resulting in very interesting and good work. We had 
a lot of these fellows already on the spot to do this because 
they d worked with Jim Tate in Cloud Marauder, and both Panjandrum 
Press and Don Cushman s press were ready to go. 

So now I think maybe we shouldn t worry too much about trends 
and tendencies and types, but just think about letting it all out, 
letting everybody get to say, and say it his way. What s going to 
be chosen in terms of models and values I think is rather mysterious 
now. But what s good now is the variety of activity and the 
opportunity the vast opportunity to be heard. We have now I 
think to develop a more systematic critical review method; the 
review system is broken down. 

Teiser: You were saying that the newspapers don t pay any attention. 

Little publications keep coming out which try to do reviews of 
small press work and of serious poetry. 


Miles: They do? I [Laughter] You mean like Poetry Flash? 

Teiser: Yes, I guess so. I guess that tries to be critical. It s more a 
bulletin, isn t it? 

Miles: Well, actually I meant something much more national and heavy, 
[end tape 1, side 2; begin tape 2, side 1] 

There is a lot of interest and effort to review in a rather 
slap-happy fashion around here. Kayak does some interesting 
reviews. That s a very interesting magazine, I think, George 
Hitchcock s magazine down in Santa Cruz. And there is this little 
throw-away around here called Poetry Flash, which is really 
interesting and lists about umpteen activities every night in 
poetry in the Bay Area at different places. An interesting thing, 
though, about that is that Poetry Flash came out about a year ago 
with a nasty review of somebody I mean, just mean; you know, fun 
to read because it was mean and Tom Parkinson wrote them a letter. 
Tom takes this rather Olympian tone at times, so it was very 
charming, I thought. He wrote Joe Flower a letter and he said, 
"Pardon me for saying so. We just don t do this around here. The 
Bay Area has a heck of a lot of poets in it, and they re pretty 
good, and one nice thing about them is they don t backbite on each 
other. We have a lot of difference of opinion, but we don t have 
cliques and rivalries and meannesses. So lay off I If you want to 
describe somebody s work, describe it, but don t get any success 
out of being snide and mean." These aren t his words. But I 
thought it was very nice because I think it s true, and an 
important thing to be said is this is not a factional area. When 
you hear about New York, you step into the world of factions so 
fast it s breathtaking. The two or three times I ve been in New 
York I ve hardly been able to believe that I couldn t see a 
certain person because that was an opponent to another person 
when here I was all that distance away and it couldn t matter, in 
two or three days, if I couldn t see, you know, just a variety of 

That surely wouldn t happen here. While I ve had fights 
with I don t know who I ve had fights with, actually, but people 
have fought with each other. Robert Duncan has fought with Spicer 
and Robin Blaser and who else? It s hardly worth well, Rexroth 
and Winters weren t always on major terms. Winters didn t like 
Kenneth Patchen s work, understandably. There s a lot of people 
not liking other people s work, but everybody sort of coexists. 
A lot of people don t like my work, but yet they invite me to read 
it. It s just a nice coexistence. I think there always has been, 
and I hope there always will be. 


Miles: It reminds me of something I skipped over in the mid-fifties. 
When I said that Allen Ginsberg came to town, this was a time 
when Allen was working for some business firm and had a pin-striped 
suit. He came over to Berkeley to talk to Mark Schorer and me 
about whether he should be a graduate student at Berkeley. He 
went to see Mark, and then he came down. He had this pin-striped 
suit and he had this big folder. So he said would I read these 
poems and tell him whether he should do graduate work. And it 
was quite a nice experience, you know. I mean, wow! He was 
rather unprepossessing looking, and to lay your eyes on something 
really full of energy was a real pleasure. I said, "Sure. You 
ought to take Anglo-Saxon," because it was clear he was interested 
in the old Anglo-Saxon beat, and he said, "Yes, that s what I 
thought, because it s related to Whitman." So we got into a long 
discussion of metrics, and I liked him very much. Despite all of 
the things he s done that I don t like, which are many, because I 
think they re distracting in the wrong way, nevertheless I think 
we ve got along. He s forgiven me for a few things, like walking 
out of the baiting of Olson in Wheeler Hall in the summer of 1965, 
and I ve forgiven him for a few, like not walking out. 

When they had the second Black Mountain conference down here, 
the one that followed the Vancouver one, this was a very oppressive 
time; this was the mid-sixties. They had this two-week conference 
on campus, and Allen well, let me move back a minute before that. 
There s something else I remember I should have mentioned before 
keep track of all these beads I m trying to string on a string. 

In the forties, beside all these other groups I ve mentioned, 
there was a group called the Activists, taught by Lawrence Hart. 
He came down from some northern county, and he had a theory of 
teaching poetry, and he was a kind of Svengali, as I thought him. 
He was teaching night school, and he d brow-beat the ladies into 
writing vivid images. "Vivid images" was his slogan. He was very 
fond of Archibald MacLeish especially. Two or three friends of 
mine took his course and were much impressed with him Rosalie 
Moore and Jeanne McGahey. Jeanne married him and was published by 
New Directions, and Rosalie didn t publish right then, but later 
she was published as a Yale Poet* by [W.H.] Auden. Later also, a 
younger one of that group, Robert Horan, was published by Auden. 
So there was a certain amount of national success way back there 
through the Activists. 

*The Grasshopper s Man and Other Poems. Yale University Press, 


Miles: So now in the mid-fifties I remember being at an Activists 

party at somebody s house, and we were all reading poetry. Dick 
Eberhart was there visiting I think he was teaching somewhere out 
here and he nonchalantly said, "Well, what s new in poetry around 
here? What s going on?" So we said, "There s this new fellow 
that s come to town, and it s a whole new world, and it s kind of 
exciting. His name is Allen Ginsberg and he s got these friends, 
[Jack] Kerouac, and so on." So Dick, who likes to be kind of a 
patron of the arts, said, "I d like to meet him, like to see his 
work." I lent him my copy and he wrote an article for the New 
York Times 

Teiser: This was Howl? 

Miles: This was Howl he wrote an article for the New York Times that 

really gave Allen quite a send-off in the East. I just backtracked 
to that because there s that whole other force of Allen s entering 
into that the whole force of this free poetry entering into the 
Activist tradition, which was so different and so highly controlled 
by Lawrence Hart. It s kind of a comical thing. It was just 
really one wave hitting up against another; they were going in 
different directions. 

Teiser: Incidentally, did Ginsberg become a graduate student? 

Miles: Six weeks. But he was around a lot. I remember I was teaching a 
seminar the nineteenth century, I guess it was in the library. 
That door didn t have an opaque glass in it or it wasn t solid; 
it was just plain glass you could see through. Towards the end of 
the seminar, there was always the face of Allen outside the door, 
and he was always coming to argue about something or start some 
new theory or something. He was very nice to have around. I got 
kind of bored with all the mantras and chantras and stuff, but at 
that age he was full of zing and new ideas, and everything was 
very close to his heart. He brought real energy, not only to the 
San Francisco scene but the Berkeley scene too. He lived over 
here, had a little house near the Parkinsons. I forget who else 
was there. 

Then the whole group accrued around Mike McClure and Phil 
Whalen and Gary [Snyder] and Ferlinghetti, and the growth of that 
whole group, which is still very strong. I would say no clear 
tendency has yet supplanted that one.* As I say, now things are 
sort of more fragmentized, more individualistic, but well done, 
very well done in many different ways. As I said before, I think 
the variety now is what s interesting. 

*For discussion of another group of the 1950s, that represented by 
Leonard Nathan, see page 180. 


Teiser: In your own work, you have written the way you were going to write, 
not being affected by these various trends. 

Miles: Well, some people tell me I don t know. I think my poetry has 
gotten looser and freer in form than it was. I think I don t 
write [laughing] as many clear endings yes, I think I ve been 
influenced. But on the other hand, I don t think I fit into any 
of these I ve never been accepted as a soul mate by any of these 
groups. [Laughter] Once in a while Carruth or J.V. Cunningham or 
someone said something about you could tell I was from the West; 
that I have a western style. Then other people say, "You couldn t 
tell in a million years she was from the West. She sounds like 
from England." Best recognitions have been from [Richard] Ellman 
and [Denis] Donoghue (England and Ireland!). So how do I know? 
But I think I got a certain amount of excitement and stimulation 
out of all the poetry readings of the Bill Stafford, Archie Ammons, 
Gary Snyder type, and certainly went to millions of them. 

Teiser: You yourself read at many. 

Miles: Yes, and heard all my students developing in these ways. While I 
tried to fight in them too much egregious formlessness just for 
its own sake, on the other hand I think I tried to learn how to be 
freer, to the result that some of my friends, like Leonard Nathan, 
who is quite formal, thinks that it s too shapeless. But the last 
review I read of Leonard Nathan says that he has lost his formality 
too. So maybe even somebody who doesn t want to give in, has 
given in to a different beat. It s very interesting to speculate 
about what s happened to the ears of poets, of people. I grew up 
hearing meter very, very strongly, and I still do, and so do they 
if they re listening to the Beatles, say, or to country or rock 
and roll. But when they hear it in poetry, they move to the haiku; 
they hear it to some free form. I learned that it s more and more 
difficult to urge students to hear a beat in poetry as they want 
to write it, and sometimes I don t even try, and other times I do 
try. But it s a real anomaly. This is not in their ears. I say 
to them, "What poetry did you read when you were young?" For many 
of them, there were no ballads, there was no Child s Garden of 
Verses, there was no A. A. Milne, there was no Walter de la Mare 
there was just not the poetry of my youth in their youth. 
Naturally you can t just instill something. 

I just got through reading a fascinating book by a former 
friend (I mean I haven t seen him lately). His name is Paul 
Fussell, and he wrote a book about poetry of the First World War.* 

*The Great War and Modern Memory. 
Press, 1975. 

New York: Oxford University 







That poetry is just imbued with trisyllabic feet. That book was 
fascinating to me to read because I was not only very chilled by 
the First World War, because I was a child of maybe five or six or 
so, but even in those days I didn t like that kind of poetry. So 

that it gave me a boundary for what I 
that was what I was turning against. 

It was sentimental, was it not? 

didn t like; in other words, 

But now when you think about the ear, it was too trilly. There 
were too many trisyllables . There were too many skipped feet. 
I liked a steadier beat. Oh, I did like it sometimes if it was 
heavy, as in Kipling, you know: "Once we feared the beast/When he 
followed us we ran" that s okay. But when you get little things 
about "come down to Kew in lilac time, in lilac time" that s your 
point about the sentiment, I realize. But often it s more 
tripping. Tripping poetry I always especially didn t like. 

You were mentioning music. How anyone whose ears are atuned, or 
whose ears are assailed by contemporary rock music, or whatever 
in the world it s called, could tune his ear to 

It s fascinating. The Beatles you could. You notice that half of 
the Beatles poetry you can read on the page as poetry, and the 
other half you can t, which is a very interesting thing to study. 

We once had a memorable New Year s party at Elizabeth Bishop s 
when she was visiting here, where all the poets in town were 
dancing at midnight to the Beatles on a wide parquet floor. The 
whole thing looked like a Mozartian eighteenth century drawing 

Now, that s true you can t do that with modern rock. But I ve 
had classes in which there ve been modern rock composers and I ve 
tried to take advantage of this. We had a couple of classes where 
they would invite us down to their sound-proof studios, and we 
would try to write words and music and stuff as they composed. I 
don t know enough about it to do it well, to experiment well, but 
I have experimented. I think there s a lot yet to be done there 
that could be very interesting. That s the one way I think it 
might go. It might go toward a popular communal ballad-like beat. 
Students are writing ballads much better than they used to, and 
there s something they re tuning in to there that s new and 
different. But I don t know yet. I really don t know. 

Do you think it ties in with this awful country music? 

Well, don t worry about the message. There are some interesting 
melodies, I think. There are some little books, paperbacks, 
called Rock Lyrics. Did you ever look at those? The "Sound of 
Silence" do you know that? "Gentle on My Mind"? 


Teiser: You re braver than I am. 

Miles: Well, I ve tried to really work it out with the students. It s 

not that I m brave, it s that I m dumb. I don t get it as well as 
I could. I d like to be able to get us all to see if we could do 
some composing in this way. 

Recently one other thing happened at Berkeley, which was that 
the activism Third Worldism and so forth took over student 
administration to the degree that they stopped supporting the 
literary and artistic materials on campus, even to the degree that 
they didn t support the Band. They supported activities that were 
definitely related to some ethnic purpose. So for the past five 
years or so, another job that some of us have taken on was to try 
to get the artistic stuff still supported through the administration 
as a curricular adjunct, or some such phrase. 

We worked with the student vice-chancellor, and we had a lot 
of exciting things to do. We had to save the Pelican Building 
(they were taking over the Pelican Building as a place to store 
things). We now have five magazines working in the Pelican Building. 
We lost a very marvelous man who used to be ASUC adviser to student 
publications. He was a great asset and a conserving force. 

Teiser: Who was he? 

Miles: I was just afraid you were going to ask me; I ll have to look up 

his name. [Added later:] Wally Fredricks. Then for a while after 
him it was disaster. We had carpetbaggers coming in just because 
there was a little, little money to be scrounged, and they would 
put themselves off as students and edit bad stuff. We ve had to 
rescue that whole situation, which again I d say the administration 
hasn t done anything about; that is, the split between the ASUC and 
the academic. We do have funds now to help these magazines, so 
we ve had some what I think are very good publications of the 
Occident and a thing called the Berkeley Poetry Review. 

I mention names like Ross Shidler and Rob Wilson and Jason 
Weiss. (This is the last step that I was relating. This should 
go on, you know, developing the earlier stage that I mentioned of 
Paul Foreman and the small press tradition. The small press 
tradition has helped us too, and it s helped students.) Berkeley 
Poetry Review comes out maybe two or three times a year, and it s 

just solid poetry by students, and I think it s very good. 
I don t recognize a trend in it; it s very various. 


So right now, this is the place where I don t know what will 
happen next. I think probably the ASUC will take some of these 
magazines back and will get a reorganization. But this is a 
temporary effort to bridge a gap, since the arts have had rather a 


Miles: hard time. We did save the building, at least temporarily, and 

we do have five quite interesting magazines going, all with a great 
deal of self-initiation. The faculty committee doesn t steer and 
doesn t push; all it does is meet twice a year and allot funds, 
based on budgets and results. I like this degree of separation 
between authority, and the students have very dependably done good 
jobs on their own. I like to go into the Pelican Building once 
or twice a year and see everybody working there, heads bent over 
their desks, getting out their magazines. The greatest pleasure 
to me, that I know of, is to get students in situations where they 
can teach themselves and each other just as much as possible and 
make as many mistakes as possible without fatalities. And that 
kind of independence is what we ve got there. 

We ve had a good long tradition with Occident. As you know, 
it goes back to Steinbeck and did we talk about this before? I 
can t remember when we talked about students. 

Now in poetry what I m working on is I have been trying over 
a couple of years. When I went down to Riverside to teach two 
years ago, it was like taking the plug out of the basin of 
memories, because I lived down there. I don t know why Riverside, 
because I d gone back to L.A., I d gone back to the beach, I d 
gone back to many places where I d been before. I don t know why 
Riverside had this power more than the others. Maybe because I 
stayed there longer. But starting there I ve written quite a 
number of poems about things we ve talked about here, things that 
I remember. Things like when Leopold Senghor came to San Francisco 
or when [Jean] Genet came to Berkeley. Things that are sort of 
literary but have sort of a little formality of episode to them. 
Some of these my friends tell me are good; most of them, they say, 
don t work, because I make too many assumptions about data detail. 
But anyway, this is what I m working on right now. So that s what 
my next book will be about, if I ever get to it. It s narrative 
and it s remembrances and it s autobiographical. I don t think I 
in any way even then that does fit the trend of what you could 
call the remembrance poetry of, say, [W.D.] Snodgrass and Lowell. 
But mine isn t at all confessional, so I don t think it fits that 
trend. But it does fit the trend of looking backward in a kind of 
an odd way that I haven t done before. 

[end tape 2, side 1] 


INTERVIEW VI 11 August 1977 

Writing Poetry 

[begin tape 1, side 1] 

Teiser: It s mean to quote anyone back 
Miles: No. 

Teiser: This was in an article in the Daily Cal Arts Magazine, February 1, 
1974, called "Poetry with Josephine Miles." It asked, "What basic 
unit do you think in when you write a poem?" and you said, "I think 
in the line. Even when there s no sense to it. The abstract or 
senseless line. Structure emerges from the sense of relating line 
to line. I think of a line, then wait for the meaning to hit the 
fan. Once I get the abstract rhythm of the poem, then I can do it. 
I d love to write a poem about a certain thing, I have an idea, 
then I wait months or maybe years for the first line, and then, 
Oh boy, here we go, and the whole poem gets written." Do you still 
stand on that? [Laughing] This is your chance to correct it. 

Miles: No, no! That s very good. Did I say that? 

Teiser: That s what you said. 

Miles: All right. I ll stand by that. 

Teiser: It sounds as if you have an idea and then a line comes along and 
then they pull together, is that what you meant? 

Miles: Yes. Some people keep books of ideas, or notebooks and that sort 

of thing, but I don t have that many. When I do think of something 
that dawns on me that I d like to say, then I sort of just park it 
in my mind, and then gradually I give it a sense of rhythm. Then 
I start writing down the rhythm, and then the poem sort of works 


Miles: itself out that way. When I was younger, I did this all without 
writing; I just did it in my mind. But since my memory has got 
less tenacious as I ve gone along, now I write it down. 

Teiser: Perhaps you had fewer things to think about when you were younger. 

Miles: [Laughter] Maybe so. But anyway, there is some quality of having 
to wait till the poem gets some kind of organizing sound to it. 

Teiser: I suppose actually it starts with the idea and then goes to the 

Miles: Well, I don t know. It depends on what you mean by "starts." 

Sometimes I think I m not aware of what the idea is going to be 
until I hear the sound. Sometimes I invest in an idea, other 
times I m not aware of doing that. It s just that a lot of this 
happens when you re not aware of what s happening, so it s hard to 
describe it. But when it hits the conscious point, it s usually 
in terms of having a rather insistent rhythm going through my 
head, where I figure, "Oh, now I guess I want to say something." 
Then I start figuring out what that is. 

Teiser: I suppose anyone who creates something has this same sort of thing. 

Miles: Oh, I don t people say various different things about writing, and 
I ve not read many of them. I remember in Hope Against Hope, 
Osip Mandel shtam s wife [Nadezhda] writes of how he starts 
muttering to himself and that it takes him a long time to get from 
the muttering stage to the poem stage. So that s something like 
it. I mean she gave a kind of interesting description where it 
seemed to have something to do with getting a vehicle of sound. 
But in terms of teaching poetry, I seem to find that people do 
various kinds of things. 

Teiser: I think you said that the times that you sat in the car each 
morning, or one morning a week or whatever it was, and just 
determined to write, didn t work remarkably well. 

Miles: Yes, it worked just as well as any other way not worse and not 

better. That s what was so interesting. In other words, I put a 
lot of effort in an arbitrariness that didn t mean much. But it 
was interesting to find that it didn t. 

Teiser: Do you think [pause] 

Miles: Do I write with a pen or a pencil? [Laughing] 

Teiser: Oh no, no. It s way at the other end. [Laughter] If you had to, 
could you characterize your body of poetry so far? Could you say 
that it was a_ kind of poetry saying a_ kind of thing? 


Miles: I could in a sense. I think it s lyrical rather than dramatic or 
narrative, and it s meditative rather than ceremonial ritualistic 
or some of the various things that lyric can be. Then, the 
special quality that I would like to have in it is the quality in 
the fact that it s a lyric of thought, that it tries to capture a 
little bit of the drama of somebody else s thought; that is, that 
there s a quality of dialogue in it, and that the speaker or the 
speakers aren t necessarily speaking for me or from my point of 
view. Some people say, "Of course they really are, or you 
wouldn t have picked up their ideas in the first place." Well, 
that may be, but then I would also say, "But I would hope I was 
able to understand attitudes other than my own and capture those 
in a lyric form to lyricize attitudes other than my own," because 
so many attitudes I hear, or overhear, seem to me so charming or 
beautiful or moving or profound or exploratory, and I would like 
to entertain those even if they aren t mine. 

Teiser: In and out of my mind, as I have read your poetry recently, has 

flitted the idea of Browning s dramatic monologues. Was that a 

Miles: I like Browning very much. His are much more dramatized, and 

longer and fuller and more exploratory of the ironies of elaborate 
situations than mine are, but I agree there s a glimmer of what you 
mean there. If you contrasted Browning, say, to his famous 
contemporary, Tennyson, I would feel much more affinity to Browning 
than to Tennyson. Or I will feel more affinity to Frost than to 
Hart Crane, in our day; that would be a somewhat similar parallel. 
In other words, there is a kind of lyric that s very rhapsodic 
Hart Crane, Dylan Thomas, Tennyson, and so on. It s a long 
tradition, a Pindaric tradition of the lyric, the ode, which I 
like very much but I don t think I write it, though the celebrative 
quality of it I would like to make use of in a more quiet way, in a 
less public, in a less developed, less elaborative way. 

Teiser: I was also trying to read a little, putting myself a hundred years 
hence, in another place, and wondering if there was much I would 

Miles: I ve been told that my poems don t appeal to England at all; that d 
be another place and another time. But the English seem to be very 
hung up on the fact that mine are colloquial in a way that they 
don t speak to. It s interesting too because my research has been 
really much more appreciated and dealt with thoughtfully in England 
than in America. So that s really rather an interesting thing; 
England feels very friendly in one sense, but not in the sense of 
poetry. Thorn Gunn says he likes my poetry, but he says it s just 
much, much too colloquial to transport. 


Miles: And I don t know about time. I m already in books where there are 
footnotes to meanings. I ve had an amazing amount of republishing 
in anthologies. I must be in about eighty or a hundred 
anthologies. This was a great surprise to me, because my poetry 
hasn t sold that well. But it has been anthologised. 

Teiser: Do you get royalties for anthologies? 

Miles: Yes. Not enough to matter, but what you do get is a terrific 

amount of circulation, so that I ve had lots of correspondence and 
lots of response, which I wouldn t have expected to have from the 
books, which I ve got through the anthologies. Those anthologies, 
many of them footnote what seem to me very comical little details, 
for students. Already apparently they think things need 

Teiser: I can t remember whether potato salad is potato salad in England. 

Miles: I don t know, but no, that potato salad is probably very local. I 
would guess so. It s in Germany, of course, but I don t know 
whether it would mean that degree of domestic picnic. That s 
probably exactly what Thorn Gunn means; the words mean something, 
all right, but the overtones weren t there. When I read that poem 
in a large hall to students, there s quite a rustle, quite a 
response, just to potato salad, without their even knowing what s 
going to happen to it. 

It s a most evocative poem within any westerner s experience, 
I imagine . 

Yes. Apparently potato salad does mean a real solid norm, the way 
they respond to it. 

But the whole poem I should think is one of those that would come 
over more immediately to people 

Yes, it does. 

than some that are the more recondite. 

That s true, because the last line is quite a shift but it s a 
shift that the students when I say students, I mean that most of 
my audiences, I guess, are at least half students seem amazingly 
prepared for. I mean they re ready to shift on; they re very 
responsive to the last line, even if they ve never heard it before. 
It s a poem they seem to enter into very strongly. 

Teiser: I should put on the tape that this is a poem called "Family." 

There are two that were reprinted in the Daily Californian Arts 
Magazine interview. 








Miles: I wanted to give you this today before you go John Oliver Simon, 
who s one of the local publishers, has put out now a book called 
Buds and Flowers of Berkeley or some such thing. Anyway, it s a 
Berkeley anthology, and that poem is printed in there. The whole 
anthology should interest you. It has I think quite a good spirit 
of Berkeley. He captures a very interesting Berkeley quality in 

Teiser: Is it similar to the book you lent Catherine? The nineteenth 
century Berkeley one? 

Miles: Slightly different, slightly different. [Laughing] Different buds 
and different flowers. 

Teiser: [Pause] I ll keep on quoting you, if I may. 
Miles: See if I recognize them. 

Teiser: Yes. [Searching for quote] I was going to quote a jacket blurb, 
but I think I haven t brought it. 

Miles: That s good. I m not very fond of jacket blurbs. 

Teiser: Which book was it, now? 

Miles: Oh, was it To All Appearances, where I talked about 

Teiser: I think so, yes. 

Miles: where I talked about below appearances, beneath appearances? 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: Have you got To All Appearances there? 

Teiser: I don t have it. I brought everything but, I guess. 

Miles: Well, I don t remember it very clearly, but I was just making the 
point that To All Appearances has a kind of double edge to it. In 
one sense it means that to all appearances may not necessarily be 
real, and the other sense is that I am speaking with pleasure to 
all appearances, for all appearances I m addressing appearances. 
That double edge is just the double edge that some people feel 
appearances are less indicative of the real than something 
underneath is. I m just saying in that title, at least, that I 
think appearances carry a lot of weight, carry a lot of value, 
whatever is underneath. It took me awhile to come to that 
position; that was an attained position, an attained belief. 


Teiser: There was an implication in it , I thought maybe I read something 
into it that you began, that the poems began with the appearance 
and perhaps explored contrary 

Miles: Hmm. That doesn t ring a bell. 

Teiser: I shouldn t misquote you to yourself [laughing], should I? 

Miles: I don t think I would like to do that; I mean, I would like to stay 

with the appearance all the way through, except perhaps see different 
aspects of it. The poem that s so much quoted about the man that 
drives the car in front of the movie theater. The appearances there 
are everybody trying to get him out of the way, and then his 
appearance, when he finally gets to speak for himself, is that 
Reason is his middle name. In other words, his appearance is just 
as much of appearance as all the surface of the scene. But the 
difference is that it s his. You might say it goes deeper into 
appearances, but not away from them. 

Teiser: You and I were talking on the phone before we began this interview 
about something; I don t remember what preceded it, but I remember 

Miles : 



accusing you [laughing] of not believing in Absolute Truth. 

Yes, very good. True, 
very well. 

[Laughter] I can t accommodate absolutes 

To come back to this appearance bit and the poem we were 
talking about before "Family" there the appearance is, is somebody 
drowning or is somebody not drowning? Then there s the appearances 
of the standard family picnic, and then there s the rescuer, one 
able to be sensitive to the truth of appearances. Then the last 
line, "This is what is called the brotherhood of man," still the 
phrase "is called" is there, and that s still an appearance. 


And that is therefore praise or joyful recognition of somebody 
else s recognition. It s not any statement of my own, but there s 
a joyful acceptance of an acceptance. 

I m looking at a review in the issue of Voyages in which there was 
an homage to you.* There s a review of your Kinds of Affection, 
and I think it s this review which indicated that there was more 
emotion in it, or more indications of emotion, than in your earlier 
books. Is that right? 

*Fall 1968. The review is by Arthur K. Oberg. 


Miles: The reviewers have been saying that gradually. The first two or 
three books, I got very tired of the remark that these poems were 
very well wrought, very well constructed but didn t deal with very 
vital matters. This always troubled me because how could they be 
well wrought if they didn t seem vital? That is, that seemed to me 
a very superficial distinction between good writing and whatever 
they meant. In other words, the sense of superficiality in 
elaboration of good writing I didn t understand. Obviously the 
poems just were bad if they gave this sense of triviality. 

I haven t been getting that comment so much lately. I think 
maybe it s just that people are getting used to my writing [laughing] 
and they don t expect such big revelations as they thought they 
should have had before. Or maybe I did take some clue from the 
students, and do try somewhat to make the solutions seem less 
constructed than I once did; that s a possibility. I m not quite 
sure if it s true. It s very hard to judge that in your own work 
whether you ve changed or shifted but it may be that I use less 
formal organizing qualities than I once did. 

Teiser: There s one book on our list that s a mystery to me. 

Miles: Oh, well that s nice! 

Teiser: Maybe it never got published Neighbors and Constellations. 

Miles: That s not a book. It s a section of selected poems in the 

Selected book. In other words, that Poems 1930-1960 (Indiana) was 
a selection from all the other books, namely Trial Balances, Lines 
at Intersection, Poems on Several Occasions, Local Measures, 
Prefabrications , and then the further section was Neighbors and 
Constellations . 

Teiser: I see. 

Miles: So that s where you saw it. 

Teiser: I saw it in a bibliography of some sort. 

Miles: Oh, then it s a mistake. It shouldn t be in the bibliography. 

Teiser: I see. Then I do withdraw my earlier statement the University of 
California does have all your books in the library. I couldn t 
find that title. 

Miles: Good. Where are they? Everywhere? 

Teiser: Here and there. They re in The Bancroft Library and they re in the 
main library, and I guess in the undergraduate library. 


Miles: People are always telling me they can t find them in Moffitt, so I 

Teiser: A lot of them are in Bancroft. 

Miles: Yes, that s what I was afraid of. 

Teiser: And some of them are in both. 

Miles: That would be better. 

Teiser: One of them is a Rare Book in The Bancroft Library In Identity. 

Miles: [Laughter] Somebody must have signed it for me. Oh, it s a 

broadsheet that somebody did. You know, I m not too fond of these 
bibliographical ploys little broadsheets and little single poem 
volumes and so on. There are a number of those. 

Teiser: Also there s one copy of Kinds of Affection that s a Rare Book too. 
Miles: Are some of them in Doe, in the regular main library? 

Teiser: I can t tell. I just have the ones marked in Bancroft, and others. 
I don t know where the others are; I haven t searched them out 

Miles: Because I m just curious. When students say, "Why aren t your books 
in the library?" I never know what to say. 

Teiser: Tell them to search in every possible library. [Laughter] 
Miles: "Work harder" I should say to them. [Laughter] 

Teiser: I meant to ask you about this a long time ago. George Stewart was 
asked in his interview with the Regional Oral History Office* about 
his interest in metrics, and he said, "Of course, Jo thinks I m a 
great enemy of poetry, but I m not. Just certain kinds of poetry 
I don t like." 

Miles: That was a special article that George wrote agreeing with Edmund 
Wilson in I think the New Republic way back, in which he said that 
metrical poetry was going to die down. 

*See interview with George R. Stewart, A Little of Myself, Regional 
Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, 
Berkeley, 1972. 


Miles: George s own study of metrics is a wonderful study. He did two 
books, actually, and they ve never been superseded, remarkably. 
It s too bad he didn t go on with it, because he was doing that 
when I first came here, he was shifting to novel writing. But the 
more books come out on metrics, the more George is referred to as a 
beginner of understanding. He was the one that made clear this 
quality of the triple foot, that I ve mentioned so often, as 
characteristic of nineteenth and into the beginning of the twentieth 
century. This very interesting book that Paul Fussell wrote that I 
mentioned, on the First World War and First World War poetry, when 
you read that you see the triple foot is just reigning as a way of 
thinking, and it s a nineteenth century way of thinking. 

Teiser: Now we re on George Stewart, I think you said you liked East of the 
Giants, and he said in his interview, "Curiously enough, Josephine 
Miles was a great admirer of that book. It doesn t seem like her 
book." [Laughter] 

Miles: Oh! Yes, I do like that book. [Laughter] We can leave unsaid what 
I think of Doctors Oral. [Laughter] 

Teiser: He really got into everything, didn t he? What did you think of the 
Oath? Want to leave that unsaid too? 

Miles: No, that was a nice, hard-working book. That was a very marvelous 
job that George did there. Where I think Doctors Oral represents 
his real hatred of his own work in some ways self-hatred in a very 
sad way his Year of the Oath represents his wonderful ability to 
get people to do work. He just rallied all the young men around 
him to do research, to look things up. What did he have me do? He 
assigned something to me. I think I was supposed to study the 
charter, the organic charter. Then we were all supposed to write 
reports, and these were all merged as a beautiful job of community 
action. Just George at his very best. And it was again a University 
thing. It was the whole positive side of his he was a very 
important man in the University and in our department, though he was 
never on committees much and he was never elected to offices and 
stuff he was nonparticipative except in the Faculty Club, because 
he was always on part-time, writing novels. But his role in the 
department was very strong, a kind of an ethics of perspective of 
action: why one should never have unanimous votes on things, why 
one should never report numerical votes, why in the department we 
shouldn t have tabling motions. He had a real courtesy book for 
the department and for the academic world that was a very important 

Teiser: The other two things that I have here to talk about next are poetry 
today (which you have talked a little about) and also publishing, 

which we talked with you about some years ago. 
comes next better. 

I don t know which 


Miles: Well, let s see. We could bring them together in the sense that if 
we speak of now, the publishing situation is quite different. I m 
not sure that I can say more than I said last time about that. 

Teiser: I m thinking when we talked to you for those Chronicle interviews, 
one of which appeared* and one of which didn t, you said then, I 
believe, that in earlier years eastern publishers had wanted to 
publish poetry, for one reason and another, and that by then and 
that was early 1972 they didn t very much, and that you had a 
book finished and were looking for a publisher, and you were at that 
time having 

Miles: Trouble. 

Teiser: trouble finding one. It almost seems impossible. 

Miles: Yes. You say it seems impossible; I never got a book published 

without trouble, except the little pamphlets that were fun. Yes, 
it always took me three or four years to find a publisher because, 
for one thing, as I mentioned last time, a couple of the publishers 
vanished, like Reynal and Hitchcock, and some of them changed their 
policies, editors changed. I always thought how nice it would be 
to be able to talk about "my publisher" the way some people do, the 
way, say, Richard Eberhart does for Oxford. Actually, Oxford had 
asked me at the beginning to submit a book to them, which I sent to 
Macmillan instead because of Trial Balances. I always had a kind of 
a sense of having to try over each time, that values changed so much 
at New Directions and changed so much at Wesleyan. 

The way I got To All Appearances published, as I can 
interpret it one never gets told the whole story a former 
student of mine was teaching at Illinois and talked to Richard 
Wentworth, who was the new head of the press at Illinois, and 
Richard Wentworth had worked at the Southern Review back in the 
old days an example of my point of the way strands continue. So, 
I had a letter from him, I sent my book there, and they took it and 
published it. They did a lovely job of it, I thought, and 
advertised it very thoughtfully. Wentworth is a nice person, I d 
guess. I ve never met him. 

The important thing to say about publishing, as you ve already 
mentioned, carrying on from 72, is that when the eastern 
publishers were doing less and less, doing about two volumes a 
year, mostly for somebody s cousin, as Louis Simpson would say, 
gradually the little presses started working there; people like 
Hawley started working with Oyez, and all over the country the 

*"The Big Boom in Bay Area Poetry Readings," San Francisco 
Sunday Examiner and Chronicle, 27 February 1972. 


Miles: little presses began to increase and grow. Secondly, new 

university presses took responsibility. My example of Illinois 
would be an example, and the University of Missouri press has done 
a fine lot of publishing of what I consider to be very good poets, 
ones I happen to know and ones I don t know also. Princeton Press 
has started a new series which started publishing Leonard Nathan. 
He had been published before by Random House. But the Random 
House editor that he had left, and this is the part of vagaries of 
the publishing situation. 

Leonard Nathan, by the way, represented a group that I forgot 
to mention last time. I was talking about how, as I look back, 
people seemed to work in groups and flourish in groups . There was 
a group in the fifties which represented the kind of conservatism 
of the fifties, and also of poetry. Counterbalancing the Allen 
Ginsberg kind, which grew up then, was the conservative kind of 
Leonard Nathan and also some younger people of his friends who 
became scholars and professors, like Bill Brandt, Robert Beloof, 
Allen Hollingsworth, George Hochfield. This represented a very 
different kind of person working in poetry and in scholarship in 
the fifties, from the Ginsberg tradition. I think it s important 
to mention that, to say that I don t think you ever get a time in 
which there s a huge wave in one direction without some counter 

This group was much appreciated by Ted Weiss at Bard; I think 
he was at Bard and at Princeton. He was editor of the Quarterly 
Review of Literature. We were all kind of sustained by Ted Weiss, 
if I put myself in that group, when a lot of the publishing was 
shifting over to the Beat Poets, which we weren t. On the other 
hand, since I had been a teacher of Jack Spicer, who had a very 
funny sense of humor, Jack insisted that I be in their anthologies, 
or the records that they made of their poetry. This made for a lot 
of real humor because this record and some of the anthologies would 
be reviewed, and the reviewer would say, "How did it come Josephine 
Miles gets in there? I ve seen her work in MLA," this funny kind 
of connection which Jack enjoys. Jack likes scholarship, and he 
liked this combination. 

So in the fifties there was this kind of double of values 
going. That helped encourage the growth sustained the conservative 
poetry and encouraged the growth of the newer kind of experimental. 
I don t want to make that split, though, because of course there are 
other kinds of experiments all the time. It s just that there were 
various kinds that were different from the Ginsberg group kind. 

Then in the sixties was when I felt the worst sense of problem 
in the feeling that we weren t quite sure where we were. Leonard 
wouldn t go to poetry readings because he found it all so distaste 
ful. In other words, the conservative found the experimental really 


Miles: distasteful. Archie Annnons, on the other hand, was developing, 

and he and I were both going to meetings and listening and feeling 
observant. I remember that none of the experimenters around here 
would give Archie the time of day until a leader, Jonathan Williams 
in North Carolina, gave him a rave review in the New York Times or 
somewhere. In other words, it was a very anomalous, mixed sense 
of values when these two currents were moving side by side and 
together. But you have to say something to say there was a great 
variety in these currents. You can see why the publishers got 
confused and mixed up. I mentioned last time the reviews I did 
for Massachusetts [Review], a review in 65 and in the seventies, 
in which I felt that there was a real motion from the inherited 
neatness of 65 still, toward a really freer opening out in 
general all over in the seventies. A lot of that was black. 

The whole sixties really gave rise to I think a new breath of 
life in poetry, and it was black poetry people like Al Young and 
George Barlow and Michael Harper, Robert Chrisman from Berkeley, 
and many, many more. There s a little anthology called Dice and 
Black Bones, or some such title, which very well reveals this new 
kind. From now on, then, I don t think yes, I guess we still do 
have problems in these types. A very good black poet by the name 
of Gloria Oden in Maryland tells me that she still has a hard time 
getting published because the publishers say she s not black 
enough. So here the publishers must still be holding some curious 
kind of typology in mind. There is one big publisher of black 
poetry who does much more than the others , though the other 
conservative publishers are now trying to move into this field. 

To summarize, I think that the little presses have helped, 
aided by NEA (that s fairly recent; that s only been about the last 
five years that that s been true), and some of the university 
presses, unfortunately not ours. Our University Press has been 
blindly and blankly oblivious to poetry, except sometimes in 
translation. They did publish, very successfully, a book of poems 
translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa from the Japanese, A Year of My Life; 
A Translation of Issa s Oraga Haru, which is a beautiful little 
volume. They did make some good names in translation. They 
published Carlyle Maclntyre, for example, and some other good 
people. Especially that was true when they had a wonderful editor 
at the University Press whose name was [Lucie] Dobbie, and she 
sponsored a lot of innovative publishing and translation, which 
died with her death. Except for her and except for that, we ve 
been one of the worst in the country in poetry. 

[end tape 1, side 1] 


Values and Standards 
[begin tape 1, side 2] 

Teiser: I was talking to Bob Hawley and told him we were interviewing you. 
He was much interested and very pleased. He said he didn t know 
what kind of poetry you liked, that he d never been able to figure 
it out. The nearest he had ever been able to tell was from an 
article you had written for the Pacific Spectator, which Catherine 
and I have just read, and we can t tell from that. If that s the 
nearest you came [laughter] you haven t come very near. But 
seriously, for that you analyzed a great variety of poetry from 
newspapers, and books. Do you have that article in mind? 

Miles: Sure. That s funny. I got a lot of criticism for the cryptic 

quality of the evaluations in that article. I didn t feel it was 
that cryptic. In fact, the Pacific Spectator got some very angry 
letters. One man said he was a donor or something and was going to 
withdraw his donation it was so disgraceful to have no value system 
represented, and that I was willing to talk about newspaper poetry 
at the same time with published poetry. That s an interesting 
point in that back then, whenever that was the forties, I guess. 
That was about the time of Donald Weeks editor at Mills 

Teiser: It was published in spring 1948, and it was a review of the poetry 
published in 1947. 

Miles : I was up to my more recent tricks there of what I did for 

Massachusetts Review. I like to do that. I get very impatient 
with so-called objective selectivity, the selectivity that seems 
to be covering a field and is actually just covering the interests 
of the selector. And so, every time I do one of these, what I try 
to do is be as complete as possible and describe it completely as 
possible and let the reader draw his conclusion about what s going 
on. I try to use some outward principle of selection. With 
Massachusetts, it was the books that came out, or they sent me, 
or that I was able to scrounge around and find in Publisher s 
Weekly and so on. With the Pacific Spectator, I think it was what 
was printed around here in magazines and 

Teiser: Up and down the coast. 

