Robert Duncan

March 5, 2007


Mother died in childbirth, adopted at six months
Dropped out of University of California to follow a lover east
Spent some time in the army and was granted a psychiatric discharge because of his homosexuality
Embraced influences of Romantic tradition
Worked with Charles Olson, Robert Creeley and Denise Levertov
Developed a mystical aesthetic, interested in metaphysics, philosophy
Outraged by the Vietnam War and began to introduce political events into his work
Work plays off structural looseness against thematic intensities

“Every moment of life is an attempt to come to life”


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 ay are likeness 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 rind a round of roses told.
Often I am permitted to return to a meadow / as if it were a given propert of the mind / that certain bounds hold against chaos,
that is a place of first permission, / everlasting omen of what is.

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow (in whole)

Now Johnson would go up to join the great simulacra of men, / Hitler and Stalin, to work his fame / with planes roaring out from Guam over Asia,?All America becom a sea of toiling men / stirrd at his will, which would be a bloated thing, / drawing from the underbelly of the nation / such blood and dreams as sweel the idiot psyche / out of its courses into an elemental thing / unti lhis name stinks with burning meat and heapt honors
And men wake to see that they are used like things / spent in a great potlach, this Texas barbecue / of Asia, Africa, and all the Americas, / And the professional military behind him, thinking / to use him as they thought to use Hitler / without losing control of their business of war,

-back of the scene: the atomic stockpile; the vials of synthesized bdieseases eager biologists have developt over half a century dreaming of the bodies of mothers and fathers and children and hated rivals swollen with new plagues, measles grown enormous, influenzas perfected; and the grasses of despair, confusion of the senses, mania, inducing terror of the universe, coma, existential wounds, that chemists we have met at cocktail parties, passt daily and with a happy ‘Good Day’ on the way to classes or work, have workt to make war too terrible for men to wage-

This specter that in the beginnin Adams and Jefferson feard and knew / would corrupt the very body of the nation / and all our sense of our common humanity, / this black bile of old evils arisen anew, / takes over the vanity of Johnson; / and the very glint of Satan’s eyes from the pit of hell of / America’s unacknowledged, unrepented crimes that I saw in / Goldwater’s eyes / now shines from the eyes of the President / in the swollen head of the nation.

-Up Rising, Passages 25  


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