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Robert Duncan, Buffalo, New York, 1982, photograph by Patricia Layman Bazelon

Robert Duncan, Buffalo, New York, 1982, photograph by Patricia Layman Bazelon

Robert Duncan

Ten Letters

transcribed and edited by Robert J. Bertholf and James Maynard, © The Literary Estate of Robert Duncan. This piece is 9800 words or about 20 pages long.

Notes are given at the end of this file, with links that look like this: [71]. Click on the link to be taken to the note; likewise to return to the text.

The ten buttons immediately below take you to the letters; the button on each letter takes you back to this listing.

Ten Letters: Contents
link [1.] To James Peter Cooney, early spring 1939
link [2.] To Sanders Russell, December 1939
link [3.] To Pauline Kael, June 24 / July 5, 1944
link [4.] To Pauline Kael, November 26, 1945
link [5.] To Claire Mahl, July 1955
link [6.] To Charles Olson, August 14, 1955
link [7.] To Charles Olson, August 28, 1955
link [8.] To James Broughton, June 3, 1956
link [9.] To Robin Blaser, June 18, 1957
link [10.] To Norman Holmes Pearson, September 26, 1960

link [1.]

[early spring 1939]

James Peter Cooney[1] — I am sending you the first Canto of the “Protestants” which I have just finished and I am going ahead now with the second — the entrance into the inferno of the city. Somewhere in that city the Firebird will be found. Already tho the whole city turns with the Phoenix fire, to be melted, to ashes and then the rebirth. That should be the general plan of the poem. Will you print this first Canto in this summer’s issue along with “Ritual” and “Gestation” — as it is finished then I will send you each Canto of the work.[2]

I really look to it as this year’s “Ritual” — and am very thrilled about it. Even if vision should fail me and the complete “Protestant” should not be finished I think that this first Canto might be regarded as a poem itself.

Of course I want everyone everywhere who is looking for anything and not merely playing around with life to become infected with my search. I want to awaken as many as I can to these visions of our world. Don’t scold the death grip of the capitalist-bourgeois world, Peter, blast it. Don’t tell them this stinks of death. Throw up the corpse in their faces. They can smell.

I have a growing desire to see you working on Phoenix — to see your press and how you go about it. Also I want to meet D. S. Savage — Savage is a name to bear today — isn’t — only I am afraid he isn’t all teeth.[3] Altho I do not like the poem (is it a poem?) you sent me of his. I have read much of him that I did like. I thot his “Absent Creation” in the last Phoenix was swell.

“I hear an endless clock thud underground.” But then the Sibylic perception interests me — at its best thrills me — and I do not really understand what he (Savage) is doing in his “Chorus for Radio” — in the first place try to imagine a chorus chanting it. But Don Quixote is a challenging title for a book of poetry — think what the illusions of that tragic figure mean today —

To be really exact on why I don’t like “Chorus” such remarks as “Farming is unprofitable. The organic community is gone. The proletariat is herded in slums. From each to his ability, to each his need” prosaic in the worst sense. It ruins it for me. Not that I disagree. Nobody disagrees. Farming is unprofitable.

But then he slips into his birthright. “Trample the cogwheels of the clock. Move by the sundial.” Here so much is really said in two real images. He finds a great deal of importance in the clock and has made it live in a hundred ways —

“I hear an endless clock etc.” “Our pulse is timed by metronome” He knows what he means when he gets things ticking. He hates the sound. tick. tick. tick. tick. tick. tick. tick. tick. tick. tick. tick. That little instrument to call our attention to the mechanical death.

No, I can’t say positively when I will be in Woodstock. I am not going to New England. I may be going to New York. But I am resolved to make a pilgrimage to the NEST. And I will write again in a week or sooner — more definitely. It will be sometime in June perhaps as I would like to meet Savage.

Robert E. Symmes[4]

link [2.]

[December 1938] {mailed Jan 3, 1939}
Dear Sanders,[5]

This is a Christmas letter, a new year’s letter, and a lot of other things I’ve been owning you. I didn’t get time to get out a magazine this last semester. Virginia has been on a W.P.A. art project and she now has a full artists position and is doing some pretty swell work.[6] If you would like to write her, the address is 1931 Hearst in Berkeley. I hope that you will; and if you get north again that you will go and see her, for she is very interested in your work. I, myself, would like to keep track of you if you will send me your addresses and I would like to have Mary Alice’s[7] address in Pasadena. In the mean time, I am going to Philadelphia trying to work out two years of my life myself. My mother will send me one hundred dollars a month: I will see that I graduate from college by December 1941, manage my own money and studying. In that time I feel that it will be important to attempt at least to think out a position in the social scene. I recognize only too well that I hate the bourgeoisie class and at the same time I am limited by being a member of that very class. Now I am inclined to believe that my rebellion is no proletariat consciousness, but a rebellion of any worker in art, a sort of furious snobbery. I cannot overlook the fact that a proletariat culture would find even less place for the artist perhaps than the bourgeois, that what I really want is the position of the artist protected by the Renaissance aristocrat. At the same time I believe blindly that the overthrowing of the bourgeois class and the epic of proletariat civilization is the life movement today, that the glorious bourgeois are indeed the hollow men, the stuffed men.

There they are moving together not college, not mother, not beauty: but art (the formal conception of life), Ned,[8] and revolution — shaping my life because perhaps I will never control them. I want to build something from all three: a form of living and a direction that will PRODUCE. Revolution is the enemy of my hope, yet I do not think that the decision can be avoided. But Marxism destroys art just as Protestantism and Fascism and Democracy and any other Dogma destroys art, when the artist tries to subject the art to the Marxian or the Freudian (etc.) formula, destroying the personalized cosmos which he knows as a creator. I don’t mean then to preach Revolution in art. I don’t mean to have a damn thing to do with it, until external factors force me to become a social being, until it becomes impossible to be an individual. In a time of War then, I feel that submitting to the War machine means eventually loss of individual consciousness no matter how strong it may be . . . that something has to be done . . . and on and on and on. It all exists in a world of romanticism, unreal and dangerous; and it is important for me to think it out — Ned may help me in decision — and dismiss it.

God, what a vague, swimmy, unreal, wonderful world it is. What is the dream? I feel terribly excited and terribly afraid walking out with a hairbrain (harebrain?) as equipment and a sort of romantic unreality as a plan. All I can say is that I am in love with Ned, that I am excited by the music and painting and that wonderful pattern of ideas and words in writing, that I feel as in a dream the rising awful force of what is happening in history. And I will write you soon . . . this is Christmas card from Ned and me that I have just done now, but I am so dissatisfied with what I draw that I have sent nothing earlier.