Miles: Yes, because that was the focus of Pacific Spectator. Also in 

those days, and this is sad to look back on, the newspapers were 
publishing some pretty good verse. There was a man on the Oakland 
Tribune who did a lot of encouraging of poetry (Ad s Column or some 
such thing) , and the California Writers Club had an annual banquet 
in which they awarded prizes and they got together. This related 
to the work that I did in that labor school where I taught that class 


Miles: of rather domestic poets, who were nevertheless in their own way 
very good. I think it s very important to say that all of poetry 
doesn t have to be equally avant-garde. Some of those women, 
especially the women in the California Writers Club , and one man 
that s important to mention, and that s Harold Witt, because he s 
always been very loyal to this group and they ve been loyal to him. 
He now is functioning out in the Walnut Creek Library poetry scene 
this way. I say it s more domestic; I don t know what I mean by 
that exactly; it s a little less avant-garde; it s a little more 
about things around us, but it s very literary too. Rosalie Moore 
and Elma Dean were in this, and B. Jo Kinnick still today very 
active. Ruth lodice. I admire these people for doing their own 
thing in their own way. Sometimes they belong to college women s 
clubs, poetry circles and so forth. 

Teiser: Are they comparable to Sunday painters? 

Miles: I suppose they are. Yes, yes. I thought it was just charming to 
notice all this semi-demi stuff that was going on in Pacific 
Spectator. I wasn t trying to write about what I liked; I m not 
all that interested in what I like. What I like I like so fast 
and completely that that s just that I don t want to bother about 
having to defend it or explain it to anybody. But I am really more 
interested in finding out what I don t like and trying to understand 
that. My dissertation was done on that basis. I didn t like the 
poetry of Wordsworth. I was complaining about that, and Ben Lehman 
said, "It s sometimes-usually-of ten hard to write on somebody that 
you are crazy about because you stay crazy. But if you write about 
somebody you don t understand and try to figure him out, this is 
helpful." He was very right, and I got really enthralled in 
finding out what Wordsworth thought he was doing. I ve written a 
lot on Wordsworth 

Teiser: You still don t like him? 

Miles: He s still not my favorite poet, no. I like him now; I don t love 
him. The poet that I like the best, W.B. Yeats, I ve written very 
little on. The article I did write I think was pretty good, but 
nobody s ever referred to it since; it was published in one of my 
books. I think the interesting I think value judgments are so 
instant that what they then need is documentation in terms of 
understanding of how they arose. Only after you really understand 
what you re looking at in terms of, say, paintings or whatever, do 
you want to come back to further evaluation. 

For example, if I go to an art gallery to see a whole roomful 
of new paintings that I ve never seen before, I think I stand in 
the doorway and look around and say Ugh! to all of them, or "There s 
one over there in the corner that I think is marvelous. I ll go and 


Miles: look at that." Then I gradually let the paintings sink in. But I 
don t think it s right to pretend that I m not instantly 
responding, and I don t think it s right to start saying, "These 
are good and those are bad." That s just far too premature and 
by premature I mean not only in terms of days but of weeks, months, 
and years. That s why I like to spend a lot of time describing 
and analyzing. 

The reason for my scholarship in poetry is that I feel we 
know all too little about what we re talking about. That doesn t 
mean that we shouldn t believe what we feel, but rather it means 
we should believe what we feel in a clear-cut, open way, so that 
we allow ourselves to go back and then see what is there in 
addition to, or in counter to, what we are able to get from it, 
which is usually sort of limited. 

So Robert Hawley says he doesn t know what I like. One 
reason is that Robert Hawley very kindly brings me a lot of books 
which I don t like, and I don t particularly want to write back 
and tell him I don t like them. 

Teiser: Why don t you? 

Miles: Because Robert Hawley has got a clear taste of his own, and I 
respect it. 

Teiser: He brings you things that he likes? 

Miles: No, I think he brings me what he publishes. I think I m just on 

his donation list. I don t know what he likes, as far as that goes. 
I often send people to him, and sometimes he accepts them and 
sometimes he doesn t. He accepted Naomi Clark, who I think is 
wonderful, and she couldn t get in anywhere. But he took her on. 
He has a kind of eclecticism that I think is good. I don t have 
any eclecticism at all. I really like very, very few things. I 
could never be an editor or a critic because I don t like that 
many things . 

Teiser: What don t you like? Can you describe what you really don t like? 

Miles: Oh, let s see. No, I can t, really. Maybe in the whole world I 
like ten poems, and you re asking me to describe all the rest 
[laughing], which would be a little difficult. [Laughter] 

Teiser: Hawley also said I always ask him what the current state of small 
press publishing is he said there s lots and lots being published; 
he suspects that there s some kind of a factory some place in the 
Midwest which sends a helicopter full of [laughing] poetry every 
week, and a large percentage of it shouldn t be published it s 
just bad. 


Miles: I don t agree. Maybe I m not seeing what he s seeing, though; 
a lot more of it comes to him than to me. But an example is 
what s done by the Poets Co-op around here. I m not sure yet 
about all these titles, but we have a Poets Co-op, a Poets 
Conspiracy, a Poets Collective. These meet on various nights 
and alternate Wednesdays, and sometimes they meet at Cody s 
Bookstore. One of them I think the Co-op publishes an annual 
anthology. It would be a good target for the word "bad," but I 
would think that would be a mistake. I think it should be a 
target for the word "good" also. It s kind of preliminary; the 
people may not get better. But it s potential, a strong 
potential volume. 

Oh I guess I know what I think is bad. What is bad is 
absolutely inert repetition of old modes , where the whole life 
has gone out of them. In other words, really bad poetry, as I 
see it, would be done by people who were writing haiku for the 
five millionth time, or Whittier s "Snowbound," or whatever 
generation they re from, doing it with absolutely no sense of 
anything but doing it again. That s not bad either psychologically; 
I mean that s the kind of practice and the kind of exercise which I 
would welcome. When I get that kind of manuscript I just write 
back and say, "Keep on doing this, and also do a lot of reading so 
you ll see if there are other things you d like to try." In other 
words, try to widen your horizons so that the repetition doesn t 
become inert . 

But the Co-op stuff is by no means inert. It s full of life 
and vigor. That s how I would think most of the stuff I see, 
multifarious as it is, has that kind of life in it. 

Teiser: Do you assume that a lot of it won t survive and some will? I mean 
continue to be read. 

Miles: Well, you know, John Donne almost didn t survive. 
Teiser: He came back. 

Miles: Yes, yes. I m not sure how important is survival really an 
important criterion for you? You mean, is this stuff writing 
toward the future? Well, I m afraid maybe it doesn t have that 
much originality. If you put it in a space capsule it would 
survive , and people would get a very good idea of our time from 
reading it, if that s a good criterion for survival. 

With Kathleen Fraser and Robert Haas, I was a judge for a 
contest which San Jose State ran for the bicentennial, in which 
they asked for poems from all over the country for the 
bicentennial. They told us we d have to read about sixty or 


Miles: eighty poems and make a decision of the first ten. Actually they 
got over a thousand poems. That s bad, because we had to read 
those, and we all slaved for months reading huge boxes. If we d 
been warned by them, we d have divided them up, but nobody told 
us these were going to keep coming. Now, on the other hand, we 
got a lot of stuff there which we could separate into bad and good, 
and the bad would be poems that began, "Columbia, the gem of the 
ocean/Columbia the gem of the sea/My heart s devotion goes to thee." 
In other words, they would reek of poetry you had heard before. 
The good ones would have just marvelous touches of nobody else in 
them: My grandfather s wooden teeth, or George Washington s 
wooden teeth, or the buffalo on the prairie, or catching whales. 
Even if it wasn t very well written, it would be marvelously 
interesting and have the quality that a good diary would have. 

Happily, the three of us agreed on this. We all saved out 
from this ghastly flow I believe it was two hundred poems, and 
that s not what they d wanted to hear. This is probably a pretty 
good answer about your word good and bad, because it was certainly 
a laboratory for what you re asking. Furthermore, we tended to 
agree on what the good ones were. Of the two hundred, all three 
of us, different as we are, agreed on about 150 of them. Kathleen 
wanted a few more women s attitude poems than Robert and I did. 
Robert and I agreed almost totally. So we added maybe twenty or 
twenty-five poems more from the women s point of view for her 
they were still good, but I mean they seemed to us a little more 
conventional and then we took this two hundred and shipped them 
down there and said, "These are it, and we suggest you don t give 
any prizes but publish a book, and spend the money that way," 
because there was no poem there that we thought was outstandingly 
good. Okay? Well, the rituals of the world don t allow for this, 
and the San Jose citizens who donated the money didn t want this. 
They wanted awards to be given to fine, upstanding young American 
students who would be encouraged to go on. Actually, when they 
did force these were all anonymous , by the way when they did 
force a winner, it turned out to be a conscientious objector who 
lived in Canada. So justice was done. [Laughter] 

Oh, and by the way, I should say that since they were 
anonymous, we found later that of the thousand, another two or 
three hundred were by well-known poets, that we d rejected. There 
shows the amorphousness of the bad, because we were clearly getting 
in a groove of some kind of learning something about America, and 
many of the very good poets were just still telling us something 
about themselves or something. In other words, you develop 
special criteria for special occasions. 


Miles: Finally, they did force us to give awards, which was really 

painful and useless an example of how "bad" and "good" aren t 
meaningful terms. But then they did raise enough money in town 
to publish the book, and I think it s an awfully interesting and 
good book, interesting because it s a documentary almost. That s 
just a whole example of other sets of criteria. 

This summer I was a judge for the best poetry written in 
America by somebody who d published two or more books by all the 
publishers. Again, we had to read everything, except vanity 
presses (remember I told you that, that I had to read a lot of 
little presses).* The other two judges and I guess I agreed with 
them said that as a whole the poetry of 1976 did not seem to them 
good poetry, and I guess I would agree. So there s another answer 
to the meaning of bad (you see how relative this all is) : in the 
sense of vitality of people that we know writing today, the 180 
books that we read last year were not all that vital. 

Now, what does vital mean? It apparently meant for us that we 
didn t get much sense of the quality, the identity of the speaker, 
the poet, and anything particularly new in the way he was saying 
what he wanted to say not necessarily new, but peculiarly adapted 
to what he wanted to say. There were maybe ten like that, but as 
it turned out they didn t fit the stipulations laid down by the 

It must mean that good and bad, as you already told me, are 
not absolute but are relative to occasions where you re working. 

Teiser: Hawley also said he sees poetry today as being two parallel streams, 
one the neat poems of Bukowsky, and the other the Olson influence. 

Miles: Oh, he saw those as different, did he? 

Teiser: He considers them parallel and quite different. 

Miles: I d have to do some readjusting of perspective there. 

Teiser: I thought he was indicating that Bukowsky s line flies all over 
the place and Olson s line is structured. 

Miles: Maybe. If so, then Hawley is over in Camp A and he s not talking 
about Camp B, because neither of them is at all neat in the sense 
of neatness that is still being written. When I mentioned Ted 

*Page 161. 


Miles: Weiss and Leonard Nathan, Robert Haas oh, so, so many Grace 

Schulman, Albert Goldbarth (these are books published last year) 
so many people that we read that were fairly good, they have a 
very controlled accentual line of a fair degree of regularity, of 
a fair degree of stanzaic structure or something close to it. 
Whereas Olson and Bukowsky are both over on the side of a great 
deal of break in the line. Olson has a whole theory in what he 
calls projective verse of the projectile quality of the line, 
which brings the force to the end of the line and then breaks over, 
and where you break the line in unusual places just so that force 
will build up. (He uses the metaphor of the synapse.) Bukowsky 
does that so much that he doesn t get that kind of controlled 
force. I can see how you would make them opposed to each other, 
but as I say, that s only in terms of getting over in that side 
of the picture in the first place. 

Teiser: Not analyzing the whole field... 

Miles: Yes. They re even both on the other side of Allen Ginsberg because 
he uses a kind of chant beat. I can t think of any outstanding 
poet today, beside those two, who uses such broken [lines]. Creeley 
does, but Creeley does it in a different way again, a very 
controlled, formalistic kind of break that he uses. 

I would need more enlightenment on what Robert meant there. 

Teiser: As I look at the whole small publishing picture here, I see 

Hawley s publishing as being perhaps diverse, but also having what 
I would call high standards (I guess now I m contradicting you 
[laughing]), while many publishing ventures will publish anything 
that s done with enthusiasm. Is that right? 

Miles: You don t mean vanity presses? 

Teiser: Well, it s hard I don t know what the difference now is between 
a vanity press and a small press, because some people publish 
their own poems. 

Miles: No, I was just thinking of big vanity presses like Vantage. 

Teiser: No, no, no. But I suppose the ultimate vanity press really is 
self-publishing, isn t it? 

Miles: The small presses are doing it differently. The editor, the 

publisher of the press, makes his selection. Paul Foreman doesn t 
publish anybody he doesn t like. 

Teiser: Oh yes, that s right. Well, I think he s very selective too. 


Miles: And Don Cushman, and Dennis Koran, and Robert Hawley and who 

else? Well, you mention the old presses the old White Rabbit, 
Robin Blaser, and a woman who publishes Cafe Solo down in San Luis 

Teiser: You mentioned Hitchcock. 

Miles: Yes. These are all highly, devotedly personal about their own 

standards; they all think they ve got the highest standards in the 
country. They can t bear all the other stuff that s coming out. 
So they re more idiosyncratic about it. That s why I think it s 
important to accept them all, as far as one can. 

Teiser: There s a chap whose name I finally thought of today and have lost 
again who s very vigorous and very anxious to publish in San 
Francisco. He publishes about once every quarter, I guess, a hefty 
kind of magazine-size anthology. 

Miles: Was it Norman Moser? 
Teiser: No. 

Miles: There s another one. Ed Mycue? Oh, there is really lots of stuff 
going on over there. There s Tom Head, is that his name? The Head 

Harroun: You don t mean Stephen Vincent? 
Teiser: Stephen Vincent I* 

Miles: Oh yes, he used to be head of Intersection.** Yes, he s 

Teiser: He keeps publishing. 

Miles: Yes. Intersection is a very free, experimental, rather good, 

healthy place, I think I mean healthy for variety. Yes, that s 
true, he does. 

Teiser: The publication of gay men they started long ago a quarterly. 
Miles: Oh yes, you mean Manroot. 

*The publication is Shocks. 
**A San Francisco arts center. 


Teiser: Manroot, yes, which seems to be fairly selective. 

Miles: That focuses on the whole homosexual tradition and is very 

Teiser: But publishes material more widely diverse than that. 

Miles: But, yes, it s pretty focused, though, on the prison tradition too. 
And John Oliver Simon is doing some prison poetry. That s 
another interesting kind. It s a good example of the point. A 
lot of that prison poetry is not howlingly well done, but it is 
howlingly moving, and how you can reject it I don t know. 

If you take Poetry Flash and just notice that there are about 
five or ten poetry groups to go to every night, and most of them 
are publishing, you see Robert Hawley s point, that there s an 
avalanche of work happening, and I would say it s at a miraculously 
high level all over. I don t run into any of it that I would want 
to reject. When I go to the poetry meetings around here, where 
kids grab the mikes and they have fights and they throw each other 
out of the cafe and they yell obscenities and so forth, a lot of 
that is extraneous. But the poetry you hear at those meetings is 
often extremely good extremely good, again I mean in the sense 
that there s a sense of strength, of interest, and some sense of 
constructive effort in it. The more the presses manage to handle 
that and get it out and get it improving, the better it ll be. 

This may all wear itself out and people will turn to some 
other form of expression or communication or what have you, but 
while they re doing this I d say there s no point in blocking it 
off at any point. 

Teiser: To go way over on to another point of view, Hal [Harold I.] 
Silverman, who edits California Living and who has clearly 
somewhat of an open mind about 

Miles: I like that magazine. I think he s doing a good job there, don t 

Teiser: I do. 

Miles: His articles have the sense of what the New Yorker used to be good 
at a tremendously patient detail of observation, which I really 

Teiser: I was muttering to him we did an article for him that he wouldn t 
take; maybe we didn t have much conviction in it. It was on Paul 
Foreman and Everson and a little press in San Francisco called 
Five Trees, run by women. I don t know maybe it was just because 
we couldn t get it for him. 


Miles: Was it about small press poetry? 

Teiser: Yes, it was small presses and what they were doing. I said, "You 
know, there s something wrong here. I guess we were writing for 
an audience that was already interested" which we were, as a 
matter of fact "but why shouldn t there be an audience that s 
already interested? Why shouldn t there be interest here in what s 
being written?" And he said, "Because most of the small press 
stuff is so bad." I said, "Well, I don t think so." 

Miles: Well, there s nothing easier in the world than to call other 

people s stuff bad. I just think that the exhilaration of finding 
the good is worth reading a lot of bad, makes reading a lot of bad 
worthwhile. In teaching a poetry class, of course, you get down to 
another nitty-gritty of this where you re reading twenty and 
thirty poems a week which you can call bad. But what bad means 
there is self-sabotage; they haven t got themselves together. When 
they start getting themselves together and a poem starts moving in 
a direction of their choice, it s so exciting that you re not sorry 
you ve read the efforts along the way. To sit around calling that 
stuff bad to begin with, the tendency would be to not ever get the 
good results. I suppose you get good results in some ways by 
calling things bad by challenging people, and I m sure that s 
often done. You know, "This is just so awful," and the fellow is 
so hurt that s told this that he goes out and tries something, and 
in anger, in adrenalin, improves it. 

Don Cushman was my reader once, and I had a huge, huge poetry 
class about fifty people and I needed readers. At the end we 
were giving grades, and grading just meant it was an honors course 
to begin with, so you just decided whether they were good or better. 
Don said, "I suppose you think there are some really good people 
here, and I don t think there s one, not one." In terms of this 
community, he has a more hierarchical view than I do, and that was 
an interesting example of it. I actually thought there were four 
or five. So we re not all that far apart, and Don is a very good 
example of hierarchical taste. He was a good follower of Jim Tate, 
and Jim Tate is pretty selective on what he does. 

The question is, "Is it bad, on the way to being good?" That s 
the question is it in motion? I would say around here and in San 
Francisco it is. Of course, I haven t been to all the thousands 
of millions of bar readings that go on over there. Maybe Silvennan 
has. But the people you were talking about aren t that way. This 
is a book that Paul [Foreman] just brought me. It s an anthology 
called Southwest, and It s just people from Arkansas, New Mexico, 
Arizona, and Southern California. I was just reading through the 
list of contributors; I scarcely know one of them, because it s a 
whole other scene. I m sure you could throw the whole thing out 
as bad, or you could hail it as great, either place, wherever you 
want to stand. 


Teiser: He s very interesting. I must get in touch with him and apologize 
for taking up a lot of his time when it didn t come to anything; 
maybe it will some day. 

Miles: With California Living, my hunch is that you did it in too 

traditional a fashion. I think the interesting thing about the 
people who write for Silverman is that they write the story kind 
of as if they were having breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the 

Teiser: [Laughter] Yes. 

Miles: And so what you would do really, seriously, if you want to think 
about it is to go to the West Coast Print Center, sit around and 
watch the presses turning, and see who comes in and what they 
bring and the questions they ask. You d enjoy it, and that s 
what Silverman wants, I think. 

Teiser: Good idea. 

Miles: That s I think the virtue of California Living, that it does not 

stand apart and look at things as they have been structured, which 
is what traditional writing tends to do, but tries to get there in 
the midst and follow the process. Remember that popular contrast 
that we have today between product and process? Products are out. 
Process is self-involving, and so on. You could do a fascinating 
article on the West Coast Print Center, and it could stress form 
and it could stress all these people, but it would just be 
remember that night that I read at Panjandrum?* 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: Now, that was an interesting evening as a process. The people 

that were there, what they did and said, the old man who thought 
I was Ina Coolbrith, and lots of fascinating stuff was going on 
there, but you d have to be God to listen in on it all that was 
the hard part. 

Teiser: We were in the back, and we didn t hear you were Ina Coolbrith. 

Miles: It wasn t public. He just came up later and said did I remember 

Ina Coolbrith who, way back in the early forties, used to teach at 
Berkeley. She was lame and a very interesting old lady. I said, 
"I think you re talking about me, if you ll pardon the expression." 
"Oh no! No, no, no, no. You re quite a young lady. This was Ina 
Coolbrith. She had white hair, and she taught poetry in Wheeler 
Hall in Berkeley- in the early forties." It was really kind of an 
interesting confusion. {Laughter] 

*Panjandrum Press in San Francisco. 


Teiser: That was an interesting evening. People were so involved. 

Miles: Yes, and they were so miscellaneous where on earth did they all 
come from? And the presence of the presses around there. It s 
even more harrowing at Cushman s place* because they re so busy, 
and people are there nursing their own manuscripts through the 
presses. Oh, it s just funny. 

Teiser: That s a good idea. I guess the reason we wanted to write that 
article was that Everson had just published an interesting book 
that had never been given any notice, Archetype West , and Foreman 
was just doing that anthology of translations 

Miles: And you could add Stan Rice of Mudra Press to this now. That would 
give you another good lead. Oh, don t despair. Do it over. With 
Stan Rice s award now, that s a big motivation. I ve been hoping 
you would do that because the Mudra Press deserves quite a bit of 
credit for getting that award, and who the heck is Mudra Press? 
Two nice women that felt that Stan ought to get printed. 

[end tape 1, side 2] 

*The West Coast Print Center in Berkeley. 


INTERVIEW VII 18 August 1977 

[This interview begins, after a section of faulty taping, with 
a continuation of the discussion of teaching students to write 
clearly. (See pages 95ff.)] 


[begin tape 1, side 1] 

Miles: Besides writing and research and teaching, there s another side to 
our work committees. The committee work is very various. First 
of all, early in the fifties a subcommittee on educational policy 
started studying junior-year writing and how to teach improvement 
all along, using what they knew. What teachers need to know is 
what to do very simply and fast and quick and clear that the 
students can absorb and use. When we first started working in the 
fifties, with students in other departments, we would say, "Okay, 
we re going to have two people mark your midterm, one from English 
and one from History," or whatever the other course was, "and 
compare notes on how much of the problems they find are in the 
writing." The students would look very bewildered and they d say, 
"But don t you want this written like an English paper? You don t 
want it written like a History paper, do you?" We d say, "What s 
the difference?" Well, in History you don t bother about the 
writing." In other words, they have a kind of esoteric feeling 
that in English classes you do something special, and you don t 
generally do that because there s no demand. 

After we got the History instructor and the History teaching 
assistant to talk about the importance, and when we were able to 
point out that maybe half of their grade depended on the lack of 
organization rather than the lack of information that s why they 
were able to improve so fast. I mean, it was a sheer survival 
technique, and they were motivated by dire necessity, not by 
interest or by any lovely thing like that. They realized it was 
impractical to write the messy way they d been writing. 






It s from that that we carried over now to the teachers and to the 
schools. This is about the fourth year of the [Bay Area] Writing 
Project, and I think that the statistic of improvement showed up 
last year. 

My word! That is fast. 

It is fast, and it can happen right away. You might ask about the 
minority people. Subject A has done some very interesting 
experiments with them, and they do have some motivation problems 
that are different; that is, they don t trust their own voice or 
their own evidence or their own position in a middle class English 
that s stripped of their own colorful qualities. And so, in 
Subject A, especially in the black and Asian courses, and chicano, 
they ve been doing a lot: about the first month is getting the 
student to be free to assert himself and free to state his own 

A very sad result of scientist!) and behaviorism and a lot of 
things that went on in the first half of the twentieth century is 
a kind of mechanization of writing in which you use the passive 
and the impersonal. Science did this because science wanted to 
observe rather than interpret. And yet, interestingly enough, in 
my studies of prose styles, as I think I mentioned, the most 
adjectival or descriptive or elaborate prose style is a scientist s 
because he wants to assume a lot of qualities, and that takes a 
grammatical construction of adjectival modifications. Young 
students are not wanting to make that much assumption; they re 
going to try probably to state simple opinions, and that s going 
to be short sentences, which is all right for them. 

We try to say to teachers, we try to encourage them to say, 
"Don t forbid anything." Typical remarks are, "Don t use I ," 

"Don t use the passive," "Don t use the word thing 

Don t use 

short sentences," "Don t use adjectives," or don t use this or 
don t use that these are all easy tags that the teacher has got 
to assert so that if the student does do this they can mark him 
down for it. Anything goes in any traditional style in English 
prose so long as it s used for the right purpose; that is, for 
the purpose that the student establishes. [Telephone interruption] 

Ask me something, because I forget where I was. 

I think you were summing up the fact that when you didn t put 
demands upon students, then 

Yes, yes. If we could manage to agree on the demands and make them 
simple enough, I think we*re okay. Subject A has developed some 
very good approaches with minority students that are working well. 


Miles: Subject A also developed an interesting diagnostic test. (I 

should mention names here. Phyllis Brooks is one, and there are 
others.) They developed a diagnostic test, finding that, say, 80 
percent of errors are four errors, and those are all errors of 
coherence. In other words, they mean that the student doesn t see 
what he s doing. If he sees what he s doing, those errors all fall 
away. Happily, that corroborates our studies in the fifties when 
we found that we didn t isolate them especially as coherence 
errors, and we didn t isolate them down to four, but just a great 
mass of errors falls away if the student knows what he is doing. 

Teiser: In the thirties at Stanford there was a little book that was very 
popular among Subject A teachers called Thinking to Some Purpose 

Miles: That sounds good. 

Teiser: that was supposed to underlie the whole shooting works. When I 
taught Subject A I think I spent all my time abjuring the students 
to think. That s why I didn t get anywhere with them. 

Miles: That s true. That s why I was going to say that very title speaks 
from another era, because words like reasoning and thinking aren t 
stylish now. It goes way back, then; it goes twenty years back, 
thinking and purpose and goals (that s not a very good word either). 
It s just another ambience of kinds of terms that are good. A 
concept now is some way of talking about developing the stages 
through which you carry an idea. "Idea" is not a good word either. 
When I once asked a student in freshman English (somebody 
impatiently said, "What do you mean by an idea, anyway?"), I said, 
"What does an idea mean to you?" and this kid said, "An untrue fact. 1 
There is that sense of opinion that isn t valid. 

That s the whole problem of the behavioristic, mechanistic 
tradition, and we really have to work hard to bring that extreme 
together with the subjective extreme of "Anything I say is right," 
and "My journal, bad or good," and all this kind of thing. Many 
good teachers in our department are now teaching journals, which 
they consider sacred, which they will not correct, obviously. How 
would you correct a journal?! Students are encouraged to use other 
media, too. All this is good, except there s a main line in the 
middle between thinking to some purpose and photomontage and journal 
keeping, which is having an idea-<-which is making a generalization 
and supporting the generalization with instances. When they can do 
that, then they can handle academic work, which is asking them to 
test generalizations by the reference to instances, or to make 
generalization on the basis of instances they have experienced, 
and it s- just so simple! But I go and talk to people and people 
say, "What do you mean by a generalization?" That s not an easy 
answer for people who have to ask you the question. 


Miles: But you re right you can t use the word "thinking," you shouldn t 
better use the word "logic," and so on. Some of our very best 
handbooks today, written by very good friends of mine, give examples 
of good thesis sentences, ones like, "Everybody should pay more 
attention to politics" now, that s an impossible thesis sentence 
because of the "everybody," and their simplest study of logic 
should have told them that, so that it s the teachers as well as 
the students who are confused. I mean, you can t write about all 
or none, you can t write about superlatives, and yet a typical 
student lead sentence if you ask them to write on "My Home Town," 
they ll write, "My home town is the best little home town in the 
world." Impossible unless you re going to deal with all the other 
home towns in the world and show why it s best. But they don t use 
a superlative with any meaning like that; it s just an emotional 
remark from a chamber of commerce bulletin. So you have to spend 
time talking about what kind of a generalization could they 
themselves support. Once they see what kind they can support, 
then they feel secure in supporting it. But obviously they have 
felt pretty mixed up about supporting some of these other ones. 

It s fun and it s easy that s the sad part that it has got 
so mixed up. But naturally of course it has, in all the confusions 
of our culture; that s obvious. When I say it s fun and easy, it s 
fun and easy because at that simple level where I m talking about 
It, you hardly ever get any reality. But if you can persuade them 
to see that reality, abstract enough to see that reality to use it 
even a little bit in their college work, it s very helpful. And I 
don t just mean college work; I mean making reports and in almost 
everything they re going to have to do in whatever job they have, 
just to be able to make a generalization, perceive a general 
situation and then see what instances need to support it. It s 
not just a college exercise; also it s a lifestyle. 

One meaning of illiteracy, I think, in our society is the 
inability to use language to generalize and to support. This is a 
simple thing we just have to teach over and over. 

Did I mention before yes, I m sure I did when I was in high 
school, I enjoyed teaching the neighbors, who were young men 
starting in business. Why did the young man, who was twenty-four 
years old, come over and ask me how to help him write his report 
for Dun and Bradstreet? Because he had twenty-five yellow pages of 
data on Albers Mills, which he d been asked to visit, and he didn t 
know how to make a generalization to cover the twenty-five pages of 

Teiser: Was he able intellectually to add it up and do something? 



Teiser : 


Miles : 


Yes, he could. When I, in my simple high school way, said, "Let 
me read over this data and see what seems to repeat itself," and 
then I would say, "Oh yes, you keep talking here about too much 
overhead. What does that mean?" He would say, "Well," and he d 
explain it to me, and the light would dawn on his face and I 
wouldn t have to say anything except, "Oh yes, hey, that s a good 
point: One of the problems at Albers is too much overhead." 

Then you were teaching him to think. 

Well, that s your term. I d just say I was teaching him to 
generalize. [Laughter] Avoid the word "think" at all costs these 
days. [Laughter] 

Well, I suppose, when you have a selected group, when you have 
people who are able to pass an aptitude test and get into college, 
you have people capable of making generalizations. 

You don t, though, because they haven t had any practice 
consciously doing it. They may be doing it unconsciously, and 
that s how they ll skim through. 

But they re capable of learning, you mean, 
whole high school population would be 

I don t know that the 

The people that we taught in upper division learned, as I say, in 
two weeks, because it meant that they already knew but weren t 
using it. We would go back and say, "Look, our teaching assistant 
shows that you actually did D- work in the writing of this paper. 
Your History TA says you had B amount of information. So what s 
the result? You get a C- on the test. That s nonsensel You 
should be getting the B credit for the information." The teacher 
would stand up and say, "Yeah, yeah. Go, go," and the assistant 
would stand up if we had said it, they wouldn t have listened; but 
when we got this general affirmation, then we d give them another 
test two weeks later (just use their same old midterm techniques) , 
and the exact data I think is that over 50 percent of the class 
improved more than a whole grade in two weeks. That meant that 
they were suddenly paying attention to what they were doing, that s 
all, and they recognized the demand. 

Does grammar play any part in this? Is that another bad word? 

Grammar isn t too bad a word. I do think we talked a lot about 
this before; we were talking about grammar, rhetoric, and logic, 

Teiser: But in this relationship. Do you teach them grammar! 



Sure. The study of grammar has been a lot improved through 
linguistics studies and somebody like Charles Fries. Linguistics 
as a whole hasn t seemed to be very applicable because it s so 
elaborate, but it helps you get rid of those nonsensical eight 
parts of speech, it helps you get rid of a lot of stress on frills 
in sentence structure. One of the best teachers of writing in the 
country in the last five years, and very crucial to our program, 
is Francis Christensen of USC. Grammar is what he stressed; he 
taught through grammar. He would point out, for example, how 
Hemingway began with modifying phrases. You know, "Unaccustomed 
as I am to public speaking, I will begin my talk with an anecdote." 
Now that "unaccustomed as I am to public speaking" is considered 
very sophisticated, and teachers don t even bother to teach it 
because they just say, "Don t write short, jerky sentences," but 
they don t bother to say how you can get around writing short 
One way is to use an initial modifier, which would be "unaccustomed 
as I am." Christensen helped the students see how to do that. 

Jim Gray has spent lots of time doing that, and it works very 
well, especially in the black community because the black community 
uses that kind of rhetoric all the time. He was simply cashing in 
on the powers of black English, which are more elaborate, less 
simplistic than the grammars of white English at this level. So 
he had very good luck with letting the black community use its own 
powers of language of this kind. 

[end tape 1, side 1; begin tape 1, side 2) 
What about memory work? 

We could do more with, I think, use of memory again. I have a 
very bad memory, and I stopped being a Classics major because I 
couldn t memorize all the lines I was supposed to learn. So I m 
not too enthusiastic. But on the other hand, I think some simple 
use of memory throughout school would be good if we would decide 
how to do it reasonably. I think memory would give students the 
security that they now don t have. 

Teiser: I was thinking of this in connection with the fact that Leonard 
Bacon s daughter said that he could recite long passages of 





Shakespeare, and I remember that my father could, 
was part of the education of that period. 

Perhaps that 

And a lot of it was very dead wood, and you can make fun of it. 
On the other hand, some of it might be good. I know a lot of 
people who can do nothing but recite long passages from Shakespeare. 
They don t inspire me. 

I suppose one thing about learning things, if not by heart, at least 
becoming very familiar, is that so much literature, particularly of 
the past, is allusive. I suppose if you don t know what it s 
alluding to 

Of course, they could learn literature of the present, besides; 
it doesn t have to be the past. 


INTERVIEW VIII -- 25 September 1977 

[including portions of Interview VI and VII] 
[begin tape 1, side 1] 

Teiser: I m afraid we should recapitulate what was inadvertently lost on 
the tape, which was a discussion of the Bay Area Writing Project. 
We re going to fill in and then add on, is that all right? 

Miles: Fill in about the Bay Area Writing Project. 

This very interesting work with the Bay Area Writing Project 
began actually way back in 1960 when Jim Gray, Ken Lane, and Leo 
Ruth, three young supervisors in Education all supervisors of 
teaching of English had a lot of good, lively ideas about 
teaching English. I joined with them, and a visitor by the name 
of Dick Worthen from Diablo Valley, and others, had a big meeting 
in 145 Dwinelle with lots of teachers invited. The teachers 
seemed to like it, so we kept on having meetings. It turned into 
something called the Chancellor s Conference in Teaching, every 
May. These young men had the virtue of winning progressively the 
interest of more and more teachers throughout the Bay Area and 
throughout the state. 

Also at this time teachers were organizing somewhat because 
there were great problems under the then superintendent, Rafferty, 
whenever he was in. So they organized the California Association 
of Teachers of English, and various branches of that, and they 
had conferences at Asilomar, at Yosemite, and in San Francisco 
and Los Angeles. Great activity of teachers trying to figure out 
how to cope with the social problems of the sixties. The picture 
of teachers giving up on teaching just cause things got rough in 
the sixties is really pretty unfair because, while I m sure some 
teachers gave up under too many students and too much pressure, 
they were constantly doing more and more studying of how to meet 
those very problems. 


Miles: There was an interesting summary today of reasons why SAT scores 
had gone down over the last fourteen years or something. One of 
their main points was that teachers had held less high standards. 
I would really like to take five or eight hours to debate this 
point because, for one thing, standards are not necessarily 
limited to SAT standards, which are white, middle class, eastern 
seaboard standards. I think maybe our teachers have taught 
marvelously new things that aren t being yet examined for. On the 
other hand, the pressures of the sixties, and the failure here I 
go again! of administrators to back up the teachers under these 
pressures meant that teachers simply didn t have the strength and 
time to give the extra effort that they needed to do all the new 
exploring they had to do. But that s what these very good 
teachers did, with our supervisors. 

We developed a kind of strong esprit de corps. I say "we" 
because I was in on it, but they really deserve the credit and 
others too. Miles Myers, Cap Lavin, many, many others who 

Teiser: When you say you were in on it, what do you mean you met with 
them frequently? 

Miles: Exactly, that s what I mean, yes. They, however, did all the 

organizing and all the work. They, about three or four years ago 
when Subject A scores were so bad, organized a four-week program 
in the summer at Berkeley to invite teachers to come and work in 
a seminar of twenty-five to help each other develop a program which 
they would specifically and formally carry back to their high 
schools and specifically and formally teach in their high schools. 
They feared they wouldn t get support from their administrators, 
but we had a dinner for the administrators that following fall and 
got great enthusiasm from them. This whole program was helped by 
one of our administrators, Rod [Roderic B.] Park, our provost. 
Also our chancellor, Al [Albert H.] Bowker, is interested in the 
whole teaching of writing because he was at CUNY [City University 
of New York] when they had the open program there and saw how there 
is a great problem of teaching. Anyway, we had some good support. 

This first seminar worked very well the first year, and I 
went to that part-time, and to the second part-time, and I missed 
last year. I went again this year part-time. The nice news was 
that scores in the taking of the placement test, essay writing for 
college placement at Berkeley, had fallen to about 70 percent 
failures of all who took it, and after two or three years of our 
program the failure was only 20 percent. This was enough evidence 
to finally get real support from foundations, which at first had 
laughed at us, and it was really "they laughed when I sat down at 
the piano" kind of thing because really they did come around and 
ask to help us. Jim now has lots of money and lots of organizations 


Miles: all over the state; there s even a branch of the Bay Area Writing 
Project in New York. It s very exhilarating, because there are 
simple, good ways to teach if we can get everybody organized and 
focused on doing it. 

Those ways, briefly, substantively are just to focus on 
teaching the making of reasonable, supportable generalizations and 
then supporting them. You d be surprised, as simple as that sounds, 
how nobody understands what a generalization is, or how to support 
it. They fool around with things like "what is description," 
"what is narrative," and a great many old-fashioned left-over 
problems from the nineteenth century, or else they re very modern 
and deal with journal writing and expressiveness, which doesn t 
give them much help in formalizing the support of ideas. So that 
is a nice, hard working, inventive and successful project I ve 
been in on and enjoyed for now about seventeen years or so. It was 
not discontinuous with the one I mentioned at Berkeley, the Prose 
Improvement Program, where we had worked for the preceding decade 
on teaching our own university students. We keep learning the same 
thing over and over; if we could manage to spread it far enough 
fast enough, we wouldn t be in such bad shape as we seem to be in. 

Teiser: You said somewhere that a couple of weeks of intensive teaching 

Miles: Yes, a couple of weeks of intensive teaching, with a double 

support, one from the teacher of English and one from the teacher 
of the subject matter. This is absolutely vital to have a double 
view; otherwise, the students think that English is something 
special that s being dragged in on them. Or they get a rather 
fragmentary teaching from their own subject matter teacher. The 
combination is necessary, and it s the stress on generalization 
and support of generalization with data. This they sort of know 
already. It s really the demand for it and the reminder of it that 
makes them come through with it. 

The minority problem is also a problem of voice; that is, 
the self-assurance of the student. 

Teiser: I think we ve managed not to lose on the tape your discussion of 

Miles: All right. Then that s a good place to stop with that. Then we 

might turn over to other committee work I did, or lecturing and so 

Teiser: Yes. There were two committees, I think, that you didn t mention, 
and one was a Committee on Research of the Academic Senate, and the 
other was the President s Committee on Search for the Chancellor of 
the Berkeley Campus. 


Miles: Yes. I forgot about those before. The Research Committee I was 

on fairly briefly I learned a lot on it because that is a rather 
pathetic committee. It distributes money which the University has 
to aid scholarship of faculty members, aid research. But it has 
so little money that we sit around quibbling over whether we 
should give a man $300 or $320, and if he has five children we 
decide to give him $320. There s a real pathos that I could hardly 
bear. The National Science Foundation supports the sciences, and 
so this committee, though it was heavy with scientists, was very 
aware of the fact that we needed more support for the humanities. 
We did, I remember, support some very interesting projects, like 
stone rubbings from Asia, and researches into musical analysis. 
But actually that figure $300 is roughly what we were able, as an 
average, to give people on this. You know you can t do terribly 
much research [laughing] for a year on $300. 

What I learned from that committee was mostly a kind of 
breadth of view and generosity from the men on that committee, as 
a whole; not in all cases, because there was one man who kept 
counting the children in a way that bothered me. But a kind of 
breadth of view which the other committees at other campuses didn t 
have. I was impressed with the fact that experience and maturity 
in Berkeley does mean something. 

For example, the committees from other campuses would write 
us and say, "Don t you think that we should dock a professor any 
amount that he makes after he has done the work on his research?" 
In other words, if we had helped him $300 worth, and he sells a 
book, shouldn t we ask for $300 back from his royalties? This was 
a reasonable request and I entertained it happily and, yeah, why 
not, and fair s fair, and that would replenish the funds and so 
forth. It was so marvelous to me to hear these men explain [laughing] 
why that was just nonsense; that our job is to encourage, and the 
more they make the greater, and the more they try and do, the 
greater. If we re always going to keep tabs on these little bits 
of money we re giving them, the whole thing becomes kind of a silly 
little game. It was that kind of a larger view of what we were 
trying to do with this money, which was not to trade back and forth 
but was to get good work done, that was very exhilarating to me. 

