Two new books about Robert Duncan which will be reviewed in Tears 57.
Lisa Jarnot’s biography of Duncan, subtitled ‘The Ambassador from Venus’, appeared recently from University of California Press and it is likely to remain as the official life of this immensely important West Coast poet for many years to come. With so many quotations from previously unpublished notebooks this biography is a mine of wonderful things. From his early days teaching at Black Mountain College we can read this notebook entry:
‘In search of the makings of poetry we are going to turn back to the very seeds of language, back to that first beginning to distinguish words which is a beginning of newly distinguishing the world.’
This is the time of The Opening of the Field.
Michael Rumaker’s account of Robert Duncan in San Francisco was first published by Grey Fox Press in 1978 and it revolves around that year 1957 when many fellow Black Mountain students were migrating since the close of the College. It was the summer of the famous HOWL trial where Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Shigeyoshi Murao, of City Lights, were prosecuted for selling Ginsberg’s book. Michael Rumaker’s account of those times in that city is a sheer delight of engagement: the reader is drawn into the world of excitement and fear, poetry and police. A new edition of this essential book is appearing from City Lights in January 2013 and it will contain previously unpublished letters between Rumaker and Duncan as well as an interview conducted by Ammiel Alcalay & Megan Paslawski.