I will write soon. Send me some more of your “discards” and how about the essential nature of music, painting and writing? I reach the insane conclusion that mathematics is pure art and I know that it isn’t. Form, I feel is the essential nature of art . . . but you have to slide a personalization in somewhere. If you take the essence of form as it can be perfectly communicated and as it is absolutely most universal you do reach geometrics and mathematics. The very nature of the arts is non-universal. But there goes my late in awakening brain going around in some very elementary circles.

Send me some drawings. / and I’ll do ditto.

Robert Symmes

link [3.]

June 24, 1944 / July 5, 1944
Lake Worth, FL / Provincetown, MA

dear Pauline — [9] With that delight of which I have spoken before I sit down to write you again, coupled with the pleasure of this fountain pen. There will be a long period this afternoon (some two or three hours) when the dishes will fall off; the cook goes to sleep; Jennie who cuts the pies, ladles out the olives and tomato-juice, will sit down to chat with the cook’s boy; and I will have a thing or two to say about Read’s Cult of Leadership, Ciliga’s Russian Enigma, and some notes after reading this English pamphlet Trade Unionism or Syndicalism — notes suggested more by my own reflections than by those of the pamphlet which seems rather thin.[10]

I continue to feel that anarcho-syndicalism is a sound approach to a free society but I must say it is in spite of what arguments and definitions this anarchist mag NOW brings to bear. Herbert Read’s “Cult of Leadership” is the unhappy result of so much misreading, abuse of the simplest common sense and marriage of irreconcilable elements that my tongue is quite tied in knots with fury. Step by step one has to go over the devils network, untie fury’s tongue. Read’s support of anarchism reads like Darwin’s Origin of the Species might have read had he referrd to the doctrine of the divinity of Christ and to Thomas Aquinas for proof and definition. Oi is due a [ ]!

“In this essay I shall attempt to show that from a certain point of view there is nothing to choose between fascism & democracy,” Mr. Read begins and proceeds to demonstrate that he, Read, can’t choose twixt to between himself.

The “certain point of view” is that indicated by the title of the article — that both fascism and democracy involve the cult of leadership, the “denial of the principle of equality upon which alone a community of free individuals can be establishd.” This I think we would grant, that only by an understanding of the principle of equality can man achieve a free society; but reading further we find that Read considers that “it (equality) is an irrational dogma, a mystique.” In other words, a myth? Mr. Read!

His first excursion then is to discuss Fascism, to discuss its historical explanation:

“I do not think it is worth wasting any time on the proposition — sedulously discriminated as a part of our war propaganda — that fascism is the inevitable development of certain historical trends in Germany.” The general idea opposing this is that fascism is not a national phenomenon but a “disease” of the body of world politics. O.K. but then the original statement becomes corrected to — fascism is the inevitable development of certain historical trends in world politics.”

So: history still remains. Read goes on to argue. “They (the historical origins of fascism) do not explain why the disease should develop in one nation rather than another.” Carrying on this out and out atrocity Read develops the following beautiful analogy:

“History investigates the organic tissue of society just as histology investigates the organic tissue of the human body. History is always post mortem — it can tell us why this happened here. But it cannot explain the processes governing the mind and the emotions of the collective organisms we call states or nations.”

So here we have an “anarchist” who views the state or the nation as “collective organisms” with “mind and emotions.”

“The only science that can attempt to such an explanation is psychology.”

Assuming that his dismissal of an historical approach to Fascism, democracy or anarchy has been justified, Mr. Read proceeds: “it will be said that I have forgotten my economics. Marxists will be eager to point out that I have forgotten my dialectical materialism, but I would claim that I have rememberd both my dialectics and my materialism.”


“There is no doubt that economic factors have playd an enormous part in the growth of fascism. Hitler himself is fond of tracing the origins of his success to the injustices of the Versailles treaty, which was an undisguised expression of economic forces. He is not so fond of admitting what is equally true, that he was helped to power by certain groups of capitalists. But the fact that the most powerful of these capitalists, Thyssen, is an exile, and perhaps even a corpse, shows how little essential unity there was between the two parties. If Hitler represented any economic interest, it was that of the “little man,” the bankrupted shopkeeper, the small capitalist who had been put out of business by the big monopolies & chain stores. But even this sympathy was not genuine. “The real truth about the economic basis of fascism has been forcefully stated by . . . Erich Fromm. . . .”[11]

In the quotation from Fromm the economic basis of Fascism is briefly outlined as follows: “in the post-war period it was the middle class, particularly the lower middle class, that was threatened by the monopolistic capitalists . . . These feelings (the middle class anxiety & hatred) were used by an entirely different class (German industrialists and junkers) for a régime which was to work for their own interests. Hitler proved to be . . . an efficient tool. Nazism never had any genuine political or economic principles.” End quote Fromm.

Read goes on:

Hitler & Goering have themselves become monopoly capitalists; but at the same time they denounce the capitalists of Great Britain & America . . . I defy anyone to discover any consistent economic policy in the history of fascism. (as if Hitler’s opposition to American capitalists were not consistent with his own monopoly capitalism.) Fascism is not the expression of economic forces but of psychological forces.”

Let me back-water and review this first section.

First: Read decides that history cannot account for Fascism.
Second: Read decides that economics cannot account for Fascism.

Fascism is the expression of psychological forces.

Man cannot accept being completely alone. Lacking the conception of “a spontaneous association of individuals for mutual aid,” he has only been able to get rid of his isolation by forcible means — by those obsessions which we call sadism and masochism. Or Fascism.

Only psychology can account for Fascism.

But how can psychology account for the fact that there is not now a “spontaneous association of individuals for mutual aid” when it has been so long an open ideal of mankind? Maybe a little economics might help out. Maybe a little history might account for these “psychological forces.”

“I defy anyone to discover any consistent economic policy in the history of fascism,” says Mr. Read rashly — to which one might suggest the exploitation of the largest possible number of laborers for the benefit of the fascist bureaucracy.

In this essay I shall attempt to show that

1) there is nothing to choose between fascism & democracy
(both involve the cult of leadership)
(both involve the denial of the principle of equality upon which alone a community of free individuals can be established)

“You may say if you like that equality is not rational — that since people are not born equal, not equally endowed by nature — that therefore they do not deserve to live equally . But I do not claim that equality is a rational doctrine. On the contrary, it is an irrational dogma, a mystique.

“Equality is absolute: it is a mathematical term, expressing exact quantities. When I hear a person tampering with the principle in the name of efficiency or of ability then I know I am in the presence of a fascist.”