The Search for the Chancellor Committee was a very hard, hard, 
hard job. We had a good chairman from the law department, and we 
had good people who knew a lot. Often I play the role of somebody 
representing the naivete, innocence, and gentility of the 
humanities. That s the role I had on that committee. There were 
about two others of us who did, plus the students who were on the 
committee were very interesting. I tended always to agree with 
what the students wanted rather than what my colleagues wanted in 
the way of a chancellor, and I m sure we were wrong. We were 


Miles: interested in people with interesting ideas who d written well on 
the subject of student problems, and the generality I would say 
most of the people that we pulled for for the few first weeks of 
our discussions are now in rest homes. None of them could stand 
the gas of the sixties, and they all retired early and are writing 
their memoirs. Whereas the older, wiser men on this committee kept 
saying, "You ve got to have somebody strong, who can fight, who can 
even do in-fighting. It doesn t matter whether you like him or 
whether he likes the students. It has very little to do with 
charisma." They would always say, "Al Bowker is one of the ones 
who keeps being brought up, and he s from New York," but everybody 
said at the outset, "He has no charisma." This is one thing that 
was said about him, and the other thing was that he was rather 
careless in appearance. We heard this so often, excusing, on the 
other side, his wonderful ability to organize. He had done very 
good work at Stanford in building up the Graduate Division, and 
Berkeley clearly needed support in its Graduate Division because 
it was being robbed steadily of its graduate powers because of the 
political desire of demagogues in the state to fill us up with 
freshmen; in other words, to provide more opportunities to more 
people, but not higher opportunities to more advanced students. 
That was the argument: that Bowker was strong and intelligent in 
the way of research. 

He came, and after oh, we had hundreds of proposals. All of 
us investigated the biographies of hundreds of people. Then we 
telephoned to people we knew in every state where somebody was 
concerned, or a university where somebody was concerned. We had 
fascinating discussions with people about their administrators. 
Finally I think Mr. Bowker was the only one we actually interviewed; 
I mean he was the first one we interviewed, and everybody liked 
him liked not him, because he doesn t exactly ask to be loved, but 
liked what he stood for. The regents did too, and so he came here. 

Interestingly enough, some of our other candidates were later 
called upon for other jobs in the University. So we did a good 
job of developing not just one, but a list of good people. It was 
good experience for me, surely, to be on a committee with such 
broad-viewed men interested in administration and policies, and 
also to see how that committee was handled. We didn t do much 
dilly-dallying, and everything was held very tightly under control 
by the chairman. 

The other kind of work that I was doing at the same time, 
committee work, was, for one thing, on the Chancellor s Committee 
for the Arts. That was the other side of my interest, in the arts. 
There were some prizes set up, Eisner Awards, in five art 
departments: Graphic Arts, Music, Drama, English, and Architecture. 
Those were fairly large; that is, they could range from $600 to 


Miles: $3000 for a student, for the work, as a kind of fellowship so that 
he could do his work without having to work on the side. The 
Chancellor s Committee administered those. 

Fascinating people on that committee. Joe [Joseph] Esherick 
was one chairman from Architecture, Philip Brett from Music, Henry 
May from Drama, for another. Really interesting work and debates 
we had. Our actual chancellors were never much interested in the 
arts, so the reports that we wrote to them seldom were replied to. 
Nevertheless, we did some really interesting reports on fountains 
on campus and what was wrong with them; what was wrong with 
temporary structures that remained permanent. We had luncheon 
meetings maybe every two weeks or something, and it was a great 

You might be interested if I would give you one kind of 
anecdote of how things went with students during the years of the 
arts committee (I think it was established around the beginning of 
the sixties or earlier, maybe). Eisner had wanted this, that these 
awards should be very high level, dignified awards; that they should 
be given at a banquet where the finest wines should be served and 
the finest food, and that some very good speaker should come. The 
donors actually left money in the treasury to pay for this 
particular goodness. As we administered those awards, we also 
administered the banquet and got the speaker and got the students 
to come, and so forth. It was interesting to decide where to go 
for dinner and what to serve and so on. It was all kind of an 
aesthetic unity. We had a couple of dinners of that sort, with 
good speakers, like the man who teaches music at UCLA, Jan Popper. 
Good, lively people. 

Somewhere along in these disturbed times, the students who 
were coming to the banquet, which was at, let s say, six o clock at 
the Women s Faculty Club, were caught in a tear gas barrage on 
Telegraph Avenue. It was a time of lots of barraging back and 
forth; maybe it was People s Park; I don t remember the date. 
Anyway, many of them coming from that direction, as most of them 
did, got caught in a tremendous fracas on Telegraph and surrounding 
streets, and they arrived at the Faculty Club about half an hour 
late and absolutely stripped. They were bleeding, they were cut, 
their clothes were torn, they looked like real orphans of the storm. 
I would stress the fact that it was physical endurance that these 
kids went through after they d been through a police line, or trying 
to get around a police line, or trying to get through the tear gas. 
And they were crying, and they said that they couldn t come to the 
banquet but they just came to report. They couldn t get their 
checks if they didn t come to the dinner, and they wanted to get 
their checks and go home and clean up. 


Miles: Well, Joe Esherick, who was chairman at that time, a very cool 

architect, I thought was really superb. He sent out for a whole 
bunch of big Band-Aids and gauze wrappings and some kind of 
disinfectant, and sent them down to the respective restrooms in 
the Faculty Club, told them to bandage themselves up and come to 
supper because they probably needed some food anyway because they 
were probably mostly in shock, which they were. They did this, 
but in expectable student fashion. They also, with great humor, 
removed quite a bit more of whatever clothes they had left. So 
they were really bare; and really, above the waist, as they sat 
around the table, this was one of the less formal of the banquets. 
You couldn t see anything but bare skin. There maybe would be at 
these banquets, say, considering the judges and so forth, there 
would be maybe forty people. So it was quite a hilarious dinner, 
full of anecdotes of brutality, and jokes, and lots of wine (which 
they never noticed how good it was), and so on. It was kind of a 
major absurdity, the whole thing. 

Our speaker that year was Allan Kaprow, the man who talks 
about happenings. You know about Allan Kaprow? He was down at 
California Institute of the Arts. This was the man who, in the 
sixties, was so famous for the new sense of art as happening, 
which you ve heard about in Golden Gate Park and with the Beatles 
and with Ginsberg and so forth, and with the students as a whole. 
Well, Kaprow was a leader in all this in the East, and he told us 
about the importance of art in this instant, spontaneous way, and 
how at the California Institute of the Arts one of their 
assignments was to build ice houses ice structures and the one 
most complete and yet most easily destroyed, of course, would be 
the winner (except competition is bad, so you don t have winners). 
So the students would make up teams, and they would build these 
ice houses in the middle of parking lots at midnight, and on 
freeways, and I can t remember where else. Then they would get it 
all done, they d rush to meet the dawn light and the first traffic, 
and then when they made their deadline and the first cars kept 
coming and pushing over these things, then they would walk away. 
There was kind of triumph, you see, in this concept of art. 

The young man next to me young black student we d been 
talking about his future in music. He said to me (I ll curb some 
of the language), "Jo" he didn t know me from Adam, but he called 
me Jo "I m, as I ve told you, a student of the violin, and I hope 
to be a great violinist some day. I practice the violin at least 
eight hours every day, and I am so goddamn insulted by this so-and- 
so who s standing up there talking about melting ice houses I 
think he s insulting every one of us here who ve devoted our lives, 
as he evidently hasn t, to the perfecting of some art that I m 
leaving." He stood up, threw his wine glass into the middle of 
the banquet shape of the table, said this again to the assembled 
multitude and invited as many as wished to leave. And most of them 


Miles: That was an example of motivated and rather interesting violence, 
as I experienced it. Allan Kaprow, who had, I felt, created 
another interesting happening, did not respond as I thought he 
should by saying, "God, we ve really got a good happening here," 
but was just furious. I never could understand that. I thought 
he [the student] had triumphed beyond belief. 

Teiser: Isn t that interesting. 

Miles: It was. Actually, the whole event makes a kind of center in my 
mind of how there s wrong and yet right in the student point of 

The next year, the students on our committee there were 
always students on our committee, of course said, "We just can t 
have any more banquets. We don t want any more. We never have 
wanted them. You ve just got to break that part of the bequest." 
Whether we had to go to law, I m not sure. I was on another 
committee called the Prize Committee where we had to go to law 
to try to break the bequest for $1000 for the best Latin 
translation from Cicero, which nobody, even for a thousand dollars, 
wanted to do! 

The dead hand of prize-giving is very, very interesting. I 
decided I d never leave a prize for anything because I couldn t 
possibly tell what would be happening ten years from then. 

Anyway, it was agreed that we would have a picnic next time 
not a picnic in the hills (there were too many people) but a picnic 
in the same room, which was a nice, simple room, and we invited 
[Howard K. ] Warshaw of UCSB, the painter, to come and talk. That 
was extremely informal. We had wine and cheese and crackers and 
sandwiches, and he talked, and there was a fair amount of 
discussion. But somehow that didn t seem like a good solution 
either. We tried that a couple of times. Joe Esherick was so 
interested he had kids of his own so interested in trying these 
things. But we couldn t quite seem to hit it off, and the students 
said, "Why the blankety-blank do you make us come to anything? 
Just mail us our checks!" which was a little angrifying to those 
traditionalists who felt they ought to come through with a little 

Then we tried something that has now worked out to be quite 
nice, because it suddenly dawned on me, "It s not really that the 
students want their checks. What do they really want?" You know 
the answer? Obviously, I m sure you could say it: They want to 
be heard. It s not the money, it s the voice that they want. 
Henry May and I, the next year, tried and it was a total failure, 
but it was because of our lack of realization of the problem tried 


Miles: to have a dinner in which they read their prize-winning poems, 
their prize-winning stories, or they played their prize-winning 
music, or they showed their prize-winning dance films on a screen, 
and so on. Well, we didn t realize how much rehearsal that was 
going to take. Besides, they weren t very responsive at all; they 
thought we were tricking them into something, they weren t sure 
what. The lights didn t work and the screen didn t work, and it 
was one of those bad media things where nothing works, and nobody 
could hear anybody. We went home very unhappy. 

But we got maybe a dozen letters from students after that, 
saying that was it, "Do that again, though it didn t work this 
time. We will volunteer to run the machine, and we will volunteer 
to collect the stories," and so on. So now we ve done it maybe 
three times. Now what we have, in the Art Museum, catered by the 
Swallow, is just a kind of an antipasto and wine, and then we have 
the whole show from about seven till nine in the Art Museum. Or I 
think the last time we had it in Hertz Hall, because there was so 
much good music to be heard that it seemed to need Hertz. 

Now we ve solved it, and I think it s a good story of trying 
to adapt a prize to the people, and also to the times. Temporarily 
we ve solved it, but I m sure there s going to be some new problem 
and new difficulty. But it was really interesting how you see, 
again, you were talking [off the tape] about "the boy stood on the 
burning deck."* The Eisners, who gave this money, felt that the 
intrinsic quality of a good banquet and a good speaker that is, 
the tradition of listening to "The boy stood on the burning deck," 
so to speak was the nicest thing they could do for good people. 
But the sixties and seventies are saying, "No, let us be heard. 
We don t want to listen to anybody else. If anybody s going to 
recite, let it be us." I m not saying this is better, I m just 
saying it s different. Again I say I wish we could somehow, 
sometime get a combination. 

Teiser: Is this same spirit shown at commencement now? 

Miles: Yes, very much so, and we have far better speakers at commencement 
than we ever had in the past, and they are student speakers and 
they re awfully good. And student poetry readers, and this and 
that. It s mostly a student fiesta. On the other hand, I much 
regret the loss of the commencements in the stadium because I 
regret the loss of those marvelous Chinese families with their 
thousands of relatives, from Grandma down to Baby, with their big 

*That is, the tradition of making students learn poetry by heart. 


Miles: picnic lunches, coming there to see some kid graduate, looking 
for him in these hordes of kids down on the field, finding him 
and taking his picture 25,000 times, and that whole mass feeling 
of ceremony I like too. But again, that s old-fashioned; it s 
too impersonal now. 

Teiser: Partly I suppose because kids aren t put through college so much 
nowadays as they put themselves through is that part of it? 

Miles: I think maybe so. But for a while the parents would say oh, the 
parents would complain! A lot of parents would come up and bawl 
the liver out of me for the fact that there was not enough 
ceremony for their child. But now they re coming back in such 
I think we had our graduation in Wheeler [Auditorium] , which 
holds seven or eight hundred, and we couldn t even get the people 
in. So, the parents are now coming; it s now formal enough for 
them. There again we ve hit a kind of happy medium for the moment. 
Always experimenting. [Laughter] 

Teiser: It s interesting that the University should be so responsive. I 
don t know that it always has been. 

Miles: It isn t the University, it s the departments. The University just 
abolished the big one; it didn t do much about it. It just said, 
"We can t afford to have those big fights. Do what you will. If 
you want to do anything, do it." This whole burden has been on 
the departments, I think; that is, they may have got some help, 
but I haven t noticed it. They get money that used to be spent 
the other way, for lemonade or whatever. 

The next step I took in committee work was just very exciting 
to me, and sort of led to where I am involved now. Would you like 
to have me go on with that at the moment? 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: We had spent a great deal of time in the Prize Committee deciding 
which students should get the gold medal, the student who had an 
all A average in chemistry or the student who had had an A+ 
average in physical education. I was so irked by this nonsense 
about one A+ and another A+, and which field is better than which 
field, that I asked not to be put on that committee any more. 
That was a natural committee for me to be on, since I was 
interested in writing. But a lot of it seemed like quibbling to 
me, especially the gold medal kind of thing, and so much depended 
on grades, and grades to me is such a foolishness at least at 
that level, when you re quibbling about whose A- is better than 
whose A-. So, I said I didn t want to be on the committee but 
that I would be willing to serve on a committee that dealt with 
ideas in some way. 


Miles: They hit me back with a really major blow: they put me on the 
Committee on Privilege and Tenure, which is essentially a legal 
committee, or at least it s a it should have lay faculty on it, 
but its chairman is a member of the law department and it has 
other lawyers on it, and it s involved in faculty appeal for 
faculty rights of privilege or tenure. That is, if somebody 
is not appointed to tenure and feels the lack of appointment was 
unfair, or somebody who is fined for some reason, like for 
keeping out billions of library books, and feels it s unfair, and 
so on any kind of appeal for rights, faculty rights, to the 
administration is brought to Privilege and Tenure, and it s a 
really serious, life and death kind of committee. 

I didn t know what I was doing when I made this trade. It 
was too hard for me physically because you have to sort of stay 
up all night with this thing and have hearings and so on. But I 
did stick it out for a couple of years until I had a sabbatical, 
and it was fascinating. I was so impressed with the people in 
the law department. I guess I was on two or three years, and 
the final year I was not impressed with the man from the law 
department, which shows it wasn t a total bias. The power of the 
good men to see the overriding generalizations that control the 
conclusions, in contrast to the power of this third man to 
quibble, as it seemed to me, on small issues that was just as 
bad as the Prize Committee then. 

But those first two or three years were really stimulating 
and exciting and opened up my mind to the heart of the University 
from terms of faculty rights point of view, and University 
politics in terms of finagling, and then, as I say, this whole 
matter of ideas and how they operate. At first I felt that I 
could say nothing, but gradually as I was on for a while I did 
develop a few principles that I thought were valid. 

One of the men on the committee for a while was Mark 
Christensen, who later became vice-chancellor, who s supposed to 
be everybody says he s too nice. But he became chancellor at 
Santa Cruz and had too much trouble to handle it. I thought he 
was marvelous at elucidating principles, too (he s a geologist). 
I really looked forward to every meeting even if they went on 
too long. 

By now I was hooked on committee work. My friends laugh at 
me for this, but I think one of the most exciting things and of 
course this does relate to teaching freshman English is to see 
a good, valid generalization emerging out of a messy situation, 
and see it emerging in the minds of people. The great thing 
about teaching is when suddenly that kind of light comes in 
somebody s eye that says, "Oh yeah. I m beginning to get the 


Miles: picture." This is true, as you know, with little, little children. 
When some little child begins to get a notion of something, to see 
the wheels turning around in their head, there s just nothing better, 
from my point of view. And I was seeing it happening in very 
august brains, and it s very stimulating there too. 

Some time after that I went on to another committee called the 
Planning Committee.* I remember some of my friends would be on the 
committees that appointed me (we had a thing called the Committee on 
Committees, which appoints people to committees), and I remember 
some of my friends saying, "Jo, do you really want to be on another 
committee? We ve talked about putting you on such-and-such, but 
isn t that really too much work? Are you just a committee freak, 
or what?" I would say, "If it s a good, thoughtful committee, put 
me on. I d enjoy it." My friends tease me about this. I even 
like good department meetings. [Laughter] I really like good 
discussion of that kind. On the other hand, a bad department 
meeting or a bad committee meeting, there s nothing more awful, 
because it s just people assassinating each other with language, 
which is very bad. 

The Planning Committee I ve been on for about three or four 
years. That is trying to get ahead of ad hoc brush-fire kind of 
decisions, and trying to study the University at a distance and 
say what is going to be needed in the future and how should we 
meet it by acting now. And I must say, it s not a success story, 
except that our good men have been consulted often by the chancellor 
and the vice-chancellor, and I think this has been fine. But as a 
committee, our decisions have not been upheld by the [Academic] 
Senate. We re considered way too far out; most people, in fact, 
say you can t plan, so why try? Or we spend a year working up to a 
decision, and the decision on that subject is announced by the 
administration, and they hadn t mentioned that they were working on 
it (in other words, they were supposed to tell us), and so on. 

I don t see that we have solved thinking far enough ahead to 
offer relevant solutions to current problems. When we are called 
in on brush-fire problems, we have enough perspective to help them, 
and that part s all right. When I ve talked briefly with my 
friends in my own department and colleagues in other departments 
about the ideas we re entertaining for the future, they re all 
horrified. They think it s capitulating to all-University concepts 
instead of to Berkeley; there s a great tug and pull, of course, 
between When President Hitch came in, President Hitch was very 
strong on robbing Berkeley to pay Paul, and so we lost 110 faculty 
members with nothing to take up the slack except our own hard work. 
It s ever since then that I think our faculty has felt so driven 
and so exhausted, because they ve really been doing the work of 110 
nonpeople, and those FTE, those full-time jobs went to other campuses 

*Committee on Academic Planning. 


Miles: which, with the argument being a good one, were intended to grow 
and could not in their youthful state stop growing, whereas we 
could manage better to stop growing than they could. Berkeley and 
UCLA mostly Berkeley have been taking up a lot of the difficulties 
of the whole error by the demographers who predicted that there were 
going to be twenty-seven thousand on most of the campuses. 

I mentioned that one of the villains in my life is 
administrators, and another villain major villain, I guess is 
demographers. How they could have predicted that we were going to 
need nine campuses of twenty-seven thousand each, knowing all that 
everybody knew even then, I can t conceive. And why we went along 
with that, I don t know. The campuses are perfectly reconciled 
the campuses don t especially want to have twenty-seven thousand; 
they re reconciled to ten thousand. But a lot of the planning has 
gone awry because of this. So I ve grown more and more interested 
in the nine-campus structure and work between campuses, and 
Planning has involved all that. There I ve got to know such 
people as Mel [Melvin M. ] Webber and Marty [Martin A.] Trow and 
Fred [Frederick E.] Balderston. These men are in planning, 
business management, and just really marvelous people. To have a 
chance to meet such good people on a big campus is exciting. 

If you were on a small campus, some little place like Scripps, 
you would meet all the people in other fields, and some of them 
would be extremely interesting. But I don t think you d have the 
sense of scope that you have here; these men, if you don t see 
them around, it s because they ve been called to Holland to advise 
the Dutch government or something. It s really interesting to hear 
the world that they deal in, what they know, and how they can 
manage to work toward the future. Each one of these men, as he s 
been chairman of our committee, has had different ideas for how to 
get ahead of the problems, and I think maybe we are a little bit 

For example, this year the relation between professional 
schools and Letters and Science has become very important because 
students are all looking for tickets, and the ticket now is the 
professional school. This is a sad illusion, but it s an illusion 
that s fostered not only by what they read about medicine, law, 
and so forth; it s also fostered by computer sciences. There s 
not enough practical aid in Letters and Science any more so that 
they can feel secure with it. It seems to me we have to at least 
compromise enough to give them some kind of technical training in 
Letters and Science. For example, yesterday I read an article 
that said somebody made a study that people who can use computers 
are more self-confident about everything they do than people who 
can t. This would be an example of how we could help them get self- 
confidence in figuring, in arithmetical operations, computational 


Miles: operations, which do relate to thinking things through. So why 

don t we help join technology and philosophy in this way? But Rod 
Park, our provost, has just been back to a reunion or to a meeting 
at Harvard in which Harvard has reinstituted the old breadth 
requirement, like Greek history and so on, and I m afraid we re 
going to go back to the old Harvard routine, which I think is not 
for Berkeley and not for the West, if for anybody now. 

We have done studies, we have begun studies of all the 
professional schools, compared the professional schools in other 
parts of the country, invited speakers to come and talk about 
professional problems in different fields, got very deep into the 
problem of the School of Education here, which is being reassessed 
and reevaluated in some crucial ways. One of the ways that s 
interesting is they just discontinued Jim Gray, Leo Ruth, and Ken 
Lane because they don t have tenure, they don t have professorial 
status; they were supervisors.* They re cleaning out all super 
visors, so they just cleaned out these three men who, for all their 
success and hard work over these years, could now find themselves 
without jobs. I m glad I m a little bit in on the other side of 
that. I don t think they ll continue because I don t think they 
could possibly face the anger of the California Association of 
Teachers of English if we told the public what was going on here; 
I don t think the University would want to face that. And 
everybody s keeping very politely quiet about it. 

But these terrible bureaucratic absurdities keep on happening. 
It s a mixed thing; it s great to be on the good side, and it s 
absolutely shattering to be on the bad side. That s why I m right 
now on that committee. I can t even explain nobody can understand 
how they could do such a thing. Probably, our guess is that this 
is a legalism; but this is no way. And it takes up time and 

Another absorbing problem has been women s lib. We ve had at 
Berkeley a fine group of women graduate students who worked with 
the Modern Language Association, which was having some uprisings 
in terms of favor of women s leadership, under some women in the 
East. These girls wrote, these women wrote to them and worked with 
them, and started their own little set of protests and operations 
here at Berkeley, saying that there were only three faculty women 
in the department and they didn t provide much of a sense of model 
this has always been my problem, is I never provide a model! They 
wanted more women and they wanted them right hurry up, and they 
wanted more recognition. 

*Apparently the plan was abandoned. The two supervisors were 
still employed and active in the School of Education as of August, 


Miles: The same thing was happening nationally; they had some big, 

upsetting meetings nationally, and we had our upsetting meetings 
locally. They didn t ask me to be a part of this because, as I 
say, I think women always take the attitude toward me that if 
they d lean on me I d fall over I gather. I mean I felt sort of 
on the sidelines. The other women in our department didn t want 
to be thought of in that way. One of them said, "If I thought I d 
been invited here because I was a woman, I wouldn t have accepted. 
I want to be invited here for myself and as a scholar." I think I 
felt that way too; at least that was always my idea when I was 
young, is that this women s lib stuff was well, I never thought 
about it. I simply liked working with men; there weren t many 
women around to work with. The ones, when I came to Berkeley, that 
invited me to join with them and discuss research were marvelous 
bluestocking ladies from the twenties but very old. Two or three 
of my friends on the faculty were women. But I didn t get into 
anything that seemed like women s coherence. I had not been 
accepted by women s colleges. One little thing stuck in my mind 
when I went to professional meetings in New York: it was the men 
that invited me to lunch and were friendly to me. No woman did. 
So I guess I had a kind of strong bias in that direction. 

Then one of these young women came around to see me and said, 
"I think I want to talk to you, because I don t understand what s 
wrong with the department. They re fighting us and they won t 
give us what we need. What s your advice? Would you come to one 
of our meetings?" I said ho-hum and ta-ha, "The department hasn t 
been as bad as you think. We ve moved slowly, but always when I ve 
been teaching here there ve been five or six women in the 
department. But they ve been wives and they ve left when their 
husbands have left, and that was the concept of the fifties." The 
fifties were great killers to women s rights, because women wanted 
the men home from the wars and wanted to take a back seat, and 
there weren t the big applications. It wasn t that the department 
was crushing them but that they weren t asking. 

However, these women, of course, were part of the big surge 
of the sixties. The men were in war, and the women were taken in 
as graduate students. We immediately gave a proportion of 
acceptances to women graduate students in proportion to the 
applications. I never saw unfairness as I would recognize it. 
They were so suspicious, however, and so dubious that I d been 
too cloistered to understand, that much against my will I did go 
to some meetings and did join with them, and from then on was on 
the committees. I learned so much that was important to me to 
think about, because I had really been too aloof. The deans of 
women had never been pleasant to me. Every time I d gone to them 
on something crucial, they d always turned me off. 


Miles: To be specific and to tie this with other things I was saying, 

women do not seem to me to generalize well. When I would go to a 
dean about a crucial issue, she would hand me a particular reason 
why we couldn t do it, but she d never discuss the issue. So I 
have certain intellectual biases, I think, and emotional biases 
too. But this was such a great bunch of women in the department, 
and they were doing so many things that I felt wrong, by being 
challenging and kind of, "Well, chairman, we re going to stick 
our toes in the door here until you answer us." 

I was also very fond of our chairman at this time, John 
Jordan, a young man who I thought was absolutely heroic at 
handling the troubles of the sixties flexibly. He wasn t 
sympathetic with these women, because they were very belligerent 
to him and he was used to a milder approach. There was a lot of 
incipient toe-to-toe stuff going on there that I thought would be 
fun to try to avoid. So this was quite interesting to go to 
their meetings and see how much misconception they had. 

I persuaded them to do a history of the function of women in 
the English Department since the beginning, which changed their 
mind quite a bit because, considering the availabilities, it wasn t 
all that bad. We had had women Ph.D. s, they had got good jobs, 
we had women staff members but they were wives, and that was a 
particular problem but it was part of the problem of circumstance. 
The first woman professor we got after I was there was not a 
howling success, but maybe the men weren t the best judges; that s 
the only thing I can fault them for. 

These women developed this great challenging thing, that we 
were going to have this big presentation at one of the spring 
meetings of the whole department, and we were going to insist that 
they appoint one woman per man every year from then on, until some 
kind of parity was reached. Well, considering there were about 
sixty men in the department and three w^men, that was the year 3000. 
But I suggested that we phrase it a little differently and we write 
it up a little differently. They were willing to compromise and 
they, thank goodness, asked me to make the request. I was so glad 
because, while I hated to be put in the role of something I thought 
was a little absurd, on the other hand I was so glad that my tone 
of voice could be one of fairly common sensical and not railing, 
which they were tending to do. And so I read this petition to the 
department, and without any discussion they voted for it 
unanimously! That was such a nice thing; I was right that the 
women were too afraid of a sense of opposition that wasn t all that 

We now have twelve women in a department of about sixty. We 
have about a fifth women, and many of them have tenure. I think we 
could avoid all the hassles of the eastern tribes. Like when I was 


Miles: at Wesleyan for a couple of weeks, and Wesleyan women seemed to me 
just chewing the fat all the time on all these problems, terrible 
issues. These women that worked together so well have interesting 
jobs. About half of them got very good jobs. They were our first 
women appointments to Dartmouth and Princeton and so forth, and 
they re doing well. Two or three of them still don t [have jobs], 
though. One of them is secretary to a dean at Mills and she s 
studying administration that way. The problem hasn t been solved, 
by any means. We ve still got a long way to go. I learned so much 
about how right they were, as much as how wrong they were. I ve 
gone to women s underground meetings and I ve gone to the Women s 
Center, and I ve done a lot of things that were against the grain 
with me. The University did a very bad thing at not appointing 
some women lecturers for full-time work when they petitioned, some 
very fine people. The trouble was with them that they d all been 
here long enough that they d made enemies, and one enemy is enough 
to make that all difficult. 

I went to a lot of those protest meetings, and they by no 
means were overstating a lot of the unfairnesses against them. 
Many departments still have no women in them, and just look at you 
and laugh and say, "Why should we?" There s some great absurdity 
going on. 

Lucy Sells, one of the women students on one of our planning 
committees, found out this fine thing that s been so helpful: did 
a statistical study showing that where women don t get ahead in 
college is in the heavy sciences, the hard sciences, because their 
high school, their junior high school advisers (women!) steer them 
out of mathematics. Now, that one fact is worth so much knowledge; 
that junior high school advisers really have tremendous power for 
segregation, which they use to the hilt, and women have not been 
able to get into the heavy sciences. Now we re having heavy 
tutoring for math on the campus, which is a good thing. So many 
ways we have a good Women s Center headed by Margaret Wilkerson, 
a black dramatist, where we re getting some money for research and 
for helping bring up this average to discount some of these 
disadvantages that women have. Lucy also pointed out in her 
statistics that women drop graduate school more than men by about 
40 percent. And here s another nice present, by the way. When 
Lucy published this and we talked about it in the department, and 
it seemed clear that the only reason that 40 percent more women 
were dropping than men in graduate study was the sense of insecurity 
and that they weren t making it, we decided that was partly the 
department s fault, lack of mutual aid. This was done all over the 
campus. Also, women tried to give more security by having more 
meetings in the Graduate Division. That 40 percent has now been 
eliminated. No more women drop now than men in graduate school. 
Again, it was a very simple solution, and that was to not let the 
woman feel she was alone in this whole thing. 



Miles : 


Miles : 

Now, the Women s Faculty Club too, instead of merging with the 
men s as it had intended for financial reasons and the encourage 
ment of the administration so they could have the women s building 
for other purposes, and because it seemed absurd to have two clubs 
(but the reason was that in the twenties the men wouldn t let the 
women into their building), the Women s Faculty Club voted last 
year not to merge with the men s because its life style is too 
different, and its life style is really different, and one of the 
ways its life style is different is it won t generalize. You ask, 
"Should we raise the rents on the garages?" and instead of saying, 
"How much would we need to raise the rents to be able to afford 
this charge, or to make it worthwhile?" we say, "No, we d better 
not because Susan Smith, one of our older members, couldn t afford 
it if we raised the rent." This just boggles my mind! 

I go to meetings I was asked to be on the board because they 
thought I could argue better with the Men s Faculty Club about some 
of this merger bit. It s incredible to me what we spend time on 
in terms of charming details. But I must say, it really touches my 
heart. We have this really lovely president who s a former head of 
big works in the library, went to Wellesley I think. To see her 
work, to see those committees work in what you can really call a 
feminine way, is really a good lesson for me. I feel that I have 
been reformed in my old age [laughter] against some of my biases. 
I ve been working on that quite a lot recently, to save ourselves 
from getting chewed up by the men s life style, which is rather 
grim. [Laughter] So I must ask you to lunch over there. Have you 
been there lately? 


Gerrie [Scott] hates it. 

We have a variety of other things to ask you. 
another session with you, we will continue. 

If we may have 

Do you have something on your mind right now about what I was 
saying here? 

Not necessarily. 

Because, again, I always feel tempted by thinking how many of these 
things come together I don t want to overgeneralize, but there s 
a quality of a work of art and a quality of a student composition 
and a quality of a university organization, whether it be a club 
or a group or the whole schmeer, that s similar, that s shared in 
common, that I think is fascinating there is a sense of coherence, 
of parts working in a whole, of the articulation. That fits in 
with grammar (you know, the articulation of a sentence) . There are 


Miles: such nice kinds of basic principles. On the whole, I think the 
people that I love the best, that I ve got to know the best 
through these kinds of works, are the people that are aware of 
this and are trying to do something about it. Many in the 
academic world have this quality, I think. Some artists well, 
I m not sure about proportions, but some artists and some 
administrators and some faculty members and some just people, 
just friends, have this quality and are able to help you with your 
own writing. 

Usually there s some group or other that meets in Berkeley, 
where we discuss each other s work and are quite harsh with each 
other and help each other. That group is different from one time 
to another, different people in it. Many times we ask new people 
to join who ve just come to town, and they can t stand it; they 
think it s much too rough. At this time of year, many people come 
to town and want to join groups of this kind, but then feel that 
the rigors are too great. But they really aren t great because if 
you get the right people these aren t ad hoc condemnations or 
sniping at the details, but they are the grasping of the sense of 
the work that you ve written, and where it doesn t jell. In other 
words, the most practical kind of literary criticism you can get 
is something like these other things I ve been mentioning. 

University Professor, Readings, Journeys 

Miles: Another thing that got me interested in all the campuses is that 
it appears I didn t know about it until it happened we have 
something called the University Professorship, which I gather they 
want to have instead of chairs. I think that Harold Urey said 
he d like to be a University Professor visit campuses and visit 
labs and be kind of an intercampus operator. So they made him one, 
and then they made some other scientists University Professors. 
These stressed, as I understand it nobody s ever heard of it 
[laughing] until you get involved, but I guess around 1971 I was 
made one 

Teiser: Seventy-three, I have. 

Miles: Seventy-three, okay. It seems longer than that. No, I think 

you re right. It appears that Harold Urey had said to Mr. Hitch 
that he thought just to have all scientists was wrong; that there 
should be people from the humanities too. They appointed three 
people from the humanities that year, roughly Neil Smelser and 
Lynn White and me. Then later [Sherwood L. ] Washburn from 
Anthropology and [Murray] Krieger in criticism from Irvine and UCLA, 


Miles: and maybe more. Anyway, the stress is on that you ve done a lot 
of work and that you have general recognition in other countries 
as well as here. I think the process is your department nominates 
you, and then it goes on to higher committees and so on. One of 
the requirements is supposed to be that you actually do visit 
different campuses and know a little bit about different campuses. 

Teiser: Is this for a full academic year? 

Miles: It s forever. I m a University Professor of English. It has 
never been thought through, so nobody knows what it really is. 
I think that Harold Urey kind of invented it and Mr. Hitch went 
along with it. Mr. Hitch seemed to enjoy having us all to dinner. 
I think they put a thousand dollars in the budget to pay our 
expenses to travel around, and to pay for some substitute while 
we re gone, and this kind of thing. 

Teiser: Doesn t it pour a lot of extra work on you? 

Miles: It depends. When we were talking about naming more University 
Professors this spring, we were consulting each other about 
whether it wouldn t be better to they re either going to kill 
the whole thing or develop it in some way. Neil Smelser and I 
wrote letters around saying, "We suggest that there be people 
from every campus, which there aren t now, and that we have a kind 
of consultative role and travel around, and especially help our 
younger colleagues travel around to develop more of a sense of the 
other campuses." There is now too much sense of alienation between 
campuses. But Glenn Seaborg s secretary wrote back and said, "Were 
you sending us a suggestion or a job description?" which I thought 
was sort of cute. [Laughter] Yes, it would be a major job as 
we re thinking of it more. But for me it wasn t, because for a 
number of years I ve been invited to different campuses to read 
poetry or to talk about poetry, to teach for a week or something 
like that anyway. I would usually ask for a leave, or I would do 
it in my sabbatical. That was one thing I did during my sabbaticals 
was go around to different campuses, because I have a lot of 
friends and I ve been here a long time. So I would read or teach. 
I had such a good sense of different campuses this way. No, it 
wasn t much extra work; it was just something I did as writers 
tend to get invited to give readings at other places. I had been 
other places, like Vancouver and Houston and Denver and Boise and 
New Mexico and New York, and so it was nice to see the range at 
California too. 

Teiser: Have you been to all nine campuses? 

Miles: No, and I m working on that. I ve never been to the Medical 


Teiser: Oh, that s too far away. [Laughter] 

Miles: I keep teasing my doctor (Morton Meyer), who s a teacher over there. 
I said, "I think you ought to be embarrassed! The Medical School 
is afraid to ask me." He said, "You re not kidding!" [Laughter] 
But I ve been to all the other eight, or seven, or however many 
that would be. I ve been to some of the state colleges too. 
They re fun too; I wouldn t put them down. Sonoma s lots of fun. 
And the community colleges Diablo Valley and De Anza and San 
Francisco State and City and so on. I enjoy meeting poets from 
different places and talking to students. Since I ve been lucky 
enough to have good help to help me get there my student help, of 
course, has been a very important part of ray life it was no more 
extra work to be invited as a University Professor. In fact, it 
was great, because I didn t have to be invited formally by the 
chancellor as the rest of them do, and I didn t have to go to a 
dinner and I didn t have to have a red carpet. I just went on my 
normal poetry invitations and then later reported back that I had 
been as University Professor. I kind of went incognito, which was 
fun. Except now they didn t have to pay for me; now they were 
getting me free, so I went more often. [Laughter] I loved a whole 
quarter I taught at Riverside. 

Teiser: Was that part of your being University Professor, the quarter at 

Miles: Yes. 

Teiser: I see. That wasn t 73, was it? 

Miles: No. That was about two years ago, must have been 75. This last 
year I went down to Irvine for a half a quarter and shared that 
with somebody else, John Ashbery. 

Teiser: What were you teaching? 

Miles: I was teaching a workshop in poetry. At Riverside I taught two 
introductory courses 

Teiser: In poetry? 

Miles: No, one was a seminar in critical theory, that s right. At San 

Diego I did an interesting thing. Roy Pearce asked me to write a 
poem for the opening of a new building, a new arts building down 
there. I went down ahead of time to see the building so I could 
write the poem. However, the contractor wouldn t let me in, 
although he had promised to, so I could only write from the outside. 
But then I went down to the big festivities they have 


Miles: They had a week for the opening of this building, a big celebration 
of this art center, and I went down to that. I was celebrating, 
lots of fun, Nancy Hanks came out from NEA [National Endowment for 
the Arts], and I met lots of interesting people that I hadn t met 
before, like what s the name of that marvelous dancer? I m sure 
you know her, the woman from San Francisco who s down there now in 
dance studies? She s a very interesting person. Well, I can t 
say her name. But I met a lot of interesting people and went to a 
lot of the concerts and debated about how the Music Department was 
down there. I loved that whole quality, the whole different sense 
of meaning that San Diego has. The word that I heard about every 
thirty seconds down there was the word avant-garde, which of course 
I never hear up here, or not very often. 

Then another time I went to UCLA to a meeting of university 
professors of English worldwide, and that was an interesting 
gathering, because most countries just have one professor. Then I 
also did some lecturing and some poetry, both at UCLA. Santa 
Barbara was good for poetry, Davis was good for poetry. Every one 
of those places I would love to go back to, and I have been back 
to them; I ve been to most of them three or four times. They re 
just so likable. But I must manage to get to the Medical School 
by some hook or crook; I don t know quite how. [Laughter] I want 
to be able to say I ve done my duty and been to all the campuses. 

This too has given me a sense that there s a lot of 
unnecessary conflict between campuses, that it s done by competing 
administrators, that the faculty couldn t care less. A lot of the 
faculty comes from Berkeley anyway, and they want to rely on 
Berkeley and they want to be left alone to do their own thing, 
whatever that may be. A man who wants an especially good course 
in English or Greek doesn t particularly care whether there are 
twenty-seven thousand or ten; he just wants a clear-cut policy 
about how his university is going to operate, and leave other 
things to Berkeley. 

This picture doesn t percolate through when you go to 
administrative meetings, because at administrative meetings they re 
always talking about, "Oh, well, Davis wouldn t stand for that." 
Who does "Davis" mean? Some ambitious administrator. I feel the 
faculty doesn t have enough voice, and much more should be done to 
get coherence and to get especially the younger members of the 
faculty to visit at various places. The unions oppose me here. 
The AFT [American Federation of Teachers] says that if we let a 
policy in of having faculty members go to other campuses, they 
would then say our tenure is in the whole situation rather than at 
Berkeley. This of course would be a fate worse than death. The 
union is another one of my enemies [laughing] at the moment. 







I think it would be great if our younger members would voluntarily 
and with interest, before they had kids in school and so forth, or 
older, afterwards, if they re getting a little bored, go to another 
campus and get to know a different set of people, different qualities 
of value, different ways of doing things. I think this would be 
beautiful. But we have not yet sold our new president on this, to 
say nothing of our faculty. 

