Archive for the 'Black Mountain' Category

Denise Levertov

March 6, 2007


Writes ‘poetry of secrets’
Emotional themes of love, desire and grief
Believed form should be a revelation of content
Claimed connection with mystics of the past, father descended from a Russian rabbi and member of a Jewish mystical movement
Moved to the United States at twenty-five with her husband Mitchell Goodman
Became a war protester during the 60’s
In later volumes returned to a more intimate poetry
Became Roman Catholic a few years before her death from lymphoma


The ache of marriage:
thigh and tongue, beloved, / are heavy with it, / it throbs in the teeth
We look for communion / and are turned away, beloved, / each and each
It is leviathan and we / in its belly / looking for joy, some joy / not to be known outside it
two by two in the ark of / the ache of it.

-The Ache of Marriage (in whole)

This is the year the old ones, / the old great ones / leave us alone on the road.
The road leads to the sea. / We have the words in our pockets, / obscure directions. The old ones
have taken away the light of their presence, / we see it moving away over a hill / off to one side.
They are not dying, / they are withdrawn / into a painful privacy
learning to live without words. / E.P. ‘It looks like dying’ -Williams: ‘I can’t / describe to you what has been
happening to me’- / H.D. ‘unable to speak.’ / The darkness
twists itself in the wind, the stars / are small, the horizon / ringed with confused urban light-haze.
They have told us / the road leads to the sea, / and given
the language into our hands. / We hear / our footsteps each time a truck
has dazzled past us and gone / leaving us new silence. / One can’t reach
the sea on this endless / road to the sea unless / one turns aside at the end, it seems,
follows / the owl that silently glides above it / aslant, back and forth,
and away into deep woods.
But for us the road / unfurls itself, we count the / words in our pockets, we wonder
how it will be without them, we don’t / stop walking, we know / there is f ar to go, sometimes
we think the night wind carries / a smell of the sea…

-September 1961 (in whole)

In conversation with Amy Lowell?

By the gas-fire, kneeling / to undress, / scorching luxuriously, raking
her nails over olive sides, the red / waistband ring-
(And the little sister / beady-eyed in the bed- / or drowsy, was I? My head / a camera-)
Sixteen. Her breasts / round, round, and / dark-nippled-
who now these two months long / is bones and tatters of flesh in earth.

Your eyes were the brown gold of pebbles under water. / I never crossed the bridge over the Roding, dividing / the open field of the present from the mysteries, / the wraiths and shifts of time-sense Wanstead Park held suspended, / without remembering your eyes. Even when we were estranged / and my own eyes smarted in pain and anger at the thought of you. / And by other streams in other countries; anywhere where the light / reaches down through shallows to gold gravel. Olga’s / reaches down through shallows to gold gravel. Olga’s / brown eyes. One rainy summer, down in the New Forest, / when we could hardly breathe for ennui and the low sky, / you turned savagely to the piano and sightread / straight through all the Beethoven sonatas, day after day- / weeks, it seemed to me. I would turn the pages some of the time, / go out to ride my bike, return- you were enduring in the / falls and rapids of the music, the arpeggios rang out, the rectory / trembled, our parents seemed effaced. / I think of your eyes in that photo, six years before I was born, / the fear in them. What did you do with your fear, / later? Through the years of humiliation, / of paranoia and blackmail and near-starvation, losing / the love of those you loved, one after another, / parents, lovers, children, idolized friends, what kept / compassion’s candle alight in you, that lit you / clear into another chapter (but the same book) ‘a clearing / in the selva oscura, / a house whose door / swings open, a hand beckons / in welcome’? / I cross / so many brooks in the world, there is so much light / dancing on so many stones, so many questions my eyes / smart to ask of your eyes, gold brown eyes, / the lashes short but the lids / arched as if carved out of olivewood, eyes with some vision / of festive goodness in back of their hard, or veiled, or shining, / unknowable gaze…

-Olga Poems

(Olga Levertoff, 1914-1964)

Some Notes of Organic Form (1965)

Part of the Black Mountain school’s experimentation with adressing open form
The orgainc poem emerges as a whole, coherent both within itself and in relation to the dictates of the experience


“the pattern of essential characteristic both in single objects and (what is more interesting) in objects in a state of relation to each other, and the word ‘instress’ to denote experiencing of the perception of inscape, the apperception of inscape.”

“But the condition of being a poet is that periodically such a cross section, or constellation, of experiences (in which one or another element may predominate) demands, or wakes in him this demand: the poem.”

“So- as the poet stands open-mouthed in the temple of life, contemplating his experience, there come to him the first words of the poem: the words which are to be his way in to the poem, if there is to be a poem.”

“During the writing of a poem the various elements of the poet’s being are in communion with each other, and heightened.”

“In organic poetry the metric movement, the measure, is the direct expression of the movement of perception. And the sounds, acting together with the measure, are a kind of extended onomatopoeia…”

“But perhaps the difference is this: that free verse isolates the ‘rightness’ of each line or cadence- if it seems expressive, then never mind the relation of it to the next; while in organic poetry the peculiar rhythms of the parts are in some degree modified, if necessary, in order to discover the rhythm of the whole.”