1) not a national phenomenon O.K.
2) Germany was the weakest spot in the body of world politics & hence was most successfully affected by that disease Fascism like cancer may be localized but is a disease of the body as a whole.
3) History cannot explain: the processes governing the mind and emotions of the collective organizing we call states. (only psychology (psychoanalysis?) can attempt such an explanation. The old fuckeroo
4) It will be said I have forgotten economics. I would claim to have remembered my dialectics as well as my materialism

Analyze Fromm’s statement: against Read’s
“Even being related to the basest kind of a pattern is immensely preferable to being alone.”

numbering is confusing here, old thing, on the other side of the sheet is page 8 — the [ ] [ ]

Whatever I wanted to do it was not to flounder around in the pissmire of Read’s exposition. I miss the proper celebration of each flimsy line — which is in chuckling over them, screaming at them and tearing out one’s hair — reading them out loud admitting our common insight and then going on with my own speculations.

It seems to me that — (I think I have already indicated this idea) Read’s little mind is fundamentally astray. When one’s goal and emotional drives are integrated, when the nature of order desired is understood whether it be an order based on a principle of equality or whether it is an order based on the acquisition of power an approach toward the end desired can be rational means 1) that the goal is clear in the author’s mind but it must be put over on the audience as something else. Type for this would be the Christian church where the actual goal of the authors is authority over other man which must be admired in the name of religious freedom, we are all equal in the sight of God etc.

Read seems to assume that he has to “put over” the anarchist goal of freedom. He has to reassure his audience that men are not equal but the principle of equality must be taken on faith.

July 5th, 1944

dear Pauline — since I surmise without too much effort that you want long letters, diversion at any cost I assume, I am sending this previous letter wandering on and on about Read’s “Cult of Leadership.” I began by page 6 to feel a little foolish about declaiming as if you didn’t know darned well just what my response wld. be per line to the stuff in question.

But in reply to your numerous questions on Macdonald’s acceptance of the article, what wld. he want act and so forth here in the letter which you sent to me is the whole case — I am sure you will be delighted by the tone of his letter:

Dear Robert Duncan,

I’ve read over your “Little Folk Art” several times, and I’ve decided I want to print it just as it is, except for the excision of the word “Politically” at the end of p. 5 as confusing (as I told you). It could be cut, but I think would suffer by it. Only one suggestion: couldn’t you get a more descriptive title than “Little Folk Art?”[12]

You’ve written a really thoughtful and sincere piece here, and very well expressed (though your style is more rococo than my personal taste). Thanks for it. My wife also likes it by the way — We’re up here in Truro for the summer. At Polly Boyden’s place. Drop in and see us if you are around —


So Monday Leslie, Norris Embry and I hitched (ten miles) to Truro and spent an afternoon in an atmosphere that made me long for Woodstock days[14] — We talked about the Ciliga book. Macdonald feels as I do that (as anyone will) it is the book we have all been wanting to see. Ciliga, he fears, is in hot water. Unwilling to live in popular exile in Paris Ciliga returnd after his book was publishd to resume work in Yugoslavia under the nose of the Comintern, on the eve of the war. I only hope — Macdonald said — that Tito hasn’t gotten hold of him.

Chiaromonte (what a beautiful name) lives in Truro.[15] Did you read his review of Read in VIEW?

O — and when will my piece appear in Politics? — in August. For all of Macdonald’s willingness not to print it as it is; in fact his unwillingness to see it cut (just to shorten it that is); I took the ms. back here with me and am going to look it over; perhaps rewrite the two personal sections as one (???) and return the ms.

Ran into Norris on the street late at night; he had just arrived in town for the 4th holidays. He has grown much taller — well over 6 feet and filled out some and seems in many ways to be happier. He stayed with us and blessd our walls with crayola drawings and seemd happy without “cruising” the town.

Of the books you have there — I want 1) the Melville novels 2) the German short novels (Modern Library), Leslie is going to work on some illustrations for Werther 3) the Richardson volume.

Would you also buy me a copy of the Cities of the Plain (Modern Library) for me to work on — I’ll send a dollar next time I write.[16]

au revoir for this evening


Postscript — Another evening Norris, Leslie and I visited the studio of mystic crap-painter Nancy Bowman[17] (she quotes — one must say misquotes) Dewey’s Art as Experience which with Jung’s Integration of the Personality backs up her yogi-samadehi-Taoist the real is unreal, the unreal is real — Present were David and Jeanette, Shawn (pure joys); Paul Reeves and at my suggestion we all sat at a séance — improvised a ouija with a fifty cent piece on a tray (on which we painted letters).

What is amazing is that it worked — David, Nancy and Norris were operating the coin — once it began to move as I intoned first — come in; come in; come in;

The coin started to move. Nancy withdrew her hand, startled, then returned her finger to the moving coin. Norris was very excited. We all were — it having been quite unbelievable that anything might have happend.

Who are you? —

The coin rushed immediately to C. Started a wavering path across the board, a rush. I held my breath for it missed H only by a hair breath; indicated clearly A which was next to it — C-A-U-G-V-L-E-C- was spelt out and then the coin went dead. When it started to move again (to my question where are you from?) it indicated the letter Y (why??) and wld. not move. Put on the center of the board it returned to Y. I askd if I could control it. Placed my finger on the coin alone. It had been quite inconceivable that someone (I suspected Norris — perhaps only in a kind of hysteria) hadn’t been controlling it. But under my finger it moved, tugged in a way as if it were moved by a force that included my hand and part of the arm — straight across the board and off.

We got no sensible communication. C-S-T-R- a row of consonants and then everyone was strained and bored. However, Leslie is going to Boston to get painting supplies (what they have here is abominable) and I am going to have him get a Ouija from Monkie Ward’s ($1.98) — [18]

link [4.]

[Nov. 26, 1945
Pond Farm

dear Pauline: Have you quite given me up for lost? I have, of course, given you up for lost. Please — a little postcard once a month to let me in on the fact that you are alive. I am at work busily upon an essay on “THE EPIC CONCEPT OF JOYCE” and reading Finnegan night and day. There is a terrific excitement as what he was trying to convey comes clear; he seems to have made a terrific effort and a shocking effort to bring to the surface his entire sexual nature. It is Kraken of motive and phantasy that would have had Melville out of his wits with joy. To see Finnegan as Joyce’s Pierre so clearly is part of my excitement.[20]

Well, and then I have been working on a long poem. I shall enclose parts of it! In the second part upon which I am working now I am planning to make a sort of Progresse of poetry — starting with Wyatt and Surrey upon the poetic themes announced in the first section.