If you have some outstanding specialist in one thing, might that 
not keep him shuttling and never give him time, if there were such 

That s what Lynn White and Glenn Seaborg are exactly afraid of. I 
think you d just be sensible; you don t have to go every time they 
ask you, any more than they have to take you if you want to go. 
This would be a voluntary agreement on all sides. This would also 
be planned in terms of their own programs, maybe two or three years 
ahead sometimes. Neil Smelser was asked all at once to teach on 
every campus. Obviously he couldn t do that. He wanted to plan 
ahead. But then he got other responsibilities that he had to be 
chairman because his department was in trouble. Then he decided he 
had to get away from the department, and so he s in London for two 
years doing University Abroad. So he s serving the University very 
strongly for the past four years, but he hasn t got to any of the 
other campuses the way he d intended. 

Well, we ll just have to see how the Powers That Be work all 
this out. There s a majority of us. The younger members all think 
that it should be developed this way, but many of the older feel 
it s too much of a burden to discuss it. 

You asked about lectures? 

Yes, there were two lectures, 
earlier; I don t know when. 

One was the Gayley Lecture. It was 

Yes, that was about 1960. The English Department has an annual 
lecture called the Gayley Lecture, and it elects one of its members 
to give that lecture. I gave it one year. I remember it as rather 
a strain, because I don t tend to teach by lecturing nor do I tend 
to stand up that long. The room that I gave it in was the kind 
that slants upward, and it s really hard for me to stand up that 
straight. But it was okay; it was a nice audience. It was on the 
"poetry of praise," which was about American poetry in the 
nineteenth century, and Whitman and so forth. 


Miles: The Faculty Research Lecture* was easier and more pleasant, though 
it was bigger. It was a huge audience by my experience; it filled 
Wheeler Aud. That s a traditional lecture where a faculty committee, 
I guess of your predecessors, elects you. It s awfully seriously 
taken, I m learning, now that I m on the committee to elect the 
next faculty research lecturer, how seriously they take it. One of 
the men said to me the other day, "There s no place on this campus 
where I find more moral and intellectual judgment more deeply 
probed than on this committee." It s very hard to weigh what 
people in any one year should be considered lecturers; they are 
supposed to have done research that s inventive, and they re 
supposed to have been doing it progressively, and so on. 

At one of the meetings they said to me, "Did you ever go to 
Faculty Research Lectures when you were first here?" I said, "I 
went quite faithfully because I always liked them as a form." I 
think that when I was very new here I went to one by Ivan Linforth 
on the Greek gods, which really was impressive. So I went to many 
others, not all of which were that impressive, but many of them 
were. I went quite faithfully, maybe every third year or something 
like that. 

Then they doubled. They couldn t just hold it to one as the 
faculty grew, so they now have one twice a year. I didn t go 
quite so often. But then the committee made the point, which I 
thought was interesting, that many people who become faculty 
lecturers say that, that they have been interested in the past. 
It doesn t prove anything except a kind of interest in scholarship 
that s very abiding, because they don t ask you if you d be 
interested in lecturing or anything like that. But I guess the 
people that are interested, are interested in university research 
in general and therefore are considered to have more general 
concerns than some. 

Anyway, that was a very nice experience. 

Teiser: Does it parallel in any way your magazine Idea and Experiment? 
Miles: You mean getting to the public? 

Teiser: Yes getting the results of university research out beyond just 

*Delivered 18 February 1976. See Appendix. 


Miles: Well, let s see. I wish it did. I don t think the Faculty 

Research Lecture does go to that public, to that alumni public. 
I think it goes more to faculty themselves or to the townspeople. 
I was asked to make it over into an article, and it was published 
in a magazine called Critical Inquiry at the University of 
Chicago. But that s still a highly, highly special quarterly. 
Unhappily, I don t think it s yet very popular. But, I did get a 
lot of response that was sort of popular. I mean, for example, a 
couple of university presidents wrote me and said that they had 
had it multilithed for their faculty, and kind of interesting 
things like that. 

Teiser: It was most interesting. 

Miles: It did have some general ideas in it, though it was an effort to 
generalize about my actually very specific research. It s always 
hard to balance very specific research with wider generalizations. 
In other words, the simple 1A problem is a really great problem in 
a research lecture; that is, to get the generalization from the 
data at the same level! But anyway, it did turn out happily in 
terms of the response I got. Also, just meeting the other research 
lecturers is very, very pleasant. 

Teiser: How did you meet them? 

Miles: The chancellor gives a dinner, and then Sigma Xi gives a dinner 
for the science ones (there s no celebration for the humanities, 
but the science people celebrate), and so they invited me to 
theirs. Then this committee that works again on finding the next 
one works very hard! After all, you ve got to read everybody s 
research that s going on, in order to. So, that was good. 

I was pretty frightened in both cases because, as I say, I m 
not an experienced lecturer. My limit was always about seventy, 
so to get seven hundred was [laughing] a little too much of a jump. 

When I say my limit was seventy, I had done another kind of 
lecturing or reading which maybe I mentioned; I m not quite sure 
the kind of poetry readings where you go around to other universities 
and meet with special groups of teachers. Some of those I would 
mention as being also extremely informative to me and fun. One was 
in Vancouver, one was in Texas where the National Council of Teachers 
of English had a panel of ten poets. People who came to that four 
or five days of reading literally said that they came on buses from 
small schools in Texas, and that it was really worth the price to 
be told that there are writers still alive today that are publishing, 
and they came to see that we were really alive. There was a kind 
of interesting discovery of how these meetings mean more in other 
places than they do here. James Dickey invited me to the Library 


Miles: of Congress to read there and to have a kind of talk with him and 
some other poets. Then I also read for the Library of Congress 
recording system, and that was about an hour s reading. 

That ties in with something else I might have mentioned 
before, that is recordings and collections. 

Way back in 1939, a young man called on me from Buffalo. His 
name was Charles Abbott, and he said he wanted to build up a good 
library at the University of Buffalo, but he hadn t any money. 
His idea was to start collecting authors who published in 1939, 
which I had, and just start building from there (maybe it wasn t 
quite that limited). Anyway, he asked me if I would from then on 
give my manuscripts and letters and so on to the University of 
Buffalo, which of course I felt very flattered by in those days, 
and I think was a really neat idea, because he got a lot of us 
who were in that generation before collecting manuscripts became 
such a game. For a long time I did send my things to the University 
of Buffalo. Later they became less interested; with the death of 
Abbott, I m not sure what happened to that program. I really 
haven t heard about it later. But he was a very fine person. 

Then there s a fine-books library at the Washington 
University in St. Louis. There is a poet by the name of Mona Van 
Duyn, and she then asked me to send my things there, and they 
would make a bibliography. I think they were taking ten poets or 
six poets and just taking care of all their stuff. At that point 
I asked our library whether they would like to have my things; 
Buffalo seemed pretty far away, and I had no particular connection 
with St. Louis, and I thought I d rather give them here. But 
George Hammond, who was head of our Bancroft, said he didn t want 
them; they weren t enough connected with Mexican history. I did, 
then, send them for a number of years to Washington and they did 
make an interesting bibliography. Another one was then made by 
somebody for some degree at Scripps College. So I have a very 
helpful set of bibliographies, which I never in the world would 
have thought of keeping for myself. Also a lively "profile" done 
for Journalism, which makes me very busy but doesn t reflect my 
peaceful side!* 

We also had recordings made in Texas and Washington, D.C., 
and then somebody from Folkways Scholastic came out and made a 
recording here. So there is a record, I think it s called Today s 
Poets, Volume II, in which I share a side with Bill Stafford and 

*See Appendix. 


Miles: But the funnier record is even one that came earlier that was 
made by Evergreen Press is that the Don Allen press? The one 
where I share a side [laughing] with a lot of people, like Allen 
Ginsberg, and that s a really comical one, just because the 
mixture of people on there and the mixture of poetry is sort of 

I think those cover the main readings at a distance except 
one at Colorado and New Mexico and Boise and Hawaii, and the one 
that I made in San Diego for that special opening of that building 
that was kind of a different project. 

Teiser: Was that recorded too? 

Miles: I think it was, yes. It was published in the I think that no 
editor liked it outside of San Diego. Finally somebody who had 
heard it in San Diego wrote and asked if they could print it in 
the San Jose Studies, which happened to be edited by a graduate of 
San Diego, who d read it and liked it. I was glad to get it in 
print because I didn t have any copyright on it or anything like 
that, and that was sort of complicated. 

Would this maybe be a good place since I ve been talking 
about trips to talk about other places for other reasons? 

Teiser: Yes. But finally, after Dr. Hammond retired, you did get your 

Miles: Oh, you want to get my books into the library. [Laughter] 

Teiser: I want to get your papers into The Bancroft Library. I don t want 
to leave them hanging. 

Miles: Before that, the step was that a former student of mine, Leslie 
Clarke, became head of our Rare Books room. By that time I was 
sending them all to Washington, but I did ask her if she d like 
a lot of my old little magazine, because I had a really neat 
little magazine collection. Just out of sheer inertia, they just 
kept coming and I kept reading them and keeping them. For a 
number of years, and I ve always since, contributed my little 
magazines to the Rare Books room. Then eventually, yes, I think 
maybe, I asked Jim Hart if he would accept my poetry, and he said 
he would. Then I said, "Okay, if I m going to give you my poetry, 
I would like to give you my prose manuscripts too, my research 
stuff too, because I hate to keep scattering it all around, and 
to send that to Washington and the other to you " Well, he 
allowed as how he didn t want the research. It took me an awful 
long time to really foist everything off on him. 


Teiser: They re there now? 

Miles: They re there now, yes. Now I finally have unloaded everything 
all my scraps and letters and everything on the poor people. Jim 
[James R.K. ] Kantor is archivist, happily. 

Teiser: And you re continuing to give things to The Bancroft as you get 
batches that you want filed? [Laughter] 

Miles: Yes, yes. Every time my study gets too crowded, I just put 

everything in manila envelopes and take it over there. I do have 
some basic copies, some basic texts, handwritten texts of every 
thing I ve written, that I haven t given them. But I ve given 
them typescript and bookscript and things like that. 

Then, besides, this kind of talking and reading was fun for 
me because I hadn t had a chance to travel much before. For one 
thing, my mother was ill for a decade, and for another thing it 
was hard for me to get help to get away, and it was hard to get 
around. I think the first trip I took was in 1950 or 51 to give 
a paper on Blake at the English Institute in New York. That went 
perfectly well, so that gave me more courage. 

Then I had some really nice friends I mean, I m fond of my 
friends, and I ve got a lot of them, and they mean a lot to me. 
But these two or three sets of friends had a kind of special 
understanding of the fact, how much it would mean to me to travel. 
And so I ve been with them on long trips and short trips, across 
the continent a couple of times, and to New York and through New 
Mexico and across the Cascades, and even in the Beckermans San 
Francisco as if it were Europe. One time the Steinhoffs, who are 
teaching at the University of Michigan, were in the University of 
Michigan program in Provence. They suggested that I fly over and 
meet them and spend a week with them as they finished up their 
finals and then they would drive me up from Provence to Paris and 
put me on the plane. That was kind of adventuresome, but it 
worked out very well. Air France was very nice, loading me from 
plane to plane, and it was a really outstanding adventure. It s 
nice to have been to Europe once, to have a little sense of what 
is European. I liked it so much, indeed, that when I think about 
going back to Europe again, I would just as soon go back to 
southern France, because it felt like home to me. In fact, it was 
the place I d always wanted to go, and it was rather a coincidence 
that that s where they were. 

Teiser: Where is that university which town? 


Miles: Aix-en-Provence, which Kenneth Rexroth said used to be the best 

little city in the world. A great little city. I also went with 
the Elliotts, George P. Elliott and his wife, a number of times to 
New York and various places, and up and down this coast, as they 
were very fond of Mendocino County. As most people go away on 
their sabbaticals, and I hadn t done that because I hadn t felt 
able to, what I did on my sabbaticals was to stay home and take 
courses, or study other subjects than the ones I knew about. 

I must have had more sabbaticals that have slipped my mind, 
but I think very early in the forties I remember asking the Harrises, 
Fred and Mary, if I could watch them rehearse plays, because I was 
still wanting to write plays. They finally said I could if I came 
regularly. I went over twice a week, all afternoon, and watched 
them rehearse. One whole semester it was Hamlet, and another whole 
semester it was an original play, the adaptation of George Ade, and 
quite frivolous, called The Sultan of Sulu. But a young man by the 
name of Bob Porter had written all the lyrics for it, which was 
interesting to me, and a very good contrast to directing Hamlet. 
Those were adventuresome hours for me, those afternoons watching 
those rehearsals, and I became very fond of the Harrises and the 
students. They made me a member of Mask and Dagger, which was a 
drama review, and I made many friends there that are still very 
close to me because we still go to plays together. We have a play 
reading group, and so on. That was another kind of depth that was 
kind of like the traveling. 

I used to go in the gate of the campus I didn t normally go 
in, so I wouldn t see anybody I knew. I d try to pretend I was not 
in Berkeley, as it s very hard if you re here to stay unconnected. 
This summer I totally failed, as you know. 

Then the next time I think it was the next time I wanted to 
study anthropology or sociology, and Leo Lowenthal, a very 
interesting professor in Sociology, said to study practical 
working sociology, not theoretical. And Karl Kroeber told me to 
study anthropology, but again, thinking it would be better to go 
on a field trip or something, which was hard to do.... So the 
anthropology course I took was rather poor; it was read off of 5 by 
5 cards a rumor which is not unfounded for some teachers. The 
other one I took made a great difference to me because it was in 
quantitative analysis, given by a young man by the name of Hanan 
Selvin from Columbia, a student of [Paul] Lazarsfeld. I got very 
deep into quantitative analysis, statistics. I don t mean I 
learned to do it, any more than I learned to write a play. But I 
learned how it worked, and he and I wrote an article together, and 
that just widens out in another very nice direction. 

Teiser: Did that not tie in with your studies of words? 


Miles: No. That s a good and important question, and I hardly ever get to 
say no like that because hardly anybody ever asks me; they just 
assume it. Most of my work was not statistical. 

There was another interesting little episode. One summer 
I got a letter from a man by the name of Edgar Anderson from the 
University of Missouri, I think or was it Washington in St. Louis? 
I forget now. I guess it was Missouri Botanical Gardens. Anyway, 
he wrote me and he said, "I m coming out to lecture at the think 
tank at Stanford,* and I m lecturing on turbulence. Your studies 
fit right in with this because you re one of the few people I know 
that does much arithmetical, quantitative study; most people do 
statistical studies, and it s very important not to do statistical 
studies but to continue arithmetical studies." This was all news 
to me. [Laughter] 

He was a botanist, and he came, called up and invited himself 
to breakfast. We sat out on the patio, and he told me which of my 
shrubs were happy and which of them weren t happy. He liked the 
vine on the garage. He said it was really a very happy vine. He 
told me all about his theories, and he gave this talk at Stanford 
that I went down to, which was called "Potatoes, Poetry, and 
Turbulence," or something like that. He was doing work for 
Lockheed, or one of the big airplane firms, on quantitative 
analysis of well, it wasn t propellers, but turbulence created by 
their energy. Then he showed how anyway, he had scales of 
estimates which my poetry fitted into the way his studies of 
potatoes did. It s just such fun. He wrote a book called Plants , 
Men, and Life, which our University Press has recently republished 
because it has kind of an underground reputation. It s a charming 
little book. 

He was a very eccentric man. I remember that we had dinner 
together at Stanford. He brought the dinner, and it was all health 
food stuff in paper bags. He had a rival. His best friend there 
was a statistician, and they just constantly argued why arithmetic 
was better than statistics. He wrote an article on my work for the 
University of Michigan Quarterly. Kroeber had written an article 
on my work for MLA, and these sort of conflicted with each other. 
I was never quite up on the level of theory where they were, you 
see. All I knew is that, practically, I knew I didn t want to do 
statistics because I didn t want to sample works of art. 

*The Institute for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences. 


Miles: It did turn out all right. I did work with statisticians, and 

Elizabeth Scott became a good friend of mine for this very reason. 
Elizabeth Scott was very helpful to me; I revised my work many 
times because of Elizabeth, and this was in terms of security of 
data. But we both agreed that to sample you have to tell something 
different about a work of art. I wanted to talk about whole works 
of art, to talk about representativeness rather than sampling. 
Those were ways of widening out. 

A third way was the most recent one I remember doing. It s 
quite a while back now, but it was to try to find how to read 
music, which I had never learned because my teachers in school 
and I hadn t had much chance to go to much school but I did go 
to the fourth grade and fifth grade, and the teacher there 
thought I had read music because I had memorized the names of the 
notes without realizing I was doing that. This had been a great 
sorrow to me, that I could never tell which note was higher and 
which note lower, and I thought I could pick this up in a basic 
music course. I couldn t find one easy enough until I finally 
got down to Jack Swackhamer s Introduction to Husic for Teachers, 
because all the rest even freshman music assumes the knowledge 
of piano. So I did take Swackhamer s course and wrote a couple of 
songs, one of which Bud Bronson said sounded like the Japanese 
National Anthem, which was a nice idea in that I wanted it to 
sound floating but I didn t exactly like the nationalism of it! 
I spoke of this earlier. That was also an experience that went on 
for a couple of years, because I also listened to Andy [Andrew] 
Imbrie s readings of Beethoven Quartets, and I listened to Seymour 
Shifrin s composition course, music composition so different from 
our kind that it was a fascinating development. 

Then I suppose what happened in the later years was that my 
sabbaticals were either taken up by student riots and tremendous 
student problems, or I did have a couple of health problems. I had 
a breast removed for cancer, and I had a hernia, in reverse order. 
Those mostly just took vacations, but they slowed me down a bit, 
and so there were a couple of sabbaticals there I didn t do much, 
and then I guess some of this committee work became very absorbing. 
So I didn t get any real adventures in the last two or three of my 
sabbaticals. In fact, believe it or not, the last one I forgot to 
take [laughter] because I was so involved in interesting things. 
I would merely end up my sabbatical story by saying that I got too 
involved to separate one thing from another. 

Despite the difficulties of getting work done and staying 
separate in town, there are a lot of advantages. So many of my 
friends get so dislocated when they go abroad, and it takes them 
a quarter to get gone, and a quarter or two to get back, that I 
felt a certain kind of smugness in having mine more easily and 
more simply and yet very adventuresome. 

[end tape 1, side 1] 


[begin tape 1, side 2] 

Miles: I m still thinking about interesting places and what effect they 

had on my life. I don t guess I could say that a place like Boise 
did in any way that s spell-outable, but I ve never lived in a 
small town and I ve sort of always wanted to have the sense of a 
small town (well, I did for six months when I was in Palm Springs, 
but mostly my life has been suburban). Boise was a fascinating 
place to me. 

I went there on an interesting project. Boise got some money 
from the federal government, from NEA, to have a series of TV 
broadcasts on environment, and to bring into this lectures and 
officials from the town, and the arts and graphics and poetry. 
They invited four different poets to come and represent four 
different issues. I was in the spring, and I was supposed to talk 
about the city. Their feeling was that I had done a lot of poetry 
on the city, which I was surprised to hear, but I was willing to 
accept that idea. 

Since I was the fourth, and they d done this three times 
already, they were very expert at it. So they just really 
undertook, in two or three days, a live broadcast for an hour or 
two, with the mayor there and debaters on either side of the 
question of saving the foothills of Boise, saving the town of 
Boise. They used my poems as sort of I would not like to say 
musical accompaniment because they were more intelligent than 
that but as sort of background. There was a very fine photographer 
who did the visual background for the poems, which was just 

For example, I have a poem about a moon rising over a beauty 
shop, and he had a really neat picture of this moon rising over 
this beauty shop. 

Teiser: He went and took them as illustrations for your poem? 

Miles: Yes. Oh, it was all very well worked out. I sent the poems 
ahead of time, they printed them up in a folder it was all 
community involved there. They had an art gallery where they 
showed the stuff. It was really masterly. One of the chairmen 
they were both people in English, and one of them s husband was a 
secretary to the governor. I suppose he s now busy, since that 
governor is now busy. Anyway, to be involved in an open-ended 
broadcast with debate, argument, pictures, poems, was fun, and the 
people were great. 

Another place I went where I got new ideas was Hawaii, 
where I taught for a summer, where the idea would be I was told 
that I d have to take account of the fact that students were not, 


Miles: say, as good as our students, especially in summertime. And most 
of the students in my class were Japanese, and they did ask rather 
peculiar questions. Like when I said, "I don t want to make any 
assumptions here that you re not aware of," and one boy said, "Miss, 
what s an assumption?" 

On the other hand, they were so sensitive in ways new to me 
to literature. They d never heard of haiku; they d heard of 
Tennyson but not haiku. They were not raised in their own 
culture; they were very afraid of their own culture, but they had 
a kind of sensitivity, say in the use of metaphor, which was so 
different that it was just really like teaching a whole new world. 
I did that for I guess six weeks, and that was very illuminating. 

Neighbors and Family 

Miles: I thought too, as I was thinking about this, that one thing I 

haven t mentioned that s been important to my life is my neighbors. 
The neighbors in my childhood, for a while I mentioned, I think, 
our very nice dead-end street with fascinating people on it. Then 
we moved to West Los Angeles and had really no neighbors, because 
it was a building subdivision, and the neighbors we had were mostly 
contractors cousins. Nobody was long enough there to get to know 
anybody. Well, I did mention my neighbors that I was interested 
in teaching composition to, but that was rather rare. When I lived 
for four years on the other side of this campus, that was living 
square in the student community. That was extremely interesting. 
It was during wartime. The students sort of patrolled and ran the 
student community; I was very much impressed with student 
responsibility and student action in those four years. 

Then I moved to this house and have had extremely good 
neighbors here not close and cozy but just very nice straight 
forward families growing up, which has been nice, seeing the 
children start at age three and move away at age thirty. A very 
nice Baptist minister, a very nice physicist, a very nice man who 
was one of the early dispatchers for United Air Lines, a fellow 
who used to be the University Explorer, a refugee doctor from 
Germany, and now my former dean of graduate studies, Will Dennes, 
lives down the block. An unusual kind of neighborhood in that it 
wasn t, as I say, exactly club-like, but it had kind of a mixture 
of children growing up and interesting people that were very 

Also I ve had a certain amount of student help, living in, to 
help me, as well as some part-time housekeepers, that have been 


Miles: likable and illuminating;* to live with students is a nice idea, 
I think, and you keep getting new ideas. Then probably, since 
I m mentioning varieties, I should probably mention that one of my 
brothers has always lived nearby in Oakland, in the real estate 
business, and the other one lived in Japan but is here now. I ve 
had also two nieces and nephews, and now I have grand-nieces and 
nephews. This explains what I do on July 4 [laughing] and Labor 
Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. [Laughter] I think I ve taken 
care of all the days now. 

Teiser: Do you have an alternate home? 

Miles: When we lived in Los Angeles, my father was a restless type. He 
was sort of a free agent in his insurance business, so we would 
go to the desert, back to Palm Springs, which we loved so much, 
in the winter, where we camped out in Andreas Canyon. In the 
summer we went down for a while to Coronado, and then built a 
little shack on the Roosevelt Highway, Los Flores Canyon. So this 
became part of our lives, to have a shack somewhere and go to it, 
and this seemed like part of the world to us. 

When we moved up here, we couldn t find anything like that. 
Northern California seemed to us antidemocratic in the way that 
there were not nearby easy places to go to, like the coastline; 
you had to go far to Tahoe and Yosemite and Santa Cruz, and so on. 
We determined we would lick this problem by starting up at 
Martinez or Antioch, and just following the shoreline down, and we 
were sure we would find a little cove or coastline spot that we 
could buy or rent and build a shack on. We were trying to impose 
the pattern of one place on the other. 

I think we actually did I think I know more about that 
shoreline than even the Hercules Powder Plant does. But this is 
what we found, of course, all this industrial use and all the 
barbed wire, and it was very discouraging. We went from Antioch 
down around to the Alameda Yacht Club: nothing. It really seems 
to me disgraceful, this shoreline. It s a little improved, now, 
and the Save the Bay group has fought very hard to improve it even 
a little bit. It s like pulling teeth. We finally did find the 
one little place where it s not too much like pulling teeth 
Point Richmond. The part of the point that goes out beyond the 
little town. There was nothing for rent or sale there because a 
man by the name of Tiscornia, a San Francisco businessman, owned 

*See Appendix. 


Miles: all the lots. When he died, he left them all to his secretary. 
There s a very mysterious quality to Point Richmond, because 
there s still plenty of empty lots, but absolutely everything is 
very tightly held. 

Teiser: Does she still own it? 

Miles: Yes. 

Teiser: He owned the site of the Bank of America headquarters. 

Miles: Oh yes, I know! And on Kearny Street he let all the buildings 
run down. There are famous stories about Tiscornia. 

Well, we gave up. We worked and worked and worked and 
worked, and gave up. We looked up a lot of records in the court 
house, and wrote to people. That s the way I found this house, 
because this was just a little victory garden, but we found this 
by looking up records and two years later having somebody wanting 
to sell, which was nice. But that didn t work there. 

There was a funny thing (I suppose it s not important). 
There was an ad in the paper for a little house in Albany that 
didn t cost much money. I answered the ad, thinking at least 
maybe I could just flee to Albany. The real estate man handling 
it said no, that wouldn t suit me at all, it was in a dump or 
something, but he would look for me. Then he found these lots in 
Point Richmond. He said later that he d worked so hard on it 
because his daughter was getting married, and he absolutely had to 
have some money for the wedding. So that was my motivation for 
getting my lots. They were very inexpensive, and we built an 
inexpensive little house 

Teiser: They were outside of the Tiscornia ownership? 

Miles: Yes, they were just being sold at that moment by a tug captain 

that needed cash at that very moment, and I did have cash. That s 
the way we built this house too, is that my mother sold the house 
we had in Los Angeles and got cash for that, so we were able to 
build this house at an amazingly inexpensive price. 

Teiser: Should I ask about this house did Geraldine Knight Scott plan 
your garden? 

Miles: More than that. She held my hand throughout, because after we got 
the lot, I was going to wait till after the war to do something 
about the house. But I was so stuffed up in that apartment, I was 
really desperate. We could be allowed to build a house because my 
brothers were in the war, but it could only be one of two plans; 


Miles: it had to be war housing. One was Mason McDuffie s, which was 

atrocious, and the other was J.M. Walker s, which I thought were 
very pleasant little houses down on Sixth and Seventh Street. He 
did one for his mother, for example, that I thought was really 
charming. We asked him if he would do one on this lot, and 
because we had the money he desperately needed money because he 
was doing everything on account in the war effort he used all 
his old materials, like his old doorknobs and nice floors and 
stuff, and he wasn t doing it with mass-produced stuff. But 
Mother s lawyer said he would quit as her lawyer because he said 
the house would fall down after five years, and he did indeed 
quit. [Laughter] 

On the other hand, Gerrie and Mel [Scott] both recommended 
it, and they thought there was nothing wrong with Plan 5 war 
housing. They recommended where it be placed on the lot.* 
Walker s young architect was a very nice young man who s now a 
millionaire, building condominiums in Hawaii. They were all 
eager to do something individual; they were tired of the mass 
stuff. And they were the greatest people! They could only do 
the basic plans. Well, this is Plan 5 war housing. It s turned 
around, and the patio was added, and the windows were lengthened 
into doors, and the window boxes were taken off, and the arches 
were taken off between rooms, and those connecting doors were put 
in to separate this room from the study so we could make it a big 
room (which we never have), and so on. It was just a delight. 

When we built the house at the Point, I said, "I ve never 
had a chance to have a real architect and start from scratch." 
But that turned out to be miserable! These guys had been so 
adaptable, and there were only five hundred choices instead of 
five thousand. But the talented and brilliant young architect I 
had at the Point kept getting 200 percent over the budget just 
heartbreaking! So that shack and this house cost almost the same 
amount of money, which is absurd, because this house is so much 
more functional in so many more ways. 

Teiser: Were you under war pricing restrictions, however? Weren t 
materials under ceilings on this house 

*I also got the contractor to make the patio and the floor of 
the house on the same level, which required changing the footing 
at the front of the house. [Geraldine Knight Scott] 


Miles: Yes, oh yes. 

Teiser: and they weren t on the other? 

Miles: No. I fortunately didn t have any money, so that contractor just 
said, "Pay the architect for his plans," and then did it his own 
way. That was a very nice contractor by the name of no, I can t 
say his name. But he was a literary man who was dabbling in 
contracting, and very honest. [Added:] Willis Foster. 

That shack, then, that was about 1950, and we did use that 
for about a decade, until my mother got so that she couldn t drive 
out there. But it was a good decade. Now my brother lives there, 
my Japan-Hawaii brother, and he s enjoying it. It s just 
incredibly beautiful. It s just a matter of sheer wonderment 
that that place exists for anybody but millionaires. Have you 
been there? Have you seen it? 

Teiser: No. You once invited us and we weren t able to go. 
Miles: Oh! It s too good to be true. 

Any other joyful topics like that, or do you want me to talk 
about the arts? 

Arts and Other Ideas 

Teiser: You ve said several times, and I think we ve discussed this in 
several ways, that one of the values of poetry, good or bad, is 
what people say as an indication of what people .in a time and 
place are thinking is that right? Am I saying what you think? 

Miles: Yes. 

Teiser: So that it s a sociological document rather than literary 

Miles: Not "rather than." That is, one of the ways that social values 
find external form is through literary expression. But the 
expression is literary, and the literary expression is rather 
slow. I have not done any correlating of times here. Language 
that today expresses, I think, some of the values of today in 
very strong ways was begun to be stressed by poets in the early 
nineteenth century. So there s a very slow progression; it isn t 
that it just springs up and flares down again. If you take the 
whole history of English poetry, from Chaucer on, or even before 
Chaucer, and you take the main language of that poetry, about a 


Miles: fourth of it is the same now as it was then. So those values are 
surviving through that whole five hundred years or more, whereas 
some of the values in the different periods have come and gone, 
and we don t see them any more. Then some of them some of the 
values are being expressed today for the first time in poetry. 

Teiser: Are you comparing highly selected poets of earlier periods with a 
very large mass of poetry, unselected, today? 

Miles: No, I m taking exactly the same kind of poets, and the same number 
from the same sets of times. In other words, I define a generation 
as thirty years, and I take that time and I take the poets who are 
born in that time, of a certain degree of surviving reputation. 
Many people say that that s a danger, about surviving reputation, 
and it may be slightly, not very. 

Teiser: When you say "what the students are writing" or what is being 
written here generally today, that s an unselected mass. 

Miles: That s true, that s true. The selected mass that I ve studied 
I could name the names to you, the ones that I based my 
generalizations in Poetry and Change on. I not only had the 
student mass here, but I also had all those people I wrote about 
in the Massachusetts Review everybody in the seventies and 
everybody in the sixty-fives. But there s only ten that I based 
my generalizations, my mathematical data, on because I had ten 
in other periods. I can t remember them all, but Ginsberg is one 
and Gary Snyder is another, James Tate is another, Thorn Gunn, 
LeRoi Jones anyway, that type of level. 

Teiser: Again I m asking a question and not asking it clearly this is 

a whole different subject: When you look at what is being written 
today and look at the mass of it as an expression of what people 
feel and think today, aren t you looking at a much wider segment 
than, say, your Elizabethan segment? (I don t know why I m 
arguing with you!) 

Miles: Let me try to answer that by telling you about the very minute 

study that I ve done of language from the scholarly point of view 
for example, I have pointed out that nineteenth century, eighteenth 
century language tends to stress words like bird and moon and air 
and wing and tree. Okay. By words like those, I mean words of 
nature of a fairly minute discrimination. And that some of those 
are now dropping away; you don t find so many birds and leaves and 
trees and wings and moons and stars in the poetry of today, 
anywhere, unless the person is quite old-fashioned. There are 
many more words today in poetry remember it s just these ten 
people I m talking about, but also more widely of types of street 
and road and wall and house and window and door. I think you can 


Miles: see that there s kind of a quality to those words that they share 
that s different from the other. What I talked about in Poetry 
and Change was that the context of those words repeated over and 
over suggests some different kind of context of interest than the 
words of wing and tree and stream and sky and stars. The context 
may be very different from the ten that I looked at and the 
hundreds that are writing around here in Berkeley, but their 
emphases, their attentions are focused in much the same way. 

An example of your point that s interesting is that I for 
a while, when you doubt what you re doing, you re often very upset 
by what you don t find. I was pretty interested in all these 
doors and windows in modern poetry. I picked up a copy of Poetry 
magazine and I said, "This is a good place to get some good whole 
examples. An easy short-cut to writing my article, I ll just 
whiz through Poetry and pick up a bunch of doors and windows." 
There wasn t a door or window in that whole issue I I thought 
there must be something wrong if that would be true. So I looked 
at Poetry throughout the year, and then there was a sampling but 
a not very interesting sampling. Then I realized as I overheard 
a number of conversations saying that Poetry magazine today is 
not very representative of modern poetry, I then said to myself, 
"I ll look at a number of magazines and just see what I find, but 
also I ll look at other books." And as a matter of fact, then it 
came very fast because I got a list of books for the 1970s, just 
a list of the names, and many names had these words in it 
The Bed by the Window, The Door to the you know, that kind of 
thing. They were so important, then, that they were used for 
titles. So, it s tricky, but there is a relation between minute 
particulars which support just those limited generalizations, and 
generalizations which you draw out of vast amounts of material. 

Teiser: Thank you for explaining that. 

Miles: So, you d like to have me talk about the arts a little bit? 

Teiser: I mentioned to you before we began this interview that I d like to 
ask about the sources of originality. I was thinking of that in 
relation to your own work and what you could judge from your own 
experience. Your scholarship has been creative, your poetry has 
been creative originality is what I mean, not creativity but 
originality. I don t know about your teaching, if your teaching 
is original or not it s effective, I understand. [Laughing] 

Miles: Sometimes, sometimes. 

Teiser: But where do you think originality comes from? 


Miles: I think originality comes from making new connections. That is, 
when you see a connection that somebody else hasn t noticed or 
hasn t seen, and you make it, and then other people do see it, 
then that s originality. If they don t see it, it s never 
noticed, it can be original till the cows come home and nobody 
will notice because nobody s picking up what you ve noticed. 

There is one book on this subject. I think the man s name is 
[Homer Garner] Barnett, and I think it s called Innovation, and 
it s a very interesting book. It s a fascinating subject, and 
nobody s really tackled it. But this book Innovation does this, 
and it was a great help to me because I was concerned with 
innovation in my literary studies. I wanted to know where things 
came from and how long it took them to get going, and so forth, 
and he makes some very interesting points about lastingness, and 
what is the measure of lastingness or measure of originality if it 
doesn t last, and so on. (See the last sections of my Continuity 
of Poetic Language.) 

I know this is off of what you were asking about me, but in 
a little way, when I was talking about my sabbaticals and my few 
journeys, I was meaning to make the point that these were important 
to me because they let me see old connections in new materials, or 
new connections, and to come back here and see new connections in 
old material. In other words, Aristotle says that the heart of 
poetry is metaphor. What I think he means by that is good; that 
is, you see a possibility of comparability: as if something is as 
if something else. And you see the possibility of relating those 
two things as they haven t been related before. 

I m sure this is true, for example, in inventions, in 
technical inventions like the steam engine (this is apparently how 
Robert Fulton got going), and I think this is true in teaching 
writing. In my own writing, well, I just have the feeling that if 
I get an idea that I know I want to do something with, it s probably 
an idea where I see some connection that I want to try to explore 
in my mind. Or if I hear somebody say something that I think 
connects up with other things I know, and I m not quite sure how, 
I try to explore it by writing about it. 

As for my scholarship, I think that is original in that it s 
trying to it s too original; not enough people believe in it. 
I m trying to connect repeated usage or steady assumption with a 
sense of artistic value. It s just very hard to get this point 
over. Linguists don t want to relate artistic assumption to 
linguistic materials; they don t want to cope with artistic 
assumption. And artistic assumption people don t want to relate 
their materials to something they think is as mechanical as 


Miles: These are all examples of making connections that aren t normally 
made, where the danger is, as they say, you fall between two 
stools. This is the danger of interdisciplinary study, which is 
so hard to regulate and encourage. Indeed, I tend to think you 
shouldn t try very hard; that is, I think it s safer to keep to 
categories and departments. I love category jokes, I think 
category jokes are just great, because category jokes are the 
whole humor of what you re talking about a person who sees 
connections between categories is a metaphorist and a kind of poet 
and a kind of a well, I don t want to say poet; I mean he s a 
kind of an artist, in any material you want to mention. Category 
jokes are really just beautiful for stepping on the toes of 
assumptions, of generalizations. 

Teiser: Would you tell one? 

Miles: Oh, I knew you were going to ask me that and I wouldn t be able 
to. [Laughter] Oh dear. I ve been trading them around lately. 
Did I tell you the one that I heard about two months ago that I ve 
told to everybody and nobody thinks it s funny? 

Teiser: Yes, but tell it on the tape. 

Miles: I hate to put it on the tape. And everybody tells me I don t tell 
it right and it s not funny, and I still chuckle inwardly. It was 
just on television. It was just two gag men standing in front of 
a curtain talking, as they do in vaudeville, and one man said to 
the other these were just sort of sloppily dressed bums (I have 
to explain this because people tell me I should say how they 
looked it doesn t matter how they looked 1) and one said to the 
other, "Are you Jewish?" and the other one said, "Not necessarily." 
Didn t I tell you that? 

Teiser: You did, yes. 

Miles: See, you didn t even remember it! 

Teiser: I remembered it perfectly. [Laughter] 

Miles: But you didn t remember it as funny. [Laughter] 

Teiser: I told it to my father, who is a connoisseur of jokes, and Jewish, 
and he didn t get it either. 

Miles: Well, there you see. I ll tell you the classical category jokes 
are the elephant jokes. "What is grey and heavy and weighs six 
tons? An elephant six-pack." I m not saying it right, but that 
kind, where you take three miscellaneous qualities and add them 
together, and then you create a category to fit them. This is the 


Miles: classic kind of joke that the kids tell. There are many more. 
"Why does Uncle Sam wear red, white, and blue suspenders?" is a 
very good example. You immediately say, "Aha! We re talking about 
patriotism here Uncle Sam stands for patriotism." Or "Why does a 
fireman wear red suspenders?" "Aha I We re talking about the 
category firemen ." And this makes you foolish because you re 
not getting to the crux of the problem, which is keeping up the 
pants. Don t you think that s nice? Well, so. [Laughter] Where 
do we go from there? 

I think that s all I can say about originality. You said not 
creativity, but I think they re all I don t think you create out 
of nothing. 

Teiser: I was just changing words because creativity is so overused. 

Miles: I know, it s a bad word today. But I think to create is to 

originate. I think it doesn t fit badly with the physiological 
sense of creation; that is, that two people get together and create 
a third is really the same point. You re bringing, to some degree, 
unlikes together, and you re getting another kind of unlike or like. 
So I think the metaphor is a decent one, I mean the root is a decent 
one; it s just that we often misuse it. Genesis confuses us. 

In teaching, many people scornfully say, "You can t teach 
writing or you can t teach art." Well, of course you can. And 
what you can do is just this, is to afford the opportunity for more 
unlikes and more likes to get together and splash around in the 
student s mind, set off sparks, set off ideas, until one works for 
him. What the untaught student is, unless he s been teaching 
himself, of course, but what the helpless, needful student is is 
somebody who s just swimming around in his own juices with no new 
ideas and no new assumptions and no new questions. That s what 
teaching wants to get him out of. It happens with ideas in 
abstract courses as well as writing or art or music courses. But 
they re all perfectly teachable. That s why it s fun to teach: 
you see it. It may be in the heart or the lungs or the brain, but 
you see it in the eyes, and you can watch it happen. Of course, 
you can also see it in the products that sometimes get made. 

[end tape 1, side 2; begin tape 2, side 1] 

Teiser: You mentioned that comments on your work have just appeared in 
Style. Is it a magazine? 

Miles: It s a magazine, a journal they call them, which comes out 

quarterly and has articles stressing study of style. This summer 
issue, which just came, has articles especially on historical 
study of style, the use of history to help understand style, the 
use of style to help understand history a really important topic 


Miles: which I don t think this magazine I read these articles and I 

don t think they really tackle it yet. I have never found a study 
of history that I thought really faced the idea of history whether 
it s a question you asked before about originality or origination. 
What I think needs to be studied there is that process by which old, 
assumed, standard materials weary people to the degree that they 
start looking for something new, and then that makes them see the 
old in a new light, and so they invent some new form to handle the 
new or they may even consciously go back and search in the past. 
The people born right this minute are probably going to go back 
and search the past in new ways. At least that s what they ve 
especially done in other last generations of a century. There have 
been people who have been aware of the passage of time and centuries 
and so on, and we have gone as far away as we can go in the direction 
that their predecessors have gone and then started looking backward 
for something new. At least, as I say, this has happened in other 
centuries. I would think it might happen again. But historians 
haven t studied this. They haven t studied the motion of time. 

