Ken Wainio papers, 1970-2012

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Wainio, Ken, 1952-2006
Ken Wainio (1952-2006) was an American surrealist author and poet based in San Francisco, California. Collection includes manuscripts and drafts of many of Wainio's poems and writings, including his novel, Starfuck. Also includes his journals and diaries, published poetry and printed materials, some correspondence, snapshots, and other biographical information.
9.9 Linear Feet
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The majority of the collection consists of drafts or manuscripts of Wainio's writings, which ranged from poetry to short stories to novels to plays. The condition of the drafts is fairly good, although many are incomplete or only excerpts of the text. There are many draft versions of Amorfos, Letters from Al-Kemi, and The Spiral Canyon, which was later published by New Native Press as Starfuck, Wainio's first novel. Small amounts of material exist for several poems, short stories, and plays.

The remainder of the Writings, Manuscripts, and Drafts series includes some of Wainio's published works, present in both broadside form as well as in journals or other serials. Of note are the several issues of Beatitude, edited by Wainio at one point, as well as two issues of Vanishing Cab, his own publication. Also in the series is a small amount of Wainio's artwork.

There are over 30 journals present in the Journals series and they include diary entries, travel plans and notes, drafts of writings and poems, as well as sketches and artwork. They offer insight into Wainio's thought process as an author, as well as his methods of writing.

The remainder of the collection contains correspondence, including a series of correspondence between Wainio and Thomas Rain Crowe; personal materials, including obituary information, some of Wainio's college papers, and other miscellaneous materials; and photographs, which are largely undated snapshots taken by Wainio during his travels through Greece and the United States.

Biographical / historical:

Ken Wainio was born in Ukiah, California, about two hours north of San Francisco, in 1952. He began to write at age fifteen--having been influenced by the writings of the French poets Lautreamont, Rimbaud, and Nerval. He moved to San Francisco at the beginning of the 1970s to study at San Francisco State University with the Greek surrealist poet Nanos Valaoritis, and met the American surrealist poets Philip Lamantia and Stephen Schwartz. A couple of years later, in an informal "poetry class" being conducted in the home of Harold Norse, he met Thomas Rain Crowe, Neeli Cherkovski and Luke Breit--along with whom he would later help to resurrect Beatitude magazine. Wainio was co-editor of issue No. 26 which appeared in 1977. During the 1970s, his poems were regularly published in Bay area literary magazines. With Jerry Estrin, Wainio was a founding editor of the surrealist publication Vanishing Cab. After driving a taxicab for the entire decade of the 1980s, he moved to Glenhaven, California. His travels took him to Greece and Egypt, where he spent considerable time in the 1980s and 1990s. His poems and fiction were published both in America and abroad in such journals as Nexus, Asheville Poetry Review, Litterature en Marche and Gregas in Montpellier, France. His books included Crossroads of the Other (written in the 1970s and published in 1994), Letters to Al-Kemi, Starfuck (a novel published on computer disk in 1996) and Automatic Antiquity (a collection of poetry published in 2004). Wainio died on January 26, 2006.

Biographical note source: The Baby Beats & The 2nd San Francisco Renaissance. New Native Press, 2005.

Acquisition information:

The Ken Wainio Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a purchase in 2011.

Additions to the Ken Wainio Papers were transferred from Thomas Rain Crowe in 2013, 2017, and 2018.

Processing information:

Processed by Meghan Lyon, February 2011

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, February 2011

Updated by Laurin Penland, May 2017.

Accessions described in this collection guide: 2011-0003, 2017-0073, 2018-0181.

Materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.

Surrealism -- Authors
American poets -- History and criticism
Surrealism (Literature)
Surrealism -- Poetry
Drafts (documents)
Crowe, Thomas Rain
Wainio, Ken, 1952-2006


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Collection is open for research.

Electronic records in this collection have been migrated to a library server and digital use copies can only be accessed onsite in the Rubenstein Library Reading Room.

Terms of access:

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Ken Wainio Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.