As to news: My mother is overlooking the business at my aunt’s right now. I think I wrote you that after my little hysterical scene there my mother wanted me to give her my consent to my entrance in an asylum. Her present reversal of mood may be either (a) humoring me or (b) be genuinely better intentioned. In all accounts I am writing her only the most regulation make-mother-happy letters.

The life here is quite flawless. I am already milking 2 of the 9 milking cows a day and tending to the chickens who lay 150 eggs daily. It’s a life without any cash — my nearest hopes are either that Mother might send a Christmas present or that I must wait several months until the chickens do more than pay the bill for their feed which runs (well 148 dollars this last month). That should be about June. I hope to get the Joyce article finishd soon and will send it to P.R. or to take in hopes of some money.

The real news is, I guess, that Ham and Mary are going to have a baby — due in June. It was not exactly planned, but the entire vote of the local commune went to have it.

This place, by the by, is no commune. Nor does our mènage find it flawless. The farm itself is beautiful — it would take care and attention to do its many felicities justice — but our relation to the owner of the place, Gordon Herr, is strictly that of titillating his patronistic vanities. We curse him daily. He is the Bane of our Existence; as consistently idiotic, pigheaded and unpleasantly pleasant a fellow as could ever make us feel all of an accord.

So we have our hearts and eyes set toward the coast which is some 15 miles distant; Ham and Mary inspired truly by the hopes that it might mean a rescue are at work on the Raleigh book. It is, I may say in confidence — by her extraordinary sense of bringing the scene itself to light that the book should be more than usual. She has something at this time of Woolf’s ability to see into the eye of the past; to see as one suddenly feels the Elizabethan eye say. I have just started her reading Woolf and she is gaining in meeting head on a sensibility so like her own. It seems to me that the Raleigh book shld. be the success that might make some of our common future possible. The story of his life in itself is so dramatic; and it begs the best that one can bring to it.

Perhaps, darling, if I am to get much of this off today I had better close in time to send it down. I’ll type what I can of the poem and add it.


Pond Farm

link [5.]

[July 1953]

Dear Claire,[21]

Here’s another patron in the mails. I hope that they will begin coming in now like flies.

And I’m mailing the copy on my article; and the copy for the poetry page with the dummy, rather than bringing it around myself because right at the present I wld like a vacation from thinking about The Artist’s View at all. If I could be permitted a more distant relation to the whole thing, I wld be more good-willd. And I want to avoid any further involvement — straightening things out in continued involvement.

I like you, old thing, as you know: you’ve got style, wit, intellect, sex — major human qualities for my admiration — and then, what is right there in these recent pastels — well, what one likes. But I don’t like — I’m not sure that I don’t admire — enterprise. And here I go off, somehow assenting, and somehow committing myself, to helping out in this enterprise until all the unexpressd dislike of business and the mounting annoyance at such a diversion of mind from my own world — home and work — blows up and you get it. Bang go! I was damnd mad at you, as I told David when he came over; and madder and madder when you kept ringing. As I shouted over the phone I didn’t give a damn what you did about the Lynn Brown stuff.[22] What I did give a damn about and was mad about was that you wanted me to agree at all to what you did — I had already indicated what I really thot about that. Now it was all quite unfair because I had given you every impression of going along when I was actually double-minded about it all and felt increasingly “out of place.”

I don’t want to retract at all the impact of my anger; but I do want to qualify It. That I was outraged should be kept in mind and serve as a signal for you in measuring your distance. I am for The Artist’s View but not with it; if I can suggest the distinction. You can enlist still any of my abilities — typing addresses, urging friends to subscribe, and putting forth my best in designing whatever monograph I do for you. But you cannot enlist me any farther — in promoting the thing, in advertising, in talking about its progress, in speculating about its policies. My concern in this dimension is exhausted. Two hours typing addresses, or giving a party to introduce the magazine — these only take time. Designing a monograph, of course, nothing to do with The Artist’s View it has properly to do with my own work. But listening to you talk about the affair, promotion etc — these take attention, mind and making. That — I realize I am quite fanatic about It — I reserve for the intimacy of my domicile, for my study and for my work.


link [6.] [23]

Bañalbufar, Mallorca
14 agosto 1955

dear Olson /

Stevens is dead, the news comes.[24] Well, it’s the Stevens and back of him the shadowy Mallarmé that seems to me to haunt my work, Keres from his world scuttering in to attend the séance of each poem. The poem anyway being not only made but heard, so that one is listening, the line comes to one, as much as one is inventing, as cuts, or measures into the line. I just spent a week in Barcelona — which meant four hours again going over the Catalan romanesque frescos and sculptures, and another four at the archeological museum — and beginning, just beginning, to get the feel of a world emerging (as this world here emerges little by little as one learns its language . . . will only be there I know when I have got the worlds (words), the contour of, into my system). There are two interlapping pictures from these two collections: the one extending from cave scratchings, flints and wood charrings, lion, bear, hyena, horse and elephant jaws, thru megalithic cultures (the dolmen makers not only swept down thru Spain but invaded Mallorca, leaving Stonehenges and cairns), grave remains where the most elegant Carthaginian beads and blue-glaze amulets of Bast accompany primitive native pottery. Ibiza was a Carthaginian colony and the ceramic figures from this period are magnificent.[25] This goddess crownd with the walld imperishable city clutches in one hand to her breast a miniature lamb — in time we see her again holding the miniature child-lamb. What have any of us who aint shepherds got to do with this thing? Something, some insistent thing, because the images bring back ¿out of what memory? the sheep. As the lion, bear, hyena, horse and elephant rise up into feeling from their jawbones. (On a stone from the cave world, over and over again scratchd horse and elephant; on a stone lintel from XIIth century graphiti show scratchd horses and knights, city walls and buildings — which have not yet emerged in the frescos).

But it is in the masterpieces of the medieval culture that an epiphany comes

12th century San Roman de las Bons shows[26]
their eyes obsessd with sight
          ears obsessd with the word    as: 1123 circa
the great apse of Santa Maria de Tahull
     Christ Pantokrator holds
          the book    the Word
          the world then
   enthroned: ego sum lux mundi
          the A & W the throne
          the book        the light
surrounded by evangelical beasts &
   great wingd many-eyed seraphim

— but the epiphany (mine) is that just here a complex iconography (where all images are signs) is brought into a complex plastic knowledge (where the two dimensions of the fresco, and the symbolic many dimensions of what is represented, and the three dimensions of the architecture — the apse is semicircular — provide spatial counterpoints with the advancing and recedings of forms and colors). You see at a glance a created space, which being drawn, draws. And — the exhilaration of the maker is so keen — see the created time of a poem and that as the plastic feeling be complex there, then needs — for this exhilaration — a like wise complex iconography. Wherever the spatial knowledge does not exist, the iconography does not exist. The images are not signs — and with the “renaissance” everything is lost of the order; the icons are humanize[d] and become idols; the terror and majesty of the romanesque is superceded by piety and luxury; the painter at Tahull finds in the robes an agency of color and movement — so that draperies swirl to make new spaces / the robes in the 15th century chapel of Lluis Dalmau (who paints after the Flemish model) reveal shine and glow of their expense.[27]

¿”the giant bodied spirit I”? the thing as I see it between you, me, Bob and this Pantokrator, lux mundi / is just that the forms — the meanings — lux, mundi, pan — have changed. What we believe them to be as surely as the painter of this Christ enthroned upon the world-globe believed this to be the cosmos. The created thing then, as now, emerges from the thing seen (the painter’s necessary book), the thing embodied as a sign in the thing seen / heard (the book, the word, and the letters — the world emerges from vowels and consonants), and the thing as heard (the musician’s necessary book — and hence here the trumpet, the harps and lutes).