Thomas Kuhn has studied the motion of scientific revolutions, 
and there he says they come by little explosions. In other words, 
these connections are very explosive, in his view, as they come 
out in scientific experiments. In arts they aren t because in arts 
you can see them quietly happening from just a few to more to more 
to more to more to the whole thing. 

You can see somebody like Thomas Blackmore initiating the use 
of a certain vocabulary in a minor way merely which brings him 
the scoffing of his compatriots not just because he uses the 
vocabulary but because he is not terribly good at it. But he does 
initiate. But he s not given credit for that. That s the 
vocabulary which Milton later is given credit for initiating, 
because he does it so much better in terms of blending it into the 
cultural surroundings. I don t think this issue of Style has 
tackled that fully enough. 

A lot of the articles refer to my work because they say I was 
a pioneer in making quantitative studies. Sometimes they say 
statistical studies, which is not true unless you want to use 
statistical very loosely and just mean frequencies. Then they 
point out a lot of errors that I ve made and that s too bad, but 
I have and I don t know how to avoid it. The editors gave me a 
chance to reply and that s what I say let s get on with the 
business of studying the theory of history and not worry too much 
about errors because, for one thing, when you deal with masses of 
data and you start trying to correct errors, you make more. So 
It s really better to leave what you ve done after the best kind of 
correcting you can do once. Leave them and then let people who are 
using them for a particular purpose make the corrections. 


Miles: When I do try to correct, that is what I try to do, I try to do a 
specific study where I dig a well down deep and do it all over 
again to check it out rather than the old surfaces. It s not like 
proofreading. You can t find errors very well that way, and you do 
make more. I don t think I ve made many errors that would change 
the validity of the generalizations I m making, and furthermore 
they are correctable by people who have a motive for doing it better 
than I did. But my drive was to go forward into a field I could 
generalize further about because, after all, just checking is 
unmotivated, unless you know what you want to set forth. So, anyway, 
that s what s in that journal. 

You asked me a while ago about my idea about the arts in 
Berkeley. I guess partly I ve been thinking about the arts in 
Berkeley as arts on the campus. When you mentioned that the other 
day, I said, "What do you mean? I can t remember." That s sad 
because the reason I couldn t remember is that I ve been so defeated 
on it that I pushed it to the back of my mind. You have said you 
felt I was persistent in nature and I challenge you to learn 
whether my persistence ever pays off in this field, which it hasn t 
in all these decades I ve been working on it. 

In the first place, Berkeley, as an institution and as a 
functioning financial body, is not interested in art. It s 
interested in facts and forces. So power structures simply bypass 
the arts at every point. Secondly, Berkeley attracts students and 
teachers and people who are really interested in the arts and are 
really very good. So better people come to Berkeley without any 
motive for aid at all than, say, in my opinion, go to Michigan 
where there are huge, wonderful awards. That would be disputed by 
Michigan, I m sure, but I have the feeling that we get awfully good 
and interesting and inventive people in the arts in Berkeley. At 
least I have some evidence of this. For example, Seymour Shifrin 
certainly felt he had marvelous students here in music. About 
painting I m not so sure. Painting is a puzzling subject because 
of San Francisco versus Los Angeles in patronage and all that . But 
graphics in inventive ways if not traditional easel painting are 
certainly interesting here, and the whole tradition of [Richard] 
Diebenkorn and the Six and so forth, painters whom I at least admire 
a lot. Certainly there has been lively work in poetry, and as I 
think I said one time, Hayden Carruth s anthology called The Voice 
That Is Great Within Us, which is one of the first recent collections 
across the board, across the country, about poetry today, includes 
so many from here. 

So we have on the one hand a tremendous demand, and on the other 
hand a tremendous lack, and no way to get them together. Expensive 
big buildings don t do the work. As far as teaching goes, we get 
really very little help in teaching. That is, we don t have the 
materials for classes. We don t have traveling shows. We don t 


Miles: have recordings. Or we have them all, but they re all skimpy and 

scattered. We tried for many years to get a room for poetry. I ve 
always wanted a room for all of the arts together. My ideal has 
been a room where students could read poetry aloud, hear it, hear 
some music, see some paintings on the walls, make some connections. 

This gets in what you asked me about originality and 
teaching. This is my interest in students, to help them get out 
of wherever they re stuck and move ahead in some new direction. So 
this gets with everything that I ve been saying and trying in my 
own life. It s amazing how hard it is to make any of this work. 
The reason I have now pushed it from my mind is partly the fact 
that the students themselves have sabotaged themselves. The theft 
problem is so great that we can t do anything that would have free 
usage of materials. Student self-sabotage is naturally always my 
greatest worry. There s always plenty. We have made one compromise 
now which is to have a little corner of the Morrison Room used for 
poetry. It s quite lovely and it makes me very happy to think of it, 
because there are forty shelves of poetry there and it s a pleasant 
room. Students can drop by there. They can t take notes, they 
can t read to each other, they can t speak above a whisper, and 
there is a custodian there so they re not supposed to be able to 
steal, which they otherwise clearly would. But with all those 
foolish restrictions which are now necessary, it s workable, and it 
makes me really happy. 

On the other hand, just to mention a plan that hasn t worked 
and it s so beautiful there s this old power house down by the 
creek which is a beautiful old building built of brick. The old 
power lines ran through there. [Interruption] It s a beautiful 
building and it used to be used for art exhibits and exhibits of 
utensils, good working objects a lot of times. When the big art 
museum was built, where we were supposed to have a meeting room for 
the arts but Peter Selz denied that finally, the idea was that we 
could use the power house as a meeting place and have exhibits and 
classes and pictures and poetry. It s across a charming little 
court from the Pelican Building where publications are held forth, 
where Pelican publishes its magazine, and Occidental and Poetry 
Review and so on. In between there s just a little land and a 
little pool and some grass and two Chinese dogs, which if they were 
turned around to face the street would provide a very interesting 
little entrance to this little complex. So we could call it the 
Art Triangle or the Art Quadrangle, and you get to it by crossing 
a bridge from the regular campus. It s really a nice dream. It s 
great the students sit around on the lawn. They use this place 
anyway; they read to each other there and they sit around there and 
they argue there and so on. 


Miles: However, earthquake hazards prevail, and the police need a place 
to register bicycles, so that s what the power house is used for. 
Blue and Gold needs more darkrooms, and so that s what the Pelican 
Building is trying to be used for. So despite all my hopes, the 
situation now is just about zero. The student body leader is saying 
that the original magazines that are published aren t worth much, 
and graduate offices would be great in the Pelican Building, and 
here we have all these bicycles to register and there s just 
nowhere. So we are nowhere. It s hard for me to believe all the 
time we ve spent on this, with all the different committees and all 
the different ideas and hopes and plans and fears, that we are now 
farther away from any center for the arts on the campus than we have 
ever been. So this is not to end all these discussions on a 
negative note, but it s to say that life ain t easy. But it s to 
say also that this place is various and imaginative enough to invent 
new possibilities of unpredictable kinds. 


INTERVIEW IX 22 February 1979 

Winding Down 

[begin tape 1, side 1] 

Teiser: The last time we talked was a few months before you retired; as I 
understand, you retired and got ill at the same time. 

Miles: Two days apart. 

Teiser: The other notable thing that has happened is your winning of the 
prize which brought you much note, the Academy of American Poets 
1978 Fellowship with its $10,000 award. 

Miles: Money makes a lot of difference to people! 

Teiser: I wonder do you think it was all money? You ve had other honors 

Miles: Yes, I have, and nobody even knew or flipped or turned a hair. See, 
the newspapers react to money . 

Teiser: We weren t here when it was announced, so we didn t see all of the 
press on it. 

Miles: Oh, there was a lot of press. 

Teiser: Well, let s take it up as we come to it. Start with whatever next 
happened of significance 

Miles: After our last talk, eh? 

Teiser: Yes. 

Miles: And that was in, you said, the end of 77? 

Teiser: August 77. 



Teiser : 


August 77. 

So that was really only about a half a year before 

That s right. We were getting it out of the way so you could get 
busy and retire. 

Things did get very, very busy in that last year, 77 to 78, 
because I was trying to finish up so many things, not only teaching 
but that very interesting planning committee [the Committee on 
Academic Planning] I was on managed to write a report. By a miracle, 
everybody on that committee agreed on it, diverse as they were, and 
we had a very happy ending where we all congratulated each other on 
the report, which spoke of the need for much more personal discussion 
of the problems the University was facing. And we were going to 
discuss this in the next meeting of the Academic Senate, because it 
was a senate report, but then there turned out to be an emergency 
on confidentiality, so Chancellor Bowker needed the whole afternoon. 
It was simply placed on file, and we then asked individuals, members 
of the senate who had read the report, to come and speak with us, a 
group of people that we thought highly of. Some chairmen and some 
other interested people came to lunch and told the committee what 
they thought of this idea. They thought it was impossible. 

Very interesting feeling of all the leadership there that one 
couldn t raise issues in department meetings, which was really 
alien to everything that I d grown up with in our department, which 
was that that s where you discuss the problem. And sometimes you 
had fights, but mostly you didn t. Also in political work that I 
had done with the Democrats in Berkeley, we usually raised 
questions and left a Sunday night meeting with a consensus where 
we didn t even need to vote. So I was really appalled by the 
attitude of this leadership: don t rock the boat, don t upset 
your faculty, don t tell them anything, don t ask them anything, 
let everything go on in sort of a blind way until there may be a 
disaster and we don t know. 

Teiser: What kind of a disaster was 

Miles: Well, what you re reading in the papers now: Governor Brown s 

governorship was going to lead to financial straits (that was even 
before we knew about Proposition 13, but that s another financial 
strait). And, of course, behind that the sinking of enrollment, 
which nobody agrees on whether it s going to sink or not. But the 
whole condition of straitened circumstances, changed student 
demands, would lead to very interesting discussions of how much 
any discipline should alter its methods and procedures. And the 
great size of the University and the fact that we had grown so 
desperately during the sixties would also not only lead to some 
sense of retrenchment but also some sense of reorganization and re- 
orientation of the people who came in so fast that they still didn t 
know they were there . 


Teiser: You mean the faculty? 

Miles: Faculty, yes. Students too, I suppose. And so, because in the 

sixties we did much more discussing with the students because they 
wanted to discuss now students didn t want to discuss. Nobody 
wanted to talk about anything. Now when you talk to a student on 
Dostoevsky, he says, "That s all very good about Dostoevsky, but 
what is our mid-term going to be about, and what grade am I going 
to get in the course?" So this is a new, important problem too. 

Our happiness on the committee, which means a great deal to 
me because it was so it emerged out of real, real disaffection 
and chaos was short-lived as far as talking to other people, but 
then we only had the hour at the luncheon to talk to them. Maybe 
we could have convinced them too if we d had more time. 

Anyway, that fell very flat, and nothing happened. We made 
some particular recommendations for easing strangeness and 
alienation of faculty from each other, and none of those were 
carried out. So, in other words, it was a non-success. But [it 
was] an interesting report, and I m glad it was printed, and 
maybe something will come of it. 

Teiser: Where is a copy? 

Miles: It would be in the records of the Academic Senate, April 78. And 
everybody on the committee said they signed it with pleasure, and 
that s really rare. 

So then, when that was done, I felt pretty relieved as we 
met up until the last minute on that. And I got through. 

Let s see, I had a very difficult poetry class where students 
were either very shy or militant against each other (that happens 
every once in a while), and made it sort of hard at the end. So 
there was a real feeling of, "I hope I finish here before I fall 
on my face." 

Then, it was a very happy and pleasant kind of retirement. 
The Committee on Teaching [of the Berkeley Division of the Academic 
Senate] had an award for good teaching [the Distinguished Teaching 
Award], and they had a banquet for that, and it was the first time 
they had tried this banquet idea. It was very elaborate and costly 
to them, and a lot of fuss and feathers, and it was fun to be in on. 

Teiser: How many people were there? 

Miles: Six of us. One was a good friend of mine, and the others I didn t 
know but were very interesting people. It was extremely 


Miles: interesting to me because at the same time they were going through 
this fuss of giving us this banquet and these votes and they took 
it very seriously, you know: Who would you vote for, and what would 
be the criteria? at the same time they and I guess I mean here 
the faculty, who was probably ignorant were allowing some of the 
best teachers in our university to be let go after years. That is, 
the young men in education, who had done such leaderly work as 
supervisors of teachers in the School of Education. (I ve talked 
about this before on tape, I m sure.*) They were the liveliest and 
most constructive people in the department, and they were put on 
one-year notice, which legally, many lawyers say, was not only dirty 
pool but illegal. And the fight hasn t still come to a crux because 
they haven t yet given their notice. 

But the irony of this weighed so heavily upon me, and I spoke 
about it but people didn t particularly want to listen, because 
they d gone to a lot of work to decide who the distinguished teachers 
should be. I didn t ask for any letters from friends in college 
because I don t like the process, but they did use the Bay Area 
Writing Project as an example of a kind of teaching not just 
personality but, you know, stuff I had done over many years. So I 
didn t feel too bad about that. But the fact that the authors of 
the Bay Area Writing Project, aside from me, were being so badly 
treated at the same time I was being retired was pretty silly. 
Something that has developed more in the past year is this great 
problem in my mind of the relation between the system and the 
individual, and the power of the system to ignore the individual 
though the individual is what the institution is based on. 

Anyway, then we had a very nice retirement dinner, which was 
pleasant. We didn t call it "retirement dinner." Jim [James D.] 
Hart retired too, and it was a kind of buffet in the late afternoon 
in the Women s Faculty Club. The sun shone in and everybody looked 
very happy and pretty. And the chancellor came over and gave Jim 
and me citations, which is supposed to be great. 

He told me, when he gave me mine, that he wished it could be 
in the form of a pelican. This was humor to the end. That was 
another fight that I totally lost I along with my student and 
faculty companions. Without giving us a hearing, without going 
through any due process, the chancellor just one day put locks on 
the Pelican Building doors, cleaned up the building, and sent 
thirty-two Graduate Association secretaries in there, and sent the 
student writers down into an old darkroom in the basement of 
Eshleman. So there was, again, an excellent example of not only 

*See pages 200 and 213. 


Miles: not justice but not due process either. None of these drastic 

actions that I was involved in at the end of the year had anything 
to do with decent process. So that battle was lost and is still 
lost. I had many telephone calls from people saying, "Who are 
those strange people in the Pelican Building?" and "How could you 
have given up on that?" and so on. It was very sad. 

The students are so far just publishing out of the darkroom, 
and as I said before, they won a good many awards and so forth, so 
they re still doing good work. 

Then I had a lunch with Betty Neely, who was former dean of 
women, and she warned me not to be bitter when I retired, because 
it was appalling what they did without fair consideration. She was 
still so bitter, but she wanted to warn me not to be which is very 
good, because at the same time I was having all these rather 
superficial honors, these terrible things were happening underneath. 
So her warning was very helpful. 

Then I decided that after retirement I d better go on a quick 
vacation and get these things out of my mind. So I made a 
reservation up at Bodega Bay, and my helper and I went up there 
for a couple of days. It was beautiful weather, and I sat in the 
sun, and we drove around. I said, "Look how great it is! Of 
course you can relax if you like the outdoors." We drove home and 
I stopped to see my brother, and he said, "Why don t you stay for 
supper?" So I did. After supper I said, "I don t seem to be able 
to swallow." So, to make a long story short, that turned out to 
be an emergency gall bladder operation. It nearly did me in, and 
I was in intensive care for ten days. Medicare won t pay the 
surgeon s fee, because he made it so high because he said it was 
one of the hardest operations he d ever performed. And they, on 
the other hand, don t make that exception. So it turned out to be 
very expensive, in more ways than one. But it was a weird one; it 
was a twisted gall bladder, which he said he d never seen before. 

So I was pretty sick for maybe two or three months. But it 
was very charming: I said, "The one thing I hate to miss is, 
next week" I said to the surgeon, before the stitches were out 
"one thing I hate to miss next week is I want to go to a friend s 
son s bar mitzvah." My medical doctor is Jewish, and he said, 
"You can t miss a bar mitzvah!" The surgeon came early, a couple 
of days early, to take the rest of the stitches out so I could go 
to the bar mitzvah. And I went. [laughter] I was very wobbly, 
but it was very nice to get back on my feet that fast. So I went 
to a couple of other parties, but aside from that I stayed home 
for a couple of months. 


Miles: I guess the best other things I should speak of are just in terms 
of the work I ve been doing, all of which seems to me to kind of 
be putting ends on things. That s why I had a feeling it would 
fit in with this tape, because all these things are sort of 
dusting-off stuff. I haven t had time to start anything new at 
all. It s amazing that after a year since we were talking 
before how busy I am just trying to keep up with the past. Isn t 
that a curious thing? 

I guess in the middle of the fall I got this very large 
monetary award from the Academy of American Poets. It s a good 
award that s been won by good poets, and it s also this gigantic 
sum, for poetry. Because it was money it was publicized in the 
papers a lot, and that s much different. I won an equally good 
award for scholarship about three years before that, and nobody 
ever mentioned it [laughing] because there wasn t much money 
involved. This led me into a tremendous amount of publicity calls 
from the newspapers, and then the University decided to make a play 
on this. The University has taken a role in this past six months 
of publicizing me as a good example of a graduate of the University 
of California and a teacher here, in a rather surface way. And I 
think because they know they re not being fair to individuals, 
they pick out an individual that they have been very fair to, over- 
fair to, and publicize that person, whereas actually, if they had 
treated me the way they ve treated these other people lately, I 
would never have done all these things. 

Anyway, I ve had lots of invitations to talk and all sorts of 
celebrations, up, down, and sideways. For example, I just came 
back from San Diego where I was given an award for teaching and 
writing, a very elaborate occasion and very nice, lots of fun. 

Teiser: What award was this? 

Miles: Well what was it called? I guess it was called the Author of the 
Year. That s right a California Association of Teachers of 
English Author of the Year. It was a plaque. But it was a nice 
party, and nice people. There were a thousand teachers or something, 
and I talked on poetry. I enjoy those, because I think English 
teachers are a pretty nice type, as a whole. And they re of course 
getting younger and younger. [laughter] That s not in terms of 
the old joke that I m getting older, but they really are, because 
unless they all dye their hair, you really don t see much grey 
hair in one of those crowds any more. 

Teiser: Maybe they can t stand being English teachers for long. 



Teiser : 
Miles : 


[laughter] There s a new phrase that I heard down there for the 
first time, and it s very common now, and it s sad. It s called 
"teacher burn-out." And it s a serious phrase; I mean it s a 
phrase for what s really happening to lots of teachers. They re 
getting no appreciation, no credit; they re killing themselves for 
less money; at the same time they re threatened to be dismissed. 

So then let s see, what else has happened? Oh, I got lots 
of lovely letters from older students that part was really great. 
I had lots of very nice letters from students who read about this 
in the Daily Cal; or there was an article in the alumni magazine 
[California Monthly] , there was an article in the University 
Bulletin; there was an article in whatever. And students and 
teachers reacted to this and wrote me letters. So that was 
pleasant. But also I wrote millions and millions of answers, 
which took up a lot of time. And of course read millions and 
millions of manuscripts that were sent to me by people who said, 
"I was in your writing class in 1946 and I m still writing, and 
here s a large volume of my work which I thought you might like 
to see" which I did, but it was very time-consuming. 

My word! You really don t turn anyone down? 

Oh, you can t. Can you imagine writing a letter, "Dear student 
from 1946, You ve just sent me a bunch of stuff I don t have time 
to read." You couldn t do that. 

You couldn t . 

I don t know who could. 

Another interesting thing that has grown up this year is that 
I ve been asked by lots of groups to come and talk on special 
projects that they have. For example, there s a special project 
of a group in the Institute of Governmental Studies which is 
studying images of California from different points of view 
architectural, political, economic, and so on. It s interesting 
to go to those and to listen to the various celebrities in the 
various fields, and I m going to talk eventually on poetry. 

There s another one, an all-day seminar on the classical 
lyric, which I m supposed to talk on with a group, and that s just 
the Classics Department. And so on. These I enjoy. These are 
just local student -things which give me a kind of ongoing feeling 
of relation to the students and to work they re doing and to 
interesting ideas. 

I go to my office once a week, keep my same office hours, 
because everybody warned me that if I didn t I d fall on my face. 
And besides, I couldn t ask all those people to come over here. 


Miles: So I meet with everybody over there once a week, and that s been 
fun. I spend more time on individuals than I would have in the 
old days, and I d rather spend more time on larger groups, because 
I think they teach each other, whereas if you just talk to one 
individual you know, the tutorial system I m not too fond of. 
Nevertheless, I ve been doing that. So I guess my life, in 
relation to the campus, is about the same as it ever was, except 
I miss Freshman English, of course. But I see plenty of graduate 
students and so on. 

Teiser: Do they just talk with you informally, or are you actually working 
with them on projects? 

Miles: A number maybe half a dozen graduate students hadn t finished 
their theses when I retired. I was not in charge of any, I was 
careful not to do that, but I was a second reader on many that I 
couldn t control the dating of. So I ve been seeing them. And 
then, as far as poetry goes, I ve been working on my new book, and 
it s going to be published in the fall. 

Teiser: What is it? 

Miles: It s going to be called Coming to Terms, and that s a book of new 
poems. So, I ve been trying to revise and get those in the right 
order and do all the kinds of things you do when you re getting a 
poetry collection together. 

Teiser: I thought you were going to say, when you started, that you 
haven t had any time for poetry. 

Miles: Oh . No, I have lots of time for all those things for poetry, for 

teaching not so much for scholarship, because that takes a quieter, 
slower momentum than I ve had time for. But one nice thing did 
happen there, I think, that I was pleased by. (I m not sure I 
should be, because I don t know the powers that run it.) But the 
United States has a magazine called Dialogue which they send around 
the world to represent American thinking and American problems, and 
they, to my surprise, extracted and printed one of my articles on 
the language of poetry, which was pretty surprising! It did deal 
with cultural change and with current social aspects a little bit. 
But it was fun to be in this magazine with a lot of sociologists 
and historians. 

Teiser: Did they shorten it, actually? Did they revise it? 

Miles: They said they did. I haven t taken the pains to find out. I mean 
I read it, and it sounded all right, and I didn t particularly 
notice what they did to it. Whatever they did sounded okay to me. 




Miles : 


And so I guess that talks about poetry and talks about ideas are 
the main things that have happened. 

Did you retire from being University Professor as well as Professor 
of English? 

This is another thing the University hasn t got itself together 
on. I ve written to ask a number of people what my role is, and 
they give me different answers, and they also don t bother to 
check with each other and decide. Mr. Saxon*is interested in the 
University Professorship, it seems, and the last report I wrote, 
he answered. However, it wasn t his job; the man who was supposed 
to answer didn t. And that man I asked whether I should still go 
to other campuses and who would pay travel and so on, and I said, 
"Do University Professors fade away?" He said, "In effect, 
University Professors are just like everybody else." What does 
that mean? Because we have a travel grant and so on does he mean 
we still have it or we don t? So I ve been putting that off a 
little bit, because it s kind of expensive if you pay your own way. 
Oh that s another whole thing I should mention that s interesting 
too. I know I m sounding cross about the University, but I think 
it s important to put on the record, you know, it s got to get 
itself together. It s so hard for the individuals who serve it 
now, because its system is so antagonistic to individual problems. 

The retirement system is now divided between statewide and 
local, and I still haven t got some of my pension; I still haven t 
got a clear statement of how it s going to be distributed. After 
six months of struggle, I don t know where I m at in terms of funds 
at all. They conflict with each other. I call Faculty Retirement 
and they say that question should go to Accounting; I telephone 
Accounting and they say that should go to Faculty Retirement. I m 
referred to a different name each time, and all these names never 
heard of the problem, and so on. There s one nice person there 
named Mr. Cranston, but he himself confesses that he doesn t know 
what the other offices are doing. They keep changing rules in the 
middle of the stream. So I ve made all sorts of plans that will 
now never work out because they abolished those rules in about 

What got me on to that? It was something I was talking about 
about ways and means oh yes, the University Professorship. So I 
am going to go to Davis and Irvine, but I don t know how I m going 
to get there as far as payment goes yet. I haven t faced the 
powers that be yet. And then I m also going to go to Texas and to 
Cornell, because I know they re going to finance the trip. 

[end tape 1, side 1; begin tape 1, side 2] 

You ve been invited to speak at Texas and Cornell? 

*David S. Saxon, President of the University of California. 


Miles: Yes, I m going to read poetry at Austin University of Texas and 

talk with some friends in education there, and then in the fall I m 
going to go to Cornell and to Columbia and teach for just about two 
weeks each, in October when the weather hasn t got too cold yet. 
So those ought to be nice adventures. Then, I think by that time 
maybe things will have simmered down enough so that I can get back 
to quieter work. Oh, I ve just been asked to give the Ewing 
Lecture at UCLA in 1980! 

Oh yes something else that I ve been doing this year, on the 
basis of that prize I won on scholarship a couple of years ago, is 
that I m now a judge for that prize, which is called the Lowell 
Prize, of the Modern Language Association. We have to read about 
a hundred scholarly books in six months to pick a winner. 

Teiser: When you say read 

Miles I mean read. 

Teiser: do you read them all through? 

Miles: Sure! 

Teiser: Do you ever start one and say, "Oh, this is awful," and look in 
the middle of it to see if it continues to be awful? 

Miles: Yes, I do that. But I would say that s reading in the sense that 
I couldn t pass an examination on every page, but I could pass an 
examination on the structure, theme, and general set-up of the 
book. So I ve read only about forty books so far, and we have a 
hundred by April or something. 

Teiser: Do you learn a lot of things you don t want to know? 

Miles: No, I love what I learn! Really, seriously. I m not fond of 

biographies; that s not my favorite subject. And maybe I don t 
want to read about Edith Wharton s early years. But usually 
something comes out of it that s amazingly interesting and a 
surprise to me. I always have liked scholarly writing. It can be 
very stuffy, of course, but it s always dealing with ideas in terms 
of very thick, concentrated, collected evidence. 

Aside from these books, Mel Scott may have told you I was 
reading a book of a cousin of his on E.E. Cummings which the 
cousin had asked Mel and Gerrie to read, and they let me read it 


Miles: At the same time I was reading another biography for a publisher 
on Sara Teasdale. And these were quite close contemporaries, and 
to read these two and see how differently and side by side, really, 
practically simultaneously and see how differently the biographers 
tackled the problems of how a poet works in his life and how the 
poetry relates to his life was really interesting to me. One of 
them the Sara Teasdale person used the poetry as evidence for the 
biography, whereas the E.E. Cummings person much more used the 
biography as evidence for the poetry, which of course I would much 
prefer. He wearied of this towards the end and started throwing in 
the data. But Mel and I and Gerrie, we all wrote him and said, 
"Oh, do more with the poetry," and so on, and I also said this to 
the Sara Teasdale person. There needs to be a lot of interplay to 
make it make sense. 

So there s my least interesting form [biography] and yet you 
can see that that is interesting too, whereas the theoretical ones, 
like the use of myth in the Renaissance and so on these are of 
course just really, really fascinating. So I don t mean that there 
aren t bad books, but it s a gamble and you never quite know. Dick 
[Richard] Bridgman, in our department, and I are both reading, and 
we tend to read, I guess we d say, about six books a week, and that 
doesn t mean we have to. But that doesn t mean a book a day; you 
can settle down for a long evening with maybe two or three books. 
You have to be a very fast reader, which I am. 

You can read stuff that you don t think you want to read. 
For example, Dick and I were meeting in the hall one day and just 
commenting on how little we wanted to know about a book called 
Zola s Crowds. Zola s Crowds indeed! I m not that fond of Zola 
in the first place, and the crowds, so what? But it s a 
fascinating book. Maybe I like it because it has somewhat of this 
theme that I ve been thinking about this relation of the individual 
to the group. 

That brings up another thing that s been interesting to me. 
I decided that when I do do a new job, I d like to write an essay 
on bureaucracy this same question that I raise. And you can help 
me with it [speaking to Teiser and Harroun] because you doubtless 
know a lot about it, and I know nothing, and I don t want to go 
and read a lot of books on bureaucracy; that would be worse than 
death. But I think if somehow it could be thought through it 
would be interesting, I mean just on the superficial level what 
is the problem with it? As one of my friends in Government Studies 
said, "Well, what would be the alternative autocracy, monarchy, 
oligarcphy, ideocracy? You d better not blame it too much until 
you consider the alternatives." 


Miles: I don t know historically about the history of bureaucracy. I 

looked it up in Webster s and it says the root is lovely, the root 
means a hairy rug to cover a table with. [laughter] And the root 
is "hairy," the root isn t "rug." I don t have to go further into 
how that then developed. There s another nice definition, somewhat 
related, that I ran into, which is that a filing system is a way of 
losing things alphabetically. [laughter] Do you like that one? 
So what has come of this is that I ve been having lunch with some 
friends that are in the bureaucracy, and we ve been talking 
together. There was a student body president, a nice young woman 
at Santa Barbara, who because she was student body president was on 
the Board of Regents for a couple of years. She got so interested 
in it that she s up here now getting a Ph.D. on the question, "What 
is the relation of autonomy to accountability?" which is another 
way of saying the same thing [that I was saying]. So somebody sent 
her over to see me, and she was really fun to talk to, from a 
younger point of view. So this is my little sort of side luxury; 
I guess this is my example where I have been able to start ahead 
very slowly, just a little bit, but thinking about an idea that 
would be fun to develop. 

Teiser: You re going to have to do a serious study of Proposition 13 too, 
aren t you? 

Miles: I m not going to do a serious study of anything I This is just going 
to be a little jeu d esprit . [laughter] 

Teiser: I think Proposition 13 is supposed to cut the fat out of the 
bureaucracy, isn t that it? [laughter] 

Miles: I m sure that it s too much for me and there s nothing I can do 
with it, and so on. 

Teiser: Yes, write it without finding out anything more about it. 

Miles: That s right, that s my point, yes. By no means find out anything 
about it. [laughter] 

But in a way of summarizing, I think and I really do want to 
summarize, because I think this stage of my life is really pretty 
much finished the good part is that in some ways I ve been forced 
to be individual. I haven t been able to blend into the crowd, 
and as a whole I ve been helped to be individual by the world 
around me. I worry a great deal, as I get to this point in my 
life where I m now being given credit for being an individual, 
about the fact that that isn t happening very much to the people 
I see around me; that people are not given credit for being 
individuals, that they re being stopped by the system. That bothers 


Teiser: However, how much force in the development of individuality comes 
from the person, the independence of spirit of the person? 

Miles: Grant that. Grant that as given in both my case and other 

people s cases. Sure I had independence of spirit, but I couldn t 
get two feet in this bureaucracy we ve got around here right now if 
I hadn t built up some momentum. 

Teiser: Let me go back to something you mentioned earlier, when you were 
talking about your report. (And this doesn t have to be on the 
tape, but it interests me.) You said the problems now and maybe 
I m misunderstanding were created, at least in part, by Proposition 
13 and the Governor s attitude toward the University, which meant 
economic cutbacks, less money. 

Miles: Plus student cutbacks; there s going to be fewer students, 

Teiser: Well, theoretically, fewer students need less money. 

Miles: Theoretically, we started with fewer students and the numbers were 
supposed to be ideal, and the build-up was just supposed to be an 
emergency build-up. 

Teiser: Yes so? 

Miles: Who ever heard of going back to the way it should be?! This is a 
curious attitude: say thirty is ideal, you build it up to fifty 
because of emergency. You say to your teachers, "It s a matter of 
life or death you ve got to sacrifice yourself temporarily." It s 
like temporary buildings! They re the most permanent buildings on 
the campus. And it angers me because it s not only illogical and 
destructive but it s morally wrong it s wrong to treat people that 

So we ll never go back to what we once agreed was right. What 
we agree is right tends to be wiped out by any petty little 
emergency . 

So this young student I talked to from Santa Barbara was 
saying and other people have been saying, as we ve been talking 
about this the way to get a decent relation between autonomy and 
accountability, or between individuality and group, is to be aware 
of shared values on which you base your procedures. And to go back 
to our report, as we were saying, we are now not aware of shared 
values, and we should be and we should get together and find out 
what are our shared values. 

Teiser: The larger the institution the more difficult it is to find those? 


Miles: I don t think so, because I know Mr. Sproul had lots of faults, 
but this university had 23,500 people in the late forties, and 
under him it was a real working, sharing of values. I m not giving 
him all the credit Earl Warren deserves a tremendous lot of credit 
too for backing him up; the faculty deserves a lot of credit for, 
again, it was working very, very hard. But it wasn t to the point 
of faculty burn-out or teacher burn-out, which is really destructive. 
And the students, of course, had energy because they were coming 
back from the war and so on, and they were really gung-ho for going 
ahead. It was a very fine time. It had nothing to do with size. 
Very small places today, the smaller the tighter, the more 
constricted. Santa Cruz is having trouble. The smaller the more 
the students say they don t want to be homogenized, and that s 
partly because of size. 

[telephone interruption] 

Teiser: I wonder how much an institution is shaped by its leaders, and in a 
state like California where the governor is so close to the leader 
ship of the University, what the effect of our two most recent 
governors has been if they have not been factors in what you are 
speaking of. 

Miles: You mean Reagan and Brown? 
Teiser: Reagan and Brown. 

Miles: Well, for one thing, yes, Reagan had a very different idea of what 
a good education was namely, his, which was a small, cozy school 
in the Middle West. And Brown went to the University of California 
at Berkeley and didn t like it, so has a real animus, as I gather. 
At least one can see that he does for what you call scholarly 
education. So they both pulled in a direction which we see us 
moving in: everything s going to be downgraded two years. The 
junior college is going to become a training school, the college 
is going to become a junior college, as you see this plan at Santa 
Cruz; the university is going to become a college, graduate school 
is going to become university school (that means taught at less 
costly levels and less exploratory levels). And this is sad if 
you believe, as I think a lot of us do, in exploration. 

I think we ve just cut out thirty-five managerial positions 
at the University, just at Berkeley, so as not to touch the faculty. 
Cutting managerial positions sounds like, "Oh well, that s cutting 
out the fat." But each one of those people was a support for 
certain faculty actions, for certain faculty knowledge, certain 
faculty inquiry. Without support, the faculty just can t move. I 
don t know enough about how many could or could not be cut, but I 
mean in terms of concept, it isn t just "fat" by definition. People 
need a certain amount of fat, and when you talk about faculty burn 
out, that means when you ain t got any fat left, for energy. 


Harroun: How are you going to be able to make your opinions known on these 

Miles: I don t know. I don t know. I think quite a lot about that. At 
the university level I think we have some good leadership Saxon 
and Bill Fretter, and I think that Bowker certainly has done some 
very smart things in rescue work, and so has Mike Heyman. * They re 
not all bad people. (Some of them are bad, I haven t mentioned.) 
But they become victims in a system that they themselves are bosses 
of. Wouldn t it be possible to have a system that grows more out 
of the rank and file, the grassroots, and that that system would 
have a sense of values which they could recognize as really 
shareable, instead of ones that they either invented themselves or 

We have a little group called the Victorian Club which meets 
once a month and has the motivation of reading long Victorian 
novels which otherwise you wouldn t have time or incentive to read. 
The one we re reading for tonight is called North and South by 
Mary Barton is that right? Sounds wrong. Anyway, it s a 
marvelous little book no, I m sorry, it s by Mrs. Gaskell. It s 
published in 1885; I think it was written earlier. This reminds 
me of Arnold Bennett, who comes a little bit later, with the 
Stories of the Five Towns. This is of a family that moves to a 
mill town, to an industrial town, in northern England, and there is 
a very interesting passage in which the young woman, who is trying 
to understand the industrial psychology and is faced up with a 
strike and has never seen strikes before, and all this whole 
threatening violence, says one thing that seems strange to her is 
that the owners have never talked to the strikers. Well now, you 
know, of course we build in a whole industrial complex of 
negotiation and conference, and I m sure that the people I m talking 
about, in the situation I m talking about, would feel somehow that 
they have conferred and met because they ve conferred with 
representatives, you know. But if you happened to see that 
marvelous picture of the Kentucky mining strike where you see the 
miners faces, you see the miners wives, and you know they haven t 
been talking to anybody, they haven t been heard by anybody their 
representatives are already miles out of their league, in talking 
to the owners. 

Education is already way, way too far into an industrial 
pattern, and it s forced into that by HEW and the government in 
Washington. We ve slipped into this industrial pattern to such a 
degree that we talk about hiring and firing professors instead of 
appointing a professor. We don t seem to be able to rally our 
forces enough to set up our own system of values which can be 
sustained. And maybe that s, as you say, because we don t have 
enough strong individuals in the profession. I don t know what to 

*Ira Michael Heyman, Vice Chancellor of the Berkeley Campus. 


Miles: say about that. Maybe that s true. But on the other hand, 

professors are people who have sort of chosen not to get out into 
the fight but to stay in their laboratories and libraries and 
work it another way. That quality of theirs is now being exploited 
in a strange sort of way. 

We have some marvelous people at Berkeley who have in terms 
of collective bargaining, we ve had to go that road, which is an 
industrial road, with the legislature, with the Regents, and so 
forth. And this was forced on us, and this was just so bad to put 
us into that industrial pattern, and most of the faculty just dug 
in their heels and said, "We won t collective-bargain! You give 
us some decent living wage or we ll leave, but we will not strike, 
we will not bargain." In other words, they re that old-fashioned; 
they won t accept industrial models. Which is fine, it s noble. 
But what do you do? I mean, you see, this is an example of where a 
pattern is forced on you, where your individuality is stomped on by 
the system. 

We have a real heroic leader in the law school by the name of 
Dave [David E. ] Feller who has negotiated for the faculty and has 
won a fine set of terms in that he s given the faculty in the 
legislature the bill passed that each bargaining unit should be 
the faculty of a campus. Now there s an assertion of the individual- 
that the values of the campus faculty will be the values negotiated 
for, not the values of K through 12, not the values of educational 
systems all over the country. And so that, last year, was a great 
achievement, which I was in on only a little bit in that I was a 
member of the board of that group. So that isn t discouraging, but 
where are more Dave Fellers? Nobody has given him any banquets. 

[end tape 1, side 2] 

[added April 1979] You see my muddle of fear and affection, all at 
once; oh, have you heard of the Berkeley Fellows? A hundred of 
them? Pillars? Now I m one. And this week at Charter Day I sat 
next to an alumna who s a farmer near Stockton. Row crops. She 
was homesick for the crops, all the way from 1928. When the new 
carillon played, we were sentimental together. 

Transcriber and Final Typist: Lee Steinback 



From "Bibliographical Introduction to Seventy-five Modern 
American Authors" September 1976. Gary M. Lepper 

Josephine Miles 

LINES AT INTERSECTION. New York : Macmillan, 1939. 
Hardcover, dustwrapper. 

POEMS ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS. Norfolk, Conn. : New Directions (1941). 
No statement of first edition. 

California Press, 1942. 

No statement of first edition. 
ALSO : New York : Octagon Books, 1965. 

Hardcover, dustwrapper. 

No statement of first edition. 

NOTE : New preface by the author. 

California Press, 1942. 

No statement of first edition. 
ALSO : New York : Octagon Books, 1965. 

Hardcover, dustwrapper. 

No statement of first edition. 

NOTE : New preface by the author. 

LOCAL MEASURES. New York : Reynal & Hitchcock (1946). 
Hardcover, dustwrapper. 
No statement of first edition. 

MAJOR ADJECTIVES IN ENGLISH POETRY. Berkeley : University of California Press 

No statement of first edition. 



THE VOCABULARY OF POETRY. Berkeley : University of California Press, 1946. 
NOTE : Comprises the 1942 publications of Wordsworth and the Vocabulary of 

Emotion and Pathetic Fallacy in the Nineteenth Century in addition to Major 
Adjectives in English Poetry, all three bound together. 

AFTER THIS, SEA. (San Francisco) : Book Club of California, 1947. 
Single sheet, folded. 
750 copies. 

THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE OF POETRY IN THE 1640s. Berkeley : University of 
California Press, 1948. 

No statement of first edition. 
University of California Publications in English, Vol. 19, No. 1. 

THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE OF POETRY IN THE 1740 s and 1840 s. Berkeley : University 
of California Press, 1950. 

No statement of first edition. 
University of California Publications in English, Vol. 19, No. 2. 

THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE OF POETRY IN THE 1940 s. Berkeley : University of 
California Press, 1951. 

No statement of first edition. 
University of California Publications in English, Vol. 19, No. 3. 

THE CONTINUITY OF POETIC LANGUAGE. Berkeley : University of California Press, 

Hardcover, dustwrapper. 
No statement of first edition. 
ALSO : New York : Octagon Books, 1965. 