“Form is never more than a revelation of content.” 

“A religious devotion to the truth, to the splendor of the authentic, involves the writer in a process rewarding in itself; but when that devotion brings us to undreamed abysses and we find ourselves sailing slowly over them and landing ont he other side- that’s ecstasy.”


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  

Robert Creeley

March 5, 2007


Lost his father and use of his left eye at five years old
Entered Harvard University but left to join the American Field Service in India and Burma
Took drugs to escape from boredom
Came back to Harvard
Lived on Cape Cod with his wifeJoined the faculty of Black Mountain College, founded and edited the Black Mountain Review
Marriage collapsed, left Black Mountain
Became associated with Beat poetry
Married again, received an M.A. from University of New Mexico
taught on coffee plantation in Guatemala
New York State poet from 1989-1991
Poetry is immediately likable: no interest in pompous or oracular utterance and offers instantaneous intimacy
Belongs to Black Mountain school of Charles Olson
Rejects traditional meters and rhymes, develops his own rhythms
Most famous statement on aesthetics:

“Form is never more than an extension of content.”


As I sd to my / friend, because I am / always talking, -John, I
sd, which was not his / name, the darkness sur- / rounds us, what
can we do against / it, or else, shall we & / why not, buy a goddamn big car,
drive, he sd, for / christ’s sake, look / out where yr going.

-I Know a Man (in whole)

Yesterday I wanted to / speak of it, that sense above / the others to me / important because all
that I know derives / from what it teaches me. / Today, what is it that / is finally so helpless,
different, despairs of its own / statement, wants to / turn away, endlessly / to turn away.
If the moon did not … / no, if you did not / I wouldn’t either, but / what would I not
do, what prevention, what / thing so quickly stopped. / That is love yesterday / or tomorrow, not
now. Can I eat / what you give me. I / have not earned it. Must / I think of everything
as earned. Now love also / becomes a reward so / remote from me I have / only  made it with my mind.
Here is tedium, / despair, a painful / sense of isolation and / whimsical if pompous
self-regard. But that image / is only of the mind’s / vague structure, vague to me / because it is my own.
Love, what do I think / to say. I cannot say it. / What have you become to ask, / what have I made you into,
companion, good company, / crossed legs with skirt, or / soft body under / the bones of the bed.
Nothing says anything / but that which it wishes / would come true, fears / what else might happen in
someother place, some / other time not this one. / A voice in my place, an / echo of that only in yours.
Let me stumble into / not the confession but / the obsession I begin with / not. For you
also (also) / some time beyond place, or / place beyond time, no / mind left to
say anything at all, / that face gone, now. / Into the company of love / it all returns.

-For Love (in whole)

Dedicated to his second wife, Bobbie Hoeck

It is hard going to the door / cut so small in the wall where / the vision which echoes loneliness / brings a scent of wild flowers in the wood.
What I understood, I understand. / My mind is sometime torment, / sometimes good and filled with livelihood, / and feels the ground.
But I see the door, / and Knew the wall, and wanted the wood, / and would get there if I could / with my feet and hands and mind.
Lady, do not banish me / for digressions. My nature / is a quagmire of unresolved / confessions. Lady, I follow.
I walked away from myself, / I left the room, I found the garden, / I knew the woman / in it, together we lay down.
Dead night remembers. In December / we change, not multiplied but dispersed, / sneaked out of childhood, / the ritual of dismemberment.
Mighty magic is a mother, / in her there is another issue / of fixture, repeated form, the race renewal, / the charge of the command.
The garden echoes across the room. / It is fixed in the wall like a mirror / that faces a window behind you / and reflects the shadows.
May I go now? / Am I allowed to bow myself down / in the ridiculous posture of renewal, / of the instance of which I am the virtue?
nothing for You is untoward. / Inside You would also be tall, / more tall, more beautiful. / Come toward me from the wall, I want to be with You.
So I screamed to You, / who hears as the wind, and changes / multiply, invariably, / changes in the mind.
Running to the door, I rand down / as a clock runs down. Walked backwards, / stumbled, sat down / hard on the floor near the wall.
Where were You. / How absurd, how vicious. / There is nothing to do but get up. / My knees were iron, I rusted in worship, of You.
For that one sings, one / writes the spring poems, one goes on walking. / The Lady has always moved to the next town / and you stumble on after Her.
The door in the wall leads to the garden / where in the sunlight sit / the Graces in long Victorian dresses, / of which my grandmother had spoken.
History sings in their faces. / They are young, they are obtainable, / and you follow after them also / in the service of God and Truth.
But the Lady is indefinable, / she will be the door in the wall / to the garden in sunlight. / I will go on talking forever.
I will never get there. / Oh Lady, remember me / who in Your service grows older / not wiser, no more than before.
How can I die alone. / Where will I be then who am now alone, / what groans so pathetically / in this room where I am alone?
I will go to the garden. / I will be a romantic. I will sell / myself in hell, / in heaven also I will be.
In my mind I see the door, / I see the sunlight before me across the floor / beckon to me, as the Lady’s skirt / moves small beyond it.

-The Door (in whole)

for Robert Duncan