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,
that is mine, it is so near to the heart,   
an eternal pasture folded in all thought   
so that there is a hall therein
that is a made place, created by light   
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.
Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved   
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.
She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words   
that is a field folded.
It is only a dream of the grass blowing   
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun’s going down
whose secret we see in a children’s game   
of ring a round of roses told.
Often I am permitted to return to a meadow   
as if it were a given property of the mind   
that certain bounds hold against chaos,
that is a place of first permission,   
everlasting omen of what is.
© 1960 Robert Duncan, from The Opening of the Field. 
PennSound audio:
just the poem: San Francisco State University 1959: MP3 and Berkeley/1965: MP3
Duncan’s one-hour discussion of this poem at SF State, 1959: MP3 
Discussion of this poem on PoemTalk, with Jerome Rothenberg, Jeffrey Robinson, and me, hosted by Al Filreis (see picture)
Peter O’Leary on this poem at Poetry Fdn
Here is Jess’s 1960 collage for the original Grove Press edition (image via Tibor). Book designer Roy Kuhlman only used the image of the children in the final cover:
Jess’s work is represented by Tibor De Nagy Gallery in New York. Here are some other Jess images shown at the gallery. This is another of the Emblems for Robert Duncan, II, 3, “They were there for they are here” (1989) (image via Tibor): Duncan surrounded by his “Great Companions” (to use Robin Blaser’s term) — Baudelaire, Stein, Joyce, Olson, Pound.
Detail of Jess’s 1983 collage (my photo):