Arnold Kenseth Collection

Rev. Arnold Kenseth
(from the South Congregational Church Collection)

Arnold Kenseth Collection


Publications, correspondence, galley proofs, manuscript poems, audio and video recordings and other materials related to Kenseth's career as a Congregational minister, published poet, teacher and activist in local affairs of Amherst, MA.

Biographical Note

Born in Milton, Massachusetts, in 1915, the youngest of a family of eight children, Kenseth graduated from Milton High School in 1933. He continued his education at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine (graduated 1937), then matriculated in a graduate program in English and American Studies at Harvard College (now University), where he spent four years (1938-1941) as the Curator of the Harvard College Library Poetry Room.

In January 1941, Kenseth enrolled in Harvard Divinity School and was ordained in June 1944. His first posting was at the Union Congregational Church in the Andover, Massachusetts village of Ballardvale. Three years later he took the post of Protestant Chaplain at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (1947-1951). In 1949 Kenseth accepted the pastorate at the South Congregational Church in South Amherst, a position he retained until his retirement in March 1989.

Along with his religious work and poetry and prayer writing, Kenseth spent time as an instructor of American Studies at Amherst College (1959-1961), a part-time lecturer in English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1961-1972), and the Acting Director of the Writers’ Workshop at the Chantauqua Institution (1970-1971).

Kenseth married Betty J. Amey in 1940. Children Elaine (b. 1943), Geoffrey (b. 1946), and Evan (b. 1950) completed their family. Betty Amey Kenseth died in Amherst in 2001 and Arnold Kenseth died in Amherst in 2003.

Scope and Contents

Publications, correspondence, galley proofs, manuscript poems, audio and video recordings and other materials related to Kenseth's career as a Congregational minister, published poet, teacher and activist in local affairs of Amherst, MA. The collection includes biographical materials and correspondence, poetry worksheets, galley proofs and other materials related to his published and unpublished poetry. 

Another major part of the collection comprises papers related to Kenseth's position as pastor of the South Congregational Church of Amherst (1949-1989), including correspondence and audiotapes of selected Sunday services (1969-1989). 

Other collection items include literary magazines, a yearbook, alumni publications and reunion materials from Bates College (where Kenseth received his Bachelor's degree in 1937) and a small series of files on documenting his involvement with Cambridge Junior College, Union Congregational Church (Ballard Vale, MA) and the Amherst area chapters of the Civil Liberties Union and United Nations.


6.5 linear feet (11 manuscript boxes, 1 file box)

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.


The collection was acquired in the summer of 2000.

Preferred Citation

(Folder Name), Arnold M. Kenseth Collection, Special Collections, Jones Library, Amherst, Massachusetts

Processing information

The collection was processed by Peter Nelson in the fall of 2000. The collection was re-organized and the finding aid re-written in 2022 by Katherine Whitcomb.

Related Materials

Amherst Cable Television – Amherst Anthology (VHS tapes)

Books of poetry and other writings by Kenseth are located in the Amherst Authors section and in the circulating collection, findable through the library’s online catalog.

Ministers-Kenseth, Rev. Arnold folder in the South Congregational Church Collection in Special Collections


This collection is organized into eight series:

Series 1: Writings, circa 1938-1998
Series 2: Correspondence
Series 3: South Congregational Church, Amherst, MA, 1951-1996
Series 4: University of Massachusetts, 1947-1969
Series 5: Bates College, 1934-1999
Series 6: Subject Files, circa 1940-1982
Series 7: Crepusculario Project, circa 1970-1976
Series 8: A/V

For Series 1, folders are arranged first by material type (Books, Poetry, etc.), with the Poetry section being further separated as needed, then alphabetically by title or item type, and finally chronologically if necessary. Within Series 2-7, folders are arranged then alphabetically by folder title. In Series 8 all items are housed in one file box, along with the binder from Series 7.