Hardcover, dustwrapper. 

No statement of first edition. 

NOTE : New preface by the author. 

PREFABRICATIONS. Bloomington, Ihd. : Indiana University Press, 1955. 
Hardcover, dustwrapper. 
No statement of first edition. 

ERAS AND MODES IN ENGLISH POETRY. Berkeley : University of California Press, 1957. 
Hardcover, dustwrapper. 
No statement of first edition. 
ALSO : Berkeley : University of California Press, 1964. 


No statement of first edition. 

NOTE : Revised edition. 


MILES 323 

POEMS 1930-1960. Bloomington, Ind. : Indiana University Press, 1960. 
Hardcover, dustwrapper. 
No statement of first edition. 

Berkeley : University of California Press, 1960. v 

No statement of first edition. 

IN IDENTITY. (Berkeley): Oyez, 1964. 
350 copies. 
Oyez 3. 

NOTE : 27 copies, numbered, signed by the author in 1964 but published in 1965 in 
portfolio entitled Poems in Broadside. Oyez. First Series. 

RALPH WALDO EMERSON. Minneapolis, Minn. : University of Minnesota Press (1964). 

No statement of first edition. 
University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers #41. 

CIVIL POEMS. (Berkeley) : Oyez (1966). 
Wrappers, no priority: 
1). 500 copies. 
2). 40 copies, uncut, for the use of the author. 

BENT. (Santa Barbara, Calif. : Unicorn Press, 1967). 
Wrappers, no priority: 

1). 450 copies, brown wrappers. 

2). 26 copies, lettered, signed by the author, orange wrappers. 

SAVING THE BAY. San Francisco : White Rabbit /Open Space, 1967. 

KINDS OF AFFECTION. Middletown, Conn. : Wesleyan University Press (1967). 
Hardcover, dustwrapper. 
"First edition" 

STYLE AND PROPORTION. Boston : Little, Brown (1967). 
Hardcover, dustwrapper. 

FIELDS OF LEARNING. Berkeley : Oyez, 1968. 

POETRY AND CHANGE. Berkeley : University of California Press, 1974. 
Hardcover, dustwrapper. 
No statement of first edition. 



TO ALL APPEARANCES. (Urbana, 111. : University of Illinois Press, 1974). 
Two issues, no priority : 

1). Hardcover, dustwrapper. 
2). Wrappers. 
No statement of first edition. 

Additional entry submitted by Gary M. Lepper 3 September 1978 

THIS SOFT PAPER. (Berkeley) : Inkslingers (1976) 
Broadside, no priority: 

1. 75 copies. 

2. 25 copies, numbered, signed by the author. 

Office of Pub! ic Informal wn 


(415; ()!2-373-4 101 Spioul II. ill 

l/24/73--Thayer--File 4942 


BerkeleyJosephine Miles, poet and professor of English, has 
been awarded the distinguished title of "University Professor" at 
the Berkeley campus of the University of California. 

The appointment was announced today (Wednesday, 1/24) by U.C. 
President Charles J. Hitch and Berkeley Chancellor Albert H. Bowker. 

Recommending the appointment last week to the U.C. Board of 
Regents, President Hitch said: "Professor Miles provides unparalleled 
inspiration by the clarity of her thinking, her imagination, will, 
integrity, and humanity." 

Professor Miles is the eighth U.C. faculty member to receive the 
honor, which designates a senior faculty appointment in the statewide 
University system. 

The special professorship was established some 15 years ago by 
The Regents. 

Other University Professors are Chemists Glenn T. Seaborg and 
Melvin Calvin, Physicists Edward Teller and Charles Townes , and 
Sociologist Neil J. Smelser, all of Berkeley; Historian Lynn White, 
Jr., of UCLA; and Harold C. Urey , professor of chemistry, emeritus, 
at San Diego. 

Professor Miles is a distinguished scholar, teacher, and poet, 
whose work has received international acclaim. 

( more ) 


Her eighth volume of verse is about to be published, and her 
poetry has also appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers , 
including Poetry, New Directions, New York Times, Yale Review, and 
Saturday Review. 

She is also the author of two books, "Eras and Modes in English 
Poetry" and "Style and Proportion: The Language of Prose and Poetry." 
A third she has just completed is "Poetry as History." Her books 
have been translated into several foreign languages. 

Textbooks she has written are "The Ways of the Poem" and 
"Classical Essays in English." 

She has been acclaimed a superb teacher at both the undergraduate 
and graduate levels , and she has received a commendation for service 
to English teaching by the California Association of Teachers of Engli; 

During the early 1950s, she was one of the founding editors of 
Idea and Experiment, a quarterly journal which for some five years 
carried articles by U.C. professors on their research and publications 

A native of Chicago, Professor Miles graduated from UCLA, then 
earned her master s and Ph.D. degrees from the Berkeley campus. She 
has been on the Berkeley faculty since 1940. 

She has served on the Campus Committee on Prose Improvement, 
and the Chancellor s Committee on the Arts, as well as Academic 
Senate Committees on Research, and Privilege and Tenure. 

Among her many awards have been a Guggenheim Fellowship, an 
honorary Doctor of Literature Degree from Mills College, and a 
Fellowship from the National Foundation on the Arts. She is a member 
of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

In 1968, an "Homage to Josephine Miles" was published in the 

national magazine Voyages. 





4:00 P.M. 



Lecturer for 1976 




The second of the 1976 Faculty Research Lectures 

will be presented by John Verhoogen, Professor of 

Geology and Geophysics, on April 15, 1976 



Josephine Miles was born in Chicago, June 11, 1911. Academically she is a 
daughter of this University, earning her B.A. at UCLA, her M.A. and Ph.D. 
at Berkeley. Joining the University faculty in 1940, she advanced through 
ranks to become Professor of English in 1952. Her poetry began early to be 
recognized, and brought her many distinctions. She was elected to the Amer 
ican Academy of Arts and Science in 1964; and in 1965 received from Mills 
College the honorary degree of D.Litt. Her superlative, far-reaching service to 
her own University was acknowledged, as a crowning honor, by her appoint 
ment in 1972 as University Professor. 

Josephine Miles has the unique distinction of being one of the most sensi 
tive poets of our age and at the same time two gifts that virtually never 
reside in one and the same person a lucid, imaginative and innovative 
analyst and historian of modern literature and poetry. Her volumes of verse 
now number more than a dozen; her poems frequently appear in anthologies, 
and work of hers has been translated into foreign languages both European 
and Oriental. The national literary magazine, Voyages, in 1968 published 
a 16-page "Homage to Josephine Miles." 

In literary analysis, she has ranged from the sixteenth century to the latest 
decade of the twentieth. She has published ten critical monographs, un 
counted essays, and a handful of collegiate textbooks. Her adventurous mind 
moved beyond the familiar along a path of discovery. The originality of her 
critical approach and her analytical techniques are probably unique. Studying 
the kaleidoscope of vocabulary among English poets through the last four 
centuries, she has in a sense rewritten the history of our poetry from the 
Elizabethan age to the present. 

The earliest of Josephine Miles studies of the changing language of En 
glish poets was Wordsworth and the Vocabulary of Emotion. In it she 
employed the method for which she has since become well known, in which 
she first tabulates and next analyzes those words a given poet uses most 
frequently so as to show that the very language itself reveals the author s 
underlying interest and intention. From this initial inquiry she went on to 
study the significance of the major adjectives used by poets ranging from 
Wyatt in the sixteenth century to Auden in the twentieth century. By isola 
ting one part of speech the adjective and considering both the frequency 
of its use and the actual words most commonly employed by specific poets, 
she was able to present clearly objective data to investigate. Then by her 
own sensitive scrutiny she demonstrated the nature of the shifting sensibility 
of English poets over a period of four centuries. 

She wrote a series of monographs that in the same way studied the primary 
language of twenty poets who wrote in the 1640 s, of twenty who wrote in 
the 1740 s, of twenty who wrote in the 1840 s, and of twenty of her own 
older contemporaries in the 1940 s. She made striking discoveries of similar 
ities among poets of each period who were commonly thought to be quite 
different and she made equally revealing explanations of the differences 
among language preferences in separate centuries. From these findings she 
went on to make a penetrating inquiry into the whole sweep of English 
poetry since 1500, culminating in a study entitled Eras and Modes in English 
Poetry. Her latest scholarly work, Poetry and Change (1974), received the 
1975 Lowell Award for literary scholarship from the Modern Language 

Josephine Miles precise inquiry into the vocabulary of poetry has brought 
out an understanding of both continuity and change that it of great signif 
icance to the study of literature and language, and also an important contri 
bution to sociology and psychology. 




On April 29, 1912, at a meeting of the Academic Council, a special com 
mittee appointed by President Benjamin Ide Wheeler "to consider the 
feasibility of establishing at the University a series of lectures for the 
presentation of results of research at the University of California," re 
ported favorably on the proposal. The committee s report was adopted. 
It provided that the Academic Senate shall elect annually as Faculty 
Research Lecturer one of its members who has distinguished himself by 
scholarly research in his chosen field of study. The first lecture of the 
series was delivered in the week of Charter Day 1913. Because of war 
conditions no selection was made for the year 1919. The lecturers in the 
several years have been as named in the list below. 



I9I4~ JOHN C. MERRIAM, Paleontology 


1916 FREDERICK P. GAY, Pathology 

American History 

Language and Literature 

1920 GILBERT N. LEWIS, Chemistry 

Language and Literature 

1922 CHARLES A. KoForo, Zoology 

1923 GEORGE R. NOYES, Slavic 

1924 CARL C. PLEHN, Economics 

1925 HERBERT M. EVANS, Anatomy 

1926 FLORIAN CAJORI, Mathematics 

1927 ANDREW C. LAWSON, Geology 

1928 A. L. KROEBER, Anthropology 

1929 SAMUEL J. HOLMES, Zoology 

Semitic Languages 



1933 GEORGE P. ADAMS, Philosophy 


Social Institutions 

1936 JOEL H. HILDEBRAND, Chemistry 

1937 KARL F. MEYER, Bacteriology 

1938 ERNEST O. LAWRENCE, Physics 

Egyptology and Assyriology 


1941 IVAN M. LINTORTH, Greek 

Plant Nutrition 

European History 

1944 ERNEST B. BABCOCK, Genetics 

1945 JOHN S. P. TATLOCK, English 

1946 RAYMOND T. BIRGE, Physics 

1947 EDWARD C. TOLMAN, Psychology 


1949 ROBERT H. Lowre, Anthropology 

1950 GRIFFITH C. EVANS, Mathematics 

1951 AGNES FAY MORGAN, Nutrition 

1952 STUART DAGGETT, Transportation 

Chemistry and Chemical 

1954 ROY E. CLAUSEN, Genetics 

1955 EDWIN M. MCMILLAN, Physics 

1956 MURRAY B. EMENEAU, General 
Linguistics and Sanskrit 

1957 MELVIN CALVIN, Chemistry 

1958 STEPHEN C. PEPPER, Philosophy 

1959 GLENN T. SEABORG, Chemistry 

1960 EMILIO SEGRE, Physics 

1961 BERTRAND H. BRONSON, English 

1962 Luis WALTER ALVAREZ, Physics 

1963 ALFRED TARSKI, Mathematics 

1964 CURT STERN, Zoology 

1965 MARY R. HAAS, Linguistics 

1966 LEO BREWER, Chemistry 

1967 YUEN RN CHAD, Oriental 
Languages and Literature 

Molecular Biology 

1969 KINGSLEY DAVIS, Sociology 

1970 FRANCIS J. TURNER, Geology 

1971 DAVID BLACKWELL, Statistics 

1972 HORACE A. BARKER, Biochemistry 


History of Art 

1973 EARL R. PARKER, Materials 
Science and Engineering 

1974 DANIEL MAZIA, Zoology 

1974 JOHN H. REYNOLDS, Physics 



8e-S. 78(S9858l) 6, 1 



Miles honored 
with top a ward 
for American poet 

The highest award of the Acad 
emy of American Poets is being 
given this year to Prof. Emeritus Jo 
sephine Miles of English. 

The Academy s 1978 Fellowship, 
which includes a stipend of $10,000, 
honors Miles for "distinguished po 
etic achievement." 

The 37th American poet to re 
ceive the award, Miles joins such 
other honored names as Robert 
Frost, William Carlos Williams, Ezra 
Pound and Marianne Moore. 

Miles retired from active teaching 
last summer after 37 years on the 
faculty. She was honored on campus 
this year with a Distinguished Teach 
ing Award and earlier was honored 
by Berkeley s Academic Senate as 
Faculty Research Lecturer. 

Most recent of her nine books of 
poetry is To All Appearances: Poems 
New and Selected, published in 
1975. She is also author or co-author 
of five volumes of criticism and ed 
itor of several textbooks. 

Her poems, she has said, speak 
for "acceptance and praise of all ap 
pearances, however alien they may 
seem to the truths underlying them: 
the appearance of magnitude in the 
appearance of power, of confidence 
in doubt, of death in age, of joy in 
simplicities, of large ideas in small 

Among Miles other honors are fel 
lowships from the Guggenheim 
Foundation and the National En 
dowment for the Arts, the Blumen- 
thal Award of POETRY magazine 
and an award from the National In 
stitute of Arts and Letters. She is 
also a Fellow of the American Acad 
emy of Arts and Sciences. 

Annual election of a Fellow of the 
Academy of American Poets is by 
the Academy s Board of Chancel 
lors 12 eminent poets who also act 
as literary advisors to the Academy. 





Josephine Miles, poet, teacher, and scholar, will be the principal speaker 
at our fourth session and will talk about "images of California." Her presenta 
tion, she says, will consist of "poems and other stuff," and she promises to 
disagree with most everything that has been said before. 

The meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 28, from 3:00 to 5:00, in 
the lounge of the Women s Faculty Club. We must begin promptly at 3:00 because 
we must finish by 5:00 to make way for another event. 

Josephine Miles, an internationally acclaimed poet, has written nine vol 
umes of verse and several critical works on poetry. She was raised in Los 
Angeles, attending L.A. High and UCLA. She received her Ph.D. from Berkeley 
and stayed as a teacher. She has been associated with the University of Cal 
ifornia for 50 years and is the first woman to become a University Professor. 
Several months ago she was honored with the Fellowship from the Academy of 
American Poets, an award once held by Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, and Marianne 

We invite you to attend. The combination of a small audience from the 
arts, humanities, and social sciences and the "specialness" of Josephine Miles 
promises a most interesting event. Her presentation will be followed by cof 
fee and conversation among everyone present. 

t?NIVKRRITY OF CALIFORNIA (LMtcrhe<l for intpnlrpnrtrnpntal i 





Our recent session was the occasion for us and Josephine Miles to think 
about images in general and her California images in particular. 

Jo was cautious about images and skeptical about her images of Califor 
nia. However, the previous session, which featured Lewis Baltz, an urban 
landscape photographer, gave her both a way to think about imagery that was 
important to her and a reference for the selection of poems streets, houses, 

and other urban scenes. 

The session was in part a response by Josephine Miles to Lewis Baltz. 

Visual images did not excite her; her enthusiasm lay in a fuller meaning 
of imagery, one involving all of our senses. There is an image of lavender, 
she said; an image of the salt-smelling sea, of Mozart s music, an image of 
sound. What do we mean by images of California? Jo asked. Are we speaking 
simply of pictures of California? 

Jo argued strenuously that we pay attention to the imagery of tone 
"the tone we take toward California." Our seeing is colored by our attitudes, 
our feelings (i.e., irony, flippancy, cynicism, anger, naivete, hopefulness, 
love). In examining images of California, we must discern tone. 

Jo was forthright in her judgment of the tone conveyed by Lewis Baltz s 
photographs: those pictures, she said, were loaded with comment; although- 
Baltz found a gold mine in the industrial parks of Irvine, California, he did 
not love them. Jo loved the kind of architecture she felt Baltz did not be 
cause from 1940 she saw "the square of blankness" replace the kind of archi 
tecture she had experienced, and it was new and good to her. Her first poem 
was chosen to illustrate the old; it is called "Row" and was published in Lines 
at Intersection in 1939. 

Some of the roofs are of Hopi Indian decision, 

They cut square into the sky with plaster, 

The tan edge going up two stories past the windows 

And turning north and east for straight cement horizon. 

Some have old noble English temper peaked, 
Alternate red and green shingles but getting the drift, 
Gabled to peer out of a possible anciently fallen snow, 
And clear superior against gray sky. 

UNIVERSITY OK CALIFORNIA (Letterhead for inlcrdcpnrtnienUI us) 


275 n>9 MOSKS HALL 

All of them look west and take in sunset, 
Keep their ferns warm the length of supper, 
Sparkle their cups of milk and all accompany 
With aerial music that evening sun go down. 

Images of California, for Jo, have been images of artifice. California is 
a place of artifice: . its constructions may reveal but frequently obscure reali 
ty (i.e., movies, the Rose Parade, mission bells, the poems of John Steven Mc- 
Groaty, poet laureate of California) and are insubstantial (i.e., prefabrica- 
tions), full of show and intended for petty purpose (i.e., searchlights). For 
her next poem, "Seer," which was published in the same volume as the first, Jo 
suggests that we pay attention to the place, the building. Notice its shabbi- 
ness amid the light and wind. 

The psychic metaphysician sat tight in the white 

Shine of the rocks outside Riverside, 

It was like living in a world of mirrors 

The left hand rocks and leaves so took the light, 

The left of cornflakes in the kitchenette 

So took the light. 

Is it wind or is it a new year, asked the psychic metaphysician 

Resting his hand upon the parlor chair, and the flare 

Of answers long lying in that dust dazzled him, 

The left hand cups and mirrors so took the light, 

It was like living in a world of answers 

The hand so took the light. 

I shall be prodigal with thine information, 
The psychic metaphysician knelt and spelt, 
Changing fifty cents to forty on his sign, 
It swung against the porch and took the light, 
It was like living in a world of sight 
The sign so took the light. 

In 1956 Jo published Prefabrications. It contained two poems which were 
about "a spirit of building" Jo was experiencing; for prefabrication, Jo felt 
interest and horror. The first poem is called "Summer." 

When I came to show you my summer cottage 
By the resounding sea, 

We found a housing project building around it, 
Two stories being painted green row after row 
So we were set in an alley. 

But there is the sea I said, off the far corner 

Through that vacant land; 

And there the pile of prefabricating panels 

And the cement blocks swiftly 

Rose in the sand. 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA (LrUirhrnil for intfr-lrpRrtmental unc) 

276 , 09 MOSES HALL 

So darkened the sunlit alley. 

Ovid, Arthur, oh Orion I said, run 

Take rags with you, send me back 

News of the sea. 

So they did, vanishing away off and shouting. 

The second poem is called "The Plastic Glass" and is in the tradition of "art 
mirroring life" literature. Jo will say that she is impatient with artifice 
and ironic about it, but she loves it too, and the love arises from its poten 
tiality. The poem, says Jo, is more a description of a feeling than of a 
place. That feeling, she suggests, is gladness at being in the Bay Area, in 

A saint I heard of saw the world 
Suspended in a golden globe; so I saw 
Shattuck Avenue and the Safeway Stores 
In Herndon s globe of friendly credit. 

And where the car moved on, there the whole trash 

Flats of Berkeley floated in suspense 

Gold to the Gate and bellied to the redwood 


And I would ask the saint at what expense 
This incorporeal vision falls to the lay mind, 
And search the breast 
For revelations of unquietude. 

But in this dear and Christian world the blessing 

Falls not from above; the grace 

Goldens from everyman, his singular credit 

In the beatitude of place. 

Jo devotes her most recent volume of poems to appearances, that realm 
within which artifice occurs. She read two new poems from that volume (To 
All Appearances, 1974). They are about suburbia, about tracts. The first 
poem, "Tract," is about an outworn tract a place Jo describes as a prison. 


Old tract, the houses of wood-siding 

Old callas at the drain pipes, a frontal 

Cedar, line among lots 

Cabs, a wagon, a pick-up 

And the bay not far, a dozen miles over town. 

A boy on a bike now and again 

Makes up a tunafish sandwich and starts off. 

Few go out otherwise, they stay in to listen. 

For some tracts, a whole range 

Of mountains takes the bay s place, 

Holds all the answer or loss 

Behind curtains as tears. 

For some, beyond the outskirts of the houses, 

More callas, more houses. 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA <t,ott*rhead for interdppnrlmenul use) 


Jo tells us to pay attention to the difference in tone, in sound, of these two 
poems. In the first, there is a sense of waiting, of nothing happening, of 
people stuck; the drain pipes are clogged. In the second poem, "New Tract," 
there is a sense of activity. However horrifying tracts can be, says Jo, they 
contain tremendous energy. The new tract is part of a process of building, of 
spreading, seemingly without limit, without horizon but with costs. 

Streets under trees 

lamps in their windows 
gathering dark, 

Comfortable coming of home, 

fussing and crying, tears of the tired, yet lamplit 
windows under the trees 
trees under opening stars. 

Work done, car in the port, 

children cleared and asleep under stars, 
why not enough? 

Held in the hold of the mountainous night 
And the bend of the street, 
why not enough? 

Building and bearing 

street after street in the town to the mountains and on, 

state after state in trees of the plains with a plenty or spare 

and by rivers 
why not enough? 

Later from night, 

trees upon street 

droop of the dark sides, haggard of morning, 
show that it was. 

Jo concluded her reading with two unpublished poems which were written 
after a visit to Southern California and at a time, Jo says, when memory was 
taking over and her childhood and past struck her very hard. Since I am not 
clear about their copyright status, I will not write them down. The first is 
called "Trip" and is about her coming from Detroit to Palm Springs when she 
was five years old. I will write down instead a published poem, one which she 
told us from memory, one grown so worn to her she cannot bear to read it; for 
I think "After This, Sea" makes much the same point that "Trip" does. 

This is as far as the land goes, after this it is sea. 
This is where my father stopped, being no sailor, 
Being no Beowulf, nor orient spice hungry 
Here he let horizons come quietly to rest. 

UNIVERSITY OV CALIFORNIA r LrlliThmil for inlf rclrnnrlmfntal use) 


Page 5 109 MOSES HALL 


What he fled is past and over, 
Raftered roof and quilted cover, 
The known street and the known face, 
The stale place. 

This is as far as the land goes, here we are at length 
Facing back on the known street and face, all flight 
Spent before our time in building the new towns, 
Letting these last horizons come quietly to rest. 

We have a special pressing need 
We of the outer border breed 
To climb these hills we cannot flee 
To swim in this sea. 

This is as far as, the land goes, here the coast ranges 
Hard and brown stand down to hold the ocean, 
Here the winds are named for saints and blow on leaves 
Small, young, yellow, few, but bound to be ancestral. 

Nowhere are so still as here 
Four horizons, or so clear. 
Whatever we make here, whatever find, 
We cannot leave behind. 

That poem was published in Lines at Intersection in 1939. She did not feel a 
pull to India or a threat from the Pacific; she felt stuck: "well, here we 
are and we ve got to do something about it." 

Her final poem, "Easter," suggests enormous potentiality. It makes the 
central point of the session, its resonances in other poems, especially perhaps 
in "Seer" and "The Plastic Glass," namely, that out of tackiness, improvisation, 
bargaining, indeed, out of artifice, arises possibility. Our Spanish and Cath 
olic past, for example, is largely fabricated. Its images are hardly sustain 
ing. Carving soap missions in the fourth grade is, for many of us, the depth 
of its hold. However, the Spanish romance suggests grace and leisure, just as 
the Asian romance suggests values at variance with those of mainstream America. 
Unfortunately, in this multi-cultural landscape of Chicanos, Asian Americans, 
Native Americans, and African Americans, most of us have experienced the barest 
contact with other cultures. The myth of a multi-cultural heritage, authenti 
cated, Jo suggests, by the kind of labor and help that supports the dominant 
European American culture, is undermined by what Jo refers to in a poem, "In the 
neighborhood of my childhood, a hundred lungers," as deprivation, absence. Jo 
wonders if such romance can be the basis for life-affirming images, images of 
California that can sustain us, upon which we can thrive. She says that she has 
no idea what to do with California, what to make it. But in an age which de 
mands assertion and is uncomfortable with irony, we need affirmative images for 

UNIVERSITY OK (CALIFORNIA (Letterhead for interdepartmental use) 


Page 6 279 109 MOSES HALL 

California which would shake the earth and "unearth those possibilities that we 
are only sensing." Jo is alive to the possibilities of new forms. She suggests 
that the metaphor of the frontier may be most apt: frontiers are tacky in their 
constructions because they are improvised, temporary. In a landscape of arti 
fice, there is enormous energy and power. Jo, who may well find her images of 
California obscure, has through her poetic voice a tonal force. 

So what we have, says Jo, is a "cheerful belief," an idea that out of the 
tacky comes something wonderful and illuminating. So the searchlights bring 
ticket buyers; the psychic metaphysician offers reduced prices for illumination. 
Jo asks, How do we achieve a finer sort of illumination, a realization of poten 
tiality? At the beginning of the session, Jo raised the question, Why are we 
concerned with images of California? Here is her answer: "I think that shift 
between noticing something and achieving something and realizing the relation 
between them is awfully important and I don t see my way clear to it at this 
point." How, she asks, can we discover a decent picture of where it is we need 
to put our energy? 

James D. Houston, the novelist who will be our next speaker, in part will 
address that point. 

Jim Hughes 
March 22, 1979 


Ph.D. Dissertations- (* published) 

Josephine Miles, Director 

" Ray eraser *> Renaissance imagery 

* Burton Kurth ~ Milton s Christian Hero 

Daniel Knapp American Drama in the late 19th century 

George Crane -- Mars ton s Satire 

Sister Francesca Cabrini Samuel "Garth : -arid Epic Satire 

* Albert Ball Charles Churchill s Sublime 

* George T. Wright The Poet in the Poem 

* William Baker The Grammar of Modern Poetry 

Lee Winters Modern Inagism and the Chinese Book of Odes 

* Michael Cooke Byron and 17th cen. Modes 

* Zrnst Bernr.ardt-Kabisch Southey and -Romanticism 

* Carl Dennis Emerson s Poetic World 

* Edward Pechter Dryden s Critical Theory 

* Ruth McConnell Conrad s Imagery 

Mary Tyson Cvidian Humor in Renaissance 

* Mary Bet n Kelson George Crabbe and 15th c. Poetic Narrative 

* Suzanne Juhasz Metaphor in Kodern Poetry 

* Dennis Jarrett The Language of the Blues 

* James Welch Tennyson s Landscape of Time 

Robert Becker Narrative Structure for Spenser and Hilton 
QD Robert Wilson The American Poetic Sublime 

* Donald Bogen Poet and Manuscript 



by Katharine .Livingston 


It is the Spring Quarter on the Berkeley campus, and mornings 
are mild, turning bright as the fog lifts. As the Campanile bells 
strike the hours, Sproul Plaza fills with successive waves of students. 
They move in a river through Sather Gate and then scatter north, east 
and- west toward classes. On Tuesday mornings between ten and twelve, 
Josephine Miles holds office hours on the fourth floor of Wheeler 
Hall as she has done for more than thirty years. In 1967 she wrote 

a poem called "Office Hours." 

Here is my second chapter on Philip Sidney s ethic 

What did you think of Chushingura? I saw you at it. 

Here s my translation of Statius, Be critical! 

I hear you write poetry, so does my mother. She s in 

Hong Kong and I m homesick 
Do you still have the paper I wrote two years ago? I d 

like to reread it. 

What would you do about Viet Nai?.? Please sign this petition. 
Did you have a student who wrote a book on Milton? What 

. was the pame of it? 

I m hot on the trail of Dryden s brother-in-law. 
Would you like to read these poems in a couple of medical 

journals my husband subscribes to? 

I just noticed walking by what a great view you have from 
your window. 

Please explain these marks you put on my paperr* you liked 

it, why correct it? 
Will you come to a discussion of poetry in politics at 

4:10 today? 
Why should you have three meetings scheduled for that time? 

That doesn t make sense. 

In six years the mood of the Berkeley campus has considerably 
changed. The quarters in the academic year roll by quietly arid 
routinely, distinguishable only by season, no longer by political 

crisis. The tension, the fears, the vitality and brash urgency of the 

Sixties are muted. But Josephine Miles office, small and lively, is 
still a mecca for students in need of aid and comfort, or just good 

Today a somewhat stiff and self-conscious young man, winner 


of an Esiner prize for poetry is discussing with her the problems of 
getting published. "I don t think that many people realize that 
editors are trying to find a poet, not a poem," she tells him. "They 
want to be able to say we are presenting a new poet who has never 
been published before." She advises him to send off six poems that 
have something in common. The young poet is doubtful; he s still 
experimenting. "Anyway, I did send some poems to Hyperion. The 
editor turned them down because he said they were too formal and net 
enough from the heart as Josephine Miles would say ." He grins at her 
shocked expression, and she begins to laugh. "Does that sound like 
me? You sure can get misquoted in this life." 

The next visitor is a former student who s been away from 
Berkeley for a year. "I haven t looked anyone up. I m lying low 
trying to finish my thesis, but I had to come see you." They talk 
a bit about her subject, which is Italian Renaissance Art. 

Another woman sticks her head in the door to confide that 
she thinks she s about to be offered a job thanks to Miss Miles 

recommendation . 

The phone rings every few minutes. The two . campus literary 

magazines have had their funds cut off by the Associated Students 

Senate and Miss Miles is trying to rally support to save them. She s 

arranging a noon meeting to discuss strategy. 

At a quarter to twelve, however, she is deep in conversation 
with still another visitor, a woman with a heavy Slavic accent. They 
are discussing Russian structuralism. "Her name s Valentina," Miss 
Miles explains later, "and I don t know her last name or even where 
she s from. She called up last week out of the blue and asked me 
to read her book. She s done a translation of Ouspensky, a Russian 
critic who does structural analysis, and she got the manuscript back 
in proofs and just panicked." Miss Miles likes the book, and Valentina 
is almost tearful with relief and gratitude. Miss Miles attempts to 
caution her that she doesn t know that much about Russian structuralism, 
but Valentina insists, "It doesn t matter. I have such faith in you, 
Miss Miles." 

She is already late for her meeting when again the phone 
rings. This time with a dinner invitation for the weekend. "I can t 
come. I ve got to receive an award in Los Angeles." UCLA is honoring 
two distinguished alumnae: Josephine Miles and John Wooden, coach 
of the University s famous basketball team. "I told my nephew about 
it and he s so pleased that I get a chance to meet Wooden. He s sure 
we ll like each other." 

Earlier this year Josephine Miles received another more 
prestigious award. "The distinguished title of University professor" 

may not sound like much, but it is the University of. California 
equivalent of the Triple Cross or the Legion d Honneur. Since it was 
created fifteen years ago, the University Professorship has been 
awarded eight times, to chemists Glenn Seaborg, Melvin Calvin and 


Harold Urey, to physicists Edward Teller and Charles Townes, to 
Neil Smelfzer, a sociologist, Lynn White, an historian, and Josephine 
Miles, Professor of English and poet. Until 1973 the honorees. were 
mostly scientists (including four Nobel laureates) and- all men. In 
recommending Josephine Miles appointment, President Hitch said, 
"Professor Miles provides unparalleled inspiration by the clarity of. 
her thinking, her imagination, will, integrity and humanity." 

Josephine Miles career as a poet began, she says, at age 
eight, -and "it didn t come from within. I lived next door to two 
older girls, about ten and twelve who subscribed to St. Nicholas, 

a children s magazine, a nineteenth century Kind of magazine really, 

with Andrew Lang fairy stories and illustrations. These girls kept 
pushing St. Nicholas at me. "Why don t you try working the puzzles, 
look at the pictures, look, you can send in your own poems and stories 1 
I resisted that. I would walk around the corner just to get away from 


those girls and their darn old St. Nicholas. Then we moved and my 
mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I asked for a subscrip 
tion to St. Nicholas because I was homesick for those girls." 

Eventually Josephine became a regular contributor to the 
poetry contests, and a member in good standing of the St. Nicholas 
League (which she pronounced lee-gew) , but only after she and the 
editors of the magazine had a misunderstanding. Josephine didn t 
know the rules. "In June they d print poems about camping and then 
Halloween poems or something in October. I read the poems about 
camping and would then write one of my own and send it in the fall." 
After several such miscalculations, St. Nicholas lost its temper, and 
sent Jo exasperated letters telling her to please read the rules. 


She wrote poems and plays throughout her childhood, and then 
in high school. Nothing was published, however, after St. Nicholas, 
because she was far too shy to venture much beyond the school paper. 
When she entered Berkeley as a graduate student, she joined a poetry 
club. The founder of the club promoted the work of the members of 
her club with a much more enterprising spirit than they could manage 
for themselves. She sent Josephine s poetry to the Nation and the 
Saturday Review, where it was accepted. Her first book of poetry, 
Lines at Intersection, appeared in 1939. She has published seven 
volumes since. 

Miss f Miles remembers being interested by imagists like Carl 
Sandburg when she was in high school, and later, in college, she and 
her friends formed a kind of cult around W. H. Auden. ("He was our 
little epigram book.") She recalls being hit hard by Dylan Thomas, 
and finally by Wallace Stevens, but she can t really name a poet who 
made any great mark on her style. St. Nicholas and traditional 
poetry (Poems Every Child Should Know, Scots ballads) had more 
influence on her than any poet she read later. "If I had to go to 
a desert island with one poet, it would be Yeats. But I haven t 
been able to write like him. Theodore Roethke has, and I think it s 
been bad for him." 

In 1921 T. S. Eliot published an essay on John Donne which 

caused a major re-evaluation of the seventeenth century poets by 

modern literary scholars. Eventually the new interest in Donne, 

Marvell and Herbert led to a revival of metaphysical poetry which 

reached full bloom in the mid-thirties. The movement had a profound. 


impact on John Crowe Ransom, Theodore Spencer, Allan Tate, and for 
very personal reasons Josephine Miles. Before the renewal of interest 
in intellectual poetry, the prevailing fashion in the thirties was 
the populist imagist tradition. The ideal of imagism was a tough 
objective poetry, taken directly from observation and presented without 
interpretation. Marianne Moore called it "the raw material of poetry 
presented in all its rawness." Poets in this tradition were supposed 
to cram their lives with physical experiences, to ride freight cars, 
and see the world, to be "out on the road." 

Jpsephine Miles has been severely crippled by an arthritic 
disease since childhood. Physically she is quite helpless, dependent 
on others to carry her from place to place. The metaphysical 
revival freed her from the sense that her physical limitations 
necessarily confined her poetic power and imagination. Magazines 
like the Kenyon Review and the Southern Review became interested in 
the poetry of an intellectual sensibility. Suddenly, "there was 
somewhere to put my feet. I had a wor-ld to write for." 

It was a great relief to have it acknowledged that one 
could be a poet without tackling Life in the vast and vagabond sense. 
But, of course, the stigma against "academic" poetry is still kicking 
around. Miss Miles recalls with amusement an afternoon when she 
and Allen Ginsberg were sitting her garden in the sunshine. Ginsberg 

suddenly announced with a sweeping gesture, "What this patio needs, 
is a whole bunch of dog piss." 


Josephine Miles world is. very, much a world of talk. She 
talks a great deal herself, enthusiastically, and at length en any 
subject that is offered or that comes into her head. Her speech is 
an odd and vigorous mixture. It combines a precise and erudite 
literary vocabulary, current hip idioms, and surprisingly corny 
vintage slang from her youth. She tells stories, reminisces and 
theorizes, but unlike many people who talk for the pure pleasure of 
it, she never loses track of the person she s talking to, and she 
listens with absolute attention and a quick understanding. She 
usually settles herself next to a telephone and every few minutes 
conversations, are interrupted by its ringing 1 . She will break off to 
answer, enter into another lively talk with whoever is on the line. 
Then she hangs up, turns back, to her visitor, and without an "urn" 
or "where were we," plunges back into the sentence where she left 
off. Much of her poetry is patterned on the rhythms of vernacular 
speech. One of these talk p6ems was published in an anthology called 
Poet s Choice in 1962, with an explanation of why she chose it. 


Said, Pull her up a bit will you Mac, 1 want to unload here 
Said, Pull her up my rear end, first come first serve 
Said, Give her the gun, Bud, he needs a taste of his own bumper 
Then the usher came out and got into the act: 

Said, Pull her up, pull her up a bit, we need this space sir 
Said, For God s sake is this still a free country or what? 
You go back and take care of Gary Cooper s horse 
And leave me to handle my car . 

Saw them unloading the lame old lady, , 

Ducked under the wheel and gave her an elbow, 
Said, All you needed to do was just explain; 
Reason, Reason is my middle name. 


Her comment: "Reason is a favorite one of my poems because I like the 

idea of speech not images, not ideas, not music, but people talking 
as the material from which poetry is made. So much inert surface, so 
many hidden depths, such systematic richness of play in tone and 
color, with these I too easily become impatient in modern poetry 
because I like the spare and active interplay of talk. Like the 
young man from Japan, I like to get as many unimportant syllables in 
a five-stress line as I possibly can. That way they can t be implica- 
tive. And the accents of a limited and maybe slightly misplaced pride 
interest me. Good strong true pride we need more of, and the oblique 
accents at least sound out the right direction." 

Her poetry reflects what a friend and fellow poet, Thomas 
Parkinson, calls "an absorption with the ordinary. She never writes 
lofty or rapturous poetry. It s a poetry of low level, low key 
experiences as subjects. Not the big subjects, but suburban ordinari 
nesses like mailmen, the sun going down, talking to people on the 
telephone, an article she read about anthropology sort of junk 
really." Her poetry does have a magpie quality. She can t get about 
much, but when she does make an excursion itfs as though, as one friend 
commented, she d "been to the beach and come back with pockets full of 
pebbles and shells." She s a gatherer, noticing, picking up and storing 
bits and pieces of daily living. Yet despite this freewheeling random 
ness of selection, her poetry is extremely polished, crafted, and 

always controlled. 

"My main way of writing a poem, is to overhear something 
that s very live, with an. aura of energy around it. It might even be 
a quotation from a paper, but it s still my tendency to place it in a 


more metrical framework than the younger generation does. They d 
rather place it in a loose cadence. But metrical frameworks are 
not naturalistic, so it s more the idea I reflect than the sound." 

Miss Miles is keenly interested in the work of other 

contemporary poets. She would hate to be thought of as an ivory tower 
academic poet, and she craves communication with those in the mainstream 
of the art. She is curious, and is thirsty for reaction and response. 
And, in spite of her semi-serious references to the "younger generation," 
she has no intention of being left behind. At the same time, she is 
conscious of her own poetic territory, and resistant of any attempt 

to push her in any direction but her own. When she was a graduate 

student , a member of a group of poets from Stanford who were students 
and admirers of Yvor Winters telephoned and asked her to join them, 
adding in no uncertain terms that she would have to make a radical 
change in her style. She hung up without another word. ("I was very 
snippy in those days," she says.) 

In 1964 the Black Mountain Poetry Conference was held in 
Vancouver. It was an enormous success and the following year a 
similar week-long conference met at California Hall on the Berkeley 

campus. The poets involved were a flamboyant and controversial lot 

including Ginsberg and Jack Sgfhcer and the heart of the gathering 

was Charles Olson. These were the transition figures from beat to hip. 

They arrived on motorcycles and the conference was *-Mftl-out. 

Students who couldn t afford the price of admission hung from the 

windows of California Hall in order to hear. Met of the English 

faculty dtd t attend, but Josephine Miles went faithfully every day 
with a friend and fellow poet, Archie Ammons. They sat in the back row 

290 10 


and were ignored by the other poets there. The snubbing was a small 


blow to Miss Miles pride, but more than this, the conference 
represented an artistic crisis for her. She couldn t comprehend the 
poetry, couldn t hear what the poets were trying to do. She felt, she 
says, like "Aunt Minnie on the shelf," anachronistic and out of touch. 
But as she and her friend appeared day after day, the poets warmed 
towards them. She already knew and was friendly with Allen Ginsberg, 
who had come to Cal s English Department in the fifties to study 
Anglo-Saxon meters. He abandoned this project gratefully after six 
weeks. Miss Miles was never introduced to Charles Olson, which she 
explains with a touch of malice, would have been the mark of honor. 

But the significant thing was that after days of listening 
she began to catch the music and syntax of poetry which had been dead 
to her on the page. She stopped feeling alien and outdated and began 
to comprehend what the new poetry was about. Civil Poems was written 
rapidly within a couple of weeks after the conference, and published 
immediately. Just what .influence these poets had on her writing 
isn t clear. Certainly she didn t become one of them. Rather, 
perhaps, they charged her with a new stimulus that -produced a new 
vision of possibilities, but possibilities very much her own. 

