Robert Duncan

Horizon

Pt. 3

Cy Twombly, ‘Treatise on the Veil (First Version),’ 1968.
Cy Twombly, ‘Treatise on the Veil (First Version),’ 1968.

For Leslie Scalapino, the poem’s an apparatus, no mere mimetic catch to reproduce world(s) as a backdrop for the poem’s disclosures. That it can be used to observe the manifestations and codeterminations of entangling and unfurling world(s) is also mere axiom; more crucially, the poem tears back the veil of the “real” (in this case, where flesh meets florescence: body/world) to point to the rachitic frame-structure bolstering becoming.

in the hug of a wave horizon rolled youngly from nothing.
Susan Howe, “Chanting at the Crystal Sea” [1]  

Worlding

Pt. 2

Michael Heather and Nick Rossiter, “A Schematic World-Universe Relationship”
Michael Heather and Nick Rossiter, “A Schematic World-Universe Relationship.

Givenness is a veil. As proof, the first words of Emmanuel Levinas’s Totality and Infinity chop and screw Rimbaud’s oft-quoted “The true life is elsewhere. We are not in the world.” For Levinas, it’s a crucial corrective: “‘The true life is absent.’ But we are in the world.”[1] Truer words were never slowed and throwed.

The Duncan/Olson dichotomy

A review of two volumes

Photos of Robert Duncan (left) and Charles Olson (right) by Jonathan Williams, from the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection. Used with permission of Thomas Meyer.

Here are two elusive pieces of the context of midcentury American poetics. The Robert Duncan/Charles Olson letters have been available, until now, only in the brief reviews of each other that the poets extracted from them (“near-far Mister Olson” and “Against Wisdom as Such”), passages quoted by scholars who have been able to visit the archive at Storrs, and handfuls in Sulfur, Poetry, and Olson’s Selected Letters.

Often I am permitted: Jess and Robert Duncan

Jess, Emblems for Robert Duncan II: #4 “the ayre off the music carries,” 1989, collage ( 4 1/4 x 5 5/8 inches, tondo). Tibor de Nagy Gallery. (My photo.)

This work of Jess (Colins) (Duncan’s lifelong love) echoes Duncan’s iconic poem with the image of the meadow (“the opening off the field”) in the background and the game of “Ring a Ring o’ Roses” in the foreground; as well as, perhaps, intimations of the “Queen Under The Hill”/likenesses of “the First Beloved.” The collage is on view till May 6 at Tibor de Nagy Gallery

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,   
that is not mine, but is a made place,

'What would I want to do? Hide myself?'

Aaron Shurin's life testament to poetry

“The impulse is toward discovery of meaning, including the discovery of oneself,” Aaron Shurin explains when asked in an interview with Lily Iona MacKenzie about his comfort including personal details while writing his memoir collection King of Shadows.

“The impulse is toward discovery of meaning, including the discovery of oneself,” Aaron Shurin explains when asked in an interview with Lily Iona MacKenzie about his comfort including personal details while writing his memoir collection King of Shadows. He continues, “So there is no act that shame will try to cover — and this is very much under the tutelage of [Robert] Duncan. There is no shame.

Caterpillar

'A magazine of the leaf, a gathering of the tribes'

Caterpillar colophon
Caterpillar colophon

Begun in 1966 by Clayton Eshleman as a series of chapbooks by writers such as Jackson MacLow, David Antin, and Louis Zukofsky, Caterpillar Books became Caterpillar: A Gathering of the Tribes (though the subtitle was quickly dropped) in October 1967 when Eshleman realized he “could cover more ground with a literary journal than with undistributable chapbooks.” In a 2008 dialogue in Jacket, Eshleman says that he “wanted to do a magazine based on Cid Corman's Origin, but one that was bigger and more burly, taking on more ‘fronts’ than Cid had engaged.”

Cat 2 tocBegun in 1966 by Clayton Eshleman as a series of chapbooks by writers such as Jackson Mac Low, David Antin, and Louis Zukofsky, Caterpillar Books became Caterpillar: A Gathering of the Tribes (though the subtitle was quickly dropped) in October 1967 when Eshleman realized he “could cover more ground with a literary journal than with undistributable chapbo

'It felt like many lifetimes'

The last issue of Angel Hair

Angel Hair 6, cover art by George Schneeman

“Only three years had passed,” Lewis Warsh writes of publishing the journal Angel Hair, “but it felt like many lifetimes.” By 1969, when the last issue of Angel Hair appeared, Warsh and Waldman had begun publishing books--mainly because many of their poet friends needed publishers for their book-length collections, but also because The World, a new magazine published by the Poetry Project, was covering much of the same ground as Angel Hair. “I also felt,” Warsh says, “that we had made our point in trying to define a poetry community without coastal boundaries--a community based on a feeling of connectedness that transcended small aesthetic differences, all the usual traps that contribute to a blinkered pony vision of the world.” 

The Fales Library Angel Hair archive

Angel Hair 1 Cover

It feels both hugely restorative and humbling, in our age of digital media, to visit an archive and hold a fifty year-old literary magazine, carefully made and preserved, yet still fleetingly physical, in your hand. Anne Waldman, co-editor (with Lewish Warsh) of the small magazine Angel Hair, describes the significance of that experience in this quote from her introductory essay to the 2002 Angel Hair feature in Jacket: “...so-called ephemera, lovingly and painstakingly produced, have tremendous power. They signify meticulous human attention and intelligence, like the outline of a hand in a Cro-Magnon cave.” This “tremendous power” can be applied specifically to Angel Hair, which published the work of Ted Berrigan, Denise Levertov, Joe Brainard, Michael Brownstein, and Warsh and Waldman themselves, among others, early in their lives as poets.

In his element

A review of 'The Astonishment Tapes'

Photo of Robin Blaser (left) courtesy of the Electronic Poetry Center.

Robin Blaser is in his element in these monologues in interview format — personable, pedagogic, and himself a “high-energy construct,” to not-quite-cite Charles Olson. By virtue of this book, the reader experiences Blaser as a unique force field of magnetic knowledge and charismatic charm. He is at home among the poets, themselves practitioners and friends, meeting in 1974 at someone’s house in Vancouver.

Bright arrogance #5

'Extraordinary experience will not be locatable'

Detail of Clark Lunberry's "Bodies of Water: Somebody—Nobody"

Emily Dickinson’s poetry is perhaps the closest thing canonical American literature has to a “sacred language.” In Robert Duncan’s lectures on Dickinson, we could say that he posits her as the ultimate untranslatable poet, even within her own language. In her poems she “bring[s] us to the line where everything is so fraught with meaning that we can’t find the meaning.”  

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