Collection Inventory

Series 1: Writings, circa 1938-1998

11Books – Announcements of
12Books – Cycle of Praise1952
13Books – Fiddler’s Green1998
14Books – Holy Merriment – Manuscript
15Books – Holy Merriment – Proof sheets1963 Fall
16Books – Holy Merriment – Proofs
17Books – Poems of Protest… - Correspondence, contract, etc.1966-1967
18Books – Poems of Protest… - Typescript I
19Books – Poems of Protest… - Typescript II
110Books – Prayers for Worship Leaders – Preliminary draft 11977
21Books – Prayers for Worship Leaders – Preliminary draft 2
22Books – Prayers for Worship Leaders – Proofs 
23Books – Reviews of
24Books – Ritual Year – Proofs 
25Books – Ritual Year – Proofs (Including an Advance Uncorrected Proof)
26Books – Ritual Year – Comments by Pat Schneider
27Books – Sabbaths, Sacraments & Seasons – Proof 1969
28Books – Sabbaths, Sacraments & Seasons – Proof 1982
29Books – Sabbaths, Sacraments & Seasons – “Prayers and Collects” 
[Reprinting of poems adapted from the book.]

31Books – Sabbaths, Sacraments & Seasons – Business 
32Books – Sabbaths, Sacraments & Seasons – Letters about
33Poetry – Chantauqua Institution
[Kenseth was the Acting Director of the Writers’ Workshop.]
34Poetry – Christmas Various
35Poetry – Gahm, Philip                Done Editing            
36Poetry – Manuscripts – Misc.
37Poetry – Manuscripts – Occasional poems
38Poetry – Manuscripts – Poems sent to Betty1938-1940
39Poetry – Manuscripts – Unfinished poems
310Poetry – Manuscripts – UnpublishedCirca 1999
311Poetry – Manuscripts – Unpublished – “Seasons & Sceneries”
312Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – “A Cry of Fathers”
313Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – “Cycle of Praise”
314Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – “Fall Asters”
315Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – “Neighborhood Poems”
316Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – “Reflections of an Unprofitable Servant”
317Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – “Variations on a Theme”
41Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – Misc. – “Air for Autumn” to “Autumn 1942”
42Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – Misc. – “Bird” to “Elbowed”
43Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – Misc. – “Elegy” to “Office”
44Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – Misc. – “Oracle” to “Words”
45Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – Misc. – Unsorted #1
46Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – Misc. – Unsorted #2
51Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – Misc. – Unsorted #3
52Poetry – Manuscripts – Worksheets – Misc. – Unsorted #4
53Poetry – Poems published in newspapers1970, 1980, 1995
54Poetry – Programs for church services that used Kenseth’s poetry
55Poetry – Publications – B to I (except C)1960, 1965, 1970, 1981
56Poetry – Publications – C (General)1941, 1951, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1972
57Poetry – Publications – The Minister’s Quarterly1955 November – 1959-60 Winter (Missing Fall 1959)
61Poetry – Publications – The Minister’s Quarterly entries
[Entries sent to Kenseth when he was Poetry Editor of the magazine.]
Circa 1957-1959
62Poetry – Publications – N to S1959, 1960, 1971, 1972, 1977, 1979, 1996
63Poetry – Publications – United Church Herald
[Kenseth was Poetry Editor for a little while.]
64Poetry – Publications – United Church Herald
[Kenseth was Poetry Editor for a little while.]
65Reviews by Kenseth1977, Undated

Series 2: Correspondence

67Correspondence – A-B
68Correspondence – C-G
71Correspondence – Harvard1936-1943, undated
72Correspondence – H-O
73Correspondence – Publishers
74Correspondence – Post, Avery & Putney, Clifford
75Correspondence – P-Z
76Correspondence – Miscellaneous
77Correspondence – Letters of recommendationCirca 1967-1972, 1990
78Correspondence – Letters from readersCirca 1971-1990
79Correspondence – Outgoing1987-1990

Series 3: South Congregational Church

81Bicentennial Service
1976 July 4
82Conferences – Deering [NH], Andover [MA]
1966, 1976, 1986
83Conferences – Western Area Theological Colloquy
84Hampshire Association of Congregational Churches – Fall Meeting
85Hampshire Association of Congregational Churches – Task Force
86Letters to AHS Seniors
1975 June
87Programs – Funerals 
1973-1997 (not inclusive)
88Programs – Weddings 
89Sermon Notes
Circa 1983-1987
810Sermon Notes
Circa 1983-1990
811Sermon Outlines

