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Ian Hamilton Finlay poetry and correspondence

Call Number: MS 48


Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006) was a poet and artist who lived most of his life in Edinburgh, Scotland. This collection dates from 1964 to 1967, when Finlay was involved in the concrete poetry movement. Included are drafts and final printed copies of Finlay’s works, extensive correspondence with art historian Stephen Bann and critic Mike Weaver, periodicals and photographs.


  • Creation: 1964 - 1967


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Ian Hamilton Finlay

Ian Hamilton Finlay, poet and artist, was born October 28, 1925 in Nassau, Bahamas to James and Annie Finlay. At age six he moved to Scotland for boarding school and would remain there for most of his life.

After serving in the Royal Army Corps during World War Ii, Finlay married Marion Fletcher and began working as a shepherd in the 1950s. During this period, Finlay began to write short stories and poetry. During the 1960s, Finlay became involved in the concrete poetry movement, and it is for his output during this period that Finlay first gained wide recognition.

Concrete poetry is best described as an aesthetic movement in poetry, in which the visual and phonetic perception of language is explored, rather than exclusively considering the meanings of words. As a concrete poet, Finlay challenged contemporary critics to reconsider their conception of poetic language, and the intersection between language and visual arts. Although few British critics responded positively to Finlay’s poetry, he was celebrated in Germany and the United States.

Finlay was married for a second time in 1964 to Sue MacDonald-Lockhart, with whom he had two children, Alec and Allie. By the late 1960s, Finlay had begun to explore conceptual art more generally. When Finlay and his family moved to a farm in Dunsyre, near Edinburgh, he began working on his most ambitious project: an intricately designed “garden poem” 20 years in the making.

Ian Hamilton Finlay died in Edinburgh on March 27, 2006.


2.5 Linear Feet (5 document cases + 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

This collection includes drafts and final printed copies of Ian Hamilton Finlay's poetry from 1964 to 1967, as well as extensive correspondence with Stephen Bann and Mike Weaver, periodicals, photographs and content related to the acquisition of the collection by KU Libraries.

Physical Location

MS 48

Physical Location

MS Q49

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchases, Mike Weaver, 1965; Stephen Bann, 1966, 1967, 1969.

Additional content relating to the acquisition of this collection by Terrence Williams of the KU Libraries can be found in the accession files.

Related Materials

Additional Ian Hamilton Finlay materials can be found in the Paris Review Archives (MS 55) and Ronald Johnson Papers (MS 66).


Guide to the Ian Hamilton Finlay Collection
Ian Hamilton Finlay poetry and correspondence
Finding aid prepared by bhm, 2012; revised by eear, 2012
Description rules
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Language of description
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Preferred citation
Ian Hamilton Finlay poetry and correspondence, Department of Special Collections, MS 48, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States