Robert Duncan's notes on Ron Silliman's 'Opening'

In 1974, John Taggart asked Ron Silliman to write an essay for an issue of Maps (#6 - special Robert Duncan issue) on the work of Duncan. Silliman chose to do a close reading of the first poems of Duncan’s Opening of the Field (1960) in which he suggested that Duncan set them out as an argument from which to mount the large, unnamed lifework that was initiated with these poems. Silliman reproduced the text of the Maps essay on his blog on December 6, 2010, a few hours before he presented on Duncan as part of the 1960 symposium at the Kelly Writers House. Duncan took a copy of the Maps essay and annotated it by hand. For Jacket2 Ron Silliman has made available reproductions of the pages of Duncan'scopy of the Maps piece, Opening.  We are grateful to him for permission to reproduce these.  The pages views as a whole, also with Duncans markings, are available as a PDF. As for the version we present just below: please click on any individual page for an enlarged view. A transcription of Duncans notes (produced by Gordon Faylor) can be found below the page scans. — Al Filreis & Gordon Faylor


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Page 1
** "dim lands of peace" <— The Imagist anthology took its stand against

1954- **
** What he could "permit" in 1950, he did not admit to his publisht works until 1966. What he could "attain" by 1954, he verifiably could do in 1948 ("The Venice Poem")

While Spicer derives "The Book" idea from me, surely such a derivation was not necessary. It is a perennial idea. Herbert's Temple gave it me.


Structures and Passages belong to the books in which they appear also!

Letters, poems 1952-1955 (the Preface being written in 1956) is contemporaneous with later Stein imitations and Faust Foutu and previous to Black Mountain (1956) where Medea was written.

Page 2

here he is right on. I was concerned with "orchestration" in The Opening of the Field particularly.

??? <— this is a meadow I return to in dreams and memorial thought!

*"Field" composition of the poem

*but see, "Structure of Rime" II, page 13: "He brings his young to the opening of the field."

Page 3
self and Self, mine, me, I belong to the grammar and lexicon of ideas.

<— is not mind!

{ acutal

["mind" is the whole-body intelligence]


see above: "Mind" has heart in it. the heart is not "mine"


in fact, one!

<— I am a most active (watchful) watcher of what I am doing (making) and maker.

*the play of "mine" and "not mine" turns upon questioning Pluto's proposition of the given character of ideas and the proposition that ideas are creatively assembled as "mind"

Page 4
Ron Sillyman's aversion to Mother ("aka mom" or, later, "the offensiveness of his mystification of the female principle"  and child ("kid's play") derails him in his reading.


Friedl in her teaching the dance becomes "Leader of the Dance" hence "Beloved"


<— this is a single long line!

* In his refusal to allow that this meadow is a fact of a dream that leads to his dismissing as mere "revery" and "kid's play" the crucial definition of the poem.

** the poem is a set of propositions, not explanations.

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but, no dancer, Sillyman misses that lama creative of dancing feet i follow

why "Zukofskian"?

OK here!

Who is Quine? I don't know.

<— O.K.!

** "I'll slip away..." = James Joyce, Finnegan

* In no way do I see numbers as "abstract" in dancing, one TWO three, ONE two three, one two THREE are actual counts or else!

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Sillyman has the major d[ ]ity of being unable to image the dancers and the Dance.

The Dance!

*He has no idea of "laws" passed by legislatures and legislators that can be found to be [sure] before our sense of lawful relations. The Constitution (of the U.S., here)

Page 7
[In 1956, Spring, when the poem was written Rock-Drill (Cantos 85-95) was just out, in the Milan edition which I got in London January 1956: tho I cannot relate the passage as specific]

Jefferson and Adams [both] saw would be unfortunately taken to be the measure of the lawfulness of laws, in place of the active & creative sense of lawfulness in each man.

Page 8
the "boy" in "Boyg" and the "land" beyond "lad" are inqemuties of Silliman's reading in which he sees more than I had observed as possible. O.K.

(His contempt for my world renders him unintelligent here) —>

* He cannot allow for the law one knows whereby laws and men (even "I") are found unlawful. What else is proprioception than one's "self". Knowledge that

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Who is Pynchon? Cld he be of the series Pound —> Tolkien proposed by Sillyman?

Poor Friedl don't get to be a then-live person.
Marianne Moore and Edith Sitwell were both certainly alive ("The Maiden" 27-29)

self is in order or out of order?

** I propose no passive [undergoing], but an active wrestling with the angel, the what is, tho it twist and name the wrestler anew in his confrontation.


All the pages above, with Robert Duncan's markings, are available as a PDF.