812TV Script – “The Pastor’s Study”
813United Church of Christ – Inclusive Language Guidelines, Kenseth response to
1980 June
814United Ministry
[a.k.a. Amherst Council of Churches, Amherst Ministers’ Association, Amherst Interfaith Fellowship]
1951-1988 (not inclusive)

Series 4: University of Massachusetts, Amherst

91Chaplaincy and Director, Student Christian Association
1967, 1969
93English Department

Series 5: Bates College

94Alumni Publications
1977, 1994, 1997
95The Garnet (Literary magazine)
96Guide to the Arnold Kenseth Papers held in the Bates College Archives



Series 6: Subject Files

99Amherst Record – Letter to the Editor
[Letter written by Kenseth and response.]
1977 August 10
910Arnold Kenseth Poetry Series1998-1999
911Biographical Information
[Various papers, news clippings, etc.]

912Cambridge Junior College1942-1946
913Church Bulletins/Programs (not from South Congregational)
[Items from services at which Kenseth presided or his poetry was used.]
Circa 1965-1995
101Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Hampshire County Chapter1961-1970
102Collins, Dan
103Dittfach, John
104Douglas, William O. – Douglas for President Committee1952
105DuWors, Richard
[Booklet inscribed to Kenseth including poetry written by DuWors.]
1963 October
106Dwight, Clara1978
107Francis, Robert
109Haddad, Abdo 
[Kenseth wrote the introductions for the booklets.]
1010Hamilton, Steven – Calligraphy – B to J
[Calligraphic copies of poems by various poets.]

1011Hamilton, Steven – Calligraphy – Kenseth 
[Calligraphic copies of poems by Kenseth.]

1012Hamilton, Steven – Calligraphy – K to Y
[Calligraphic copies of poems by various poets.]

1013Hampshire College – Invocation at Community Welcome1970 October
1014Interviews – New England Anthology1955
1015James, Mary
1016Kenseth, Geoffrey [Son of Arnold]
1017Kenseth, Peter 
1018Kenseth-Abel, Elaine [Daughter of Arnold]
1019Lorenz, Ellen Jane – “Oh That Our Tongues Were Bells”
[Kenseth’s prayer put to music.]

111MacLeish, Archibald – News clipping1996
112McCord, David1945
113Mayo, E. L. & Family – Winter & Christmas PoemsUndated
114New England Poetry Club
115Notes and prayers – Misc.
116Ordination StatementCirca 1944
118Post, Avery
119Sarton, May
1110SermonsCirca 1940s
1111Shumway, Winifred
1113Union Congregational Church, Ballard Vale, Mass.Circa 1943-1947
1114United NationsCirca 1945
1115Wilder, Amos1974 May 27
1116Woolman Hill (Quaker Center), Deerfield, Mass.1967-1969
1117Worship and PoetryCirca 1982

Series 7: Crepusculario Project, 1969-1977

1119Final product

1120Folder 1



Series 8: A/V

12Audiotapes – Concerts & Sermons1969 December 21 – 1976 April 18
12Audiotapes – Concerts & Sermons1976 May 16 – 1984 February 12
12Audiotapes – Concerts & Sermons1984 July 15 – 1989 April 2
12Audiotapes (3) – “Arnold @ PCTC 1980, Sessions 1, 2, 3 & Conclusion”
12Reel-to-reel – 3 unlabeledUndated
12Reel-to-reel – “Practice tape for Hockenheim Krippenspiel”Undated
12Reel-to-reel – Sermon1972 May 14
12Reel-to-reel – WFCR “The Bookworm’s Turn1973 December 20
12Reel-to-reel – WHMP “Morning Devotions[no year] August 12-17
12VHS – “Age is the Rage1995 February, 1996 August 3, 1999 April
12VHS – “Amherst Anthology1986
12VHS – Poetry reading at Unitarian Universalist Society of Northampton/Florence1995 October 22