poetry journals), and all three originated a poetics based on the generation of poetic forms from within the poem—form was a projection of content. Duncan was also part of the san francisco renaissance; accordingly he was associated with Kenneth rexroth—but not with the related beat poets Allen GINSBERG, Lawrence ferlinghetti, and Gregory corso, who dominated the public views of the period. Duncan assumed the inherited traditions of high modernism. He took Ezra pound, H. D., and D. H. Lawrence as his masters, along with James Joyce, William Carlos WILLIAMS, Marianne moore, Dante, and Walt Whitman. Duncan claimed he was a derivative poet who combined various poetries and traditions into a poetics known as a "grand collage," an assemblage of multiple ideas.
Duncan was born in oakland, California. His mother died in childbirth, and a family who believed in occult theosophy adopted him. The family soon moved to Bakersfield, where Duncan attended high school in preparation for enrolling at the University of California, Berkeley, in September 1936. After reading XXX Cantos (see the cantos), he became a serious student of Pound's poetry. Between 1938 and 1946, he spent most of his time in the East, living in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Provincetown, and Woodstock, while returning to Berkeley for short periods. In 1946, when he met Robin blaser and Jack spicer in Berkeley, he was already a published and experienced poet. His first book of poems was Heavenly City, Earthly City (1947). With Blaser and Spicer, he launched the "Berkeley Renaissance" of poetry. In 1951 he began living with Jess Collins, an artist, and also entered a period of high creativity in poetry, art, and poetics. The two men collaborated on a series of books, Caesar's Gate (1955), A Book of Resemblances (1966), and Names of People (1968); Letters (1958) transformed Duncan's poetry from rhetorical structures to a poetry that created form based in the musical structures of lines. From 1955 to 1956 Duncan and Collins lived on Mallorca. In 1956 Duncan taught at Black Mountain College, then returned to San Francisco to become assistant director of the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University. He published his first trade book, The Opening of the Field (1960); other pamphlets and books followed, including Roots and
Branches (1964), Bending the Bow (1968), The Truth and Life of Myth (1968), Ground Work: Before the War (1984) and Ground Work II: In the Dark (1987). From 1961 to 1963, Duncan wrote an extended study of modernism and H. D.'s poetry, which appeared in chapters as The H. D. Book. Duncan received a series of awards, including the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize (Poetry magazine), 1961; the Levinson Prize (Poetry magazine), 1964; the National Poetry Award, 1985; and in the same year the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.
After finishing the book Letters (1956), Duncan began writing the poems for The Opening of the Field (1960). This volume was conceived and written as a unified book and sequence of poems working variations on themes of the dance, spiritual wonder, the goddess of poetry, and writing poems. These themes appear in the first poem, "Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow." The meadow is an invention that is as real as an actual meadow: "Wherefrom fall all architectures I am." Through a series of appositions, the poem expands the possible meanings of the "field" as a place of inspiration where the Muse, the First Beloved as an avatar of Persephone, or Brigit, "Queen under the Hill," appears. The vision is not unlike a circle of children dancing in a ring, which Duncan explains, refers to an Atlantean dream of his childhood, and finally a "place of first permission, / everlasting omen of what is." The vision in the field gives permission for continuing imaginative invention. The poem contains layers of meaning as carefully placed as an image in a complex collage.
In The Opening of the Field, Duncan began a serial poem called "The Structure of Rime," which continues in subsequent books (see long and serial poetry). The series is a sequence of poems without a defined ending. In Roots and Branches (1964), the series combines with other long poems in parts, "A Sequence of Poems for H.D.'s 73rd Birthday," "Apprehensions," and "The Continents," to make a book of poems that challenge and explore the various forms poetry can take. The field, or meadow, as a metaphor for the multiple possibilities of poetry, continues into the poems of the following book, Bending the Bow (1968). In this book Duncan began another serial poem, "The Passages
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