River Styx: Liberating the Spoken Word
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River Styx: Liberating the Spoken Word

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Thanks to the Access to Historical Records grant from the NHPRC, Washington University can provide complete access for the first time to recorded performances by hundreds of poets and other writers who appeared in St. Louis from 1969‐2008. Internationally‐known poets are represented, as well as talented newcomers and rarely-heard literary legends.


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In the late 1960s a new and active literary scene began in St. Louis, with young poets and musicians getting together informally to perform their own works and works by others. Michael Castro, Jan Garden Castro and others began the River Styx Poets radio show on listener‐supported KDNA‐FM, which ran from 1969‐72. Then in 1975, the Castros co-founded River Styx magazine and started to produce regular public poetry readings at a local restaurant, Duff’s, in the Central West End, which hosted these events until it closed in 2014.

The magazine and poetry series pioneered a multicultural, community‐based approach to literature, new in the 1970’s to St. Louis and much of the country. Prominent poets and writers from the region were among those featured, along with renowned poets from across the world.

The electrifying readings, often including or accompanied by live music, fueled a thriving literary scene that continues to this day. River Styx achieved international prominence as a literary journal that has only grown through the years. In 2018, it celebrated its 100th issue.

Washington University Libraries’ holds three important archives that directly document these activities: the River Styx Archive, the Jan Garden Castro Papers and the Michael Castro Papers. Together these collections contain 947 audio recordings of literary readings, musical performances and artist interviews. 

With the grant money we digitized all the cassette and reel-to-reel tapes in these three collections. A selection of the digitized recordings is available to listen to online via this portal. These are mainly the River Styx at Duff’s performances. Search or browse the recordings by clicking on the “View Members” button above.

Also available are over 3,000 digital images of brochures, announcements, correspondence, schedules, flyers, press releases, clippings, and other supporting documentation, from the aforementioned collections and the Duff’s Restaurant Literary Events Collection.

All of the digitized recordings are searchable via the respective finding aids or in MAVIS, our online audio-video holdings database. If you wish to listen to any recordings that are not available to stream in the digital collection, you may contact us to arrange to listen to them.


For more information about the collection, please contact

Joel Minor, Curator Modern Literature Collection/Manuscripts, joelminor@wustl.edu

Washington University Libraries Julian Edison Department of Special Collections, spec@wumail.wustl.edu