But insist upon the central picture, that one hold in one hand as this Christ the open book, and the other hand raised in benediction. This excess of feeling lasted, even here — when in these country churches it flowerd — only two hundred years; the real fine exhilaration is only there in a generation of painters at the beginning of the 12th century. Works up to this giantism. And then ennuie, humanism, and “proportion” have their run. Revelation is followd by illustration or description.

In 1920 Stravinsky composed his Symphonies of Wind Instruments in homage to Debussy upon his death (as Manual de Falla did at that time).[28] A composer could have done a funeral piece / but the appropriate homage is a demonstration — in Stravinsky’s case he anticipated 12 tone construction. It is that the work not be about the addressd master but that it be a demonstration for his spirit. And in this sense I would design a piece for Stevens. It gives me at least the challenge of the invention. If I can do it — to attempt however it goes — two theoretical inventions: to measure silences in the time of composition, and to work from an arbitrary series of points in the time of composition rather than “beginning at the beginning.”

Gradually recent work is coming into book shape. Once I had the title LETTERS, it was clear.[29] From the Letter to Denise Levertov (but I mean to remove the “letter” aspect, any dedications, in order to make clear the letters vowels and consonants of it) thru to a projected second letter to Denise. Much of the work for the book will appear if ORIGIN continues in an issue, granted again that Corman means what he sez. It’s this book anyway that will be for Jonathan if he manages to perform his other announcements.
with old affections,

[ask Bob, what about using my notes on Maximus as stet for the Books & Comment section of #6? I am sending your Anecdotes of the Late War to Jonathan as requested in his postcard of this week.][30]

link [7.] [31]

[Bañalbafur, Mallorca]
28 agosto 55

dear Charles /

The established iconography — what Dodds in The Greeks and the Irrational calls the conglomerate,[32] or for a psychological view the gestalt — as you have it instructs to avert (as a city it seemd to me when we talkd together so many years ago is it now — is to hold back the dark and not just the dark, an expanded cave fire, fear-full anyway) and to produce. And I found myself puzzling as you puzzled and came up with a distinction between those things at La Bons and Tahull that had seemd to speak to me as another world speaks; to instruct me again what this mystery of making might be: and those things (I dont have no library here to locate where but you’ve said [set] out much of this business of the thing), traces from whose spoor the life of the making, what kind of a life it was, leaps to us. It’s no choice between the two — the difference is so wide. Or it’s inside and outside. And here you are in the letter which arrived today with the best I could be waiting for, well, with what unlocks thought — that the religious thing is this practice of the outside and the inside / to learn, as surely as we learn to walk (which is simultaneously by a practice of the inside and the outside, of the ear-organ of equilibrium i.e.) to dare to exist.

But what I’ve got in mind in conversation with you is a note to my enthusiasm for the hierarchically arranged thing. I dont get to it in the notes so far on Maximus, but I heartedly, by heart, agree with you that “There are no hierarchies” or it could come as an agonized cry from this man glamorized,[33] in love with the great wheels of cultures “There are only hierarchies!” And we’ve, both of us, got Grandpa to thank for our way station of the ideogram (which allows for movement as the iconography doesnt, for individual discovery). I’m not in mind to have done with the glamors of history or of arrangements, but now I begin to see that while how to arrange to release powers is a vital struggle when my organism was new (and actually struggling toward a definite arrangement), the struggle now is to disrupt the inertias that fall into place. The fight begins to be to “release them,” to release the configurations from name and place (and hence I, tho there are other reasons, pursue Stein); the dynamics of the making needs as much incoherence (incorporation of natural inability, corrupt flesh etc.) as it needs coherence (a genius, skeleton etc).

The picture that I gave of Tahull came from my centering with awe upon the achievement of the apse, the hierarchic, the arranged thing. But reconstructed, the church had another movement, figures as large as to be contradictory to the giantism of the iconographic thing — that is men dying, devourd by animals, or witnessing, or fighting (the plough excluded?).

[in left margin]

The thing or things I’m after is to chase down the Celtic and Germanic art — there’s lots in Spain — hinterlands of 500 BC-500 AD — with Scythian overtones.

The important thing for me is in these “masterpieces” just that, that they are masters to me in learning the art; and that now I begin to see too that they are a comfort too, because I read in them that there have been others who would have been makers. It’s not the only human appetite, certainly not a universal or very common human appetite, but we’ve got it, thee and me and our small company; and as surely as men have handed down the “secret” of fire, or of how to work the soil, this how to work the life or the living is handed down. Well, what I have in mind is that that hand to avert and to produce as it signs, signs also a benediction, and that the benediction I feel is the maker-to-maker (and since they were enthroning, the King is a Maker). There’s a Hell of a lot of art that doesnt bless like this, that curses the sights out of the initiate, or that even thinks of itself, of making as a sin. There are periods when all trace of the “brotherhood” seems lost. And then you have things like the way the Brontës thought out the structure of the novel, and the great fraternity of novelists in the 19th century (and extending thru Virgina Woolf, Dorothy Richardson, James Joyce, in the 20th) — Or there’s the other certainty of being able to read thru from Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson, Thoreau to the Jameses and to Dewey with a continuity. Or there’s Yeats at his séance table calling up Swift and Blake; or Joyce, likewise, these Irish, calling up Vico and Bruno and Dr. Levy-Bruhl — for a conversation.

Without a feeling of his craft brotherhood, and recognition of his masters, a man falls away from an art unless driven thereto mightily. But I have already seen painters and poets dwindle away into professors and magazine editors, or run away from their arts, precisely because they were theirs.

