This book represents the most wide-ranging collection to date of his essays and talks and is a companion volume to the Selected poems.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyThis collection assembles a variety of prose pieces by poet Duncan (Fictive Certainties), some previously unpublished. Ranging from notes to close readings of his contemporaries, the writings convey a sense of Duncan's poetics, which owes much to William Carlos Williams, Charles Olson and Whitman. Indeed, the long essay ``Changing Perspectives in Reading Whitman'' is perhaps the most interesting in the volume. In it, Duncan finds a precursor of his own theory of emergent form: ``Whitman was the poet of primary intuitions, ancestor of Whitehead's Process and Reality and of our own vision of creation where now we see all of life as unfoldings, the revelations of a field of potentialities and latencies.'' In his emphasis on discovery rather than the imposition of order (``I don't seek a synthesis, but a melee.''), Duncan prefigures chaos theory and process-oriented pedagogy. Politically, his idealism of openness led to a radical conception of democracy. While the essays often employ a difficult syntax that seems anything but spontaneous, they make a strong case for Duncan as a thinker. (Feb.)
Greg BurkmanAfter the publication of "Fictive Certainties" in 1985, which included none of his prose written after 1955, the late Robert Duncan's essays disappeared from the world until now. At last we have an eminently respectable survey of a lifetime of prose, written by one of the few poets of the country concerned with the soul in a Blakean sense and the precision of language envisioned by Pound, Moore, Williams, and Zukofsky. Duncan's work in this collection is elegant--the equivalent of Whitman's or Mallarme's in its insistence on the spiritual basis of democracy. It is refreshing to rediscover a writer so versatile and imaginative that his words on the habits of poets rank with his comments on bees, the troubadours, and the poetics of Dante, Moore, Spicer, and Olson. The life of the free mind can survive here. For instance, gays who thrive on "alternative lifestyles" will have to read Duncan's essay "The Homosexual in Society," questioning their own desire: fashion or truth. Straight or not, reading Duncan is like finding shelter for your soul.
- New Directions Publishing Corporation
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- 6.29(w) x 9.32(h) x 0.96(d)
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