Robert Duncan

Robert Duncan (1919-1988) was born in Oakland, California. He was drafted into the Army in 1941, but received a psychiatric discharge after declaring his homosexuality. Duncan was an advocate of gay civil rights, and was a bohemian and part of the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat scene. In 1951 Duncan met the artist Jess Collins and began a collaboration and partnership that lasted 37 years until Duncan's death. In the 1960s, Duncan wrote a series of books — The Opening of the Field (1960), Roots and Branches (1964), and Bending the Bow (1968) — considered some of his strongest work. After the publication of Bending the Bow, Duncan announced he would not publish a major collection for another fifteen years. During this hiatus he hoped to produce process-oriented poems instead of the “overcomposed” poems he wrote when he thought in terms of writing a book. He reemerged from his silence with Ground Work I: Before the War (1984), which won the National Poetry Award. Ground Work II: In the Dark was published in February of 1988, the month of his death. Both were reissued together into a single volume with an Introduction by Michael Palmer in 2006.