All this — with the interruption in which I was deep in a summer cold, lying in a sweat and taking some cure in reading again Cantos 85, 86, 87 and realizing that some of these ideograms are coming into my language. Then a friend from Berkeley sends a clipping from the E. P. Newsletter with note that in the next issue they will have letters for his 70th birthday & would I send some.[34] But I’ve a question as to whether the Newsletter is the appropriate place and time; I think I would rather send directly to him myself.

Rumaker’s stuff arrived;[35] and I’m a bit uninformed as to what exactly I am to do. In what form to send an O.K. as examiner, I mean; because I don’t see why not that. But then, as I shall be writing Bob and at more length — these pieces give me a slim idea of his mind. Isn’t there something more important than the O.K. for graduating or passing or whatever? There’s the does he know the first thing, or his first thing about his art? I’d want to know what he thought writing was about, as well as who did he think did it well enough to be his particular masters. And then too, if he thought something was happening or needed to be happening in this short story form; and if not, why write etc.
yrs. etc.

link [8.]

June 3, 1956
[Black Mountain College]

Dear Jaime[36]

This one is straight off rush. To be followd with some more formal plan or proposal, tho it ain’t simple as you who is in it more than knows, to go to both you and Ruth. But what is needed is a Writers Theater, and that means Writers — set up with a control of writers whose written plays is writing plays is going to write plays; it’s you and me at this point as far as I wld trust it. And gradually where we can to add to the strength of it. Only by keeping it to what we damn well know is WRITERS can we govern how much and what of the margin will go. You and I know when a play bores us. Connected with the Poetry Center or as far as such is connected with the Poetry Center means the old disastrous compromise. As, for instance, when choice of plays lay with the actors as in the Playhouse they produced Playground yes but with the same enthusiasm produced that abysmal Kafka thing[37] . . . and Shevill wld have to be produced. UGH! department. It ain’t compromise alone but corruption of taste and what one knows that creeps in here. (As for instance, I is fighting all down the line about teaching along with Lilenthal — and were I to be brought to it would go on fighting.) Spicer is at work on his third play, a drama of the Saint Graal[38] — and I have here his second, Troilus and Cresside but since he wants said ms back for approaching Harvard’s poetry theater with, our sitting down over these must be postponed.

My proposal will go along the following lines. Writers Theater to be initially you and me; and only after we sits our little selves down con amore to read manuscripts and talk over all together will we add possibly to that governing “board” which will specifically not be “bored.” This Writers Theater is the nucleus from which we proceed: (a) to cooperate with the Poets Theater of the “Center,” thru which to make use of the possibilities of their two financed productions. BUT THESE WILL BE POETRY CENTER PRODUCTIONS NOT WRITERS THEATER PRODUCTIONS; (b) Writers Theater productions can be kept at the basic level of even as primitive a production as Faust got; proceeding from there to specific financing of plays we want to see done that are impossible thru the Poetry Center set-up (as for instance, will the production board of that set-up — Ruth, you, me, Dr. Fenton McKenna, and Ida in their right minds do a production of FOUTU with naked boys, catalogues of ass-holes, cunts, cocks; Faust, Maggie and Peter all naked in bed etc. or propose same for production? I doubt it.)[39] Yet the, and for that reason, the base must lie with us and allow for funds to be raised for Writers Theater productions even if they have to be done in private houses.

The difficult thing all along is that cooperation beyond the level of the writer’s responsibility means compromise (of aesthetics, passion and meaning) and beyond that of course corruption. I am anyway designing my MEDEA for either POETRY CENTER (but if the need of the drama exceeds the institutional censor I shall junk that possibility) or for free production.[40]

If we keep in mind that the POETRY CENTER-POETS THEATER axis is just and all of an institutional opportunity; and then not worry about too much the fact that it is a very limited opportunity indeed, but base everything on the recognition that it is a very limited opportunity indeed. We see the immediate necessity for the process to arise elsewhere.

“It’s more than a wee annoying to be asked to found a Poets Theater” that I will sew up in antimacassars as item one in our bill of rights. The POETS THEATER is an opportunity for the Poetry Center, for that civic organization alone: one that shld not be missd there.

But just as the Poetry Center is NO OPPORTUNITY OF ANY KIND FOR POETS and this has been hard to get across, and if there is confusion on this level there is major confusion; just so any theater connected with civic enterprise is an opportunity ONLY FOR CIVIC ENTERPRISE. I’ll go along with the civic enterprise but not at the expense of major meaning.

It’s your “I am NOT a student (or I would add to help ME, Teacher) or a little theater sawhorse” that I have and do and will trust absolutely as I will trust my own.

Now, I’ll write as above promised a try at a clear account of all this but I’m rushing this off to you to reassure you as if there needed of where I stand.



link [9.] [41]

June 18 57

dear Robin!

Ist kein Yiddisher vitiman. Your adventures with Evergreen = Grove made me the more determined to make up this 1942-1952 volume just and exactly as I will want it and then wait till, some publisher takes it as is. No holds barrd. But I am delighted that “Hunger of Sound” and “The Dance” will be in Measure #2 together.[42]

Well, Ginsberg’s HOWL is the San Francisco poem of all poems for 1955-6. When we were in Majorca everybody from San Francisco writing was affected by it. And isn’t it an omen of some kind that new Ginsberg work (one particularly I liked — calld “Sather Gate”) couldn’t or wouldn’t stand in its place. His audience here (some five hundred they came from Berkeley, St. Mary’s, Marin County etc.) wanted only HOWL and were impatient with more recent (and subtler) work.

It’s just that by some damnd incident of geography I am so solidly placed in region, and not in coterie. And I’m a coterie poet not a regional one. Yet the S.F. issue of Evergreen does very well by me indeed. I think, too, that Jack is well represented. (Tho this is, I know, at some variance with his view).

Your letter, most full — and at last! that you’ll be coming as far West as Idaho this summer. Does that preclude coming to the Coast? Jess and I can arrange for you to stay here with us. There will be every temptation of new paintings, and conferences. and it would come so splendidly just as I am launching out to do the Poetics — RE: Jack’s “Magic School” Wieners will have by now a copy of my personal disclaimer. Today, I’ve to go to Berkeley, where I stay over at Pauline’s (where Jess is just finishing the guest room — his most free and beautiful work is in that house (where, as he says — the tensions almost defeat him). And then, tomorrow morning before returning with him breakfast at my favorite aunts’, a Sunday pleasure. Meanwhile, Don Allen has arrived and I want to arrange to have him over. . . .[43] I’ll be finishing this letter, I do want, if there is time to pour out more to your most receptive reading of that something just in back of my mind. . . .

