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Other titles in the Collected Writings of Robert Duncan series:
Robert Duncan: The Collected Early Poems and Plays (Collected Writings of Robert Duncan)by Robert Duncan
Synopses & Reviews
A landmark in the publication of twentieth-century American poetry, this first volume of the long-awaited collected poetry, non-critical prose, and plays of Robert Duncan gathers all of Duncans books and magazine publications up to and including Letters: Poems 19531956. Deftly edited, it thoroughly documents the first phase of Duncans distinguished life in writing, making it possible to trace the poets development as he approaches the brilliant work of his middle period.
This volume includes the celebrated works Medieval Scenes and The Venice Poem, all of Duncans long unavailable major ventures into drama, his extensive imitations” of Gertrude Stein, and the remarkable poems written in Majorca as responses to a series of collaged paste-ups by Duncans life-long partner, the painter Jess. Books appear in chronological order of publication, with uncollected periodical and other publications arranged chronologically, following each book. The introduction includes a biographical commentary on Duncans early life and works, and clears an initial path through the textual complexities of his early writing. Notes offer brief commentaries on each book and on many of the poems.
The volume to follow, The Collected Later Poetry and Plays, will include The Opening of the Field (1960), Roots and Branches (1964), Bending the Bow (1968), Ground Work (1984), and Ground Work II (1987).
"The University of California Press continues its monumental program of restoring Duncan's complete works to prominence with this volume, which follows his prose work The H.D. Book and Lisa Jarnot's groundbreaking biography of Duncan, collecting all his poems and drama through mid-century, marking the first phases of his work. Duncan is a complicated figure in 20th-century American poetry, a direct heir to the high Modernists, especially Ezra Pound; friend and co-conspirator to East Coast figures like Charles Olsen and Robert Creeley; but also perhaps the central presence and master of the San Francisco Renaissance scene that gave rise to Jack Spicer, another poet who, like Duncan, is just now having his legacy re-evaluated by poets and academics. Duncan's poems are long, discursive, and disjunctive, often difficult, and relentlessly beautiful, mixing a kind of transcendent romanticism with an experimental flare for wild associative leaps, as if the poems of William Blake or Coleridge were written by a soberer post-WWII poet. Early allegorical pieces ('We have gone out in boats upon the sea at night;/ lost, and the vast waters close traps of fear about us') give way to poems of urban homosexual eroticism and pain: 'Among my friends love is a payment./ It is an old debt for a borrowing foolishly spent.' The hundreds of pages that follow draw together too much to list, but everything seems to be here, laying the groundwork for a major career: the last poems in the volume, from Letters (1958) point the way toward the expansive books — The Opening of the Field, most notably — for which Duncan is still best known. We can see him stretching toward those upcoming poems: 'In the before streets, the streets occurrd./ A mind, crowded to be seen. A maker/ occurring only to the created.'" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Robert Duncan is one of the masters of twentieth-century American poetry. His brilliant oeuvre stands as a record of contemporary changes of consciousness and sensibility in spheres that range from the poetic to the political. His subtle, insistent poetry displays a mythic imagination, a sense of intimacy and grandeur, a sexual frankness, and a thrilling attention to layers of language. This is a grand work of self-fashioning and poetic urgency. Peter Quartermain has done a magisterial job of editing this volume, making a major contribution to scholarship, while helping to frame the poetry of our time." Rachel Blau DuPlessis, author of Drafts.
The California edition of the works of Robert Duncan has been eagerly awaited by readers and critics for two decades since the poets death, and this collection does not disappoint. It contains everything one could want to have in a readers edition of the poets work. This volume is especially critical because it contains Duncans earlier poems, which are almost uniformly difficult to find; its publication will cause a serious reconsideration of Duncans career. Quartermains meticulous editing has produced a book that will be hailed by scholars and general readers alike. It is a stellar achievement.”—Stephen Fredman, author of Contextual Practice: Assemblage and the Erotic in Postwar Poetry and Art.
About the Author
Peter Quartermain taught contemporary poetry and poetics at the University of British Columbia for over thirty years. He is the author of Basil Bunting, Poet of the North and Disjunctive Poetics: From Gertrude Stein and Louis Zukofsky to Susan Howe.
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