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APSU receives priceless collection on permanent loan

Clarksville and Austin Peay State University have a rich literary history that is cherished and cultivated.

Because of the large number of outstanding resident and famous guest poets who read regularly from their works at the University, a few years ago, Nashville Scene, Nashvilles alternative newspaper, called APSU middle Tennessees ‘hotbed for contemporary poetry.
Clarksville and Austin Peay State University have a rich literary history that is cherished and cultivated.

Because of the large number of outstanding resident and famous guest poets who read regularly from their works at the University, a few years ago, Nashville Scene, Nashville's alternative newspaper, called APSU “middle Tennessee's ‘hotbed' for contemporary poetry.”

In recent years, the Young Writers Summer Workshop and the Clarksville Writers Conference, which bring aspiring writers from across the state and nation, have found a home at APSU, with participants drawing inspiration from a region that gave rise to literary giants.

Among the area's literary giants is the late Robert Penn Warren, who became the first Poet Laureate of the United States. Warren, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, received the prize twice for his poetry and once for fiction with his landmark novel, “All the Kings Men.” This record has never been broken.

Now, thanks to the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Study of Local Writers and Culture Inc., under the guidance of Executive Director Patricia Winn, local literary leader, APSU has become the curator of several historically relevant objects linked to Warren.

This collection includes a portrait of Warren painted by Earnest Varner, donated by philanthropist Thomas Hudson. Other items in the collection are Warren's Clarksville High School senior class picture, one of his report cards, a copy of the 1920-21 Clarksville High School literary journal autographed by Warren from the “Purple and Gold Collection,” plus Warren's poetry in “The Fugitive,” letters written by Warren and more.

The collection, transferred to APSU on permanent loan during a ceremony last week, is housed and exhibited in the Felix G. Woodward Library on campus.

Winn said, “We're pleased to place this collection on permanent loan to Austin Peay State University. The Warren Center Board and I will continue to look for and accept additional pieces for the Warren Collection, plus other Southern Renaissance writers.

“These materials are Clarksville's literary legacy and are of great interest to our community and to scholars everywhere. Best of all, it puts Austin Peay State University and Clarksville on the literary map.”

The portrait of Warren, which is in excellent condition, has an estimated value of more than $20,000. The senior picture is valued above $30,000, and the report card, above $10,000. The estimated value of the Clarksville High School literary journal, autographed by Warren, is more than $15,000, while the “Purple and Gold Collection” is valued at more than $5,000.

Calling the Robert Penn Warren Collection a “treasure trove,” Hoppe said, “We thank Patricia Winn, and promise to be good custodians of these historic materials. It's phenomenal to have this collection on our campus. It will be a wonderful resource and source of inspiration for our students, faculty and guests.”

For more information, telephone Gina Garber, Woodward Library, at (931) 221-7028. -- Dennie B. Burke