No, no Artaud volume has arrived to date. I orderd and received from England the three volumes of Lawrence’s pomes, and Yeats’s Autobiografies. How, I find, I loathe Augustus John’s glib eye. I have pasted over the frontispiece a drawing of Yeats by the Senior Yeats which this edition does not reprint from The Trembling of the Veil.[44] Did I send you “From These Strands Becoming?” (Also if any poems mentioned as contents of Selected to date you don’t have, send me titles and I’ll send copies) You know, several months ago now I found an edition of Axel 9 which I devourd (this is like devouring the most potent of magical mushrooms, it proliferates thru the cells and leaves — another Wurthering Heights, I mean Werther and the Brontes — swells of romantic geist refined.[45] The alembic of Strindberg, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam: those “Alchemists” of the fin de siècle is just that — a right refining of particular gold from the protean chemistry of romance. I do not divorce the refinement of the poem, the articulations and focuses of the line — from a refinement of the spirit. And this morning I would be ardent enuf to convert young Wieners to the doctrine. “Damn your Goddamn elegance” Jack Spicer said to me in a petulance.

I do find the exploitation of experience offensive. As Crowley is offensive. He craved vulgarity. So I am still at my writing desk and, it is so beautifully placed and I can swell upon this night scene of Majorca as I write, dwell upon Jess’s delicate (in the sense of the minute adjustments, sensitivities) immense strength.

I hate Parkinson’s admiration of Yeats’s “dignity” and Jack’s partiality for Yeats’s having seen the Beast, because these are congratulations short of his magnificence.[46] Yeats always awakens in me yearnings that thru my childhood mysteries, thru (waiting for my mother in the anteroom this side of the shell / curtain) the surrounding of those Hermetic brothers, links of feeling that send me again to the hidden spirit in history: Gnostic fragments, the Zohar, Mallarme, There are orders upon orders of them.

Here, once at Pauline’s somehow the intoxication of Yeats into which and from which currents of a poem were breaking up some frozen areas — dissipates. A profoundly anti-poetic atmosphere, and it is a scorching day, all sweat and radiation.

I phoned Don Allen at his hotel in San Francisco. And I will be seeing him Monday — for supper etc. He was particularly concernd about you; I told him I had a letter today and we would discuss all Monday. I want to get across the idea that the exciting thing right now ain’t “reverence for life” — Mr. Rexroth’s bill of fare, nor magic — but the consequences of on Projective Verse man.[47]


link [10.]

Sept. 26/ 60
[Stinson Beach]

dear Norman / [48]

We’re in the thick of it now. The thing has begun to work. Friday I had work thru from eleven until two in the morning, and got the sketch of Eros in, saw how it was leading me back to return to my two little scenes of readings of poems with a new significance to the fact that teacher and companions were all women: leading thru along one line towards H.D.’s women and men as in the often repeated figure of the soldier and his mistress, or I the figure of Mary Magdalene and Christ in the war trilogy; leading or rather awaiting a postponed elucidation of the criticism of H.D.’s work — how uneasy, men are when they are confronted with the problem of a genius in women’s work. There, after we’ve had a Chapter (II) tracing thru concepts of image, symbol, ideogram, personae, presence, idea and phantasm from a given point. Pound’s Imagist “Stray Document” or points — Jane Harrison’s reading of the Dionysian fragment, Jessie Weston’s reading of the Grail mythos — to relations between the works of Stevens, Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Williams, H.D. , (Lawrence’s poetry may come in, but in some different context — I do have the project of relating the disregard for H.D.’s work and the regard for it with a like disregard and regard for Lawrence as poet to their particular feeling-speech where the full inheritance of our complex grasp of the functions of a figure — where poets expand the art of logopoeia: after we’ve got thru what happened out of Imagism and Objectivism, etc. or in spite of such or more than such, some chapter placed just so that the reader’s memory of what has been going on will be all but impossibly stretchd and he will feel that the discovery of the line is a reward to his own strength and perseverance, we will have to come to a discussion of genius — and there our postponed littler period on critics and genders will appear.

What I am sending herewith must be final draft for now, everything presses on ahead. I’ve to get the portrait-character of the teacher in today and maybe on into the realized thing for the company-brotherhood-literary movement expansion of the second scene — then the close I don’t know how I am going to do it — with the dilettante — connoisseurs, the discussion of fashion, style and the avant-garde, and the “upon firs” opening The Cantos of Ezra Pound, to close “forth on the godly sea” and: hurrah! I madly hope that the end of this week may see me launched forth from this “Beginning”.

One of those operations of the magic from the links and threads within the work as it projects its sequence into the actual came yesterday. Friday I had got that Eros thing, but I had cheated, pressed a point to translate the [greek words] of Plato as lover, altering the quote from Jowett trans. of Lysis. It saved me a paragraph, saved me from coping with the distinction between eros and philia; but, and that kept gnawing at my sense of the whole, it robbed me of being able to use that distinction. I didn’t want to think it out; it seemd to call for some correction of my own prejudice: it meant unearthing the twain of Eros and in our own “love.” Even while I workd on that passage, making my over-sight, I was haunted too by the reproving figure of my old tutor in Greek. “I must ask Rosario when I am in town next time about Eros and Philia, about whether Plato ever “imagined” being a lover. Then, as we sat at lunch Sunday, she arrived. She had never been to visit before; Richard Montague, who also, some ten years or more ago, had been her student, drove her out, and I was surrounded by those words, dearness, nearness, most dear; to be or to be seized by. It meant that from the beginning I must see the definitions: it would not be in the design to dis-cover later Eros from Philia.

So, that I am in the thick of it, means too that I am in the adventure of it, everything begins to inform. What a pleasurable affront to the bastions of the “New Criticism” of the 30s and 40s, that still haunt the minds of cultured readers! But, thank the gods, and the poets — whatever the New Criticism was not my problem.



[1] James Peter Cooney (?-1985) was the editor of the magazine The Phoenix (1939–1940, 1969–1984), a magazine devoted to the work of D. H. Lawrence, pacifism, and independence. Robert Duncan visited Blanche and James Peter Cooney at their farm in North Adams, MA, where they farmed with horses and lived an independent life. See Blanche Cooney, In My Own Sweet Time: An Autobiography (Athens, OH: Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 1993).

[2] “The Protestants” and “The Gestation” are early poems by Duncan first published in The Phoenix; “Ritual” was published in the first issue of Epitaph.

[3] Derek S. Savage (1917– ) is a British poet, author of Don Quixote and Other Poems (London: Right Review, 1939) and Time to Mourn (Poems 1934–1943) (London: Routledge, 1934), who is also known for his essays on anarchism.

[4] Symmes is Robert Duncan’s adopted name.

