Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2930

Phone-A-Poem collection


Records, correspondence, printed materials and tapes of the Phone-A-Poem organization of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Also includes personal papers of Peter Payack, one of the company's founders.


  • Creation: 1976-2011 and undated

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to most of this material. Collection is open for research.

Partially restricted: Special equipment and surrogate required for audiocassettes; consult Houghton staff.


4 linear feet (6 boxes)

The Phone-A-Poem collection includes records, correspondence, ephemera, audiocassette tapes, realia, clippings, and other material. Poets included Allen Ginsberg, Donald Hall, Denise Levertov, May Sarton, James Tate, August Wilson, and John Updike, among others. Also includes some personal papers and realia of Peter Payack.

Biographical / Historical

Phone-A-Poem was a Cambridge, Massachusetts based poetry phone hotline (1976-2001). The organization was founded by Peter Payack, and later edited and overseen by Roland Pease, founder and editor of Zoland Books. During its 25-year existence, Phone-A-Poem invited hundreds of poets, including Allen Ginsberg, Jane Kenyon and James Tate, as well as students and members of the public to create answering-machine length tape recordings of individual poems which the public could access by dialing the hotline.


Organized into the following series:

  1. I. Phone-A-Poem correspondence
  2. II. Phone-A-Poem records
  3. III. Phone-A-Poem printed materials
  4. IV. Peter Payack personal papers
  5. V. Phone-A-Poem audiocassette tapes

Physical Location


Custodial History

Purchased with the Dr. Michael and Teresa Anagnostopoulos Fund, 2010.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2010M-46. Bulk of collection purchased with the Dr. Michael and Teresa Anagnostopoulos Fund from Roland Pease; received: 2010 July 1.

Related Materials

An audio compact disc of some of the Phone-A-Poem readings was recorded by the Instructional Media Services of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University. This CD may be listened to in the Woodberry Poetry Room in Lamont Library, Harvard University (PS613.P46 2013 / Phone-A-Poem archive highlights : selected from the Phone-A-Poem exhibit, 2013; HOLLIS: 13758226).

Another audio compact disc available in the Woodberry Poetry Room in Lamont Library, Harvard University is: (PS 3513.174W465 2013 / Allen Ginsberg : poems from White shroud ; recorded for Boston Phone-A-Poem; HOLLIS: 13758910).

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

Phone-A-Poem. Phone-A-Poem collection, 1976-2011: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

Harvard Yard
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2440