It is difficult to imagine her feeling far from the center of 
contemporary poetic activity. She is friends with an astonishing 
number and variety of American poets, of all types, personalities and 

ages. She ftnnln n f^mnnrlriua needs to have the action buzzing around 
her and filtering through her, wB3Steis perhaps ilia lu UIL f^ct that 
she is very much tied to one place. She lived in Berkeley for six 


years of graduate school, and then returned in 1940 to teach and has 


been there ever since. She lives in a small green house on Virginia 
Street. It s an unpretentious California bungalow affair,, noticeably 
modest on a street lined with tall Victorian, and coy imitation 
Mediterranean houses. She has a deep and longtime familiarity with 
Berkeley, its houses, streets and people, and its changes. And she 
loves it, with the mixture of affection and frustration that a member 
of the family feels, both more critical and more loyal than any 
outsider could be. 

Her knowledge of and fascination with Berkeley is such that 
she would probably choose to live here of all places she could be. 
But she is also confined here by her physical condition and one wonders 
how content she is with her house on Virginia Street and her office 
in Wheeler Hall year after year. She is a woman of driving and 
adventurous spirit who would thrive on change. As a child Josephine 
was taken to football matches by her parents, avid sports fans, and 
was obliged to wait alone in the car during the games. By listening 
to the cheers from the stands and the directions they came from, she 
tried to calculate who won, and more often than not she could compute 
the score as well. She remarked once that "no one has really studied 
how productive limitations can be, except perhaps Robert Frost, who 
said poetry in free verse is like playing tennis with the net down. 
One of the great problems in living now is that people have such a 
multitude of choices to face, and in an existential world making choices 

r. ->_ 

is everything. It s when choices are limited that it s easy to make 
intelligent decisions and my choices were always very limited." 

292 12 

* * 

She has explored the vivid microcosm of the University with 

a vigorous curiosity and pleasure. Most professors use their sabbatical 

leaves to travel or live abroad. Since this was ,uiyju>eia.djlii for 

Miss Miles, she stayed at the University and took courses outside the 
English Department. During one sabbatical she studied music, drama 
during another and the third she spent learning quantitative analysis. 
A recent book, Fields of Learning, is a kind of poetic celebration of 
ventures into disciplines outside English. She began reading her 
freshman classes textbooks so that she would know about other 
subjects they studied. Considering how insular most University 
departments are, and how- pre-occupied most professors are with their 
particular academic concerns, it was an extraordinary thing to do. 
In the process she was inexplicably taken with the language the 
textbooks used, their "energy." In Fields of Learning, the. poems are 
entitled "Botany," "Biology," "History," "Physics," and so forth. In 
each poem a phrase or passage or idea that caught her. imagination 
becomes a poem. Dry textbookese is broken into line and meter, 
fancifully selected and recombined to make an odd and arresting verse. 
One poem, called "Chemistry," ends with "Warnings." 

In the synthesis, purification, and identification 

Of organic compounds 

Avoid unstable assemblies of apparatus 

Taste Nothing. 

Miss Miles poetry is not emotional, it is not musical, and 
it is not easy. She bears no strong resemblance to any other contemporary 
poet. While colloquial in expression, almost mundane in subject, it is 
not what you would call friendly poetry. Often abstract and oblique, 
the poems can appear closed off and private. Those in a recent book, 


Kinds of Affection, look at love from different perspectives, points 
of view that are sometimes intriguing in their uniqueness, sometimes 
so unique as to be inaccessible. 

Love at a distance can mean 

Love of a dozen . 

Students sitting around for the last time 

Before summer, to come no more, 

Tired and sore, 

Yet be loved in their measureless- aptitude. 

Love at a distance can be the good 
Work done by a workman, so simplified 
r;^i ^ ; H e could not do better if he tried; 
~ " ^fi " Only by use . 

Or can be the distance at which you measureless move. 

That is, far off. 

So that love can be drawn 

In filaments of thought, in line as thin 

As lines latitudes rest upon. 

From plenty from perfection, marking these 

Measureless distances. 

Leonard Nathan, a friend and former student of Miss Miles, 
now a Professor of Rhetoric and a poet himself, says that one thing he 
learned from Josephine Miles was simply that poems can be funny. Hers 
very often are, with a humor that is sly and ironic. 

The doctor who sits at the bedside of a rat 
Obtains real answers a paw twitch 
An ear tremor, a gain or loss of weight 
No problem as to which to^temper arid which is true 
What a rat feel*, he will do. 

Concomitantly then the doctor who sits 

At the bedside of a rat 

Asks real question as befits 

The place, like where did the potassium go, not what 

Do you think of Willie Mays or the weather. 

So doctor and rat may converse together. t 

This is not the poetry of a sentimental person, and though the book, 
Kinds of Affection, treats in part the currents of love connecting 
people, it also contains poetic statements which are harsh, eerie and 
grotesque. This is a poem about a friend s divorce. 


Throwing his life away. 

He picks at and smells it. 

Done up. When did I do this up? 

I date its death to the time someone 

Said something. 

Back then. 

Everything else, all striving, making 

Marrying, error 

Is this old bird. 
Pah! He throws it. 

As the long string lengthens 

It begins unwinding 

The ligaments of his hand. 

She is at her best when describing short scenes with the sparse 
but exact detail of a born observer. She has made only one effort at 
fiction, a short story in college days which she claims as the great 
embarrassment of her life. "I can t spin the time in fiction. I have 
no narrative sense at all." 

Although she is compulsively disciplined about obligations 
like correspondence, (she answered 300 letters of congratulation on 
her University Professorship in one week) , she writes poetry pretty 
much as the spirit moves her. One semester she had an hour free 
between classes every Tuesday and Thursday, and determined to write 
two poems a week during that time, just to see the result. In fact, 
"I gained and lost nothing. I wrote some good poems and a lot of bad 
poems. There was a pool inside that I tapped more systematically, 
but I didn t enlarge the source itself." Y 

Josephine Miles is sixty-two this year, andTyhe looks rather 
older, is extremely bent, and tiny, and frail.- She seems perched on 

a chair, and her feet barely rest on the ground. Her face is round 
and heavily lined under a smooth cap of short gray hair. Her eyes are 
hooded, and move back and forth rapidly, missing little. She sits 


quite still. Her hands are bent nearly. double with arthritis, so that 
her movements with pen and paper are slow and painfully deliberate. 
Her voice is surprisingly loud, flat and unmusical, but full of energy 
and quick to turn into laughter. 

She was born in Chicago in 1911 but her parents, alarmed by 
the progress of her disease, moved to Los Angeles when she was five 

in hopes the climate would help arrest her arthritis. She is 

-rht i- 
surprisingly nostalgic about the Los Angeles of her youth. Pupitig 

the twenties (Hollywood became the capital of the film industry, and a 

hundred thousand people a year poured into Los Angeles in search of 

California gold. There was an automobile for every three persons 


there by 1925, but thorja_i*a*"e no freeways tfewi. People rode on street 
cars as they did in other American cities, and it was not until a decade 
later that the hot bright Los Angeles sunshine was poisoned forever by 

Glimpses Miss Miles offers of her childhood suggest that it 
was an extraordinarily happy one. Theirs was a close and active 
family, she tells stories of frequent camping trips, excursions to 
the beach, of playing and wrestling with her two younger brothers. Her 
parents, she says, were very compatible and very dissimilar. Her 
father provided the adventurous spirit and her mother the stabilizing 
force in the family. "They had very different opinions about raising 
kids and they told us so. For instance, my father would tell us 


Look there s a lousy movie playing around the corner and I think we 
should go anyway, but your mother thinks we ought to wait until a 
better one comes. What do you think? 1 It gave us a sense of alter 
natives, and showed us respect for other people s points of view. 

296 16 

And my parents were marvelous too, at getting us out in the world 


doing what we could do best." 


George Elliott, a long time friend of Miss Miles who knew 


her mother in later years says that she was a "superb, strong woman" 
who was chiefly responsible for keeping Josephine out of the crip-pled 
child syndrome. "She was murder on self-pity not only in Josephine 
but in everybody. She had a surprising harsh laugh, a real scorn for 
sentimentality. Josephine has it too, but it goes along with the 
most genuine kindness of heart." 

Because she wore plaster casts as a child, Josephine missed 
most of her early schooling. She did spend two years at a grammar 
school just down the block from her home. She was in her element 
there, writing and putting on plays, loving it all, teachers, children, 
principal, but her family moved to a new neighborhood just as Josephine 
was to begin the eighth grade. There she wasn t allowed to go to 
school. The principal objected that the eighth grade was on the 
second floor, that school was no place for a girl in a wheelchair, 
that it wouldn t be possible for teachers to help her or send lessons 
home a brick wall. It was a crushing disappointment, and for 
Josephine a lost year. (When she speaks of it now there is lingering 
bitterness in her voice, but she says simply "You can t expect people 
to be good all of the time. When they re good, it s great.") 

That summer at the beach she met some girls from Los Angeles 

High School who suggested that she try and go there. Armed with a 
notebook of her writings she went to talk to the principal who, to 
her surprise, agreed to let her come on the condition that she learn 
Latin, French and take remedial grammar. First she came in a 


wheelchair and later walked from home in braces. Friends helped her 
between classes. Her schedules were bizarre, since she had to take 
all her classes on the first floor of the building. This sometimes 
meant all languages one term, and all sciences the next. 

The school had two literary clubs which were rumored (rightly) 
to be "pre-sororities." Josephine was asked to join one, "I was a 
kind of screen," she says slyly, "a smokescreen for reality." The 
literary clubs were mostly good excuses for getting together and having 
a good time. Cars provided an enchanting new freedom and Josephine 
and her friends would spend their weekends riding around, going to the 
beach or up the coast to visit friends in Santa Barbara. It was 
"lovely. There was a special quality to it. In those days you weren t 
supposed to be a grind, you were supposed to get gentlemanly C s. If 
you were bright you didn t let anyone know it. So my friends and I 
who were interested in writing, were only supposed to do it with ouC 
left hands. Even that was good for us. We had fun." 

Josephine s parents wanted her to go to Scripps, a small, 
exclusive Southern California Women s College, so that she could get 
away from home and be independent. This sounded like a fine idea to 
Jo until she visited the school. She talked to the dean and looked 
around the campus and driving away decided, "NO WAY, no way would I 
go to that school for a million dollars." She thought Scripps 

resembled nothing so much as a cloister. There was an academic 

question, too; since she was devoted to and inspired by an old man 

who taught Latin at L.A. High, Jo was righteously indignant that the 
school offered no Latin. She was so adamant in her determination not 
to go to Scripps that her bewildered parents acceeded with hardly a 


Josephine then applied to. and was accepted by UCLA. She went 
to talk to the Dean of Women there , explaining that she would need 
some help in order to attend classes. To her surprise, she met with 
the same wall of misunderstanding and condescension she d met when 
trying to get into the eighth grade. Yes, the woman said, she d need 
help, far too much help. She d have to ask many favors, and she d be 
better off at a small college, like Scripps, for instance. Josephine 
went out past the policeman at the gate. "How d it go?" he asked her. 
By this time she was in tears. She explained to the cop that she 

wasn t to be allowed in because she couldn t stand in the lines to 

kl !#**** 

register. Feeling sorry for her, "Listen, you find somebody to stand 


in line for you and I ll let you in." Thanks to the cop, and 
unbeknownst to the Dean of Women, Josephine attended UCLA for four 
years and graduated. 

She speaks fondly of her time at UCLA. She began her studies 
at the old campus of UCLA, ah aged, comfortable, shabby-genteel place 
in a rundown part of town at the corner of Melrose and Vermont. The 
school was young and undistinguished, virtually unknown elsewhere. 
It had no graduate school in those days, but she is quick to explain 
this didn t mean that professors got involved with their undergraduate 
classes. It was, in fact, quite the opposite. The professors 
retreated into their own world, ignoring the students as well as they 
could. In self-defense, the students organized their own clubs, put on 

their own plays, held their own discussion sections. Miss Miles 
compares it to an old-style German education. 

In a Logic class her freshman year she met a young man 
("Who I was just madly in love with") and he solved her problems of 


getting around campus. She had been looking for a strong girl to 
help her, "but he suggested that the men in his fraternity needed to 
earn money and would be more than happy to carry her around. She has 
employed students to do this ever since. The system has worked 
beautifully and in forty years she says she hasn t had an irresponsible 
helper. "They re my greatest admiration." 

There was a great sense of unity at UCLA at this time. 
Friendships, studies, and the arts were quite wonderfully integrated. 
"It was ideal," Miss Miles sighs, "and just what there isn t in 
Berkeley." The peculiar inability of Berkeleyans to organize and work 
together is a permanent source of discontent to her. Her dream is to 
help foster the spirit of. community in young artists which she 
experienced at UCLA. 

The year after she graduated wa s lonely and unhappy. 
Josephine was twenty-one and had set aside the year for a series of 
long delayed operations whose object was to enable her to move more 
freely. They failed. 

This was 1932, in the heart of the depression. Many of her 
friends went into welfare work directly from school. Others moved 
to Berkeley for graduate work, none could afford to go East. After a 
year of idleness and disappointment, she, too, was persuaded by her 
friends to come to Berkeley, even though, she say s, they all hated it 
there. Up to this time, she d been told that graduate school was no 
place for a poet. "Poets," she remarked ironically, "aren t supposed 
to think and to feel at the same time." In the end she prevailed on 
her mother, now widowed, to move north with her, and in 1933 she began 
her studies at Berkeley. 

300 20 


Even before she began, Josephine had a glimmer of what she 
wanted to study. She was reading criticism by William Empson, I. A. 
Richards, and others, and decided that she wanted to do research on 
the function of language in literature. 

The English Department at Cal in the thirties was at its 
lowest ebb aBBr. As described by George Stewart in his informal 
chronicle of the department s history, it was mismanaged by the 
University administration, suffered from poor leadership in its 
chairman, and was characterized by stagnation and chronically poor 
morale. Miss Miles points out that she and other students were 
largely unaware at the time of the straits of the department found 
itself in. They were inexperienced in such things and had interests 
of their own. 

In these years, the most eminent men in the department were 
medievalists, and Josephine felt she should study with "the big shots," 
Arthur Brodeur and J. S. P. Tatlock. This was a qualified success. 
They were genial and gentle men, but rather appalled by the kind of 
research she wanted to do. They let her try it, but always demanded 
a second paper done their way. Matters were greatly improved when she 
was allowed into the nineteenth century literature seminar of 
Professor Ben Lehman. She had already been thrown out of his classes 
two or three times for being "too medieval, " and he had a reputation 

for being very hard to get along with. In fact, she became Lehman s 

protege and with his support began the research and criticism on 

poetic vocabulary which has occupied her ever since. Lehman was to 
prove an important friend and advisor for he later became chairman 

of the department, and was for some years its most powerful and 
controversial member. 


Miss Miles critical method, as much as her poetry, is 
stubbornly her own. It is stylistic analysis by the statistical 
method. In recent years thanks to the computer this has become 
something of a rage; It was quite unheard of when she began, though, 
and thoroughly resisted. Even today, though Miss Miles has published 
more literary criticism than anyone in the Berkeley English Department, 
it is received with varying degrees of enthusiasm by other English 

The basic method, to explain a highly complex technique rather 
simplemindedly, is counting the occurrence of fundamental words in a 
given poetic era, to determine what words are used most and what usage 
they are given. Employing this method in books like Eras and Modes, 
and A Style and a Proportion, Miss Miles attempted to designate basic 
similarities of language from poet to poet in succeeding ages. It has 
produced some surprising results. It reveals, for example, that John 
Donne was neither a poetic misfit nor a poetic revolutionary, but was 
actually far more in agreement with his contemporaries in his poetic 
vocabulary than anyone had previously thought. 

Her conception of criticism runs counter to the prevailing 
mode of analysis, especially the "New Criticism" which deals with 
poems as organic entities and evaluates them individually. Miss Miles 
proceeds poera by poem and poet by poet. But despite the minuteness 
of her method, her aim is to trace large evolutions in poetic language 
throughout its history. Her best known work, Eras and Modes, is, as 
the title implies, an attempt to designate large areas of poetry, and 
above all to make capacious generalizations about them. 



It is not at all the criticism one would expect a poet to do, 
rather it is the kind of criticism people tend to consider worthy, but 
not exciting. This because the statistical method does not demand the 
use of the kind of intuitive insights that make criticism at its best 
an art in itself. The statistical method sounds faintly plodding. 
George Elliott worked for Miss Miles counting words when he was a 
student at Berkeley thirty years ago. "The damndest miserable job I 
ever had," he remembers, "and I didn t believe in it for a second." 
More than a few people, enthusiastic about Josephine Miles poetry, are 
quite turned off by her criticism. It is a considerable jump frora her 
verse, which is small in scope, narrow-eyed and personal, but there is 
in her prose writing, if not in her method, a decided poetic quality, 
particularly in her most recent articles. The following is taken from 
her essay called "Forest and Trees; or The Sense at the Surface." 

A poet s language has its leaf or hand print, the 
. whorls that make it singular, the individuality of its 
style and engagement. But these do not work in isolation, 
they are part of the forrest,part of the langue part of the 
competence of poetry. The strands of common usage which 
hold poems together in any time and from time to time, 
seem of such strength and predictable duration that one 
can see, in literature especially among the arts, the 
commonality provided by the medium itself as well as by 
shared cultural values and interests. So the individual 
is to be read in the context of the language and literature 
he shares, that is, of his profession in time, his 
acceptances, his assumptions and what he does with them. 
A leaf is unique not because there are no other leaves, 
but because of its singular variations upon the commonplace 
of leaf in its particular part of the forest. 

This is a poetic language utterly different from the kind 


that appears in her poetry. It is both elaborate and formal. It is 
rich in imagery, musical and suggestive, in fact highly implicative 


Whatever the relationship between Josephine Miles as critic 

and Josephine Miles as poet, she would probably be mockingly amused 
by speculations about it. One of her loveliest poems from Kinds of 
Affection suggests that there is no contradiction at all. 

When I was eight, I put in the left-hand drawer 

Of my new bureau a prune pit . 

My plan was that darkness and silence 

Would grow it into a young tree full of blossoms 

Quietly and unexpectedly I opened the drawer a crack 
And looked for the sprouts; always the pit 
Anticipated my glance and withheld 
The signs I looked for. 

After a long time, a week, I felt sorry 

For the lone pit, self -withheld, 

So saved more, and lined them up like an orchard. 

A small potential orchard of free flowers. 

Here memory and storage lingered 
Under my fingerprints past retrieval, 
Musty and impatient as a prairie 
Without its bee. 

Some friends think of this recollection 

As autobiography. Others think it 

A plausible parable of computer analysis. 

O small and flowering orchard of free friends! 

She was asked once about the special quality of this poem, 
and said, "I really did that. We were living in a rented house and 


I was just at the age when magic seems very possible. I related 
that experience in my mind to the work I was doing in computer 
analysis which my friends thought was dull and al,ien. But I had the 
feeling there was magic in that, too, a sense of qualification, a 
sense of things, and the power they have, whether modern science 
or prune pit growing. 

Miss Miles has been given an impressive number of fellowships 
and awards for poetry and scholarship, and in 1970 she received a 
commendation from the California Association of Teacher of English 


for the excellence of her teaching-. Certainly at Berkeley she is as 
well known as a teacher as she is a poet or scholar, but when she 
first finished her doctorate she called it a "research" degree , and 
did not even consider the possibility of going on to teach. Instead, 
she .spent a hot Los Angeles summer working in the cool rooms of the 
Huntington Library and hoping for a nomination to work on the Medieval 
Latin Dictionary. Ben Lehman and James Caldwell, on the Berkeley 
English faculty, however, who felt she should teach, encouraged 
her to apply at Mills and Occidental and other small California 
colleges. To her surprise, none of these would even consider hiring 
her, and she describes, still with a measure of bitterness, the kind 
of letters of refusal she got from the Deans of women s colleges. 
"We clearly could not be responsible for introducing such a sensitive 
soul into the grind of academic life." . 

Once in her childhood she and her family went camping in the 
San Andreas Canyon near a hot springs where she was treated for her 
arthritis. They were to camp about a mile and a half up the canyon, 
and Josephine s father hit on the idea of hiring an Indian from a 
nearby reservation to carry her to the campsite. The Indian was 
found, and carried Jo in silence no more than thirty yards before 
dumping her unceremoniously on a rock, declaring "very bad medicine," 
and left. She made the rest of the trip carried head and foot by 

her younger brothers who managed admirably with an occasional mishap 

like dropping her in the stream. The story has a sequel. Last 

October, Miss Miles went on a lecture tour in New Mexico, and in the 

company of a young guide went to visit the reservation at Pueblo 

^- / " 

where Scott MonuJday, author of House Made of Dawn, and a colleague, 


grew up. They wandered about the reservation for a while in search 
of a woman who sold Indian bread. When they found her, she seemed 
delighted to see them, invited them into her home, and made a great 
fuss over Miss Miles, giving her little pats on the head and stroking 
her head. As they left she remarked to her guide on the woman s 
friendliness. He replied that Indians of Pueblo believed that 


handicapped people were favored by the gods. It was "just compensation," 
Miss Miles says, for being bad medicine. She feels there has been a 
pattern in her life "People saying yes and people saying no" unlikely 
villains and benefactors, who for their own finally mysterious reasons 
have held her back or pushed her forward. 

In the end, the Berkeley English faculty came through as her 
champion in the business of finding a teaching position, no doubt 
feeling righteously affronted that she had been turned down in spite 
of their vigorous recommendations. To prove she could teach, she 
was invited to Berkeley to take over the classes cf a man on 
sabbatical, but was warned to bring only one suitcase since there was 
no question she could stay. 

Berkeley, like Harvard, has a strict tradition of not hiring 
its own graduates until they ve had experience elsewhere. An 
exception was made in Miss Miles case. After her trial year of 
teaching she was hired by Berkeley in 1941 and has been here ever 


Miss Miles has a reputation for being an extraordinary 

teacher with a singular rapport with students, which she rather 

shrugs off. "I think it s baloney to say you re a born teacher. 

I ve made lots of mistakes, and plenty of people have hated me. I had 

306 26 

one student who said if you ever want to know what Simon Legree was 
like just take a course from Miss Miles. " From the beginning, 
pedagogy intrigued and excited her. The first class she taught at 
the University was English 1A, and she began with Hamlet. At a 
friend s suggestion, she began by having the boys in the back row 
read the first scene. These were still the days when football 
players sat in the last row and cut up during class. As she 
intended, "they read it wrong; students always do at first. Then 

you point out that the wrong man s being challenged and that s the 


motion of the whole play. It s about people caught off balance. 
So in a few lines you catch the depths and the surfaces at once. You 
carry on from there , and they 11 never again be able to read on the 
surface and make the mistakes they always do. That was the most 
important thing for me to know, that people really need help to get 
unstuck and move forward." 

She is a popular and sought after teacher, but unlike TAW^ 
University teachers, she is less interested in individual students 
with special talents than in the dynamics of a group in the mysterious 
process of learning. What fascinates her is the evolution of a class 
as an entity, and the timing and subtle manipulations necessary to 
make it- all come together. She is undeniably fond of her students, 
but it s a slightly detached, impersonal and generalized affection. 
She is rather like a benign wizard at work, pulling invisible strings 
to draw the disparate energies of her classes into a workable whole. 

The atmosphere in her classes is relaxed and easy. She 
sits presiding, very small behind her desk, talking and listening 
and laughing frequently. It is crucial, she says, for students in 


writing classes to get to know each other well, so she frequently holds 
meetings at her home. Beginning poets, she feels, have to be allowed 
anonymity at first, and then gradually, as students get to trust each 
other, they will be willing, even anxious, to expose their poetry to 
class criticism. Her favorite classes are freshman composition and 
the poetry writing and she has written textbooks for both. In 
general she -prefers to teach students with little expertise or 
experience in writing. She would hate the tutorial system and 
prefers double sections (20-30 students) when possible for her 
poetry classes. "It s more exciting with a larger group; more people 
spark each other to better things; there s more reaction. and more 
self-teaching goes on ... there s a very minimal quality to a group 
of fifteen." 

f"- . 

The informal mood in her classes is perhaps deceptive. 
Students are expected to attend class regularly and turn in poems 
weekly. She s firm about deadlines and shows little sympathy for the 
self-styled independent poet who chooses to ignore the structures of 
her class. "I ll tell you my worst experience in teaching which 
happens every quarter. Students come out of the woodwork about the 
eighth week of classes and want to turn everything in in a lump and 
get credit without any process. Kids wander in and say Hello! 
what have I missed? and it makes me furious. There are always 

these types and they shouldn t bother me, but they do. I don t give 

incompletes because I think they are bad psychologically, and no F s, 

because an F means to try and to fail. So I tell them to do all the 
work in one week in order to get a D, and they just hate that, but 

it s my wicked solution to the problem." 



308 28 

, * * 

Equally hateful to her is the quarter system (ten weeks term) 

which was instituted as an economic measure by the U.C. Regents some 
years. ago. Originally there were to be four quarters in an academic 
year so that the University could be in full time operation, but 
summer quartsr has been defunct for a number of years and the dubious 
arithmetic of the three quarter system remains. Miss Miles has 
remarked more than once, and in great disgust, that "it s a disgrace 
to the faculty that they let it stay. During a semester you could 
capitalize on the growth of insight in a class. Here you can be happy 
they grasped it, but then there s only two weeks left. There s a rate 
of digestion in a class operation. It s like changing from a solid 
three course dinner to a ham sandwich. It s just hot as nourishing." 

Students from her poetry class come in to talk about their 
poems during her office hours, and she is generous with her time and 
her opinions. One thing becomes clear. She does not think that 
poetry is a spontaneous outpouring of feeling or a mysterious 
birthright possessed and not learned. Talking poetry, she is matter 
of fact as she is sensitive, and .cries of the soul aren t what she s 
after. Going over a sheaf of poetry which Miss Miles has just 
identified as "hang-up" poems, she tells a young woman with long hair 
and wide solemn eyes, "You have to be more self-conscious about what 
you re doing." It s a notion she repeats in different ways to each 

student she talks to. She asks one girl to name her favorite poem, 

and the girl responds with the names of favorites ranging from 

Ozymaridias toPrufrock. "No," says Miss Miles, "I think the thing 
for you is to read one whole poet all the way through. You might try 
Yeats. He s a little old for you but he s got a lot of zing. No, I 


think Denise Levertov. Read everything by Denise Levertov and when 
you re through you ll be able to say: She s Denise Levertov, and 
I m me, and we re different." She grins, "I was like you when I was 
young. I wanted to be able to pick and choose poems and I didn t 
want some whole poet pushing me around." 

Another student has written about an incident in her 
adolescence when she and a group of thirteen year olds, long legged, 
exuberant, and awkward, were taken on an expedition to attach markings 
to a flock of black crowned night herons. She is on her second 
version of the poem, but Miss Miles finds the parallels between the 
adolescent girls and the gangling baby herons are made too explicit. 
"You re too patronizing to your material," she says. The second 
version has more details than the first, intended to capture the mood 
better, but Miss Miles suggests another solution. "A way to get the 
reality in a poem is not to add more, but to take out the unreality. 
As T. S. Eliot said, a little reality will go a long way. " 

About halfway through every quarter she asks her poetry classes 
to do a translation of a foreign poet s work into English. Students 
choose a poem in whatever language they re familiar with, French, 
Hebrew, German, Chinese perhaps. Miss Miles hit on the assignment 
after participating in a prolonged translation exercise herself. Ten 
years ago, a visiting scholar in Near Eastern languages, Professor 
Mishra from India, began receiving letters from young Hindi poets 
asking for translators for their poetry. Miss Miles volunteered and 
she became a member of a kind of translator s workshop. None of the 
group knew the language, so Mishra read the Hindi verse onto a tape, 
and played them ( usually, Miss Miles says, managing to string them 

310 30 

on backwards) , while he read aloud a rough English translation. It 
was a kind of stereo bilingual text. The group spent a year on the 
project, and at the end published a small book called Modern Hindi 
Poetry. "We got letters from the poets themselves saying, "I can t 
believe Americans could understand us so well. They knew English, 
of course, so they could judge our work. In reservation, I ll say 
that I m still not quite sure about them. There is a quality of 
slowness in those poems, and I m not sure whether it was in the 
original poems or in us. It seems to me that there was a kind of 
alertness and motion of thought which we didn t capture, but I can t 
be sure." 

Working on the Hindi translations, she had an insight into the 
nature of poetry that she wanted her classes to share. "That s when 
I first understood what poetry is, the purposefulness and the selection 
part, rather than the spontaneity. Translating another poet is a 
great exercise for students because they get the sense of having it 
all add up. My hunch is, though, that if I tried to do it earlier in 
the quarter it wouldn t work, so I haven t had the nerve to try. 
They are not aware enough of poetry at the beginning. It s a matter 
of knowing when it will work and when it will be useful." The 
quality of timing in teaching is elusive, puzzling, essential, she 
thinks. She says that in every quarter there is a point at which a 
class that seems scattered and random will suddenly and en masse "get 
good." "Every quarter, I m afraid, I think it can t possibly happen , 
and every quarter it suddenly does. It s a great feeling of lightness 
then; a weight off your shoulders." 


During the spring quarter of 196.9, a major crisis occurred over 
the issue of a piece of land called People s Park. Students and 
Berkeley street people had taken over the unused land, which legally 
belonged to the University, and turned it into a small park with 
children s swings, flowers and a vegetable garden. Unexpectedly the 
University authorities tried to reclaim the land stating that it was 
"needed" for a soccer field. A fence was put up around the park 
which students attempted tp tear down. Riots followed, police made 
hundreds of arrests and a young bystander was killed. The National 
Guard was called in. Berkeley was like a city under seige, and the 
University campus like a battleground, but Miss Miles calls this, and 
the time of the Cambodian crisis the following year, "the best and 
easiest years of teaching. I don t feel all this mea culpa thing. 
The students could have been handled by a sympathetic administration, 
and I feel the whole upset was for the good." 

Students these days call her "Miss Miles," but in those years, 
she says a bit nostalgically, they called her "Jo." "Everybody was 
being free in the sixties. The great thing was that the students 
worked together. They had a sense of group there was a magic about 
this. I had a classroom in the basement of Wheeler, and we were tear 
gassed and had guns stuck at us, and I m sure it took years off my 
life, but it brought out a wonderful esprit de corps, I remember I 
wanted to set up an extra class meeting at my house and I wanted 

them to vote on the day we should do it. And they said, Oh, Jo, 
don t hassle us with stuff like voting. Someone suggested Friday 
afternoon and they all agreed instantly and walked out. It was like 

312 32 

The class got together to publish a book of poems about People s 

Park to raise money for the bail fund. Everyone contributed a poem, 
and then gathered at Miss Miles house to put the book together. 
"It s hard to collate and staple; I hadn t expected them all to come. 
But they did come with wine and cheese and I sent out for pizzas. By 
evening we finished and we had to get a cover and a title. Five 
titles were suggested, so I asked people to raise their hands and 
choose, and they said Never mind Jo, we ll think of something. 
Someone suggested Berkeley Street Poems and everybody immediately 


said fine and that was it. Interesting phenomena.," 

The book sold well, over a thousand at a dollar a copy. The 
poems themselves are mostly long and intense and ybung, full of 
passionately felt outrage, clumsy and touching. Miss Miles 
contribution is characteristically restrained, and sharp as- a 

How to Win a Soccer Match 

When the players get down close to the goal, the ghost goalie 
(He s a ghost goalie because ther s no field there yet. 
And he s playing on it, active sportsman* ) 
Raises his rifle and sights along it; 
By the rules of the game he s the only one . 
Who can use his hands. 

She admits frankly that students in the Seventies are a 
disappointment to her because they lack that sens,e of mission and of 
camaraderie. "Now it s just like pulling teeth to get them to do 
something together. They straggle in and out and they re just not , 
with it in a way I don t understand." When only fifty percent of 
students voted in the April City Council Elections this year, Miss Miles 
was shocked and dismayed as though they d let her down in some stupid, 
careless and personal way. 


It is not surprising that student apathy should find no 
apologist in Miss Miles. She is temperamentally an enthusiast with 
a matchless capacity for delight in ideas and things and people. Nearly 
all her friends will allude to this, though not all as bluntly as 
Thomas Parkinson who says simply, "She suffers fools gladly." He 
acknowledges that her extraordinary ability to find something to like 
in everything and everyone is a tremendous asset in teaching, but more 
of a liability in literary criticism. "The trouble with it is she 
doesn t make discriminations. Great poets, and some damn thing in 
the Oakland Tribune, she treats them all the same. She thinks everyone 
is doing something interesting. She treats literary figures like her 
students. She finds something to admire in the worst trash." 

Another friend remembers a dinner party he gave for Josephine 
Miles and a faculty couple who proved to be excruciating bores. The 
couple left after what seemed to him the longest and most tedious 
evening he d ever spent and he turned to Miss Miles to say as much. 
He was shocked to hear her praise them for this and that obscure virtue. 
It was, he say, "downright perverse." 

As a counter balance to this near-Pollyannaism, there is a 
streak of malice in her nature. Leonard Nathan calls it "a glimpse 
of talon." One senses it gradually listening to her conversation, a 
vinegar tang to her speech, a small but devastating put-down in passing. 
Eager as she is to find hidden virtues in acquaintances and strangers, 


Miss Miles close friends are apt to get an occasional decorous but 
well-aimed scratch. 

On the Berkeley campus, problems of policy are most often 
delegated to the scores of faculty committees. The rewards of 


committee vrork are long, unpaid hours pf meetings, tedium, bureaucratic 
flak and the likelihood that whatever recommendations emerge from this 
painful process may well be rejected or ignored. To most professors 
with classes to teach, research to conduct, and lives of their own to 
lead, committee work is a frustrating, time-consuming nuisance. In 
the past fifteen years Josephine Miles has served on at least one, 
and often several major committees every year. She was chairman for 
four years of the Campus Committee on Prose Improvement. She has 
served on the prestigious Academic Senate committees on Research and 
on Privilege and Tenure. For three years she belonged to the 
Chancellor s committee on the Arts and two years ago she. was a member 
of a most powerful and demanding committee, that to select the new 
Chancellor . 

The truth is she loves committee work, considers it a joy and a 
challenge rather than an obligation. To less enthusiastic colleagues, 
she will explain, "There s nothing like a good committee, and the 
chance to hear all those fine>, minds at work." One she failed to 
convert , commented simply, "She s crazy." 

She is a champion of causes, feisty and persistent tc the 
point of being annoying. In the English Department, Thomas Parkinson 
says she s considered "an irritant and an adornment," but people 
listen to her because her approach is as gentle and reasonable as it 

is stubborn. Civilization is built on decorum and legality, rules 

and procedures. Jo is very sensitive to this. She has tremendous 

stamina. She s flexible but she never really gives up. It s people 
like her* who are potent in the business of the world." 


William Fretter, former Dean of the College of Letters and 
Science and now chairman of the Physics Department, served with Miss 
Miles on the Committee in search of a Chancellor. "There was a 
warmth in the room when she came in. She provided an enormous amount 
of good sense, common sense and humor, and a very human view of people. 
She always made it perfectly clear that she wanted a human being and 
not an administrative automaton." 

But Miss Miles admits that hers weren t the best choices for 
Chancellor. "The ones I wanted wouldn t have been any good. One s 
gone to an asylum with a nervous breakdown. I wanted sensitivity 
types, but theyVe been beaten down at other places." She feels the 
choice of Albert Bowker, .formerly of the City University of New York, 
was a good compromise. "We all felt he had strength." 

- Working women have generally not fared well at the University 
of California. As administrative employees they have held low 
echelon positions, been poorer paid and up for fewer .promotions than 
men with comparable skills and ambitions. As faculty members their 
security is precarious. Women account for only three percent of the 
tenured faculty at Berkeley. Changes are imminent however, as the 
University encounters increasing pressure for redress and reform 
from the HEW. Josephine Miles is a woman who has spent nearly forty 
successful years at Berkeley, been the first woman to get tenure in 
the English Department. She holds a position of relative power in 
the campus at. large, and has received numerous honors culminating in* 
the University Professorship she was awarded this year. 

316 36 

Although the recognition she has. received as a woman scholar is 
uncommon and not reflective of the destinies of most women of her age 
and vocation, Miss Miles has been a keen observer of women in academia 
for a long time. Her view of the whole business is characteristically 
lacking in cant, unsensational, and not really the story one expects 
to hear. 

When she attended Berkeley graduate school there were, she says, 
an equal number of men and women students in the English Department. 


At UCLA, three of the ten members of the English faculty were women, 

so she had no sense at all that women "didn t teach." When the 
English Department hired her in 1940, she was the only woman in the 
department, but there had been others in the past. As she remembers 
it, married professors with children were more of a threat to the 
Old Guard of the English Department than women scholars were. She 
says that at this time the notion of teaching as a bachelor profession, 
isolated, and ascetic, was still a common and cherished belief among 
many academics. 

"In the forties, she says, there was an extremely powerful and 
active Women s Faculty Club." A group called "The Bluestockings" 
handled the question of women on the faculty independently, and 
succeeded in promoting women to a total of 16 percent of the tenured 
faculty, as compared to 3 percent today. 

Five other women were hired by the English Department shortly 

after Miss Miles. These women soon left, but all she says for 

"perfectly friendly reasons," like job offers elsewhere or marriage. 
Miss Miles began writing letters all over the country in search of 
applicants to replace them, but it became apparent that there were 


very few qualified women to be found. Miss Miles blames this on a 
general anti-intellectual trend among American women in the late 
forties and fifties. It seemed to her that after the war great 
numbers of women lost interest in scholarly careers and chose to stay 
home and keep house. The department did hire an early feminist from 
Radcliffe in the fifties who stayed only briefly. She was the sort 
Miss Miles reports, who would slap a man s face if he opened a door 
for her. 

The next, decade brought a great change. "The cold war created 
a new crop. The sociology of women changed. More women won fellow 
ships than men when I served on the scholarship committee in the 
sixties. In the English Department every year for the last eight 
years we ve gotten one woman who s stayed." 

She believes that the Cal English Department has discriminated 
far less against women than other departments like History, 
Sociology and Psychology. She does recall suffering one episode of 
blatant sexism, but she tells the story with more amusement than 
indignation. In 1942, English Department meetings were held in 
the Men s Faculty Club, and as the then sole woman in the department, 
she simply did not attend. The meetings were, she says tactfully, 
"kind of smokers." The day of one such meeting, the new department 
chairman ran into Miss Miles in the department office and asked, then 

insisted that she attend the meeting and bring the minutes with her. 

That afternoon, minutes in hand, she started for the men s faculty 
club in the arms of her helper. It was quite a distance, so the 
helper decided to short cut by entering the back door. He and 
Mrs. Miles were greeted by a faculty member in his tee shirt who 

318 38 

nearly closed the door on them in his alarm. The department chairman 

was sent for, the whole place went into an uproar, while Miss Miles 
waited outside for what seemed an interminable time with the minutes. 
These were finally intercepted by the chairman and Miss Miles was 
sent all the way around the building to the front door where she 
was permitted entrance to a special public room. Outraged manhood 
thus soothed, the meeting began. She has never been exactly sure what 
decencies she transgressed by trying, to come in the wrong way, but it 
seems "I would have had to walk by a place where men played pool in 
their underwear or something." She grins and shakes her head, "It was 
another world then, in terms of Emily Post, it really was." 

Part of Miss Miles success in a male-dominated institution may 
well have to do with the fact that she so obviously likes many of her 
male colleagues, admires their minds, and is indulgent about their 
foibles regarding women. She says that some years ago a Dean of 
Women told her , "The very fact that you are a woman sets the cause 
back fifty years because you don t pose the same problems another 
woman would." It was a cruel remark, and more cruel because half true, 
but Miss Miles .simply adds that its a fact that she was not the threat 
that a pretty young woman might have been. She is inclined to think 
tha t her University Professorship was a result of University 
uneasiness over HEW. "They re under pressure to be fair and they 

don t want to be fair. There s a lot of tokenism like that and its 

dangerous." But considering the University Professorship a gesture 
of tokenism didn t stop her from accepting her eleventh hour nomination 
graciously, attending the .dinner for other University Professors 
given in her honor, and enjoying herself immensely. Of course, she 


explains, it was double tokenism in that they needed someone in 
Humanities to balance the bias in favor of science. The dinner 
took place the day after the announcement of the award so most- of 
the people there didn t even know who Miss Miles was and nobody 
recognized her when she arrived. "They thought I was somebody s 
sister." Eventually, Harold Urey, a man in his eighties approached 
her and asked who she was. "I told him, and he asked what I did. 
I said I teach linguistics and write poetry, and he said Great! 
I m going to get us both another drink." 1 

Josephine Miles has a certain cool detachment about her own 
successes. And though she fully supports University women s attempts 
to secure equal status with men, here too she keeps an objective 
distance. It s clear that excellence in teaching and research is 
a standard she wouldn t compronise on behalf of her sex, and she does 
exhibit an occasional impatience with "the cause." She recalls the 
dinner meetings of the Woman 1 s Faculty Club in the fifties. "The 
women talked about their research. Those were fascinating evenings. 
Now all they talk about is the rise of women," she says a bit pettishly. 