[5] Duncan met Sanders Russell (1909–1982?) when he was a student at the University of California at Berkeley 1936–1938. He was a poet who published The Chemical Image (San Francisco: Ark Press, 1947).

[6] Duncan met Virginia Admiral (1917–2000) when he was a student at the University of California at Berkeley 1936–1938. She was a painter.

[7] Unknown.

[8] Duncan mentions Ned Fahs in the introduction to his book The Years as Catches. Fahs was Duncan’s lover; in 1938 Duncan moved East and lived in Philadelphia and Annapolis, where Fahs was a professor at The Naval Academy.

[9] Duncan met Pauline Kael (1919–2001) when he was a student at the University of California at Berkeley 1936–1938. They shared literary and political ideas. She is best known for her book about the movies, I Lost It at the Movies (1965), and her movie reviews in The New Yorker (1967–1991).

[10] Herbert Read, “The Cult of Leadership,” Now 1 (1943): 9-19; Ante (Anton) Ciliga, The Russian Enigma, trans. Fernand G. Renier and Anne Cliff (London: G. Routledge, 1940); Tom Brown, Trade Unionism or Syndicalism? rev. and enl. ed. (London: Freedom Press, 1943).

[11] Erich Fromm (1900-1980) was a prominent lecturer and writer about issues of psychology and social psychology. His autobiography is Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My Encounter with Marx and Freud (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962). In other essays Duncan quotes from Fromm’s Escape from Freedom (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1941).

[12] “Little Folk Art” is an unfinished and unpublished essay by Duncan.

[13] Here Duncan is quoting from a letter by Dwight Macdonald (1906–1982) who was an editor at Partisan Review and then the editor of Politics, where Duncan’s essay “The Homosexual in Society” appeared.

[14] At this time Duncan was living with the painter Leslie Sherman in Provincetown, MA. Norris Embry (1921–1981) was a painter and friend of Duncan’s who became the model for Faust in Duncan’s play Faust Foutu.

[15] Nicola Chiaromonte (1905–1972) was a social critic whose article appeared as part of a “Symposium on Herbert Read’s Politics of the Unpolitical,” View 4.2 (Summer 1944): 60, 62.

[16] Cites of the Plain is the title of a novel by Marcel Proust.

[17] Nancy Bowman, no additional information found.

[18] Mongomery Ward’s.

[19] At this time Duncan was living on a farm with Hamilton (1917–1983) and Mary Tyler.

[20] Pauline Kael and Duncan in their letters discussed Herman Melville’s novel Pierre as well as James Joyce’s novels Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

[21] Claire Mahl (1917–1988) was an artist and at this time editor of the journal The Artist’s View, which appeared in seven issues, July 1952 through March 1954.

[22] Lynn Brown was a California painter and a friend of Robert Duncan.

[23] Published earlier in Maps 6 (1974): 56–58.

[24] Wallace Stevens died 2 August 1955.

[25] Ibiza. One of the Balaeric islands, located in the western Mediterranean, 50 miles southwest of Mallorca. In ancient times the islands were inhabited by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians.

[26] San Roman de las Bons. The fresco described here is from the Apse of St. Clement De Tahull, dated circa 1123. Ego sum lux mundi appears in the pages of the book in Christ’s left hand, while the symbols A & W appear on either side of his head.

[27] Lluis Dalmau (1428-1459), Spanish painter whose The Enthroned Virgin and Child with Councilors hangs in the Museu d’Art de Catalunya.

[28] Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920). The final chorale is the first time Stravinsky’s famous coda appears. Manuel de Falla (1876-1946), the Spanish composer, wrote the work for guitar Homenaje ‘Le tombeau de Claude Debussy in 1920.

[29] Robert Duncan, Letters: Poems 1953-1956 (Highlands, NC: Jonathan Williams Publisher, 1958).

[30] Anecdotes of the Late War. Published as Jargon Broadside 1 (Highlands, NC: Jonathan Williams Publisher, 1955).

[31] Published earlier in Maps 6 (1974): 58–60.

[32] E. R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951).

[33] The reference is to “Letter 6” of The Maximus Poems.

[34] The Pound Newsletter, no. 7 (July 1955) had a note attached to it which announced that the October issue would contain pieces in celebration of Pound’s 70th birthday. “Readers of the Newsletter who wish to add their voices to this collective celebration are cordially invited to send contributions, the forms of which may be of their own choosing.”

[35] Michael Rumaker (1932- ) at this point was a student up for graduation from Black Mountain College. For a record of his relationship with RD see his narrative, “Robert Duncan in San Francisco,” Credences 2 nos. 3/4 (March 1978): 12-55; reprinted Robert Duncan in San Francisco (San Francisco: Grey Fox Press, 1996).

[36] James Broughton (1913–1999) was a California poet, playwright and film maker, who also was a friend of Robert Duncan.

[37] James Broughton, Playground (San Francisco: Centaur Press, 1949).

[38] Published as The Holy Grail (San Francisco: White Rabbit Press, 1964).

[39] Duncan refers to his play Faust Foutu (Stinson Beach: Enkidu Surrogate, 1960), and to Ruth Witt-Diamant (1895–1987), the founder of The Poetry Center at San Francisco State University; and to Ida Hodes (1914– ), the Assistant Director of the Poetry Center after Duncan’s tenure ended in July 1957. Dr. J. Fenton McKenna (1906–1995) taught at San Francisco State University from 1946 to 1975; he was chair of the Drama Dept. and Dean of the School of Creative Arts. Mark Lilenthal taught English and creative writing at San Francisco State University in the middle 1970s.

[40] Duncan’s play Medea at Kolchis; The Maidenhead was performed at Black Mountain College 29 and 30 August 1956.

[41] Published earlier in Ironwood 22 (1983): 106–07.

[42] Measure 2, edited by John Wieners, appeared Winter 1958.

[43] Donald Allen was the editor of the pivotal anthology The New American Poetry (New York: Grove Press, 1960).

[44] W. B. Yeats, The Trembling of the Veil, collected in Autobiographies (London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1955).

[45] Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Die Leiden des jugen Werther (1774) translated as The Suffering of Young Werther.

[46] Thomas Parkinson (1920–1992) was a poet and a Professor of English at the University of California at Berkeley, and he was the author of W. B. Yeats: Self-critic: A Study of His Early Verse (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1951).

[47] Kenneth Rexroth (1905–1982) was a dominant poetic voice in the San Francisco area; Charles Olson (1911–1970) is the author of the essay “Projective Verse” (1950).

[48] Norman Holmes Pearson (1909–1975) was a Professor at Yale University and a supporter of H.D. His commission of Robert Duncan to write a book for H.D.’s birthday resulted in Duncan’s “The H.D. Book.”

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