The Rose Library's literary collections are particularly strong in modern and contemporary literature, including the papers of:
- Former Poet Laureate of Great Britain Ted Hughes
- Nobel Prize-winner Seamus Heaney
- Booker Prize-winner Salman Rushdie
- Pulitzer Prize-winner Alice Walker
The Rose Library is also home to the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, an extensive collection of more than 75,000 volumes of English-language poetry. Additional poetry collections include the J. M. Edelstein collection of American poetry, which is particularly strong in Wallace Stevens and includes detailed holdings of works from Cummington Press, Abattoir Editions, Stone Wall, Windhover Press, and the Jargon Society. The Julius M. Cruse collection, which numbers more than 3,000 volumes of T. S. Eliot's printed works.
The Rose Library's manuscript holdings in literature and poetry are complemented by strong collections of rare books and printed materials, including British poetry of the Romantic Period, the 19th-century English novel, and the detective novel (e.g., the Glover-Greene Collection of Victorian Detective Fiction and the Sir Hugh Greene Collection).
The Rose Library's poetry holdings include the literary archives of some of the 20th century's finest American, British, and Irish poets. In addition to the papers of Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes, MARBL holds the archives of:
Complementing the Rose Library's deep archival holdings is the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, a vast collection of more than 75,000 volumes of poetry in English. The Rose Library also has extensive collections which include rare periodical contributions, broadsides and ephemera, in addition to printed works by:
The Rose Library holds a major part of the archive of James Weldon Johnson, as well as extensive letters and manuscripts of the Harlem Renaissance novelist and poet Langston Hughes. Other noteworthy African American literary archives include the papers of John Oliver Killens and Alice Walker.
The Camille Billops and James V. Hatch collection of African American performing arts includes hundreds of play scripts by African American playwrights, among other materials.