In the coining collision between the University and HEW, she 
would rather act as mediator than advocate, and she feels she would 
be a good one. "Of course women have had a bad deal, but it take a 
while to sensitize people to a different kind of culture. It would 

help both sides to have a more historical perspective. They wouldn t 

be such adversaries if they d be more historical." 

Miss Miles has been involved in University conflicts for 
several decades now, but if you ask her about politics she will make 
a precise and rather pedantic distinction between this and what she 


considers "real" politics. When she talks about politics, she says 

she means traditional neighborhood politics, campaign strategies 
and elections. She was political to a degree until the defeat of 
Stevenson in 1952. When the Berkeley campus first swung left in the 
thirties and many of her friends became Communists, Miss Miles went 
to Communist parties and picnics with no sense whatever of political 
commitment. Then in the early fifties friends organized a grass roots 
Democratic party in Berkeley which defeated the entrenched conservative 
Republicans on the city council and elected a school board that 
integrated the Berkeley schools years ahead of any district in the 
country. They were exciting times, she says. "There were terrible 
defeats and great unexpected victories. It was illuminating to see 
how resilient people were." 

She has consistently supported student protests against 
repression from the earliest beginnings of the Free Speech Movement 
in 1964, but this, she says, is principle, not politics. Her 
explanation is reminiscent of her poem "How to Win a Soccer Match." 
It s a matter of psychological tyranny she says. "There s a kind of 
politics involved, but one in which all power is on one side and the 
side with principles is a helpless victim. She remains defiantly 
dissatisfied with the way the University is run. "I d like to reform 
the whole administration. I hate the way all the pressures are 
robbing initiative from the faculty, shifting principles away from 


education and toward political and financial ones." This year she 
is a member of the Faculty Association, a committee created by the 
Academic Senate to negotiate directly with the Regents and the 
Legislature and attempt to secure autonomy and power for the faculty. 


She has another cause, this, one very much her own, which she 
has battled for singlehandedly for years now. She thinks that 
Berkeley artists, especially poets, need a meeting place where they 
can go to work, to hold readings, to talk and exchange ideas. She 
would like to see a kind of workshop established that would be open 
every day for people in need of stimulus and feedback or simply 
pleasant surroundings to write in.. As one of Berkeley s best knovm 
poets, acquainted with poets all over the country, she is beseiged 
by young poets who arrive in Berkeley feeling lonely and out of touch. 
They all ask her where they can find a group to read and discuss 
poetry with. According to Miss Miles, Berkeley is unique in having 
a large number of good poets and a singular inability to get it 
together poetically speaking. Groups with good intentions and remark 
ably short half lives spring up and disappear in a community that is 
too stubbornly individualistic to uphold even as harmless an 
institution as a poetry club. This poetic entropy is Miss Miles 

Once she invited a large group of poets to her house to read 
to each other and get acquainted. Many more came than expected, and 
soon her tiny living room was filled with fifty voluble poets . Her 
intention was that the gathering would spontaneously generate smaller 
poetry reading groups that could meet on their own. Instead, the 
atmosphere rapidly became hostile and chaotic and the hoped for 
evening of artistic communication degenerated to a near brawl. The 
group met twice more at her home with less people but equally 
mistrustful vibrations and then Miss Miles washed her hands of the 
whole business. 


. She herself belongs to a poetry group which meets only once or 
twice a year with at least most of the same people each time. She 
nicknames it after the Guys and Dolls crap game, "The World s Oldest 
Established Permanent Floating Poetry Club." It seems to hold 
together by the pure virtue of non-organization, a spirit which she 
finds quintessentially Berkeley. 

Nevertheless, she has not abandoned her project for a 
community arts center through the auspices of the University, but 
here she has met with bureaucratic obstacles. Recently she attempted 
to secure a place in the new University Art Museum. This seemed 
feasible until the plan was axed by the controversial director of 
the museum, Peter Selz. Miss Miles claims that Selz opposed the 
project because it wasn t stylish enough for his stylish museum. 
Leonard Nathan says, "There s a terrier quality to Jo. When she wants 
something she holds on and doesn t give up." At present she is 
maneuvering to secure the Powerhouse for her p6ets. It s a small 
building on campus, surrounded by trees and guarded by stone lions, 
once an art museum and now being used by the Campus Police for bicycle 
registration . Miss Miles is once more optimistic, "Chancellor Bowker 
is backing this and we may just get it." 

Josephine Miles house on Virginia Street looks tranquil 
enough, but there is constant activity inside. A steady stream of 
people, friends, students, drivers, come and go during the day. A 
woman student rents a room there, and a housekeeper comes to clean 
and cook. One of the two television sets is usually on, blatting 
softly and continually although Miss Miles appears to take no notice. 
Her days are tightly scheduled. She is extended in so many directions, 


counted on for so much and by so many that she is constantly at odds 
with time. Plainly she seeks out this .bustling k ind of existence and 
she thrives on it. 

She is a gregarious woman with a great many friends and enough 
invitations to warrant a thick and frequently consulted engagement book. 
She has a core of intimates, many of whom she s known since her student 
days. Evenings she dines out often, is decidedly adventurous about 
restaurants, enjoys going to plays and concerts. 

In summer she simplifies her life. She owns a small vacation 
house at Point Richmond where she stays alone with the help of a 
neighbor girl to run errands. Mostly she sits on her porch and looks 
at the view and absorbs the stillness around her. .It s at Point Richmond, 
if anywhere, that she slows down. "I sit and watch the freighters go 
by on the bay and they go by very slowly, about one every two hours." 
She reads long books set in foreign places. "I don t like mysteries 
or puzzles or detective stories, just novels that ramble through 
scenery. " 

Travel is something she craves for herself, greedy for new 
sights and sounds and flavors. George Eliott and his wife have 
been on numerous short car trips with Miss Miles. He recalls one 
3 day trip when Miss Miles was "enjoying everything and all the time. 
Finally I couldn t stand it any more. I got tire d of reacting to 
every fence post we saw." Although her physical condition makes long 
distance traveling difficult, she s made a number of trips in the 
United States, usually to attend conferences at other universities. 
She comes back full of ideas and impressions, things to write about 
and things to tell. She has been to Vancouver and Death Valley, 

. . 324 


Houston, New York and Washington and most recently to- Colorado and 
New. Mexico. She would like very much to see the South, preferably 
from the deck of a Delta Queen on its way down the Mississippi. 
Friends say that she conscientiously sends them postcards when she 
travels, written in tiny close script like engraving on jewelry. 

Eight years ago- she was invited for -a short visit with some old 
friends who were spending a year in Aix-en-Provence. She was to go 
alone and the trip involved a change of planes without help, a 
prospect that frightened her. She s such a resourceful woman it s 
hard to imagine her at a loss and because she never complains about 
pain, it is easy to forget how fragile she is, how physically 
vulnerable. She confided once to a friend that the two things that 
she is afraid of are -big dogs and high winds, things that could 
knock her down. Yet she wanted very much to go and when the airlines 
agreed she could, off she set for Marseilles. The trip lasted only 
two weeks, and she admits it was a bit crazy to travel so far for so 
short a stay, but it was worth it. Of all the places in the world 
she wanted most to see it was the South of France. 

A new book of Miss Miles poems called To All Appearances will 
be published next year, but probably as part of a volume of new and 
selected poetry, which disappoints her because she is partial to the 
title. In the last several years she has attracted more notice as 
a poet than ever before. For some reason her poetry is getting more 


representation in new anthologies, and this puzzles and amuses her. 
"Just when I d acceeded to the younger generation. It s an odd and 
mysterious twist." Still, it is unlikely the attention will turn 
her head since it took months to find a publisher for To All Appearances 


which was rejected right and left for not being sufficiently avant- 
garde. The Norton Anthology, a standard and prestigious college 
textbook for English literature printed a number of Miss Miles poems 
in its new edition. In commemoration of the event, a friend sent her 
a copy of World s review of the collection. The reviewer expressed 
delight that Norton had included two major and neglected American 
poets, Edgar Lee Masters and Josephine Miles. The neglected Miss Miles 
positively chortles, "How do you like that. Puts me right where I 
belong, in the obituary column." 

One evening this April she gave a poetry reading in Cody s 
Bookstore in Berkeley. She gives readings infrequently, three or 
four times a year, and never charges a fee. This one was held in 
Cody s upstairs gallery and the room gradually filled with about 
forty people who chatted and moved around, waiting for her to start. 
She looked young and very cheerful in a bright violet blouse and a 
long peasantry skirt. She waited about ten minutes before beginning, 
sitting calmly and leafing through her book of poems. In public she 
has the special poise of someone who has learned to sit patiently 
without the option of timing her entrance, or getting up and mingling 
until time to start. 

"She began by announcing gently that a new young poet was giving 
a reading at the same time on campus and urged everyone to go hear 

him. "I don t know this young man s poetry, but he has a very 

handsome picture in the paper. The thing is, I didn t even know I 

was giving this reading until I read it in the paper yesterday so I 
had no time to protest or set up another time. So don t think I d be 
hurt or anything." She paused, but no one left. "Well, I ll read for 

326 . 46 


twenty minutes and then have an intermission so you can leave if you 


want to." 

. She broke the poems up into loose groupings, beginning with 
fables, poetry cibout gods and animals. She read "Sheep," "Fish," and 
"God a man at Yale" and others in an easy conversational tone of 
voice. Occasionally, she would comment on the inspiration for the 
poems, or explain which pleased her and which still did not satisfy 
her. She read "Sisyphus," explaining that though Sisyphus had 
become a symbol of the existential dilemma, hers was an anti-existential 
interpretation . 

He said a man s reach must exceed his grasp, 
Or what is Hades for? 

He said, it s not the goal that matter, but the process 

Of reaching it, the breathing joy 

Of endeavor, and the labor along .the way. 

This belief damned him, and damned, what s harder 

The heavy stone. 

During the second half of the program she read new poems and 
took requests. People called out lines. Few remembered titles and 
neither did Miss Miles. Someone asked for "Oedipus." "Really? now 
some people just hate that poem. It sets their teeth on edge." 

The gang wanted to give Oedipus Rex a going away present 
He has been a good hardworking father and king. 
And besides it is the custom of this country. 
To .give gifts on departure. 

But we didn t know what to give Oedipus, he had everything 
Even in his loss he had more than average. 

So we gave him a travelling case, fitted which we personally 
Should have like to receive. 

Reading, she paused slightly at significant lines. It was in no 
sense a performance, yet as William Fretter said about the committee 


"there was a wc.rmth in the room." Toward t.he end she read a 
called "Family." 

When you swim in the surf off Seal Rocks, and your family 

Sits in the sand 

Eating potato salad, and the undertow 

Comes, which takes you out, away, down 

To loss of breath, loss of play and the power of play, 

Holler say 

Help, help, help. Hello, they will say, 

Come back here for some potato salad. 

It is then that a seventeen-year old cub 

Cruising in a helicopter from Antigua 

A jackstraw expert speaking only Swedish, 

And remote from this area as a camel , says 

Look down there, there is somebody drowning. 

And it is you. You say yes, yes, yes, 

And he throws you a line. 

This is what is called the brotherhood of man. 

There was silence and then laughter and loud applause. "My 
god," someone muttered, "my god, she s good." 






Bound, indexed copies of the transcripts of the following interviews are 
available at cost to libraries for deposit in noncirculating collections for 
scholarly use. 

Adams, Frank, Frank Adams, University of California on Irrigation, Reclamation, and 
Water Administration. 1956, 491 p. 

Birge, Raymond Thayer, Raymond Thayer Birge, Physicist. 1960, 395 p. 

Blaisdell, Allen C. , Foreign Students and the Berkeley International House, 1928-1961. 
1968, 419 p. 

Chaney, Ralph Works, Ralph Works Cnaney, Ph.D., Paleobotanist, Conservationist. 
1960, 277 p. 

Corley, James V., Serving the University in Sacramento. 1969, 143 p. 
Cross, Ira Brown, Portrait of an Economics Professor. 1967, 128 p. 
Cruess, William V., A Half Century in Food and Wine Technology. 1967, 122 p. 
Davidson, Mary Blossom, The Dean of Women and the Importance of Students. 1967, 79 p. 
Dennes, William R. , Philosophy and the University Since 1915. 1970, 162 p. 
Donnelly, Ruth, The University s Role in Housing Services. 1970, 129 p. 
Ebright, Carroll "Ky", California Varsity and Olympics Crew Coach. 1968, 74 p. 
Evans, Clinton W. , California Athlete, Coach, Administrator, Ambassador. 1968, 106 p. 

Foster, Herbert B. , The Role of the Engineer s Office in the Development of the 
University of California Campuses. 1960, 134 p. 

Gordon, Walter A., (In process ) 

Grether, Ewald T. , (In process ) 

Hamilton, Brutus, Student Athletics and the Voluntary Discipline. 1967, 50 p. 

Harris, Joseph P., (1980 - in process) 

Hays, William Charles, Order, Taste, and Grace in Architecture. 1968, 241 p. 

Hildebrand, Joel H. , Chemistry, Education, and the University of California. 1962, 196 p 


Hutchison, Claude B. , The College of Agriculture, University of California, 1922-1952. 
1962, 524 p. 

Johnston, Marguerite Kulp and Mixer, Joseph R. , Student Housing, Welfare, and the ASUC. 
1970, 54 p. 

Kerr, Clark, (1979 - in process) 

Lehman, Benjamin H. , Recollections and Reminiscences of Life in the Bay Area from 
1920 Onuard. 1969, 367 p. 

Lenzen, Victor F. , Physics and Philosophy. 1965, 206 p. 
Lessing, Ferdinand^ D. , Early Years. 1963, 70 p. 

Mclaughlin, Donald, Careers in Mining Geology and Management, University Governance 
and Teaching. 1975, 318 p. 

Merritt, Ralph P., After Me Cometh a Builder, the Recollections of Ralph Palmer 
Merritt. 1962, 137 p. 

Meyer, Karl F. , Medical Research and Public Health, 1976, 439 p. 
Miles, Josephine, Poetry, Teaching, and Scholarship. 1980,343 p. 
Mitchell, Lucy Sprague, Pioneering in Education. 1962, 174 p. 

Mixer, Joseph R. and Johnston, Marguerite Kulp, Student Housing, Welfare, and the ASUC. 
1970, 54 p. 

Neuhaus, Eugen, Reminiscences: Bay Area Art and the University of California Art 
Department. 1961, 48 p. 

Key Ian, John Francis, Politics, Law, and the University of California. 1962, 319 p. 

Olney, Mary McLean, Oakland, Berkeley, and the University of California, 1880-1895. 
1963, 173 p. 

Pepper, Stephen C. , Art and Philosophy at the University of California, 1919 to 1962. 
1963, 471 p. 

Porter, Robert Langley, Robert Langley Porter, Physician, Teacher, and Guardian of 
the Public Health. 1960, 102 p. 

Richardson, Leon J. , Berkeley Culture, University of California Highlights, and 
University Extension, 1892-1960. 1962, 248 p. 

Robb, Agnes, Robert Gordon Sproul and the University of California. 1976, 138 p. 
Shields, Peter J. , Reminiscences. 1954, 107 p. 

Sproul, Ida Wittschen, Duty, Devotion and Delight in the President s House, University 
of California. 1961, 103 p. 


Stevens, Frank C. , Forty Years in the Office of the President, University of 
California, 1905-1945. 1959, 175 p. 

Towle, Katherine A., Administration and Leadership. 1970, 369 p. 

Treadway, Walter, Correspondence and Papers on Langley Porter Clinic. (Bound in 
Langley Porter interview.) 1960, 37 p. 

Underbill, Robert M. , University of California Lands, Finances, and Investment. 
1968, 446 p. 

Waring, Henry C. , Henry C. Waring on University Extension. 1960, 130 p. 
Wessels, Glenn A., Education of An Artist. 1967, 326 p. 
Wilson, Garff, (1980 - in process) 

Witter, Jean C. , The University, the Community, and the Lifeblood of Business. 
1968, 109 p. 

Woods, Baldwin M. , University of California Extension. 1957, 102 p. 

Wurster, William Wilson, College of Environmental Design, University of California, 
Campus Planning, and Architectural Practice. 1964, 339 p. 


INDEX Josephine Miles 

Abbott, Charles, 225 

Academy of American Poets award, 246, 251 

Aesthetic Society, 90-92 

Aldington, Richard, 60 

Allen, Don, 226 

Allen, John Joseph, Jr., 104 

Alpers, Paul, 89 

American Association of University Women fellowship, 71, 127 

American Federation of Teachers, 221 

American Pen Women, League of, 40 

Ammons, A.R. (Archie), 159, 166, 181 

Anderson, Edgar, 229 

Anderson, Judith, 69, 72 

Andrews, Lyman, 156 

Aschenbrenner , Karl, 91 

Austin, Mary, 60 

Ayres, Dorothy, 28 

Babcock, Miss, 9, 12 

Bacon, Leonard, 52, 59, 199 

Baker, Dorothy, 54 

Baker, Howard, 48, 54 

Baker, Sheridan, 148 

Balderston, Frederick E. (Fred), 212 

Ballinger, Martha Bacon, 39, 42, 52, 59, 60 

Bancroft Library, The, 225, 226-227 

Barfield, Owen, 31, 38 

Barlow, George, 160, 181 

Barnhart, Edward N., 102 

Bay Area Writing Project, 195, 200-202, 249 

Beatles, the, 166, 167, 206 

Beckwith, Martha, 72 

Beebe, Francis, 5, 10 

Beloof, Robert, 180 

Benet, James (Jim), 144 

Benet, William Rose, 53 

Benet family, 49, 54 

Benson, Larry, 148 

Berkeley Fellows, 261 

Berkeley Poetry Review, 168 

Berkeley (city) politics, 104 

Billing family, 2 


Bird, Remsen, 71-72 

Bishop, Elizabeth, 52, 66, 167 

Blaser, Robin, 163, 189 

Ely, Robert, 55 

Bogen, Don, 149, 162 

Bookman, The (magazine), 19, 39 

Booth, Stephen, 89 

Borah, Woodrow, 21 

Bowker, Albert H. (Al) , 201, 204, 247, 249 ("the chancellor"), 260 

Boy Critics, 48, 65, 84 

Boyd, Julian, 112, 114 

Bradley, Tom, 144 

Bradshaw, Franklyn Royer, 24, 28 

Brandt, Jewel Holder, 42-43, 68 

Brandt, William (Bill), 180 

Brautigan, Richard, 159 

Brett, Philip, 205 

Bridgman, Richard, 256 

Brimhall, Lila, 70 

Brodeur, Arthur, 43, 46, 49, 83, 108 

Bronson, Bertrand H. (Bud), 17, 48-49, 65, 77, 84, 101, 109, 126, 

128, 230 

Brooks, Cleanth, 66, 89, 90, 121 
Brooks, Phyllis, 196 
Broughton, James, 56 
Brower, Renken, 122, 130 

Brown, Edmund G. , Jr., 140, 142, 247, 258 ("the governor"), 259 
Brown, Edmund G. , Sr., 104 
Brown, Gilmore, 71, 73 
Brown, Willie, 140 
Bruce, Harold, 110 
Bukowsky, Charles, 187, 188 
Bunche, Ralph, 28 
Burough, Reuben, 5, 10 
Butler, Gerald, 156 
Bynner, Witter, 52, 118 

Cage, John, 21 

Caldwell, James R. (Jim), 48-49, 50, 53, 54, 55, 57, 63, 68, 73, 

78-79, 84, 85, 87, 92, 102, 109, 119 
Caldwell, Katherine, 49, 53, 54 

California Association of Teachers of English, 95, 200, 213, 251-252 
California Institute of the Arts, 206 
California Living magazine section, 190, 192 
California Writers Club, 182-183 
Campbell, Lily Bess, 37, 38, 67, 71, 72, 88 
Carruth, Hayden, 141, 166, 243 
Castro, Janice, 157 


Cheney, May, 42, 72 

Chipman, John, 1 

Chipman, Sarah, 1 

Chomsky, AvramN., 112, 132-133 

Chretien, C. Douglas, 124-125 

Chrisman, Robert, 181 

Christensen, Francis, 199 

Christensen, Mark, 210 

Clarke, Leslie, 226 

Clark, Naomi, 184 

Cline, James M. (Jim), 48-49, 65, 109 

Cloud Marauder magazine, 157, 162 

Cody s [Books, Inc.], 157, 185 

Cohelan, Jeffery, 104 

committees, U.C. Berkeley: 

Chancellor s Committee on the Arts, 204-208 

Committee on Academic Planning, 211-213, 247-248 

Committee on Committees, 211 

Committee on Privilege and Tenure, 210-211 

Committee on Research of the Academic Senate, U.C. Berkeley, 202, 203 

Committee on Teaching, 248-249 

Faculty Research Lecture committee, 224 

President s Committee on Search for the Chancellor, U.C. Berkeley, 
202, 203-204 

Prize Committee, 207, 209, 210 
Constance, Lincoln, 142 
Coolbrith, Ina, 192 
Cooperrider, Ken, 63 
Corley, James H. , 102 
Cowley, Malcolm, 53 
Creeley, Robert, 58, 59, 61, 188 
Crofts, Howard, 42-43 
Cruz, Victor Hernandez, 160 
Culler, Jonathan, 138 
Cunningham, Imogen, 61-62 
Cunningham, J.V., 52, 56, 57, 166 
Cushman, Don, 162, 189, 191, 193 

Data System of Instructional Resources, 146 

Davie, Donald, 156 

Dean, Elma, 183 

Dennes, William R. (Will), 64, 73, 90, 119, 232 

Denny, Roberta, 28 

DePrisco, Joe, 162 

Deutsch, Monroe E., 93 

Distinguished Teaching Award, 248-249 

Dobbie, Lucie, 181 

Donne, John, 136-137, 185 


Donoghue, Denis, 166 

Dower, Welda, 5, 13-14, 15 

Downes, Carl, 37, 83, 88 

Drake, Francis, 47, 48, 49 

Dryden concordance, 75, 124-125 

Duncan, Robert, 56, 58, 61, 149, 152, 163 

Dunlap, Mary, 157 

Eberhart, Richard (Dick), 61, 152, 165, 179 

Edwards, Walter, 20, 22 

Eisner Awards, 204-208 

Eliot, T.S., 60, 65 

Elliott, George P., 148, 149, 228 

Elliott, Mary Emma Jeffress, 148, 228 

Ellman, Richard, 166 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 130-132 

Empson, William, 38 

Esherick, Joseph (Joe), 205, 206, 207 

Evans, Bertrand (Bert), 94 

Everson, William (Bill), 61, 151, 193 

Faculty Research Lecture, 223 

Farnham, Willard, 45, 120, 134, 140 

Fearing, Kenneth, 152 

Feller, David E. , 261 

Ferlinghetti, Lawrence, 61, 159, 165 

Field, Sara Bard, 49, 52, 54-55, 92-93, 118 

Fillmore, Charles, 112, 113 

Fiorito, Ted, 13-14, 15 

Fish, Stanley, 89 

Fitzell, Lincoln, 54 

Planner, Hildegarde, 40, 53, 118 

Flower, Joe, 163 

Foreman, Paul, 157, 162, 168, 188, 191-192, 193 

Foster, Marguerite, 90 

Foster, Willis, 236 

Fraser, Kathleen, 185-186 

Fredricks, Walter S. (Wolly) , 168 

Fretter, William B. (Bill), 142, 145, 149, 260 

Frost, Robert, 35, 61 

Fussell, Paul, 166, 178 

Gayley, Charles Mills, 118, 119 
Gayley Lectures, 222 
Gee, Penny, 126 
Genet, Jean, 169 
Gibbs, Barbara, 47, 56 


Ginsberg, Allen, 55, 56, 60, 164, 165, 180, 188, 206, 226, 237 

Gleason, Madeline, 56, 58 

Goldbarth, Albert, 188 

Gray, James R. (Jim), 94-95, 199, 200, 201, 213 

Green, David, 148 

Grossenheider family, 3 

Grubb, Verna. See Winslow, Ann 

Guggenheim awards, 110 

Gullans, Charles, 56 

Gumpertz, John, 112 

Gunn, Thorn, 159, 172, 175, 237 

Haas, Mary, 112, 113 

Haas, Robert, 185-186, 188 

Hamilton, Clair, 42-43, 44 

Hammond, George P., 225, 226 

Hand, George, 76 

Harper, Michael, 61, 181 

Harris, Fred, 228 

Harris, Mary, 228 

Hart, James D. (Jim), 62, 226, 249 

Hart, Lawrence, 164, 165 

Hart, Walter Morris, 109, 117-119 

Hawley, Robert (Bob), 157, 159, 179, 182-183, 184-185, 187-189, 190 

Henderson, David, 160 

Hendricks, Kimmis, 21 

Herriman, George, 5 

Heyman, Ira Michael (Mike), 260 

Hitch, Charles J., 97, 143, 146, 211, 218, 219 

Hitchcock, George, 163, 189 

Hochfield, George, 180 

Holder, Jewel. See Brandt, Jewel Holder 

Hollingsworth, Allen (Al) , 148, 180 

Holt, Achilles, 56 

Holther, Will, 91 

Hopkins: The Kenyon Critics, 121 

Horan, Robert, 56, 164 

Howland, Hope, 1 

Hughes, Langston, 118 

Hughes, Merritt, 46-47, 63, 64, 69, 108 

Hungerland, Isabel, 91, 102, 106 

Huntington Library, 69-70 

Huxley, Aldous, 103 

Hymes, Dell, 112 


Idea and Experiment magazine, 102, 223-224 
Institute of Governmental Studies, 252 
Intersection (arts center) , 189 
lodice, Ruth, 183 

Jaqua, Mary Alice, 42-43, 44, 63, 70 

Jeffers, Robinson, 49, 55, 57, 152 

John Martin s Book (magazine) , 8 

Jones, LeRoi, 237 

Jordan, John, 115, 120, 215 

Joyce, James, 58 

Kantor, James R.K. (Jim), 227, 
Kaprow, Allan, 206-207 
Kayak magazine, 163 
Kent,~T.J., Jr. (Jack), 104 
Kenyon Review, 66, 88, 121 
Kerouac, Jack, 165 
Kerr, Clark, 141-142, 145 
Kinnell, Galway, 61 
Kinnick, B. Jo, 183 
Knoepf Imacher, Ulrich, 89 
Kroeber, Karl, 228, 229 

Labaudt, Marcelle (Madame Lucien) , 58, 91 

Labor School (San Francisco), 93, 182 

Lackner, Ernest (grandfather of J. Miles), 2, 3, 4, 6 

Lackner family, 3 

Lamantia, Philip, 56 

Landor, Walter, 91 

Lane, Kenneth (Ken), 94, 200, 213 

Latona Avenue School (South Pasadena), 5, 9-10, 11, 70 

Laughlin, James, 150 

Lavayea, Miss, 23 

Lavin, Albert (Cap), 201 

Lehman, Benjamin H. (Ben), 47-48, 63, 65, 66, 67-68, 69, 71, 72, 

77-78, 83-84, 85, 94, 100, 108-122, 124, 126, 128, 141, 153 
Leite, George, 149, 152 
Leseman, Maurice, 118 
Levertov, Denise, 106 
Levertov, Mitch, 106 
Levin, Harry, 121 

Lewis, Janet (Janet Lewis Winters), 50, 56 
Lindsay, Vachel, 60 
Lines at Intersection, 53, 72 
linguistics, 111-114, 133-134, 137, 138, 139, 199, 239 


Logan, John, 159 

Longueil, Alfred, 37, 38, 88 

Los Angeles High School, 19-25, 26, 34-35, 36, 37, 40 

Lowe, Frank, 28 

Lowell, Robert, 61 

Lowenthal, Leo, 228 

Lowes, John Livingston, 39 

loyalty oath controversy, 102-103, 115, 142, 154, 178 

Lyman, W.W. (Jack), 117, 118 

Lynch, James J. (Jim), 94 

Lyon, Earl, 42-43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 70, 72, 78 

Lyons, Jack, 117 

McClure, Michael (Mike), 56, 61, 165 

McGahey, Jeanne, 50, 56, 164 

Maclntyre, Carlyle, 37, 38, 72, 181 

Mackay, Donald, 92 

Mackenzie, Armine, 28-29 

McKenzie, Gordon, 48-49, 84, 85-86, 88, 139 

Mackintosh, Graham, 159 

Mann, Thomas, 61 

Manroot, 189-190 

Mason McDuf f ie (realtor) , 235 

May, Henry, 205, 207 

Mearns, Hughes, 23 

Meredith, George, 45 

Meyer, Adolph, 26 

Meyer, Morton, 220 

Miles family, 1-3 

Miles, Frederick Billing (grandfather of Josephine Miles), 2 

Miles, Herbert (Herb), 1, 2 

Miles, John (brother of Josephine Miles), 3, 4, 5, 13, 15, 16, 

21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 31, 38, 66, 75, 79, 152, 154, 233, 234, 236 
Miles, Josephine, 1, passim 

interest in films, 14-15, 43 

literary interests 

early childhood, 6-14, 15, 19 

high school years, 20-21, 22-23, 34-35, 37, 40 
college years (undergraduate), 28-31, 35, 37-43, 53 
mature years, 30-245, passim 

musical interests, 15-18, 230 
Miles, Josephine Lackner (mother of Josephine Miles), 2-3, 4, 5, 6, 

7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12-13, 18, 19, 21, 26, 30, 31, 32, 36, 38, 62, 66, 

73, 74, 105, 227, 235 
Miles, Reginald Odber (father of Josephine Miles), 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 

9, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 21, 24, 26, 62, 233 
Miles, Richard (Dick) (brother of Josephine Miles), 3, 4, 5, 13, 15, 

16, 21, 22, 26, 27, 31, 38, 66, 67, 75, 79, 131, 152, 154, 233, 234 


Millay, Edna St. Vincent, 39, 54 

Miller, Henry, 152-153 

Miller, Milton, 121 

Mills, Clark, 66 

Mills College, 69, 71, 77-78 

Modern Language Association (MLA) , 121, 122, 130, 255 

Monk, Samuel, 122 

Monroe, Harriet, 40 

Montgomery, Guy, 75, 108, 109, 124 

Moore, Marianne, 52, 57, 61 

Moore, Rosalie, 56, 164, 183 

Morley, S. Griswold, 61 

Moses, W.R. , 66 

Mudra Press, 161, 193 

Murchio, Jack, 149 

Myers, Miles, 201 

Nagel, Mary, 5 

Nathan, Leonard, 55, 118, 165, 166, 180, 188 

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) , 162, 231 

Neely, Betty, 250 

New Directions, 149, 150, 179 

Niles, Jack, 157 

Nuntius, The (periodical), 20-21 

Occident magazine, 168, 169, 244 
Oden, Gloria, 181 
O Hehir, Diane, 91, 162 
Oliver, William I. (Bill), 73 
Olson, Charles, 164, 187, 188 
O Neill, Eugene, 10 
Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 92 
Orem, Bob, 42-43, 63 

Pacific Spectator, The, 182, 183 

Panjandrum Press, 162, 192-193 

Park, Roderic B. (Rod), 201, 213 

Parkinson, Thomas (Tom), 56, 119, 120, 141, 153, 162, 163, 165 

Parrish, Stephen, 125 

Pasadena Community Playhouse, 11, 30, 70-71, 73 

Patchen, Kenneth, 152, 163 

Paz, Octavio, 150 

Pelican Building (U.C. Berkeley), 168-169, 244, 245, 249-250 

People s Park controversy, 158, 205 

Pepper, Stephen, 64, 90, 91 

Peters, Robert, 61 


Phelan award, U.C. Berkeley, 71 

Phi Beta Kappa, 32 

playwriting, 9-11, 70-71, 73-74 

poem, Josephine Miles s first, 8 

poetry, 5, passim 

Poetry magazine, 40, 80, 238 

Poetry Flash newsletter, 163, 190 

Poet s Co-op, 185 

Popper, Jan, 205 

Potter, George, 71, 75, 115, 124 

Prall, Margaret, 91 

Rafferty, Max, 144, 200 

Rahu, Philip, 55 

Raleigh, John (Jack), 115, 120 

Ranson, John Crowe, 61 

Rau, Katherine, 91 

Reagan, Ronald, 140, 142, 259 

Reed, David W. (Dave), 112, 113 

Reed, Ishmael, 160 

Reinhardt, Aurelia Henry, 71, 72 

Rexroth, Kenneth, 50, 54, 56, 61, 152, 163, 228 

Rice, Stan, 61, 160-161, 193 

Richards, I. A., 39, 84, 85, 88 

Rieber, Charles H. , 28, 119 

Riggs, Lynn, 39 

Riles, Wilson, 144 

Ritchie, Benbow, 149 

Roethke, Theodore, 52, 61, 149 

Ross, John, 110 

Royer, Franklyn. See Bradshaw, Franklyn Royer 

Rukeyser, Muriel, 52, 61, 150 

Rumford, Byron, 104 

Ruth, Leo, 94-95, 200, 213 

Ruthven, Madeline, 5, 13 

sabbatical years, 16, 228-230, 239 

Sacks, Sheldon, 112 

St. Nicholas magazine, 8-9, 10, 12, 19, 59, 60 

Sandburg, Carl, 61 

Sansome, Clarence, 28 

Saxon, David S., 254, 260 

Schorer, Mark, 85-86, 108, 115, 130, 139, 164 

Schulman, Grace, 188 

Schurz, Carl, 2 

Schwartz, Delmore, 150 

Scott, Elizabeth, 230 


Scott, Geraldine Knight, 217, 234, 235 

Scott, Mel, 235 

Scripps College, 24, 27, 212 

Seaborg, Glenn, 219, 222 

Sells, Lucy, 216 

Selvin, Hanan, 228 

Selz, Peter, 244 

Sengher, Leopold, 169 

Shapiro, Karl, 151 

Shelley award, 53 

Sherriffs, Alex, 102 

Shidler, Ross, 168 

Shifrin, Seymour, 243 

Sibley, Carol, 104 

Simon, John Oliver, 174, 190 

Simpson, Louis, 159, 179 

Sledd, James, 112 

Smelser, Neil, 218, 219, 222 

Smith, Ella Victoria, 2 

Smith, Henry, 124, 126, 132, 139, 144 

Smith, William Odber, 1, 2 

Snyder, Gary, 61, 151, 159, 161, 165, 166, 237 

Southern Review, 65-66, 88, 121, 179 

Spender, Natasha, 61 

Spender, Stephen, 61 

Spicer, Jack, 58, 149, 152, 163, 180 

Spritser, Hildie, 157 

Sproul, Robert Gordon, 102, 110, 115, 117, 120, 141, 145, 259 

Stafford, William (Bill), 61, 148, 151, 166, 225 

Stanford, Don, 52, 56 

Starbuck, George, 148, 159 

Steinhoff, William (Bill), 148, 149, 227 

Stephens, Alan, 56 

Stephens, James, 61 

Stewart, George, 60, 76, 85, 86, 92, 110, 111, 117, 177-178 

Structuralist Poetics (by Culler), 137-138 

student protests, 1960s, 104-106, 142, 144, 155-157, 204, 205-206 

Style magazine, 241-243 

Swackhamer, John M. (Jack), 16, 17, 230 

Swinburne, Charles Algernon, 59 

Taggard, Genevieve, 54, 118 

Taper, Bernard, 148, 149 

Taper, Phyllis, 148, 149 

Tate, James (Jim), 157, 162, 191, 237 

Tatlock, J.S.P., 43, 45-46, 49, 69, 92, 108, 119 

Teasdale, Sara, 54 

Teller, Edward, 144 


Thomas, Dylan, 59, 60, 61 

Thorsen, Marjorie, 43, 44, 70 

Tiscornia, Adolph A., 233-234 

Townsend, James (Jim), 159 

Trial Balances, 51-53, 149, 150, 152, 179 

Trow, Martin A. (Marty), 212 

Tyler, Ham, 149 

University of Buffalo, 225 

University of California, Berkeley, passim 

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), 24-25, 27-32, 36-39, 

42-43, 49, 56-57, 60-61, 67, 68, 71, 77, 83, 84, 88, 94, 117, 120, 212 
University of California, various campuses, passim 
university professorship, 218-222, 254 
Urey, Harold, 218, 219 
Utter, Robert P. , 111 

Vasconcellos, John D., 140 
Victorian Club, 260 
Vincent, Stephen, 189 

Wakoski, Diane, 156 

Walker, J.M., 235 

Warren, Earl, 141, 259 

Warren, Robert Penn, 66, 89, 90, 117, 137 

Warshaw, Howard K. , 207 

Washington University, 225, 226 

Ways of the Poem, the, 122 

Webber, Melvin M. (Mel), 212 

Weeks, Donald, 91 

Weiss, Jason, 168 

Weiss, Theodore (Ted), 180, 187-188 

Wellek, Rene, 122 

Wentworth, Richard, 179 

West, George, 49, 54 

West, Marie, 49, 118 

West Coast Print Center, 161, 192, 193 

Whalen, Philip (Phil), 165 

Wheeler, Benjamin Ide, 119 

Whipple, T.K., 43, 49, 92, 108, 131 

White, Helen, 71 

White, Lynn, 218, 222 

Whitney, James (Jim), 104 

Wilbur, Richard, 55 

Wilkerson, Margaret, 160, 216 

Williams, Frances, 28 

Williams, William Carlos, 57, 58, 61 


Wilson, John C. , 38 

Wilson, Pat, 91 

Wilson, Rob, 168 

Winslow, Ann (Verna Grubb) , 33, 49-53, 57, 149, 152 

Winters, Janet Lewis. See Lewis, Janet 

Winters, Yvor, 47, 48, 50, 52, 53-55, 56, 57, 66, 149, 152, 163 

Witt, Harold, 183 

Witt-Diamant, Ruth, 59 

Wolf, Leonard, 153 

Wolverton, Miss, 19 

women, equality of, 104, 213-217 

Wood, Charles Erskine Scott, 49, 53, 55, 92-93 

Wordsworth, [William], 63-65, 68-69, 116, 126, 127, 138, 183 

World War II, effects of, 151-154, 232 

Wortham, Jim, 42-43, 44, 46, 48, 63, 70 

Worthen, Richard J. (Dick), 94-95, 200 

Wright, James, 55 

Yeats, W.B. , 183 

Yellen, Samuel, 155 

Young, Al, 61, 160, 181 

Young Critics. See Boy Critics 

Youth s Companion (magazine) , 12 


INDEX Books by Josephine Miles discussed in the interview 

Classic Essays in English, 122, 123 

Coming to Terms, 256 

Continuity of Poetic Language, The, 128-129, 154, 239 

Criticism, The Foundations of Modern Literary Judgment, 86, 128 

Eras and Modes in English Poetry, 129 

Fields of Learning, 158 

In Identity, 177 

Kinds of Affection, 159, 175 

Local Measures, 151 

Major Adjectives in Poetry, 128 

Pathetic Fallacy in the Nineteenth Century, 127-128 

Poems, 1930-1960, 156 

Poems on Several Occasions, 150 

Poetry and Change, 97, 130, 132, 237, 238 

Pre fabrications, 155 

Primary Language of Poetry in the 1940s, The, 129 

Primary Language of Poetry in the 1840s, The, 128 

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 130-133 

Style and Proportion, 122-124, 129-130, 135 

To All Appearances, 174, 179 

Vocabulary of Poetry, 128 

Wordsworth and the Vocabulary of Emotion, 126, 127, 128 

Catherine Harroun 

Born, St. Joseph, Missouri. 

Educated in Pasadena, California; Carlsbad, 

New Mexico; Stanford University, B.A. in 


In San Francisco since 1930 as advertising 

copywriter, Wells Fargo Bank; curator and 

researcher, Wells Fargo History Room. 

Newspaper and magazine writer since 1950. 

Ruth Teiser 

Grew up in Portland, Oregon; came to the 
Bay Area in 1932 and has lived here ever 
since. Stanford, B.A., M.A. in English, 
further graduate work in Western history. 
Newspaper and magazine writer in San 
Francisco since 1943, writing on local 
history and economic and business life 
of the Bay Area. Book reviewer for the 
San Francisco Chronicle since 1943. As 
correspondent for national and western 
graphic arts magazines for more than a 
decade, came to know the printing 
communi ty . 


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